The world worries about a new wave of China’s COVID and thinks about how to help Xi.
Officials and global health experts outside of China are worried about a COVID-19 surge there. They are worried that a country with 1.4 billion people may not have enough vaccines or the right medical tools to treat a wave of illness that is expected to kill more than a million people by 2023.
Some U.S. and European officials are trying to figure out if and how they can help stop a crisis that they fear will hurt the global economy, make it harder for businesses to get what they need, and cause new coronavirus strains that are dangerous.
“We have made it clear that we are ready to help in any way they find acceptable,” John Kirby, a spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council, said on Wednesday.
Related: As the number of COVID cases rises, people around the world are worried.
Health experts from countries other than China that have dealt with COVID waves say that the healthcare system needs to be ready ahead of time, accurate data needs to be collected and shared, and communication needs to be open. They say that many of these things don’t seem to be present in China.
President Xi Jinping has been saying for a long time that the country’s one-party system is the best way to deal with the disease and that Chinese vaccines are better than those made in the west, even though there is some evidence to the contrary.
Democratic governments are in a tough diplomatic spot because they want to help stop a growing crisis that could hurt health and the economy around the world and at home in a way that the Chinese government might be willing to accept.
“China’s vaccine nationalism is deeply tied to Xi’s pride,” said Craig Singleton, deputy director of the China programme at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “Accepting Western help would not only embarrass Xi, but it would also break his often-promoted story that China’s way of running things is better.”
European and U.S. officials are having careful talks behind the scenes with their Chinese counterparts. At the same time, they are making carefully worded public statements to show that the ball is in Beijing’s court.
U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said last week that Washington and Beijing officials talked about how to handle COVID earlier this month in China. They did this to prepare for Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit early next year. He wouldn’t say more because “diplomatic channels are sensitive.”
One way the West could help is by finding out if China would accept BioNTech’s updated mRNA vaccine designed to target Omicron-related virus variants that are currently circulating. Many experts believe this vaccine is more effective than China’s shots.
On a trip to Beijing last month, Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, and Ugur Sahin, the CEO of BioNTech, talked about this issue.
Dr. Ashish Jha, who is in charge of the White House’s coronavirus response, told reporters on Thursday that the US and other Western countries are not openly pushing China to accept mRNA vaccines made in the West. He said, “We are ready to help any country in the world with vaccines, treatments, and anything else we can do.”
Beijing has said that “institutional advantages” will help China get through the epidemic without help from other countries, and the estimated number of COVID deaths in China is still lower than the 1.1 million deaths in the U.S. and the 2.1 million deaths in Europe.
(Graphic: What’s it like to live with the virus?)
But U.S. drug company Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) reached a deal last week to send its COVID antiviral treatment Paxlovid to China through a local company. It said it was working with all parties to make sure there was enough supply.
“Whether or not China asks, as a citizen of Beijing, I welcome the US government’s attitude,” Hu Xijin, the former editor of the party tabloid the Global Times, said on Twitter. He added that he hopes the U.S. government will put pressure on Pfizer to lower the price of Paxlovid.
The United States and China, which have the two largest economies in the world, have become more competitive in recent months. The Biden administration is trying to hurt China’s semiconductor industry and push Beijing out of politics in Asia and Africa.
President Joe Biden has said that the world is at a turning point between democracies and dictatorships.
But there are still a lot of ties between the U.S. and China. China is the largest trade partner for the U.S. and the top customer for many American companies.
Blinken said earlier this month, “We want China to get COVID right.” “First and foremost, it’s in the best interests of the Chinese people, but it’s also in the best interests of people all over the world.”
Luxury companies with businesses in China, like France’s LVMH, and industrial indices have been trading down recently because of concerns about COVID, and Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell hinted last week that he was also worried.
Powell said, “China faces a very difficult system as it reopens.” He also said that manufacturing, exporting, and the supply chain are still very important. “This is a dangerous situation.”
Health experts outside of China are very worried that it may be too late to stop a disaster.
“What do you do when a Category 5 hurricane is an hour and a half out to sea?” If you haven’t done it yet, you can’t do it now. Michael Osterholm, who is in charge of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, said this.
He said, “This pandemic will just blow through China in the next few weeks.” “They should have thought about this six or ten months ago.” “They could have bought time to make things better for themselves.”
A senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, Yanzhong Huang, said that more than 160 million Chinese have diabetes, and eight million Chinese over the age of 80 have not been vaccinated. Those are things that can make COVID worse.
Related: Asian stocks fall along with the dollar because the Fed is becoming more aggressive and China’s COVID is worried.
Dr. Jerome Kim, director general of the International Vaccine Institute in Seoul, said that South Korea, which has one of the lowest COVID death rates of any large country, handled the pandemic by vaccinating as many people as possible, fixing up hospitals before they reopened, and telling the public about the disease.
He said that the government set up health centres and apps that told people with symptoms how to keep from spreading the disease to others.
“Is that now in place in China?” “We have no idea.”