How Russia and China are winning the vaccine diplomacy race | DW News

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russia and china have been challenging the west for years their military buildups infrastructure projects and targeted economic support have bolstered their geopolitical clouds critics say they’re threatening the international order i’m really worried and now as a deadly pandemic disrupts the world the two powers are casting themselves as global saviors they offer what everyone desperately needs hope in little glass vials covet 19 vaccines we would be very happy to see these be rolled out russia and china say they’ll send their vaccines around the world and this while the united states puts all its efforts into vaccinating its own citizens before looking outward the u.s is not a player in the game the european union is also focusing inwards scrambling to inoculate its own people china and russia are taking the opportunity to suggest they can rescue the rest of the world shouldn’t we be happy with russia and china stepping in to help save lives in africa asia or south america there is not much help inside from the us and here in brussels the european union might have promised to share its vaccines with poorer nations but right now it’s preoccupied with trying to look after its own citizens so shouldn’t we be applauding china and russia for their efforts it was moscow that won the global race to produce the first coronavirus vaccine proven to give 92 percent protection against covet 19.

President vladimir putin proudly presented his country’s sputnik v serum after less than eight months of development of naming it after the world’s first satellite launched by the soviet union explicitly evoked images of russia as a superpower the vaccine was a big win for the government domestically and internationally it portrayed the regime as strong and capable to its own people saying look we can deal with this crisis and in offering the russian vaccine to friends and allies abroad the kremlin saw a rare chance to improve its image no longer a corrupt regime suppressing opposition politicians and putting down protests rather a re-emerging power with groundbreaking scientists global reach and a social conscience there’s clearly an attempt to expand your political influence dmitry trenin is director of the carnegie center in moscow he says the global vaccine race is political and about big money it’s a big business big pharma there’s only so much that you need to do to uh um arm uh other nations and there’s there’s a limit to how much they would uh they would spend on uh on on your aircraft or on your submarines but if you have a threat that puts the existence of your significant portion of your population at risk or at least their health then there’s nothing stopping you and you will be buying those vaccines china quickly followed russia with vaccines from two national manufacturers synovac and synopharm soon being rolled out at home and quickly making their way around the world china was offering vaccines to poorer countries before clinical trials were even finished for beijing vaccine diplomacy offers a way to make the world forget how little transparency it showed with the pandemic started the government took a year to allow international experts into china to investigate the origins of the corona virus now it’s leading the fight back china is a two-edged sword it can be very helpful but it’s very self-interested lawrence gosten an expert on global health at georgetown university in washington dc suggests china will expect some kind of payback for its vaccine generosity as it does for the huge investments in its so-called belt and road infrastructure initiative the worst case scenario is is that it’s bartering life-saving vaccines against something that will harm countries in the future for example to put countries into debt as it’s done with belt and road extract resources or extract favors or even extract a geopolitical advantage um and you should never use a global health crisis for your own benefit the european union promised to help the rest of the world with vaccines we will have more doses than we can use but has so far not delivered sparking anger in some circles be frank and say my people first don’t lie to me and say we will be equal professor eines biwangwawa is rwanda’s former health minister she is willing to give china a chance where the eu has failed if china managed to give and save a big portion of africans you believe africans will look at them negatively you believe that when they keep their words with this we are going to doubt their word when they will propose that this is going to push for new agreements for new partnerships as the pandemic continues to spread rapidly across the continent most if not all immunization programs are using russian and chinese vaccines egypt ordered vaccines from china for example and guinea is rolling out russia’s sputnik v vaccine and it’s not just africa russian and chinese vaccines are going global chinese drug makers have signed deals to supply their vaccines to malaysia brazil the philippines and many others countries that have ordered russia’s sputnik v vaccine include argentina mexico and belarus the contracts are signed and sealed but will russia and china deliver will they ship supplies to other countries when they haven’t yet inoculated their own people and frightening new variants are emerging china continued what the phrase challenges in uh practicing that so-called vaccine diplomacy yang zhang huang is a senior fellow at the u.s based council for foreign affairs and an expert on china’s healthcare system i think one of the biggest challenges now is how to balance by this needs for domestic vaccination needs right and the needs for practicing uh vaccine diplomacy abroad right now we have seen uh did the developments that suggested that the china chinese vaccine makers are delaying uh the shipment of the china-made vaccines but we saw that it’s happening in brazil and in turkey the eu has failed so badly on supplying vaccines to others that even some of its closest neighbors serbia for example are pinning their hopes on russia and china they are desperate to protect their citizens and tired of waiting for the european union to act the eu planned from the start to help developing nations it invested heavily in research and development the block sealed deals with six different drug makers to secure more than two billion doses of eventual vaccines it said that wasn’t just for its own population of 450 million it was to help others too but those fine sentiments seem to have been postponed as production problems slow supply within the eu there does seem to be a retreat to putting europe first we’re seeing a lot of hypocrisy we’re seeing a lot of promises and very little action russ course works for doctors without borders she’s outraged by what she calls the west’s vaccine nationalism which has meant the west isn’t exporting the vaccines it’s developed we’ve seen a lot of nice words from the european union and other rich countries as well that these vaccines should be considered global public goods and that they should be accessible to all particularly given the high amounts of public funding that has gone into the development of them but what we’re seeing is vastly unequal distribution of these vaccines around the world the reality is that for actually the majority of low middle income countries they might not get access to a vaccine for potentially years even some members of the eu itself seems to be losing face and looking elsewhere hungary has become the first eu country to approve a chinese vaccine a huge credibility boost for beijing and now even eu heavyweights like germany seem open to the idea of buying chinese or russian vaccines once they are approved and the united states these trends demonstrate that our aggressive strategy to battle the virus is working the us was one of the country’s hardest hit by their pandemic and the trump administration pinned their hopes on operation warp speed pumping more than 10 billion dollars into a huge vaccine development program and that proved a success and several vaccines are now available but they’re first and foremost for americans trump’s successor president joe biden promised that america would take the lead in the global kobit 19 response and took the us back into their world health organization on his very first day in office but the focus is still on americans and the damage to america’s standing is already done with the us absent as a global player and the european union looking inward it is no surprise that russia and china have rushed in to fill the void the global vaccine race is part of an international power game and the west is in danger of losing more ground or simply being relegated to the sidelines as more vaccines are approved and produced experts predict rich countries could return to normality by the second half of 2021 but many low-income countries may have to wait for years before they can achieve the same this is just it’s unacceptable we’re all in this together and if there was ever a time for us to work together as a common humanity this is the time but we’re not doing it we’re starting to see mutations and variants of coronavirus um developing around the world if you leave it to the chronovirus to spread we may see more mutations that potentially you know could put a risk the efficacy of vaccines that we’ve already had administered in rich countries and may you know mean that they don’t work so actually it’s a moral obligation but it’s also a sensible one if we’re actually going to effectively tackle the pandemic europe and the united states have a choice to make do they want to put their own first and leave the international fight against covet 19 to russia and china that would risk deep damage to their images around the world it would leave the door open to russia and china creating lasting new friendships and dependencies in possibly strategically important countries it might also increase the risk of the pandemic continuing at a lower level or regionally or do they want to try to make up the lost ground and help other countries even if that means telling some of their own people that for the greater good those coveted vaccines must be shared the time to make the choice is now you

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