China
China changing Latin American perceptions with Covid-19 aid, says ex-Chilean ambassador
In an event organized by the Washington DC-based Atlantic Council on Monday, Jorge Heine, who served as Chile's envoy to China between 2014 and 2017, said that China had an edge over the US with regards to the rapid deployment of vaccines.

China's rapid deployment of vaccines and other medical aid to Latin America has changed regional perceptions of what the country is capable of and perhaps given it an edge over the US and Europe in the short-term, according to Jorge Heine, Chile's former ambassador to China.

Over the course of the last several months, China has sent more than 165 million Chinese-made vaccine doses to countries across Latin America and the Caribbean, part of a wider effort to build stronger relationships with countries in the region.

The United States, on the other hand, has pledged to give away 80 million doses, although it has yet to announce which countries will receive the vaccines.

In Latin America, a number of countries - including Chile, Uruguay and Brazil - have relied heavily on Chinese-made vaccines, according to data compiled by the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO).

In an event organized by the Washington DC-based Atlantic Council on Monday, Jorge Heine, who served as Chile's envoy to China between 2014 and 2017, said that China had an edge over the US with regards to the rapid deployment of vaccines.

"Timing isn't everything. It's the only thing," he said. "China vaccines are being delivered today. But what does the United States and Europe say? Perhaps later this year, perhaps 2022, perhaps 2023, and then they will be much better and in huge quantities."

"But that's no good. Vaccines are needed today," he said. "China has shown itself to be particularly nimble, in terms of being able to deliver them today."

China has sent more than 165 million Chinese-made vaccine doses to countries across Latin America and the Caribbean, part of a wider effort to build stronger relationships with countries in the region.

Health officials have noted, however, that Chinese vaccines are less efficacious than their US and European counterparts.

An updated study released earlier in May, for example, showed that the vaccine developed by Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac is 65.3% efficacious in preventing Covid-19, compared to above 95% for Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

Ambassador Heine dismissed these concerns.

"That's a sort of rich country club discussion. What countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and Asia need is vaccines now," he said. "China is coming through on that."

Additionally, Heine noted that China's assistance in Latin America is likely changing perceptions - both among the wider public and those in leadership positions - about China.

Additionally, Heine noted that China's assistance in Latin America is likely changing perceptions - both among the wider public and those in leadership positions - about China.

Surveys taken in 2020 following the outbreak of Covid-19 in Wuhan showed that significant portions of the Latin American public had negative views of China as a result of Covid-19.

"That said, in the initial phase of providing PPE and helping Latin American countries mitigate the health crisis, China was very nimble," he said. "What has been happening with the vaccines, I think it has changed perceptions."

This shift in perception, he added, was a result of what he terms ‘China Speed'.

"In terms of what government leaders, decision makers and elites think, there has been a change in terms of perception of what China is able to do," he said. "One of the winning cards of China has been to actually get things done and get them done quickly."

In the US, lawmakers have warned the Biden administration that it needs to do more to compete with China as far as Covid-19 assistance goes.

"Without US engagement and leadership, our competitors will continue efforts to use their less effective vaccines as leverage to coerce Latin America and Caribbean nations in support of a diplomatic agenda inimical to ours," Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Democrats Bob Menendez and Tim Kaine said in a letter sent to Biden earlier in May. 

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