China’s Vaccine Diplomacy Fast Losing Steam As Countries Complain Of Delays

China’s vaccine diplomacy is fast losing steam with several countries accusing Beijing of faltering in its efforts to deliver the required doses on time — with Myanmar being the latest one to lodge this complaint.

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Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on January 11 had promised to provide 300,000 doses to Myanmar during his visit to Naypyidaw. The Southeast Asian country received 1.5 million doses from India last week and has begun vaccination while Wang’s commitment doesn’t even have a concrete time frame.

Besides Myanmar, Brazil and Turkey have leveled similar accusations against China. There was anyway hesitation among countries to buy the Chinese vaccine, but as richer countries first claimed Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, there wasn’t much option left. Brazil and Turkey have complained of the slow shipment of Covid-19 doses from China.

One reason for slow shipments of doses is that China has to cater to a large population back home. Reports suggest this has hindered China from emerging as a leader in vaccine diplomacy.

The Chinese state-affiliated Global Times said that at home, China has to achieve vaccination rates “on par with the rates in the US and European countries”. It further says that it “also needs to provide large quantities of vaccines to developing countries, and the total number of vaccines exported should be the largest”.

While GT often boasts of Beijing’s achievements, now it has toned down the rhetoric saying “China should play” the role “as a major manufacturing country, and this is what is expected of China”.

Notably, the Communist country had launched the ambitious “health silk road” initiative in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic by supplying PPE and testing kits to other countries, but it has not made much progress in recent months because of various issues related to trials and the delivery of the vaccine.

India Continues to Make Neighbors Happy

India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar had tweeted how India is “Acting East. Acting Fast”, with the delivery of Indian-made vaccine doses to Myanmar last week. This commitment has possibly overwhelmed China.

On Wednesday, Myanmar began the Covid-19 vaccinations for health workers. The 1.5 million doses were made by the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine producer. As per reports, the Indian government helped Myanmar to sign an agreement with the Serum Institute to buy an additional 30 million doses.

Myanmar, which has a population of 54 million, has a complete plan laid out for inoculation. After the “health personnel and people who are working on the front lines providing service” as well as government officials and parliamentarians, on 5 February, vaccination for the public will begin.

According to the Ministry of Health and Sports, it will prioritize those living in the “most affected areas,” which means larger cities, as well as individuals who have pre-existing health risks.

In its neighborhood, India has so far provided vaccines to the Maldives, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal. In the Indian Ocean, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, and Mauritius have received the batches of Covid-19 vaccines.

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