China and India Fight for Political Influence Through Covid-19 Vaccine Diplomacy

BEIJING, KOMPAS.com – Experts say, China and India shipped millions of vaccine doses Covid-19 to various countries as part of diplomatic efforts to enhance their reputation.

February 2020, when the Covid-19 virus hit the Chinese city of Wuhan, a diplomatic movement emerged by the Indian embassy in Beijing.

Indian Ambassador to China Vikram Misri said the citizens of Wuhan have a special place in the hearts of many Indians and he offers any assistance to get Wuhan out of the crisis.

Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi wrote a letter to the President of China Xi Jinping convey a sense of solidarity.

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Then at the end of February 2020, he sent a C-17 military plane to Wuhan carrying 15 tons of medical supplies.

However, in 12 months there have been many changes.

The number of Covid-19 cases increased dramatically in India in 2020, while in China the number of cases is decreasing rapidly.

The sense of solidarity turned into competition, with both countries using vaccine to strengthen their position and influence in Asia and around the world.

While rich countries control most of the vaccines already produced in Western countries, poor countries are still struggling to get supplies of vaccines.

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India is trying to become a world pharmacy

India’s reputation has declined due to a failure to handle the spread corona virus and China’s reputation is also tarnished by being accused of being the origin of Covid-19, but trying to cover it up.

The two countries then tried to divert attention and improve their reputation around the world.

China relies on two domestically made vaccines, while India is more on the production and distribution of the vaccine developed by Oxford-AstraZeneca.

Pradeep Taneja, a senior lecturer in Asian studies at the University of Melbourne, said that the two countries are trying hard to do what is called ” vaccine diplomacy“.

“This is a way of showing that China is not a bad influence on the international system. But China is a positive contributor,” said Taneja.

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Meanwhile India, the world’s largest vaccine producer, has declared it is ready to become a “world pharmacy,” a slogan that has been widely used by politicians and political commentators in India.

The Serum Institute in India is currently producing the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and hopes to produce up to one billion doses by the end of 2021.

India is already sending vaccines to Myanmar, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Maldives as part of the “Vaccine Maitri” or “Vaccine Maitri” initiative. Vaccine Friendship”.

India’s foreign minister this week said Vaccine Maitri is a practical step that shows what they believe in and their approach.

Meanwhile, China already has two vaccines approved for use in the country, from one state-owned company Sinopharm and another from Sinovac Biotech.

Indonesia, Turkey, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Uruguay, and Laos have already granted emergency permits for the use of the Sinovac vaccine, although there are still questions about the efficacy of the vaccine.

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China says their motivation is not political

This week, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said, by participating in international cooperation, China is trying to make vaccines a useful item for the global public.

He also said China shipped vaccines to 27 countries, most of which were developing countries and provided vaccines to 53 countries in need.

But experts say the two countries are engaged in a campaign that is so orchestrated that these diplomatic efforts have caught the attention of the media when distributing vaccines to neighboring countries.

“So when the vaccine arrives, the Indian ambassador or the Chinese ambassador there will receive the vaccine,” said Taneja.

“Diplomats also upload videos and pictures of vaccine acceptance,” added Taneja.

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Competition between the two countries also involves netizen and the media where they deliver negative narratives about vaccines in other countries.

A report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) describes the war going on on the internet as well as in the media of China and India, respectively.

ASPI analyst Ariel Bogle said Chinese media users repeatedly published stories criticizing India’s vaccination program.

The Global Times published 20 stories about India and its vaccination program in January, mostly negative news, questioning the safety and efficacy of the Indian vaccine, “said Ariel, a former journalist. ABC.

Meanwhile, netizen in India repeatedly said China exported the virus and India succeeded in killing the virus through a vaccination program.

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The country is looking for new partners

This strategic competition has been very evident in countries where China and India are aiming to strengthen their influence.

Nepal, which is geographically located between the two countries, has become the center of this geopolitical movement.

China and India send vaccines to Nepal.

According to Ariel, there was an unofficial question from the Prime Minister of Nepal, KP Sharma Oli, if his country prefers the Indian vaccine to China and this has been disseminated by the Indian media.

“The version of the statement appeared on Instagran where there were six posts that got 65,000 interactions, according to the CrowdTangle monitoring platform,” said Ariel.

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The two countries are also trying to find new countries outside of their existing traditional partners.

Taneja said that Cambodia had been seen as China’s closest ally in Southeast Asia, but PM Hun Sen called the Indian PM to ask for help with vaccines.

Meanwhile, China has already offered one million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine to Cambodia, with hundreds of thousands already shipped.

But there is also demand from Cambodia to India which “shows Cambodia does not fully believe that China will be able to meet their demands,” Taneja said.

India is also competing for influence with its main competitor, namely Pakistan.

Half a million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine arrived in Afghanistan this month, a country where India and Pakistan are struggling for influence.

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There is only one country that can meet the demands of the world

Vaccine shipments from China abroad have faced several obstacles so far and there have been delays in vaccine deliveries to Turkey and Brazil.

But in Africa, China has a broader diplomatic network than India so it can distribute vaccines more quickly.

French President Emmanuel Macron warned this week that if no vaccines from Western countries arrive in the next six to 12 months, some African countries will face pressure from their own people to buy from China or Russia.

“And the power of Western countries is only a concept, not a reality anymore,” said Macron.

India is now using its huge manufacturing capabilities to increase their diplomatic power.

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Australian Ambassador to India Barry O’Farrell said in December 2020, there is only one country in the world that has the manufacturing capability to supply to all countries in the world and that country is India.

“India has the capacity in terms of vaccine production, but it is their diplomatic capacity that is a problem because India has the smallest diplomatic corps in terms of size of countries,” said Taneja.

However, according to Taneja, in the distribution of this vaccine, India will be able to match China.

“India is using its main power by portraying itself as something different from China, in that they are a democracy that is willing to help neighboring countries and help other developing countries deal with the pandemic,” said Taneja.

ABC already trying to get comments from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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