To improve relations, Beijing first sent millions of masks to Europe and Africa in the so-called “mouth-mask diplomacy”. After mouth masks vaccines followed, “vaccine diplomacy.” In a jiffy, factories are set up to produce billions of doses. China wants to be a leader in the international vaccine race. The country wants to show how it has become a superpower in the field of science and technology.
At least 40 countries have already shown interest in Chinese vaccines. This mainly relates to the poorer countries in Africa and Latin America that cannot compete with the rich countries, which collectively buy the more expensive Pfizer vaccines. Developing countries also welcome Chinese vaccines because they are made according to traditional vaccine technology, which means that vaccines do not have to be transported in extremely cold temperatures like Pfizer.
China also hopes to increase its influence regionally, for example in and around the South China Sea, as the country has regional ambitions. With the help of vaccine diplomacy, Beijing also wants to silence international criticism of human rights violations between the Uyghurs and Hong Kong. Vaccine diplomacy also gives substance to President Xi Jinping’s new Silk Road plans from an economic point of view. The infrastructure has already been set up in Ethiopia and Dubai to distribute Chinese vaccines in Africa and the Middle East.