Wednesday 22nd of September 2021

geopolitical jabs...





















Noting that China saw vaccines as a “global public good” and had no “geopolitical agenda” or “political strings” attached to its rollout, Wang urged Australia to “stop disrupting and undermining vaccine cooperation between China and Pacific island countries” and “work together to... advance international anti-pandemic cooperation with concrete actions.”

It is likely that Wang was referring to comments made in recent months by several senior Australian officials, including Frances Adamson, who heads Australia’s foreign affairs department. In March, Adamson discussed China’s “vaccine diplomacy” during a parliamentary spending hearing.

Stating that she had read “second- or third-hand” reports of vaccines being offered “with strings attached”, Adamson said “it would not be surprising if there were conditions attached in some instances” when it came to vaccine distribution.

In PNG on a trip to bolster “cooperation on health security and infrastructure”, Australia’s minister for international development and the Pacific, Zed Seselja, said any claim that Canberra was interfering with China’s vaccine distribution was “absolutely not the case” and “rejected by the Australian government”.

In an interview with the ABC network, Seselja said the Australian government was “fulfilling our moral and economic responsibility” to the region.

“We come to these issues in good faith, and we’ll continue to do things that are in the interests of our region and in the interest of our friends and neighbours, most particularly PNG,” Seselja told ABC.

He said that those who subscribed to China’s view should “look at Australia’s record during this period, and over a long period of time, of providing high-quality healthcare support and providing vaccine support.”


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PNG in the middle...


On two sides of Papua New Guinea's capital, there are duelling vaccine rollouts run by Australian and Chinese representatives taking place.

In the face of a contagious new variant and widespread vaccine hesitancy, PNG is taking help from any neighbour offering it.

But vaccines have become a loaded political issue lately. 

On a Saturday morning in the car park of Papua New Guinea's biggest shopping centre, the country's first pop-up clinic has just opened. Music is playing, free shirts are being given away, and importantly, people are getting their jabs. 

While this Port Moresby clinic is being run by PNG's health authorities, Australian embassy staff are on site helping, and almost everyone is wearing face masks and shirts emblazoned with the "AusPNG Partnership" logo.

On the other side of the city, at Port Moresby's biggest hospital, another vaccine clinic has been set up.

But this one is being run by a visiting Chinese medical team administering doses of the Sinopharm vaccine.


PNG, which recently detected its first case of the Delta variant, agreed to offers of vaccine supplies from both China and Australia earlier this year amid a surge in COVID cases.

But the geopolitics tied up in the schemes have been hard to ignore, particularly with the Chinese government recently accusing Australian advisers in PNG of interfering with and delaying the rollout of its vaccine in the country.

It is an allegation Australia has denied.

PNG caught between two powers

Like most Pacific countries, PNG has long walked a careful diplomatic line amid the geopolitical battle that is intensifying in the region, and it has become somewhat adept at managing the potentially awkward situation. 


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