WASHINGTON – The US has accused Beijing of providing Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccines of questionable efficacy to foreign nations “for strategic political purposes” — often demanding concessions such as cutting diplomatic ties with Taiwan in exchange.
Despite being ground zero for the outbreak, China capitalized on the pandemic to bend other countries to its will and build much-needed overseas ties, according to a Pentagon report published Tuesday.
“Beijing seized the opportunity to use COVID-19 as a propaganda tool against the West, sought to deflect culpability for the global pandemic and attempted to capitalize on its domestic success in containing the virus and providing foreign health assistance,” read the Defense Department’s China Military Power report for 2022.
The US has accused Beijing of providing Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccines of questionable efficacy to foreign nations “for strategic political purposes.”AP
China – whose closest links are with rogue states such as North Korea, Iran and Russia – lacks the international support defense experts say is needed to supplant the US as global superpower. The Pentagon regularly points to America’s strong alliances and relationships with foreign nations as a key strength of US national security.
“[China’s] foreign policy seeks to build a ‘community of common destiny’ that supports its strategy to realize ‘the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,’ [which is] Beijing’s revisionist ambition for the international order,” the report said.
China’s humanitarian efforts often came with political or economic strings attached.
“For example, the PRC successfully used vaccine provision to convince the Brazilian government to reverse its ban on [Chinese tech company] Huawei’s participation in its 5G networks,” the report said, using the official acronym for People’s Republic of China.
China’s lack of strong allies has hindered it from being a global superpower. CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Imag
The Pentagon further accused Beijing of strategically providing its coronavirus vaccines to key regions where they would most benefit from strengthened ties.
“Beijing primarily targeted countries in Asia and the global South, viewing the provision of COVID-19 vaccines as an opportunity to bolster China’s bilateral ties, advance its responsible great-power narrative and undercut support for Taiwan,” the report said.
China also “push[ed] disinformation on the origin of COVID-19” to distract from the shroud of suspicion over China’s possible role in the coronavirus outbreak, according to the report.
“State media and [Chinese] officials also engaged in an effort to push … denigrate democratic countries’ responses to COVID, and at times displayed a hardened political response to criticism,” it said.
Beijing also used its propaganda to “advance its responsible great power narrative.” For example, it continues to “assert the superiority of [China’s] political model in enabling its success against the virus,” such as its Zero-COVID strategy.
The policy – which Chinese citizens have been actively protesting this week – includes severe lockdowns, closed borders and mandatory testing regimes.