China plot: Tentacles of influence spreading with 'vaccine diplomacy' – as EU squabbles

EU ‘reputation has been knocked’ on vaccine says expert

Professor Steve Tsang was speaking after it was announced Beijing was donating 200,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to Guinea. Prof Tsang, the director of the China Institute at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, told “China practises ‘vaccine diplomacy’ primarily to strengthen its soft power and gain wider support from less well-off countries unable to secure vaccine from any of the leading approved Western vaccine producers in the coming months

“Xi Jinping is determined to make China, rich, stronger, powerful and admired, both domestically and internationally.”

He warned: “The bickering over vaccines and the shortage of vaccines in the Western democracies provide a golden opportunity to act to show the strength of China by making its own vaccines available to countries that cannot get them.

“From Beijing’s perspective, it will help to ’tell China’s story well’ as Xi requires, which can be achieved at relatively low costs.”

China vaccine Xi Jinping

China – led by President Xi Jinping – is practising “vaccine diplomacy”, said Professor Tsang (Image: GETTY)

Charles Michel Angela Merkel Ursula von der Leyen

China’s approach differs from the EU – led by Charles Michel, Angela Merkel and Ursula von der Leyen (Image: GETTY)

China’s ambassador in Conakry, Guinea’s capital, announced the donation in a meeting on Tuesday, the West African nation’s foreign minister Ibrahima Khalil Kaba said this week.

Mr Kaba did not specify which Chinese-developed vaccine would be donated or when the doses would arrive.

So-called vaccine diplomacy by China and Russia is cultivating goodwill in parts of the world after pharmaceutical companies including US-based Pfizer Inc announced shortfalls in distribution plans.

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China One Belt, One Road

China is extending its influence using its One Belt, One Road initiative (Image: GETTY)

Most others are waiting for disbursements from COVAX, a global scheme for lower-income countries which is being co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Guinea, which has a population of 12.4million, has recorded more than 14,500 COVID-19 cases and 83 deaths so far.

China’s strategy with respect to the vaccine fits in with its wider approach, as typified by its Belt and Road initiative.

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Tobias Ellwood

Tobias Ellwood, Tory MP for Bournemouth East, is concerned about Chinese influence (Image: GETTY)

Daniel Kawczynski

Daniel Kawczynski speaking in the Commons (Image: GETTY)

The ambitious programme has seen it sink vast amounts of capital in infrastructure projects in developing countries.

Speaking last year, Tobias Ellwood, a member of Parliament’s China Research Group and the Tory MP for Bournemouth East, told “China covets superpower status but avoids any sense of duty to uphold the core values that we enjoy – freedom, democracy, rule of law etc.

“What it is doing is promoting a competing vision, subtly forcing nations to choose sides, the authoritarian system of control versus ours.

Xi Jinping factfile

Xi Jinping factfile (Image: Express)

“They are utilising Huawei and other things to ensnare small countries into its web of influence.

“And we are seeing this in the South China Sea as well.”

Also speaking last year, Daniel Kawczynski, Tory MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham, told “Whenever we have been to certain British overseas territories, certainly Commonwealth countries, where they continue to have Her Majesty as their head of state, there is a debate which takes place.

Russia Sputnik V vaccine

Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine is being used in a similar way (Image: GETTY)

“Many of them have told us that the Chinese have invested in their countries and are wanting and expecting and calling for those links to be severed, I would go so far as to say.

“They want to have total control of some of these African and Caribbean countries.

“They want to exert their pressure on them unequivocally.”

“They want to exert their pressure on them unequivocally.”