China’s China National Pharmaceutical Group begins vaccination in the Pacific Islands amid concerns about Beijing’s hegemony

China National Pharmaceutical has launched a COVID-19 vaccination program in the Solomon Islands this week. Concerns about Beijing’s “vaccine diplomacy” efforts have increased and it is trying to expand its hegemony in the South Pacific region.

Deputy Prime Minister Manase Maeranga received his first jab on May 21 at the opening ceremony of vaccination at the Central Field Hospital in Honiara, the capital.

He said the islands were the first in the Pacific to receive a Chinese-made vaccine and “thank you” to the Chinese authorities. According to the Chinese state media Xinhua, the Maeranga inoculation was done to demonstrate the “safety and efficacy” of the vaccine.

The effectiveness of vaccines from Sinopharm and the Chinese state-owned company Sinovac has been questioned, and success rates vary widely from country to country.

In April, Beijing donated 50,000 vaccines to the country, and Chinese ambassador Lee Ming said, “The Solomon Islands are actually the first Pacific Islands to receive our support for the COVID-19 vaccine.” I did.

Epoch Times Photo
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasesogabare (R) and China’s Prime Minister Li Keqiang will visit honorary guards at a welcome ceremony held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on October 9, 2019. (WangZhao / AFP via Getty Images)

Lee also attended the Honiara Ceremony, stating that the development is an example of “mutual trust” shared by Beijing and the Solomon Islands.

According to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) mouthpiece, Global Times, Sinopharm and Sinovac have provided vaccines to more than 80 countries around the world. Beijing has also promised to deliver 200,000 vaccines to Papua New Guinea, a Pacific companion struggling to contain the outbreak of the virus.

Australia then inoculated the Solomon Islands 60,000 times and Papua New Guinea more than 8,000 times with locally produced AstraZeneca vaccine.

Beijing’s move to support developing countries in its vaccination efforts has been criticized, with French President Emmanuel Macron expressing concern about the lack of transparency behind vaccine development.

Due to the low success rate of vaccines in China, there are growing concerns about safety. For example, a final stage clinical trial of Sinovac in Brazil reported 50.4% efficacy, exceeding the 50% threshold set by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Epoch Times Photo
Healthcare professionals are preparing to vaccinate Chinese residents of Sri Lanka, Colombo, on April 6, 2021, with a Chinese-made Sinopharm vaccine. (Ishara S. Kodikara / AFP via Getty Images)

Gabriel Moens, an emeritus professor at the University of Queensland and an expert in international law, said the promotion of vaccines complements Beijing’s $ 1 trillion infrastructure funding scheme, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

“Even the functional assessment of Sinovac’s diplomacy and BRI suggests that China is motivated by the desire to expand its geopolitical footprint around the world,” he said in the Epoch Times editorial. I am writing in.

Meanwhile, Beijing-backed vaccination campaigns in the South Pacific arise as democratic allies continue to oppose Beijing’s ongoing influence building in the region.

Responses from Pacific countries vary.

Samoa’s next prime minister, Fiamme Naomi Mataafa, promised to cancel US $ 100 million in port development near the capital Apia last week, citing over-projects for the country of Samoa’s size and economy.

Epoch Times Photo
A fishing boat anchored near the Apia Fish Market in Apia, Samoa, on September 13, 2015. (MarkKolbe / Getty Images)

Her stance was a complete reversal from the incumbent Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupes Mariele Gaoi. He has maintained friendly relations with Beijing for nearly 20 years in power.

Malaita’s state leader in the Solomon Islands, Daniel Suidani, has been in continuous dispute with the country’s federal leaders over opposition to Beijing and criticism of the Belt and Road Initiative.

“China overwhelmingly targets poor countries that cannot pay debts and loans, such as the Solomon Islands. China has confiscated some or all of its ports from countries that cannot pay off its debts,” said Suidani. It was. Told the crowd At the state legislature in 2019.

That same year, Solomon Islands and Kiribati leaders decided to withdraw Taiwan’s diplomatic approval in favor of Beijing. Taking Taiwan’s international status was the latest step by Beijing.

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