China welcomes Biden's plan to deliver 80 million COVID vaccines to world, denies vaccine diplomacy

"There's a lot of talk about Russia and China influencing the world with vaccines.”

Updated - May 19, 2021 07:14 pm IST

Published - May 18, 2021 05:29 pm IST - Beijing

Vice President Kamala Harris listens as President Joe Biden speaks about distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, in the East Room of the White House, Monday, May 17, 2021, in Washington.

Vice President Kamala Harris listens as President Joe Biden speaks about distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, in the East Room of the White House, Monday, May 17, 2021, in Washington.

China on Tuesday welcomed U.S. President Joe Biden’s announcement to share 80 million COVID-19 vaccine doses with other countries but termed as "despicable" his assertion that Beijing and Moscow are trying to influence the world with their jabs.

"Over the next six weeks, the United States of America will send 80 million doses overseas. That represents 13 % of the vaccines produced by the U.S. by the end of June. This will be more vaccine doses than any country has actually shared to date, five times more than any other country. More than Russia and China, which have donated 15 million doses," Mr. Biden told reporters in Washington on Monday .

"There's a lot of talk about Russia and China influencing the world with vaccines. We want to lead the world with this demonstration of our innovation, ingenuity, and the fundamental decency of the American people,” Mr. Biden said, adding that "we will not use our vaccines to secure favours from other countries." Reacting to Mr. Biden’s announcement, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on Tuesday said, "If the U.S. can deliver on its commitment of vaccine assistance and concrete help to developing countries, we would welcome it”.

"The U.S. keeps making an issue out of China on vaccines that is despicable and makes one doubt the true intention and motivation of the US action," Zhao said.

"Vaccines are not about ethnicity or values and it is a tool to create vaccination divide or political manipulation," he said.

Also read: Joe Biden reiterates U.S. intention to send India vaccines

Refuting allegations that Beijing is seeking to further its influence through vaccine diplomacy, Mr. Zhao said, "unlike the U.S., China will not use vaccines to influence or lead the world nor will we shout slogans. Our objective is no other than to help as many developing countries as possible to save lives." He said China provided vaccines and medical supplies without seeking anything in return.

"There are no political strings attached and we have no geopolitical agenda. If we can help one more person to breathe freely, we will do so regardless of his or her nationality or skin colour," he said.

Mr. Zhao said China has already announced its support by temporary waiver of Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) for coronavirus vaccines by the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

India and South Africa have called for TRIPS waiver of certain intellectual property provisions of COVID-19 vaccines in a communication to the WTO in October last year so that people in developing countries get access to life-saving vaccines and therapeutics as soon as possible.

Also read: Narendra Modi speaks to Joe Biden over phone amid surge in cases

Since then, the proposal started gathering support even in the U.S. and the European Union.

Early this month, WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala appealed to the member countries to quickly present and negotiate a text that could temporarily ease trade rules that protect COVID-19 vaccine technology, considering the urgency.

India’s Commerce Secretary Anup Wadhawan said on Friday that the proposal had received support from several countries.

"I am hopeful that in an early timeframe, some decision will be reached at the WTO...I am hopeful that an early outcome will be achieved on this," he told reporters in New Delhi.

The move would help in scaling up the production of vaccines and other essential products to deal with the coronavirus, he said.

At his media briefing on Tuesday, Mr. Zhao accused "some western countries, especially the US, of stockpiling vaccines much more than they need. Only 14 % of the world now has been vaccinated." The U.S. has purchased more than 2.6 billion vaccines which is more than its requirement, he said.

Also read: We understand India’s pharmaceutical requirements: Joe Biden

"The surplus vaccines are sitting in US warehouses. So there is a pressing task for the developed countries which have stockpiled the vaccines more than they should (to) remove the export restrictions and step up supply to meet the shortfall in the developing countries," he said.

Mr. Zhao said China has provided vaccine assistance to over 80 countries and three international organisations and vaccine exports to over 50 countries.

"We are also working with over 10 developing countries including Egypt and the UAE on technological transfer and cooperative production to quickly advance large-scale production of vaccines," he said.

China has also promised to supply 10 million vaccines to COVAX, a global vaccine distribution campaign backed by the WHO, which recently approved the first Chinese vaccine Sinopharm.

Meanwhile, China, which has controlled the virus at home, has stepped up vaccination of its people amid concerns over virus cases being reported in some places. Health officials said on Monday that over 400 million Chinese have been vaccinated so far.

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