Concerns over China vaccine diplomacy "narrow-minded": political advisory body

FILE PHOTO: A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a "Coronavirus COVID-19 Vaccine" sticker and a medical syringe in front of displayed China flag in this illustration taken, October 30, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

BEIJING (Reuters) - Concerns about China using vaccines to sway other countries are “narrow-minded,” a top political advisory body said, apparently dismissing a notion among rival powers that Beijing exploits the fight against COVID-19 to boost its global influence.

Guo Weimin, spokesman for the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), said some suspect China is using COVID-19 vaccines to “expand our geopolitical influence.”

“This idea is extremely narrow-minded”, Guo said at a news conference on Wednesday ahead of the opening of the annual meeting of CPPCC on Thursday. China’s President Xi Jinping has pledged to make China’s vaccines a “global public good.”

The Financial Times newspaper on Wednesday reported that the United States is working with allies Japan, India and Australia on a plan to distribute COVID-19 vaccines in Asia to counter the influence of China. It cited people familiar with the talks.

China’s rival India is using its strength as the world’s biggest maker of vaccines for various diseases to improve regional ties during the pandemic by providing COVID-19 vaccines to a range of countries, pushing back against Beijing’s political and economic in Asia.

China plans to provide 10 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to global vaccine sharing scheme COVAX. Vaccines from Chinese firms are already being rolled out in several countries, including Brazil, Indonesia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

Reporting by Gabriel Crossley, Editing by William Maclean