Vaccine diplomacy

Given the global shortage of vaccines and the power of the countries that produce these, extortion has been created to obtain doses

President of China Xi Jinping

Chinese President Xi Jinping has wasted no time in moving his diplomatic machinery that may surround the vaccine. Photo: Reuters

LatinAmerican Post | Vanesa López Romero

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Leer en español: La diplomacia de las vacunas

The governments of all the countries of the world are desperate to find doses of vaccines against COVID-19 and to be able to immunize the majority of their population, and thus, reactivate the economy. This has led to a global shortage and this creates vaccine holders dealing with the upper hand.

Precisely, one of the vaccines that have had the highest production and with which several Latin American countries have had to settle is the Chinese Coronavac vaccine, produced by the Chinese laboratory Sinovac Biotech. This vaccine, despite being only 50% effective in preventing mild cases, has a 100% response to fatal cases and 80% to moderate cases of the first strain.

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Despite being of Coronavac production and therefore being private, the control of the Chinese government is such that the agreements are made on a par with members of the Xi Jinping administration. So far, Sinovac can produce around 300 million doses a year, and it expects to double its production with different investments from new plants both in China and in other parts of the world, for example, Brazil.

With this power that vaccines give China, President Xi Jinping has wasted no time in moving his diplomatic machinery that may surround the vaccine. This is not only achieved by improving the image of China that was so affected after the emergence of the virus in Wuhan. Now the aspirations are greater, which could be a new chapter in mask diplomacy.

It is not in vain that last May President Xi himself declared that Chinese vaccines against the coronavirus will be a "global public good." This has served as an argument for him to be the main negotiator of the vaccines that China sends, either in the form of a donation (a small part) or for sale to countries such as Turkey and Brazil, among others.

At the regional level, China guarantees its local dominance by having signed large trade agreements with Asian countries that are within the Chinese circle of influence: Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines.

Vaccine diplomacy

There are two ways in which China is improving its image. One implicit and one explicit. With the production of the vaccine and its large percentage in sales, they position China as the technological and industrial leader that they have always wanted to be. But there have also been changes in the speeches of countries, after getting doses of Chinese vaccines.

The clearest example is Colombia. The country, a very close ally of the United States and with a pro-American government, has maintained formal but distant (diplomatically) relations with China. Despite the fact that the Orientals are the 2 largest economic partners of the country, governments do not usually coincide in international politics. So much so, that the Colombian government only negotiated Russian or Chinese vaccines until the last moment.

Well, as soon as China confirmed the shipment of millions of doses of Coronavac to Colombia, the Government of President Iván Duque highlighted China's compliance with the defense of Human Rights. This, despite the great scandals of violation of rights by the Chinese Government on the Muslim minority of the Uyghurs in the west of the country.

But it is not only China that is benefiting from its vaccines. Recently, it coincided that the United States will donate 2.5 million doses of Astra-Zeneca to Mexico, and almost at the same time, Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced that he will strengthen Mexico's controls on its southern border for "biosafety reasons." However, all this occurs in the context in which Joe Biden, the North American president, tries to stop the migratory flow that increased as soon as he took office.

For its part, Russia, with serious problems in the production of its Sputnik V vaccine, has tried to help its main allies and political-commercial partners. The Slavic country sent several doses to Venezuela, being the only vaccine that the Maduro regime has managed to sign . He had also sent doses to Bolivia and Argentina, two friendly countries in Latin America.

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