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China sends 200,000 COVID vaccines 4 days after Nicaragua dumps Taiwan

China's vaccine diplomacy on display after Nicaragua ditches Taiwan

Vaccine vials and syringe in front of Chinese flag. (Reuters image)

Vaccine vials and syringe in front of Chinese flag. (Reuters image)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Beijing's vaccine diplomacy was on full display when 200,000 doses of Chinese-made COVID vaccines arrived in Nicaragua on Monday (Dec. 13).

On Thursday (Dec. 9), Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Denis Moncada announced that his country was cutting ties with Taiwan in favor of China. Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) reciprocated by severing relations with the country saying Taiwan "deeply regrets" that President Daniel Ortega has disregarded the long-standing friendship between the two countries.

China's state-run mouthpiece the Global Times on Monday announced that 200,000 doses of China's controversial Sinopharm vaccines had arrived in Nicaragua. The doses, which were the first of 1 million, were accompanied by a Nicaraguan delegation headed by President Ortega's son Laureano Ortega Murillo, Minister of Finance Ivan Acosta, and Chinese Foreign Affairs Representative Yu Bo, according to Bolivia's Kawsachun News.

The state-owned tabloid lauded the US$506 million in bilateral trade between the two countries in 2020, 96% of which consists of Chinese exports to Nicaragua. It also cited a Chinese expatriate in Nicaragua as claiming that "Nicaraguan natives" are "all looking forward to restarting the Nicaragua Canal project."

This year, China has tried to use the pandemic to lure other Taiwanese diplomatic allies, such as Paraguay, Honduras, and Guatemala, with offers of vaccines. At the same time, it took steps to stymie Taiwan's acquisition of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, demanding that its government purchase the jab directly from its Chinese distributor Fosun Pharma, before Taiwanese companies and charities stepped in and broke the impasse.

All three major Chinese vaccine-makers — Sinopharm, Sinovac, and CanSino Biologics — have been criticized for pushing their products onto the market without publishing comprehensive results of phase 3 clinical trials, prompting even the former chief of the China Food and Drug Administration, Bi Jingquan, to call for the companies to provide more data and transparency, according to SCMP.