US Vaccine Promises Attacked By China

Staff: Taipei & Bengaluru: China, often criticized by the United States and its allies for using vaccine diplomacy to increase its influence around the world amid the coronavirus pandemic, has hit back hard at Washington by stating that America’s vaccine promises to India, and now Taiwan are themselves false.

Chinese observers who were closely watching Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar’s recent visit to the US, described American promises as “blank checks” after President Joe Biden pledged 80 million vaccines to the world – although in the almost two weeks since, no vaccines have been received by New Delhi.

As such, the US has in essence to date failed to provide timely help in the form of vaccines to outbreak hit India, despite in late April sending some ancillary relief materials to the sub-continent in much publicised military backed operations. 

The reality as seen in Beijing therefore is the Biden administration still following the “America First” policy – especially on its anti-epidemic approach.

Chinese observers also pointed out last week that the US was in no hurry to deliver vaccines to Taiwan either.

However, with a visit to Taiwan by three sitting US Senators on Sunday June 6th, and the promise of a shipment of 750,000 vaccines from Washington from that same 80 million tally, the White House has at least bought itself a little more time to see if this delivery will pan out any time soon.

China meanwhile also remains keen to try to point out that America has sufficient vaccines and yet is not – it appears – willing to give doses to India.

This, it is claimed is because US help to India is conditional and is dependent on India intensifying its confrontation with China in exchange for vaccine cooperation.

Quoting a Duke University health expert from mid-April, Chinese analysts have pointed out that the US could have 300 million excess doses of the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of July.

According to these same analysts, and notwithstanding yesterday’s promise to Taipei, America’s enthusiasm for offering COVID-19 vaccines to Taiwan is much less visible than the gusto with which it was willing to sell weapons to Taiwan in recent years.

In 2020, alone, Reuters reports that the US sold US$5.1 billion of arms to Taiwan.

By pointing out the US vaccine promises, its prior willingness to arm a regional player in the form of Taiwan, yet keep India essentially on-hold in its hour of need, China is looking to drive a wedge between Washington and two of its most important Asian allies.

Beijing is also looking to bounce back commercially, in India at least after Chinese products were shunned following a border clash that led to the deaths of 20 Indian soldiers and unconfirmed numbers of Chinese troops last year.

Chinese apps were banned in India – a tech boycott that seems to have taught China a minor lesson on respecting other countries – and Beijing has appeared to recognize in part at least that it cannot take India for granted.

In the months since the border clash in northern India/southern China, authorities in Beijing have been closely watching the rise in COVID cases in India, and more recently in Taiwan, with efforts being made to appeal to both nations that China can indeed supply its own vaccine to willing customers; offers that have been rejected by authorities in Taipei at least.

Time will now tell as to how soon the US will deliver on its promises to New Delhi and Taipei, and if any hitherto unseen strings were attached to recent announcements of US help in both capitals.

Image: Rene DeAnda – Unsplash

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