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China and Russia vaccine diplomacy

"Here is what The Economist has to say about this."

 

 

The Economist, in a recent article entitled “Vaccine DIplomacy Boost Russia and China’s Global Standing,” reveals what the two countries are doing as a way to reward old friends and win new ones:

“In January, as many rich countries were rolling out COVID-19 vaccine programs, others were behind. Today it’s harder to get the vaccines than nuclear weapons, complained Aleksandar Vucic, Serbia’s president. Mr. Vucic compared the situation to the sinking of the Titanic where everyone wanted a lifeboat only for themselves.

“Serbia has now surged ahead of many of its European neighbors in the vaccination race - mostly because it gained easier access to Chinese and Russian jabs. This is true in poor parts of the world. According to a recent tally by Agence France-Presse, a news agency, of more than one billion doses of vaccines that have been administered worldwide, just 0.2 percent have gone to people from low income countries.

“Many have turned to China and Russia for help. A report published on April 28 by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), a sister company of The Economist, shows how the two countries are filling a vaccine vacuum by helping poor economies secure doses. They have shipped millions of jabs to developing countries stuck at the brick of the global queue. Such vaccine diplomacy is designed to bolster the two countries’ global standing, improve bilateral relations and gain strategic influence.

“The EIU estimates that the Russian government intends to send shots to around 70 countries to export vaccines to around 90 countries. In comparison, the rich world would—notably, America and the EU—are providing little, and COVAX, a global vaccine-sharing initiative, is hampered by India’s recent restrictions on vaccine exports. 

“To ensure they gain a foothold in places were Western is declining, both China and Russia are setting up vaccine production facilities abroad and training local workers. The two countries are playing a long game. But, besides enhancing their global prestige, they may also be using vaccines to reward loyal friends or secure particular favors.

“The EIU report points out that Russian officials began talks with the Bolivian government about access to mines producing pre-earth minerals and nuclear projects shortly after Russia had delivered a batch of its domestically produced Sputnik V vaccine. And China generously to Cambodia and Laos may be partly explained by gratitude or their backing for China’s position on the South China Sea.”

The reason why I decided to reprint this article from The Economist is to show that China’s “vaccine diplomacy” is not only to improve its bilateral relations but win new friends and allies on whatever policies and plans it has. In the case of the Philippines, China’s donations of Sinovac’s CoronaVac appears as a clear attempt to show to us Filipinos that President Duterte’s pivot to China despite what’s happening at the West Philippine Sea with the frequent incursion of Chinese militia vessels into what is known as the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) has its positive aspect.

The Chinese line, for example, has made Duterte say that we, Filipinos, should thank China for all its donations of its Sinovac vaccines. Personally, I am not buying that line as enunciated by the President because despite all the promises of Duterte’s friend, China President Xi Jinping, of loans and investments, I have not seen it happening. 

Recall Duterte saying he loves Xi. It is a case of unrequited love. Yes, there have been instances of China investing in the Philippines, but they appear negligible. I may go to the extent of warning Filipinos of a case of Chinese bearing gifts like that of Trojan Horse given by the Greeks to the Trojans, full of Greek armed men that sacked Troy when the Trojans were asleep. In the case of the Chinese giving Duterte vaccine donations, personally I feel uneasy as a Filipino because I am fully aware of what China is doing at the West Philippine Sea.

It is for this reason why the majority of Filipinos are leery and suspicious of China’s action. Somehow, China is really up to something.

Insofar as Russia is concerned, President Duterte’s pivot to Russia seems to be working out. While Putin still has to accept the invitation of Duterte to visit the Philippines, Putin gladly approved the procurement of about a million doses of Sputnik V for the Philippines.

But while the country has accelerated its procurement of more doses of brand vaccines, the country is still miles away from achieving its “herd immunity” goal, which raises the question why the vaccination of people is so much delayed and very slow. There must be something very wrong in the vaccine rollout, my gulay! This question is asked because it seems local government units move so slowly in the vaccination of their residents.

In Paranaque, for instance, in its vaccination center at MOA (Mall of Asia), people line up for three to four hours to get vaccinated.

* * *

It’s difficult to line up the main issues on the 2022 national and local elections. The impact of COVID-19 on the lives of people, especially those among the D and E, have been so great that Philippine recession continues to affect the lives of people. While joblessness has improved a bit, statistics still show that about 5 million or more lost jobs because the community quarantine restrictions and health protocols have made it very difficult for workers, like among jeepney and bus conductors and drivers because of limitations in the transport industry. Workers in restaurants and hotels have been affected too because of limited capacities. Gyms, cinemas and salons are still closed. Livelihood is also limited. And the government subsidies do not seem for the poor to sustain life and have food on the table.

All these have in fact resulted in the contraction of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to as much as 4.5 percent. Santa Banana, there is hunger among the poor!

The newspapers, radio and television may show critics of Duterte and his administration talking about the Chinese incursion in the West Philippine Sea and the countries EEZ, but these are all meaningless to people looking for work, hungry and who can hardly make both ends meet.

Poverty, joblessness and loss of livelihood are still the main issues for the majority of Filipinos this coming election. It’s a gut issue.

Santa Banana, the sad part of it all is that these gut issues have been with us for a long long time, and elections do not end them.

* * *

The senatorial “balikbayans” are old familiar faces who will try their luck—Sorsogon Gov. Chiz Escudero, Antique Rep. Loren Legarda, former Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, and Jinggoy Estrada.

Topics: The Economist , COVID-19 , vaccine programs , Aleksandar Vucic
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