China’s vaccine R&D is not in a nasty US rat race

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By Ai Jun Source: Global Times

Vaccine Photo: Xinhua

What happens if a novel coronavirus vaccine had gone through all clinical trials and been approved for public use? By then, the world’s economic and social life may finally get back to normal in a real sense. Unfortunately, this beautiful vision is not in the eyes of American media outlets, as they tend to view this as a cutthroat competition for power and prestige by asking: what if the US loses the race for vaccine research and development (R&D)?

US media outlet Politico published an article on Monday entitled, “What Happens If China Gets the Covid-19 Vaccine First?” The author, Elizabeth Ralph, raised a series of questions in it, including: what if China refuses to give a safe vaccine to the US and instead uses it as a bargaining chip to combat US power? What if the Trump administration, or a Biden administration, refuses to accept it? And will US’ closest allies scratch their head and ask “is the United States really going to be there when China comes knocking” with a vaccine?

Ralph represents quite a few US’ political analysts, and her view even reflects that of many American politicians. If they follow this line of thinking, it means they intend to do so themselves – turning a US-developed vaccine into a geopolitical bargaining chip and use it to boost US’ influence.

The US cares too much about its No.1 position in the world. This is why it is trying to sabotage any possibility in which China could take a lead in any given field.

China has no intention to fight the US to become the No.1 in COVID-19 vaccine R&D. Chinese scientists are working around the clock, but they are not rushing to win the holy grail of being the first. They emphasize safety and effectiveness. But the US does not believe so. It is keen to keep its overwhelming advantage in most sectors in the world. It overlooked the fact that quite a few countries are attractive without being the No.1 in any specific area.

As Ralph wrote, China winning the race would be “a nightmare scenario” for the US, as the latter’s prestige could falter, and “the world will have to rethink its alliances.” Today’s US looks like a once handsome guy heading toward a nostalgic and sentimental midlife. It is deeply concerned about losing its attractiveness.

This explains why the US is obsessed to describe the vaccines R&D as a national strength’s triumph comparable to the moon landing. Even though China has underlined multiple times it will make its COVID-19 vaccine a global public good when it is ready, the US, which is witnessing record-breaking infection surges and obviously needs the vaccine more than China does, still shows this attitude: the significance of defeating China in the geopolitical game far outweighs its people’s lives.

But instead of focusing on developing its own vaccines, the US is smearing and hindering other countries’ efforts. It groundlessly accuses Chinese hackers of seeking to steal COVID-19 vaccine research from the US, sanctions a Russian research institute that was developing coronavirus vaccine, and even attempted to buy a German firm to secure exclusive rights to a possible vaccine the company had been working on.

Washington is not only filled with political calculations toward the outside world – it also has domestic calculations at home. In August, Trump said the US would have a coronavirus vaccine before November 3 election. What a coincidence. He knows well that the vaccine may be a life-saving straw that could save his approval ratings amid US’ disastrous response to the epidemic so he has conveniently created the release date. No wonder Politico raised the concern, “the US might prematurely approve a vaccine as a kind of Cold War propaganda triumph.”

The US, once shimmering like a knight with charm, is now grumpy and seeking by hook or by crook to get its groove back, as it realizes that it loses the control of reality, with its dream becoming hard to reach. It is losing its charm to others. Yet it cannot help but coerce its allies to follow its suit.

For China, vaccine R&D is not a geopolitical competition. Nor is this a race China has to win. For China, it is about patients waiting to be cured and a world waiting to go back to normal. It does not matter if the US believes so. But if the US does care about its own influence or attractiveness, it should know charm emanates from the inside. And it can hardly be obtained with a rat race, coercion, or calculation.

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