China using ‘vaccine diplomacy’ to improve image, not for geopolitics – PH envoy
MANILA, Philippines — China is using its coronavirus vaccines to improve its “standing to the public” and not as leverage in geopolitics, Philippine Ambassador to China Chito Sta. Romana said Monday.
“It’s part of their campaign to improve China’s standing in the world and to win the hearts and minds of people,” Sta. Romana said in a televised press briefing.
China reportedly has five vaccines in late-stage trials around the world, including in Brazil, Turkey, and Indonesia. Chinese firm Sinovac Biotech is also seeking the approval of Philippine regulators to conduct Phase 3 clinical trials here.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has promised to share his country’s vaccines with other countries, including the Philippines which has established warmer bilateral ties with China under President Rodrigo Duterte.
The two countries have been locked in a territorial dispute in the South China Sea. Beijing claims almost the entire body of water, including parts of Philippine territory. But a 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague invalidated China’s ambitious nine-dash line feature that virtually owns the critical maritime territory.
But will China use “vaccine diplomacy” in gaining an advantage in geopolitics particularly in the South China Sea? Sta. Romana said: “There’s been no attempt by the Chinese to link the two together,” referring to vaccine diplomacy and the territorial dispute.
“What is happening is, they may be trying to do this to increase their standing to the public, to win the hearts and minds of the public that they are a friendly country, that they mean well and that they do not want to be seen as a benign regional power,” he added.
Aside from Sinovac, the Philippine government is also in talks with other pharmaceutical companies to secure the supply of vaccines against COVID-19, an ailment caused by the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 which has already sickened over 72 million worldwide since it was first detected in Hubei, China in late 2019.
In the Philippines, over 449,000 have been infected with the respiratory disease.
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