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COVID-19: China and Russia’s Opportunity to Gain Diplomatic Ground Against the U.S.


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The Chinese Communist Party, in conjunction with state and private companies, has assembled a vaccination plan from Africa to the Middle East and Latin America.

Moscow, for its part, is gaining power as the largest supplier of vaccines in Latin America. The Sputnik V vaccine is 92% effective, according to preliminary studies. Russia has also developed a nasal version to reinforce the intramuscular dose.

COVID-19 provided an opportunity for both China and Russia, main rivals of the United States, to gain diplomatic ground and evade international sanctions for human rights violations, while the United States, the United Kingdom, and the rest of Europe consumed their efforts on developing a vaccine for their own citizens.

They have also given impetus to dictatorships, socialist movements and governments such as those of Cuba, Ethiopia, and Venezuela.

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Russia with Sputnik V achieved one of the most effective vaccines that have helped Vladimir Putin quell protests over the arrest of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Russia - Sputnik V - Covid-19 - El American
Russia is a major supplier of Covid-19 vaccines to Latin America, which analysts say will have lasting political consequences for the United States in the region. (Efe)

China, on the other hand, aimed its plans to gain ground in world diplomacy. It dealt with information on the local pandemic situation with an iron fist and censorship. Approximately 85% of Chinese citizens “could, in theory, receive a coronavirus vaccine by the end of this year if every dose were administered in China,” but the Asian giant is exporting about 400 million of its doses to other countries, according to the Duke Global Health Innovation Center.

Ethiopia, Cuba, Venezuela, among other countries, received first-hand the help the CCP offered. Nations that have ties with Beijing receive large donations and thousands of low-cost vaccines through the Belt and Road plan, such as Pakistan, Chile or Burma, and other countries where China has an interest such as Colombia, Zimbabwe or Angola.

The quality of the supplies and the efficacy of the vaccine is not relevant when it comes to pushing ideological propaganda on behalf of the “people”, according to Chinese state media. However, an ineffective vaccine hinders the goal of herd immunity for scientific analysts.

China and Russia share diplomatic power in Latin America

China’s Foreign Ministry told the media that “Beijing is working to provide its vaccines to more than 60 countries and that more than 20 are already using them,” which has allowed it to evade responsibility for mishandling information in containing the epidemic, and refusing to disclose key data to discover the origin of Covid-19.

Colombia received 192,000 vaccines to combat covid-19, produced by the Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac. (Efe)

In Latin America, China gained the support of countries such as Cuba, Venezuela, Chile and Colombia.

“China wants to work with these countries and give them priority to receive the vaccine to combat Covid-19 because this will facilitate the implementation of the Belt and Road plan,” Yanzhong Huang, senior global health researcher at the Council on Foreign Relations said.

The main partners of China’s Belt and Road plan in Latin America are Cuba, Chile and Venezuela.

Moscow meanwhile has sent vaccines to combat COVID-19 to six countries in the region led by Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Venezuela.

Russia’s interests with Sputnik V in Latin America are political, to rival U.S. hegemony in the Western Hemisphere, and expanding commercial markets for Russian-owned companies, and to challenge the norms and values of the liberal international order, said the President of the Regional Coordinator of Social and Economic Research, Andrés Serbin, in a statement to CNN.

Asia and the Chinese vaccine against COVID-19

As Chinese vaccine manufacturers have provided “few details on how researchers calculated efficacy rates” public health experts consulted by the press “caution against proceeding too quickly, including the use of injections in the elderly.”

Los ensayos clínicos sugieren que las tasas de eficacia de las vacunas chinas “no superan el 50,4% apenas por encima del umbral del 50% que la Organización Mundial de la Salud considera necesario para proteger del covid-19 a las poblaciones”.
Clinical trials suggest that efficacy rates of Chinese vaccines “do not exceed 50.4% just above the 50% threshold that the World Health Organization considers necessary to protect populations from covid-19.” (EFE)

In China, the distrust is so great that only about 24 million doses have been administered as of January 2021, representing approximately 1.6% of the population of that country.

China’s neighbors, for example, do not trust the pharmaceutical development of their vaccine. Japan and Taiwan will not use Chinese vaccines for their population and the Philippines approved Sinovac vaccines, but not for health workers because of their low efficacy against the COVID-19 virus.

Thailand will receive vaccines from the Chinese laboratory, but faces great public distrust, forcing their Prime Minister to receive the vaccine to increase public trust.

Camilo Bello is a consultant focused on Asia Pacific studies and has experience in strategic management. He has studied law in Colombia and is currently pursuing studies in language and history at National Taiwan Normal University. He has collaborated with Students for Freedom in Hong Kong and Taiwan // Camilo es consultor enfocado en estudios de Asia Pacífico y experiencia en gestión estratégica. Cuenta con estudios en Derecho en Colombia y actualmente se encuentra realizando estudios en lenguaje e historia en National Taiwan Normal University. Colaborador de Estudiantes por la Libertad en Hong Kong y Taiwán