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Vaccine Diplomacy

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Vaccine Diplomacy

Soft Power Lessons from China and Russia?


5 min read
3 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

The EU’s wobbly COVID-19 vaccine launch has China and Russia aiming for geopolitical traction.

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The European Union’s coronavirus vaccine challenges have allowed Russia and China to step in with vaccine supplies as a way to promote their commercial and geopolitical aims. Yet for some Central and Eastern European countries, according to policy expert Michael Leigh in this informative analysis, the appeal of working with Russia and China has less to do with their soft power than their ability to stop-gap vaccine shortfalls. Nonetheless, Leigh offers important ideas on how the European Union can counter this shadow diplomacy.


The European Union’s botched COVID-19 vaccine launch created an opening for Moscow and Beijing.

Delays, low vaccine supplies, delivery gridlocks, communication deficiencies and vaccine safety worries have beset the EU’s vaccination launch. These inefficiencies have opened the door to both China and Russia to rectify supply shortages and burnish their image on the world stage.

China is providing free vaccines to more than 50 countries, along with messages that highlight its scientific, linguistic and cultural achievements while downplaying its human rights violations in Xinjiang...

About the Author

Michael Leigh is a senior fellow at Bruegel and an academic director at Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies.

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