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China Looks to Leverage Coronavirus Vaccine Access to Secure Strategic Concessions from Other Nations

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping walk to a meeting at the Great Hall of People in Beijing, China, April 25, 2019. (Kenzaburo Fukuhara/Pool via Reuters)

Top Beijing officials are promising certain countries, with whom they have strategic partnerships, early access to China’s imminent coronavirus vaccines as they seek to repair their global image following criticism over their failure to contain the initial outbreak of the virus.

The countries China is working with to produce vaccines and provide early access include Russia, Pakistan, the Phillippines, Brazil, and Indonesia. The details of China’s negotiations with the countries remain unknown but are believed to be related to recognition of Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.

China’s Foreign Ministry has struck a deal with the Philippines to provide them with priority access to a coronavirus vaccine developed in China, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Meanwhile, China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd., which is ostensibly privately owned, has reached an agreement with Brazil and Indonesia to cooperate in producing hundreds of millions of doses of its vaccine for use in those countries.

In Pakistan, the China National Pharmaceutical Group has agreed to conduct clinical trials in the country, and Pakistan will receive doses for about one-fifth of its 220 million population.

Russia’s health ministry must still approve a deal to produce a vaccine in Russia that was developed by China’s military and the China-based CanSino Biologics Inc.

Of the six global vaccine candidates in the final phases of clinical trials involving people, three are being developed in China. Last month, the U.S. began the world’s largest vaccine study involving 30,000 volunteers, who will test doses of a vaccine developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna.

China was swiftly criticized by the U.S., Britain, and other western countries for allowing the coronavirus outbreak which began in the Chinese city of Wuhan to spill across the country’s borders and infect the rest of the world, causing a global pandemic.

The pandemic damaged ongoing trade negotiations between the U.S. and China as the Trump administration laid the blame on Beijing for the global crisis.

“They could have stopped the plague. They could have stopped it. They didn’t stop it,” Trump said last month.

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