Southeast Asia’s Coming COVID-19 Vaccine Windfall

There are risks, but the region has a lot to gain from the international race to find an effective vaccine.

There are risks, but also advantages, to sitting at the center of the intensifying geopolitical tug-of-war between China and the United States. As the world strides forward in the search for an effective coronavirus vaccine, Southeast Asia is set to become the focus of outside powers eager to win the region’s support and neutralize China’s own efforts to claim the mantle of global public health leadership.

In the new game of “vaccine diplomacy,” in Southeast Asia and further afield, much of the early movements have been made by Beijing. Extending its earlier campaign of “mask diplomacy,” which saw it shower its Southeast Asian neighbors with masks and personal protective equipment to combat COVID-19, China and some of its top drug-makers have begun assuring the region of access to a successful Chinese vaccine.

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