China pledges $3 billion in aid to developing nations

Eduardo Baptista, South China Morning Post

Posted at May 22 2021 02:20 PM | Updated as of May 22 2021 02:21 PM

Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged US$3 billion to developing countries at the virtual G20 Global Health Summit in Rome on Friday, as the world looks to leading economies for concrete commitments to fund and distribute Covid-19 vaccines equitably.

Xi attended the event – co-hosted by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi – via video link.

He said that as well as the international aid it was already providing, China would give an additional US$3 billion over the next three years to support developing countries’ Covid-19 response and socio-economic recovery.

“G20 members need to adopt responsible macroeconomic policies, keep the global and industrial supply chain safe and smooth, and give continued support to developing countries,” he said.

Xi’s pledge comes as the US is adopting an increasingly proactive stance in helping other countries deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.

US President Joe Biden announced a US$2 billion contribution to Covid-19 efforts at the G7 meeting in February after Xi in May last year pledged US$2 billion to help fight the health crisis.

Against the backdrop of their strategic rivalry, Beijing has accused Washington of “vaccine nationalism” while the US has raised concerns about China trying to build influence in developing countries through its so-called vaccine diplomacy.

Xi said on Friday that “major countries need to take up the responsibility to provide more vaccines to developing countries in urgent need”.

“It is imperative for us to reject ‘vaccine nationalism’ and make vaccines more accessible and affordable,” he said.

Last week, World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus pointed to the “gross distortion” in vaccine access.

“At present, only 0.3 per cent of vaccine supply is going to low-income countries,” he said. “Trickle-down vaccination is not an effective strategy for fighting a deadly respiratory virus.”

As of Thursday, there had been 165 million reported coronavirus infections globally and more than 3.4 million deaths.

Xi said China supported domestic vaccine manufacturers transferring technologies and undertaking joint production with countries facing vaccine shortages. He also suggested the creation of an international forum so vaccine manufacturing countries could cooperate to ensure their fair and equitable distribution.

The call for greater solidarity comes as Washington has begun to challenge China’s dominance in pandemic-related aid.

Biden said in early May that he would support calls from developing countries for the World Trade Organization (WTO) to waive intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines.

Xi said on Friday that China supported the WTO in making an “early decision” on the matter.

However, European leaders have said the waiver is not a magic bullet and could hamper efforts to adapt vaccines to coronavirus variants. 

Instead, they want the US to boost its vaccine exports.

Biden said this week that the US would export 80 million doses by the end of June.
As of Thursday, China had sold 651 million doses of vaccines globally and donated 18.3 million, according to Beijing-based Bridge Consulting.

Xi said on Friday that China had supplied 300 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines to the world and would continue to make more available.
Nations should not seek to attribute blame for the coronavirus but work together to fight it, he said.

“We must firmly reject any attempt to politicise, label or stigmatise the virus. Political manipulation will not serve Covid-19 response on the domestic front, it will only disrupt international cooperation against the virus and bring greater harm to people around the world.”

 

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