China is preparing the ground for “vaccine diplomacy”

Sep 13, 2020 – 13 07: 16

2020-09-13 07:16

Chiny przygotowują grunt pod „dyplomację szczepionkową”
Chiny przygotowują grunt pod „dyplomację szczepionkową”

photo. Liu Bin / / Forum

PRC authorities promise some countries priority access to Chinese-developed vaccines against Covid-19 or offer loans to buy desired doses. Some commentators see this as the beginning of Beijing’s “vaccine diplomacy”.

No vaccine against the coronavirus has yet been approved for use by the World Health Organization (WHO), but governments are already striving for early doses for their citizens. Rich countries in the West either invest in research or contract vaccines with manufacturers, but poorer countries cannot afford it.

According to WHO, four out of eight of potential vaccines that have entered the final, third phase of human clinical trials are specifics developed by Chinese companies. PRC leader Xi Jinping has promised the Chinese vaccine will be a “global public good,” but it is unclear what exactly is behind this statement.

Experts at global health issues expect China, Russia and other countries to try to capitalize on the strong demand and turn any effective vaccine into a diplomatic tool, claims the US Wall Street Journal.

President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte revealed in late July that he had asked Xi for quick access to a Chinese vaccine when it was ready. The next day, the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced that the Philippines – “China’s friendly, close neighbor” – would get the priority they asked for.

Beijing is seeking support from the Association of Nations Southeast Asia (ASEAN) in connection with the growing conflict with the United States, which is more and more often referred to as the “new cold war”. The frictions include the South China Sea, where China has territorial disputes with several countries in the region, including the Philippines.

However, the Chinese authorities are also trying to “vaccine diplomacy” in regions considered to be the “backyard” of the United States. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi recently promised Latin America and the Caribbean a $ 1 billion loan to purchase a vaccine against Covid-19, the Mexican government reported.

United States are the most affected country in the world, and US Health Minister Alex Azar announced that they would only share the vaccine with other countries after their own needs were met. By contrast, according to official figures, China has practically mastered the pandemic at home, so it is more free to offer the vaccine to others.

Helping poorer countries gain access to vaccines may improve China’s international position and strengthen its “soft power” – assessed Yanzhong Huang, global health protection specialist from the American think tank Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), quoted by the South China Morning Post.

Earlier in the Covid-19 pandemic, China donated masks and other protective equipment to other countries. This was accompanied by an aggressive public diplomacy campaign that aroused considerable controversy in the West. Critics referred to it as “masked diplomacy” and assessed that it was intended to distract attention from the mistakes made by Chinese authorities in the initial phase of the crisis.

However, meeting the demand for Vaccines in the initial period will be much more difficult than protective masks. “It will be a different level. That’s why vaccine nationalism is starting to take its toll, “said CFR Global Health Program Director Thomas J. Bollyky, quoted by WSJ.

Some commentators believe that that China must first of all produce a proven vaccine and provide it to 1.4 billion of its citizens. If they want to play a role in global supply as well, they must significantly increase their production capacity.

Another possibility is technology transfer that would allow other countries to produce vaccines developed in China . According to the media, Chinese companies have held talks about such a solution, including with companies in Brazil and Indonesia. One of the reasons is the difficulty in researching potential vaccines in China, where very few new infections have been reported recently.

The problem, however, may be the lack of confidence in the Chinese sector pharmaceuticals, notes the SCMP. In recent years, China has been shaken by several vaccine safety scandals, including drugs used to vaccinate children. Last year, the regulations in the industry were tightened last year.

From Canton Andrzej Borowiak

Source: PAP
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