Now, China targets South China Sea rivals with vaccine diplomacy

WION New Delhi Sep 15, 2020, 09.40 PM(IST)

Sinovac (China) Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

Indonesia has been locked in a territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea but it wants a vaccine from China.

The vaccines are being used at home and China is even selling them abroad.
 
The Philippines will have quick access to Chinese coronavirus vaccine. China has also been offering loans for vaccines which is a whole new chapter in its debt diplomacy. China will give $1 billion as a loan to Latin America and Caribbean nations to just buy a Chinese vaccine.

When Xi Jinping says public good, you should know its a sales pitch - or worse, a debt trap. 

Bangladesh has been promised more than 100,000 free doses from a Chinese company in return, Sinovac has been allowed to run vaccine trials in Bangladesh. Another company - Sinopharm has dispatched a team to Peru. They are recruiting up to 6,000 volunteers for trials there. The world right now is desperate for a vaccine and smaller countries have little choice, so they are taking what China offers.

Indonesia has been locked in a territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea but it wants a vaccine from China. Fifteen days ago Indonesian President Joko Widodo spoke to Xi Jinping over the phone and the Chinese president assured him.

A statement from Beijing said: "China takes seriously Indonesia's concerns and needs in vaccine cooperation." Another South China Sea rival, the Philippines wants vaccine from China. President Rodrigo Duterte made a plea to Xi Jinping in July. He even ruled out confronting Beijing in the South China Sea just to secure a vaccine. Needless to say, China is happy to oblige - it will prioritise the Philippines.

China has offered vaccines to Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, Middle-East and South Asia and make no mistake it isn't philanthropy and kindness - public good, as the Chinese call it. This is vaccine diplomacy.

China tried something like this with Wuhan virus supplies as countries around the world complained about faulty supplies. China tried to shut them up, threaten them, run propaganda but the truth got out and its supplies were unceremoniously returned.