From Asia to Africa, China promotes its vaccine win friends


A Chinese coronavirus vaccine will have quick access in the Philippines. Latin American and Caribbean countries will receive $ 1 billion in loans to purchase the drug. Bangladesh will receive more than 100,000 free doses from a Chinese company.

Never mind that China is still months away from the massive manufacturing of vaccines that is safe for public use. The country is using the possibility of the discovery of drugs with the aim of repairing damaged relations and bringing them closer in areas that China is important to their interests.

For example, Indonesia, which has long been wary of Beijing. China’s leader, Xi Jinping, in a call last week assured the nation’s president, Joko Widodo: “China takes Indonesia’s concerns and needs seriously in vaccine cooperation.”

Mr. Xi praised the cooperation of the two countries on developing a vaccine as “a new bright spot” in relations, according to a statement by China’s foreign ministry. “Together, China and Indonesia will stand in solidarity against Kovid-19,” he promised.

On top of earlier shipments of masks and ventilators around the world, China’s vaccine pledge helps it project itself as a responsible player as the United States retreats from global leadership. Beijing’s moves could also help push back against accusations that the ruling Communist Party should be blamed for its initial misunderstanding when Coronavirus first emerged in China in December.

The ability to develop and distribute vaccines to poor countries will also be a powerful sign of China’s rise as a scientific leader in a new post-pandemic global order.

“People are very keen on taking the Chinese vaccine,” said Ghazal Parveen, a senior official at the National Institutes of Health in Pakistan. “In fact, we are being asked to prepare the vaccine as soon as possible.”

By some measures, China leads the global race for the Kovid-19 vaccine. It has four candidates in the final stages of clinical trials, more than any other country.

The United States has a three-stage late-trial vaccine, with Pfizer saying it could apply for emergency approval in early October, and Modern said it hopes to have the vaccine by the end of the year. AstraZeneca, a British-Swedish company that received funding from the US government to develop its vaccine, halted its late global trials this week because one participant had a serious adverse reaction.

China has approved at least two experimental vaccines under the Emergency Use Program, which began in July with soldiers and employees of state-owned companies and has quietly expanded to include health care and aviation workers . Its vaccine manufacturers have built factories that can produce hundreds of thousands of doses.

Mr. Xi has announced that China will make good globally developed public vaccines, although his government has provided some details.

China has long contributed to global health as an opportunity to build its soft power.

“The government would definitely like to see that China succeeds in making a good vaccine and many countries want it,” said Rand Huang, epidemiologist and China expert at RAND Corporation. “It is beneficial to change the narrative on its diplomacy and Kovid.”

But Chinese vaccine companies going abroad to conduct clinical trials have sparked controversy amid fears that local residents are being treated like guinea pigs. And with much still not known about coronoviruses, vaccines could prevent it until the final stage of testing.

Despite the uncertainty, Beijing has pushed forward its potential vaccines with confidence and used them easily on frictions.

Last month, Premier Li Keqiang met with officials in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam to criticize that China had contributed to the devastating drought in Southeast Asian countries. He also offered Chinese vaccines – an offer that was well received.

In a speech during the same summit, Cambodia Prime Minister Hun Sen, a staunch supporter of China, told Beijing to praise that he “wants to give high praise to our friend China’s efforts in producing the vaccine.”

In the Philippines, where China is competing for influence with the United States, President Rodrigo Duterte told lawmakers in July that he had “made a request” to Mr. Xi for help with the vaccine. He also said that he would not face China over his claims to the South China Sea.

A day later, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said that China is ready to give vaccine priority to the Philippines.

Chinese leaders have made similar offers In countries in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East and South Asia – where Beijing has sought to expand its influence.

“We pledge that once the development and deployment of the Kovid-19 vaccine is completed in China, African countries will be the first to benefit,” Mr. Xi told a meeting of African leaders in June. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi promised in July that China would extend $ 1 billion in loans for vaccines from Latin American and Caribbean countries, according to the government of Mexico.

For all its talk of providing vaccines to the public, China is determined to do so only on its own terms. It is reticent on whether it plans to join the World Health Organization-backed mechanism Kovacs, which aims to help countries distribute a coronovirus vaccine evenly. (The Trump administration has rejected the initiative outright.)

“Actually, we have already collaborated with some countries,” Hua Chunying, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, told reporters last week. “China always has its point.”

If China wins the race for a vaccine, it will spare some of these countries for its success, having played an unavoidable role by providing Chinese vaccine manufacturers with human test subjects.

Chinese pharmaceutical manufacturers have done their research abroad because its outbreak at home has been under control for months.

In Bangladesh, Synovac Biotech, a Beijing-based vaccine manufacturer, is testing its vaccines on 4,200 health care workers in the capital Dhaka. Executive Director of Bangladesh’s International Center for Diarrheal Disease Research, Dr. John D. According to Clemens, the Chinese company has agreed to give the country more than 110,000 free vaccine doses, helping to conduct the trial.

It is a small fraction of the 170 million inhabitants of Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in Asia. And despite their participation in Chinese clinical trials, Bangladeshis fear that the outcome vaccines may be out of reach of most citizens of the country.

“If any person in the world is deprived of their right to Kovid-19 vaccine due to patent rights and benefits, it would be the biggest injustice in this century,” said Syedur Rahman, MD of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib’s professor of pharmacology, MD said. Medical University in Dhaka.

The Foreign Ministry in Beijing has emphasized that China will not try to establish a monopoly on vaccine supply. The state’s news media reports have also dismissed allegations that China is using vaccines as a diplomatic tool, while government-backed academics say the provision of vaccines is altruistic.

“Certainly there will be no strings attached,” said Ruan Zongz, executive vice president of the China Institute of International Studies. “Because it is going to be a global public good, adding any position will create suspicion from the other side.”

But China is already expressing concern at the end of its overdue from countries as well as regional powers who see Beijing as an encroachment on its sphere of influence.

In Nepal, where China would like to conduct clinical trials on 500 workers at a cement company, politicians have questioned the safety of vaccines and the lack of transparency.

“Shouldn’t we be convinced of its side effects?” Prakash Sharan Mahat, a former Foreign Minister of Nepal and a leader of the Nepali Congress, the country’s main opposition party, said in an interview.

India, which is wary of Beijing’s intentions in South Asia, has responded to China’s proposals to provide its partners with a vaccine for Bangladesh and Nepal.

Some countries may have some alternatives to China.

Indonesia has launched a final-stage clinical trial for Synovac on 1,620 volunteers and has signed an agreement with the Chinese company for 50 million doses of the Kovid-19 vaccine, an Indonesian state-owned vaccine manufacturer, P.T. Will allow Bio Pharma to be produced. Dose locally.

Some political experts in Indonesia worry that China will destroy the country, but they accept that Indonesia has very few options.

“Should we be skeptical, or should we be grateful?” Asked by Muhammad Zulfiqar Rahmat, an academic at Universitas Islam Indonesia, who researches China’s foreign policy in Indonesia.

“I think Both. “

The reporting was contributed by Zulfiqar Ali Manik, Muktatha Suharatans, Bhadra Sharma and Salman Masood. Amber Wang and Claire Fu contributed to the research.