Can China’s Vaccine Diplomacy Win Hearts and Minds?

As 2020 neared its close, China’s state media began propagating new slogans in its review of the year. 

In the wordy style typical of CCP-speak, it was proclaimed that “institutional advantage is the fundamental guarantee for the formation of great strength to overcome difficulties.”

The fight against the coronavirus, an article in Xinhua argued, had shown the “organizational capability” of socialism with Chinese characteristics and demonstrates “the tremendous superiority and vitality of our political system.”

A big boast, to be sure, but a domestic audience may very well have seen it as justified. On New Year’s eve, even as governments around the world begged their citizens to stay home, crowds packed the streets of Wuhan to celebrate. That the first epicenter of the pandemic was enjoying a mass countdown while cities across the Western world remained locked down was a sizable propaganda win, to put it lightly. 

Yet accolades for China’s pandemic performance have come not just from its own mouthpieces. Former Singaporean diplomat Kishore Mahbubani hailed, as early as in April, China’s “very strong institutions” which had helped drive China through this crisis and predicted that China’s response would “enhance China’s position in the world order.”

But has China’s position in the world order truly been enhanced? Has global images of China improved? Or, to put it in other words: will “the West” and “the rest” be viewed differently as a result of the pandemic? 

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(Cover image credits.)






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