Chinese Covid vaccine Photograph:( Reuters )
China is trying hard to discredit the western vaccines and force the Chinese vaccines on the world
After shutting its borders more than a year, China is opening up again but only for those who take Chinese vaccines.
Beijing has come up with two sets of rules: those who take Chinese vaccines will be given "conveniences" and those who don't will have to fill up more forms, go through tests, and once you land in China, spend up to three weeks in a quarantine even if you have been vaccinated by a non-Chinese shot.
China's vaccine nationalism is discriminatory as Beijing will make your life easier if you take a Chinese vaccine, but give you a tough time if you take a foreign vaccine, such as Pfizer, Moderna, Covaxin or AstraZeneca.
The interesting point to note here is that all these foreign vaccines have proven their efficacy while the Chinese vaccines are unproven.
This notice came from the Chinese embassy in India. It says China will facilitate travelers if they take "Chinese made vaccines". China says it wants to "resume people-to-people exchanges" in an orderly manner, but India hasn't approved any Chinese vaccine. So even if you want to take a Chinese-made vaccine, you won't be able to do that in India...
Since November last year, Indians have been barred from travelling to China, apparently because of the coronavirus pandemic which spread from Wuhan in China. Beijing suspended valid visas and resident permits.
Many Indians have business interests in China, thousands of Indian students are enrolled in Chinese universities, and this ban was a major setback to them. This situation, though, is not unique to India as China banned travelers from most countries.
However, now, Chinese embassies have issued similar notices in 20 countries such as Australia, South Korea, and the US. The interesting thing to note here is that none of these countries have approved any Chinese vaccines against coronavirus.
The reason behind none of the Chinese vaccines being approved is the doubt regarding their efficacy as the world doesn't know much about Chinese vaccines because Beijing hasn't shared a lot of data about them.
However, that hasn't stopped China from injecting people with these shots. Since last year, China has administered tens of thousands of people with its vaccines and now it wants to expand its market, so it is coming up with these discriminatory rules.
If you do survive the Chinese shot, you also get a simplified application process as you will need fewer documents to apply for a visa. You would also not be asked to procure an invitation letter. Earlier, if you travelled to China for business purposes, you had to produce an invitation letter which was given by Chinese government departments. Now, a statement issued in Germany suggested that the requirement will be waived off if you take a Chinese vaccine.
In case you are not injected with one of the Chinese-made vaccines, then you would need a negative test for the coronavirus that China has approved. After that, you have to obtain an antibody test, and if you succeed in all this, then you can land in China. However, you will have to go into quarantine, for upto three weeks.
China is using its position as a dominant economic power to force its vaccines on the world.
Beijing maintains that its shots are safe but public health experts have raised concerns. They say Chinese companies haven't been transparent about their clinical trials. Then we have the Chinese state media that says more than 60 countries have authorised the use of its vaccines.
Earlier this month, human rights watch highlighted what's worrying about Chinese vaccines. They say more a dozen vaccines are in clinical trials in China but as of the first week of March none of the vaccines had received full regulatory approval. Also, none of these companies released phase three trial data.
China seems to be cracking down on those who advocate for vaccine safety. In October 2020, an outspoken critic of Chinese vaccine companies disappeared. Then, in January, a vaccine safety advocate disappeared just before the visit of the WHO Team that went to probe the origins of the virus.
On the Chinese internet, all social media posts raising questions about the safety of Chinese vaccines were removed. At the same time, the Chinese press has aggressively tried to discredit western vaccines. State owned publications such as the People's Daily and Global Times accused western media of downplaying deaths allegedly caused by the Pfizer vaccine. However, there is no evidence linking the deaths to the vaccine.
A prominent Chinese journalist was caught sharing unverified reports on the Pfizer shot. She claimed 10 people died after taking the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in Germany. Later, the same tweet was amplified by Zhao Lijian, the spokesperson of the Chinese ministry of foreign affairs, aka China's wolf warrior in chief.