The Unquenchable Thirst for Global Supremacy: China’s Vaccine Diplomacy

As the pandemic continues to restrict the lives of many, vaccines have become a crucial element of countries’ plans to reopen. Nations hurry to secure these doses, following one of two methods: stockpiling or sharing. China follows the latter approach, and although this may seem like a noble initiative, caution should be prioritized, as it is evident that this benevolence comes with strings attached.

As of June 15, China has delivered a staggering 2.5 billion doses of its two vaccines, Sinovac and Sinopharm, to numerous countries around the globe. Many nations that have high Covid numbers are heavily reliant on these vaccine doses – a fact that hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). 

Paraguay is one such country desperate for vaccines. Nevertheless, the CCP will not agree to help unless Paraguay changes its position concerning Taiwan’s independence. Paraguay has been allied with Taiwan for sixty-three years and recognizes Taiwan as a self-governing nation, which of course does not sit right with Beijing. Now, Paraguay needs to examine other vaccine procurement options.

Similarly, Brazil did not receive vaccines from China until Huawei was granted access to the South American nation’s new 5G wireless network. The Chinese tech giant has been banned in many countries, for fear that it would carry out espionage activities on behalf of the CCP. Huawei was formerly not allowed access to Brazil’s 5G networks, but as Covid cases rose, the company was permitted to attend 5G business meetings. Since then, Brazil started to receive vaccines from China. 

These are but two examples of the CCP’s manipulative tactics through vaccine diplomacy. In addition to these incidents, it is notable that Beijing’s vaccines have all undergone trials in locations where it has attempted to enforce its influence. For instance, one of Beijing’s vaccines was tested in Indonesia, and Beijing has been disputing its apparent right to fish in the waters surrounding Indonesia’s Natuna Islands since 2016. Is this a coincidence or not?

Although it has not been proven, there is even evidence to suggest that China has been using its vaccine supply to Turkey as a quid pro quo situation: namely, that China will supply Turkey with vaccines in exchange for the deportation and handing over of Uyghurs in Turkey to the CCP. The Uyghurs are a Chinese minority group with Turkish origins, and have been mistreated for several years. The fact that the CCP could be using its vaccines to further this atrocity ought to prompt further research into the matter. 

China’s vaccines have been deemed less effective than other countries’ vaccines. For this reason, many believe that they were produced without proper foresight, merely in an attempt to beat other countries, such as Russia, in the vaccine diplomacy race. The recipients of these vaccines, which are not entirely reliable, include developing countries. This is an irresponsible move on China’s part, and could cause more harm than good to struggling nations.  

Canada had also intended to collaborate with China to create a Covid-19 vaccine. Nevertheless, this endeavor did not pull through. Many believe this is because China wishes to punish Canada for the extradition arrest of Meng Wanzhou in late 2018. It is arguably for the best that Canada did not, in the end, partner with a country that has been a blatant violator of human rights for years. 

The deceptive advances of China in its vaccine diplomacy ought to concern those who care about human rights. Many countries half-heartedly accept China’s vaccine assistance out of sheer desperation. This assistance, however, seems to be coming with strings attached, and as China subtly advances its own prestige globally, a form of neocolonialism seems to be transpiring as well. 

What, therefore, can be done? Many Chinese-Canadians, such as Anastasia Lin, have spoken out against the increasing global influence of the CCP and are warning the world against its implications. Anastasia advises Canada to have no dealings with a country that has such obvious underlying motives.

The fact that the pandemic originated in China in the first place, under circumstances that are still murky, and that the CCP has been so dishonourable in the past, should be a warning to Canada that any dealings with China should be done with caution and only if absolutely necessary.


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