Expert on US-Chinese competition in vaccine diplomacy
Workers unload boxes containing the Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine, donated by China, at Damascus international airport on April 24, 2021, in the Syrian capital.
Loua Beshara | AFP | Getty Images
US-Chinese competition could intensify on another front: the diplomacy of the Covid-19 vaccine.
China has been a major supplier of Covid vaccines to much of the developing world, an effort that some experts say could strengthen Beijing’s global influence and deepen ties with other countries.
But an expert in health governance and policy told CNBC on Thursday that the United States is now catching up with the White House making plans to donate millions of doses of the Covid vaccine overseas and it appears the President Joe Biden intends to do more.
“We’re going to see that China faces a more formidable competitor,” Yanzhong Huang, senior researcher for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia”.
In recent months, China has been “almost the only major player” to send Covid vaccines to other countries, said Huang, who is also a professor at the University’s School of Diplomacy and International Relations. Seton Hall.
This is especially the case when India has halted vaccine exports to prioritize its domestic needs and Russia’s overseas supply remains very limited, he explained.
Several reports have indicated that the United States is stepping up efforts to share Covid vaccines around the world.
Biden is expected to announce in a speech at the G-7 summit on Thursday that the United States will purchase an additional 500 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to share with COVAX, a global vaccine-sharing initiative.
CNBC also reported on Wednesday that the administration is negotiating with Moderna to secure additional doses of the vaccine to deliver to the world.
Origins of Covid-19
Relations between the United States and China got off to a rocky start under the Biden administration. The two sides clashed over several issues, including the origins of the coronavirus, which was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
Biden said last month that he was ordered further examination of information on the origins of the pandemic, including whether the virus had escaped from a Chinese laboratory. In response, China accuses the United States of a political “blame game”.
Huang said the question of the origins of Covid-19 has become so politicized that it is likely to stoke further tensions between the United States and China if more evidence emerges to support the possibility that Covid-19 has come from ‘a laboratory incident.
Without China’s cooperation, such “smoking gun” evidence might not be found, Huang said. Yet in the West, the theory that the virus came from a laboratory has become an increasingly “credible, if not dominant” explanation for the origin of the pandemic, he said.