China is using its vaccine development to whitewash its reputation and culture new trade allies

By: |
December 12, 2020 6:30 AM

China is using its vaccine development as a tool to whitewash its reputation and culture new trade allies

Three Chinese companies, two private sectors and a public sector one, are testing four candidates on multiple thousands of volunteers in 14 countries across the world. (Representational image: Reuters)

Pilloried for its role in the Covid-19 pandemic, China is converting the vaccine rush into an opportunity—there is clearly Beijing-focused vaccine diplomacy afoot. Even as the vaccine race between developers in the Western world has also fed a brag-race between countries with a strong nationalistic flavour; it is all about countries procuring/fast-tracking development of vaccines to cover their populations’, China sees the vaccine race quite differently. Science magazine’s Jon Cohen writes that without the distraction of having to cater for its domestic population—having managed, at least as per the data it shares with the world, to beat Covid-19 down—China is using vaccine development as a wager, the payout being a bouquet featuring a whitewash of its global standing that had taken a serious dent with its early failure to contain Covid-19 within its shores and lack of transparency, influence in Asian and Arab countries (the latter can help it overcome the flak it has received for its treatment of the Uighurs) that could come in handy in the geopolitical arena, grooming new markets as a new paradigm emerges for global trade, etc.

Three Chinese companies, two private sectors and a public sector one, are testing four candidates on multiple thousands of volunteers in 14 countries across the world. And, earlier this week, the United Arab Emirates registered Sinopharm’s vaccine candidate, announcing an 86% efficacy in trials, while Mexico will be buying 35 million doses of CanSino’s vaccine candidate. Egypt has already received the first consignment of the Sinopharm candidate. It has even negotiated the hostility of the ruling dispensation in Brazil that has one of the highest number of cases in the world. What is also interesting that the testing of China’s vaccine candidates would anyhow depend on international trials given the country says it has managed to control the outbreak, which makes trials impossible. While the Western vaccines, with their heavy price tags, are in demand in rich countries, China’s vaccines, based on traditional vaccine technology and with more modest cold chain requirements, will be priced within reach of low- and middle-income companies. And, manufacturers say, they can produce 1.5 billion doses in 2021—which means a cheap and secure vaccine supply for poor countries, especially those that hosted efficacy trials for these. And, with a good number of middle-income nations in negotiation for efficacy trials/deployment, in a changed global trade paradigm, China might be just using its vaccine to nurture allies and trade partners.

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