China’s “vaccine diplomacy,” which has become central to its foreign policy this year, might hamper Taiwan’s efforts to build relations with developing countries, an expert said.
“China, as one of the few countries other than the United Kingdom and the United States to have produced a COVID-19 vaccine, will certainly use that as a diplomatic tool,” said Kung Shan-son (龔祥生), an assistant research fellow at the government-funded Institute for National Defense and Security Research.
Beijing’s major goals in its “vaccine diplomacy” are to promote its national image through humanitarian aid and to solidify its relations with countries that are included in its Belt and Road Initiative, Kung wrote in an article published on Friday in the institute’s Defense Security Biweekly.
The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) effort, aimed mainly at developing countries, might negatively affect Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy, which was introduced in 2016 by the administration of President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to reduce Taiwan’s dependence on China, Kung said.
“The Philippines, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos are some of the countries included in the New Southbound Policy that are also being targeted by Beijing in its vaccine diplomacy,” Kung wrote.
Countries that receive vaccine supplies from China would feel pressure from Beijing about their engagements with Taiwan, Kung wrote in the piece, titled “Outlook of the CCP’s Foreign-related Work in 2021.”
According to Chinese media, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin (汪文斌) on Feb. 4 said that Beijing would provide 10 million doses of vaccines to COVAX to meet urgent needs in developing countries. COVAX is a global initiative aimed at providing equitable access to vaccines, led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the WHO.
At the end of last month, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian (趙立堅) said that China was exporting COVID-19 vaccines to 27 nations and providing vaccine aid to 53 countries in need, as part of Beijing’s efforts to follow through on Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) pledge that vaccines “must be a global public good.”
Despite China’s “vaccine diplomacy” efforts, its aggressive “wolf warrior” diplomacy might continue to alarm Western countries, especially the US, and thus bolster international support for Taiwan, Kung wrote.
Meanwhile, Beijing’s external efforts this year would include economic recovery, regional integration and global issues, such as climate change and public health, Kung said.
Beijing is also likely to work on addressing new challenges in its relations with the US and building on its ties with Russia, as it celebrates the 20th anniversary of a good neighbor and friendly cooperation treaty with the latter this year, Kung said.
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