The COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the world, increasing the number of infected people and deaths. However, in some countries and territories, people refuse to receive Chinese vaccines, despite the risk of disease. This happens in Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, and some European countries. Even foreign nationals living in China look for opportunities to be immunized with non-Chinese vaccines, such as AstraZeneca.
Vietnam’s Ministry of Health recently said that on June 20, China donated Vietnam 500,000 doses of its vaccine. These vaccine doses will be given priority to three groups: Chinese people working in Vietnam, Vietnamese people wishing to study and work in China, and people in border areas.
The receipt and use of vaccines from China caused a wave of public opinion of the Vietnamese people. A large number of people have taken to Facebook to publicly express that they do not want and will not receive vaccines from China, no matter what the consequences.
So why do so many people in Vietnam and other countries hate Chinese vaccines? There are two reasons to explain this hatred. First, there is concern about the quality of China’s vaccines; Second, it is with China’s unruly actions in the South China Sea that many people want to boycott vaccines from China.
Doubts about the quality of China’s vaccines
At first glance, China seems to be at the forefront of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. They were the first to develop a vaccine against the disease, about a billion injections have been made in China, local pharmaceutical companies have sold more than 350 million doses of the vaccine abroad, and the World Health Organization (WHO) has approved the use of Chinese-made Sinopharm and Sinovac Biotech vaccines (even if only in an emergency).
But since May 2020, China has repeatedly emphasized that the COVID-19 vaccine developed by China is “first in the world.” Jin Canrong, deputy director of the Center for International Relations, Renmin University of China, even said that China’s COVID-19 vaccine occupies the first four positions in the list of 10 COVID-19 vaccines safest in the world.
The problem is, in terms of COVID-19 vaccines, no prestigious international organization, expert, or magazine has acknowledged that China’s COVID-19 vaccine is the world’s leading one.
In fact, in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, China claims to have “institutional superiority.” However, that advantage was built on the basis of using strong measures, blocking news, people voluntarily or coercively coordinating … making the epidemic situation in China become relatively mild compared to other countries, becoming one of its political achievements. In the West, there are also many people who affirm China’s anti-epidemic effectiveness, but in general, China’s anti-epidemic measures cannot be applied in a free European-American society.
The report shows that in Hong Kong there are three deaths after vaccination with China; A Korean woman also died after being vaccinated in Shanghai. According to public information, by the first week of March 2021, the Sinovac vaccine had been injected with 44 million doses, at least 56 people died after this vaccine. The number of deaths is not high, so it has not led to a boycott or ban on use.
China has provided COVID-19 vaccines to 69 countries where the epidemic situation is tense. Leaders of some countries such as Indonesia, Egypt, Turkey, Serbia, Jordan … have injected China’s COVID-19 vaccine and confirmed its effectiveness. A Chinese expert, Mr. Kim Can Vinh, has claimed that China’s COVID-19 vaccine is 100% effective. But the results of the trial in Brazil showed that the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by China was only 50.4%.
Leaders of countries such as the UK, the US, Canada … have all publicly been vaccinated against COVID-19 to increase people’s confidence in the disease prevention effect of vaccination. However, the Chinese leadership has so far not publicly injecting a vaccine against COVID-19 developed by the country. Director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention Gao Fu frankly said that the effect of the Chinese vaccine “is not so ideal.” According to Gao Fu, it is understandable that the WHO had not previously approved a Chinese vaccine because the Chinese vaccine lacked data of the third trial phase. Some people believe that the inability to provide third batch data is due to bad data, so they do not dare to publish. The lack of transparency has raised questions about the safety of Chinese vaccines.
China’s intentions and actions in the South China Sea
According to observers, the number of Chinese vaccines to Vietnam comes as Beijing wants to improve its position in the region through “vaccine diplomacy.” Along with sending vaccines to Vietnam, another batch of Sinopharm’s vaccine has also arrived in Bangkok (Thailand).
China’s recent aggressive actions in the South China Sea have made most Vietnamese people hating the Chinese government. Since 2007, China has increasingly revealed its intention to seize the sea to become its home pond. Even this year, China has been aggressive with a number of countries in the South China Sea. Earlier this year, China passed the Law on the Coast Guard, which allows the Chinese Coast Guard to attack with weapons against other countries’ fishing vessels in waters “under China’s jurisdiction.” China has always asserted that the waters within the “cow’s tongue line” accounting for nearly 90% of the South China Sea are “seas under its sovereignty.” From the beginning of March until now, China has deployed hundreds of fishing boats around the Whitsun Reef area (Spratlys). In early June, 16 Chinese aircraft threatened Malaysia’s airspace near Luconia Shoal. Therefore, many Southeast Asians were angry, demanding a boycott of vaccines from China.
In the Philippines, the people of this country are showing anti-China attitudes due to its aggressive actions in the South China Sea and China is also the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic. “China has a lot of bad reputation in Southeast Asia,” said Richard Heydarian, a political analyst in Manila, and is aware that it needs to find a way to appease it. Heydarian said that since the SARS-CoV-2 virus originated in China, the country must “double responsibility.” This expert also said that China is facing more disadvantages than people think. “Up until May 2020, China had the upper hand in the South China Sea dispute, but things are also changing. Look at the statements of protest from Indonesia, from Vietnam, even Malaysia,” said Mr. Heydarian.