Aggressively pursuing its Covid-19 vaccine diplomacy, China on Monday played down reports of rivalry with India, which has emerged as a major competitor to Beijing in supplying the jabs to various countries, saying that there should not be “vicious” competition and confrontation over this.
China welcomes more countries to produce effective vaccines to benefit more people, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijiang told a media briefing here, replying to a question from China’s official media about the reports of emerging rivalry between Beijing and New Delhi over the vaccine diplomacy.
He said each country should independently decide to opt for the vaccine of its choice independently.
"On this issue, there should not be vicious competition, and certainly not confrontation," Zhao said.
A number of countries in the subcontinent including Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, where Beijing has substantial investments, caught China by surprise by opting for Indian vaccines.
India on Friday said it is undertaking commercial supplies of the doses to a number of countries, including Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Brazil and Morocco.
So far, India has sent consignments of coronavirus vaccines under grant assistance to Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Mauritius and Seychelles.
India has also rushed two million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine to Brazil on the request of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
China for its part was not shy to highlight its own vaccine diplomacy. On January 20, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying read out to the media the names of leaders of several countries who have taken Chinese vaccine jabs.
Hua said 46 countries so far have expressed their desire to import the China-made vaccines.
Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, his vice President Fuat Oktay, Seychelles President Wavel Ramkalawan, leaders of UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Indonesia have been publicly inoculated with Chinese vaccines, she said.
China has launched its vaccine diplomacy even as it approved only one of its four vaccines, Sinopharm for emergency use. Its other vaccines like Sinovac and CoronaVac have made their way abroad and are being used while they are undergoing trial processes.
Back home, China has launched the free vaccination drive for all of its 1.4 billion people starting with key groups. Over 10 million people have been inoculated already in the country while the ruling Communist Party leadership and the party cadre were yet to get vaccinated.
Hua said the Chinese companies are in communication with the World Health Organisation, (WHO) for approval.
“China firms are taking part in COVAX. They expressed readiness to join the COVAX. Hope they can be included in the vaccines reserve list at the early date,” she said.