China stands ready to help on COVID-19 vaccines
First Voice

Editor's note: CGTN's First Voice provides instant commentary on breaking stories. The daily column clarifies emerging issues and better defines the news agenda, offering a Chinese perspective on the latest global events. 

On Saturday, the G20 nations held a virtual summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Top on the agenda were a number of international issues and not surprisingly, the global COVID-19 pandemic.

With big progress having been made in the past few weeks towards the completion of a number of vaccines, China's President Xi Jinping orientated his address towards a need for global cooperation on the matters of production and distribution.

Pledging Beijing's help, Xi told the summit that "China is willing to strengthen cooperation with other countries in the research and development, production, and distribution of vaccines" and pledged to offer "help and support to other developing countries, and work hard to make vaccines a public good that citizens of all countries can use and can afford."

Good faith multilateral cooperation is the only way out of this pandemic, a crisis that has rocked the world for a year and that, without the widespread distribution of vaccines, shows no signs of ending. 

In calling for this, China has recognized that for humanity to overcome the pandemic, it cannot be solely about big business or "for profit" initiatives or, for that matter, "vaccine nationalism" where certain nations hoard it for themselves.

As a result, Beijing is turning its focus towards the developing world and calling for support in helping countries that lack the resources and capacity to help their entire population, which it is prepared to donate and distribute billions of vaccines to. 

It is time to work together, and cynical geopolitical blame games were never the answer to overcoming this virus.

Political blame games undermined the global response

Multilateral cooperation has always been the key to overcoming COVID-19, from start to finish, but some countries did not get the memo, and have instead focused extensively on politicizing the virus with the view to exacerbating geopolitical divisions.

By seeking to deflect blame, these countries subsequently negated their own responsibility in dealing with it and projected their failures onto China. In the long run, this form of cynical politics helped absolutely nobody. The unwillingness of the Trump administration to cooperate with Beijing, or for that matter anyone was widely criticized. 

Attacking other countries or international organizations undermines the global effort. This pandemic is not a zero-sum question of "who started it?" or "who should pay?" 

It is a global problem which requires a global effort, with a spirit of good faith and cooperation. As Xi observed, "the COVID-19 pandemic exposed a weakness in global governance".



A vaccine for humanity: Not for profit

Global problems require global solutions, and global solutions require decisions that are made in the interests of all and not at the behest of global pharmacy monopolies. 

One can create a vaccine, that's good news, but it's only one piece of the puzzle. Who can afford it? And who will distribute it? Whilst not a problem the West explicitly faces, it is one for the "global south" spanning Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Southern and South East Asia.

Some countries in these regions have vast populations that, if not given international support, may see COVID-19 linger and circulate for years.

The impact that profit-orientated firms such as Pzifer and Moderna, offering expensive products that have complicated supply chain hurdles such as extreme refrigeration, can have on these countries is limited.

And this is why multilateral cooperation is crucial. China itself has a special pledge to the developing world; its diplomatic ties with these regions are bolstered by a longstanding empathy dating back to the country's revolutionary era and a shared heritage of "post-colonial solidarity", a desire to help them develop, move forwards and overcome the obstacles imposed by Western monopolies.

As a result, it is in the "spirit of Bandung" that China advocates multilateral cooperation to help these countries and calls on others to do the same.

Beijing has pledged to donate billions of its vaccines to Africa in particular and to cooperate via World Health Organization-subsidized programs such as COVAX. It is also prepared to cooperate not just in creating, producing and distributing vaccines, but facilitating the necessary steps to bring dynamics such as global travel back to normal, such as through a "colour code" passage system.

There is so much to be done, and this cannot be a one-nation herculean effort or everyone purely looking after their respective interests alone, but an orchestrated and common vision as to how the world can move forwards and end this together.

There is no other way. Political blame games, grudges, a focus on profit and unilateralism are not the answer and have only served to make the situation worse. Only through earnest multilateral cooperation can COVID-19 be truly defeated, especially for countries facing disadvantages and that is what Xi Jinping is pledging to the G20.

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