The Beneficial Rivalry of “Vaccine War”

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By Mohamad Lail Febryantsyah


The “childish” rivalry between the US and China seems to always have something to be disputed about.[1] They always find ways to spread their influence to the world to prove their domination, including by the name of “Humanitarian Aid”.

Meanwhile, it has been 2 years since the COVID-19 outbreak has inflict devastating damage to the world, it inflicted the economic sector as well as the death toll it caused.[2] Unfortunately, it seems that the “Cold War” between the western bloc led by the US against China’s rising power has found a non-conventional way to spread their influence which by providing COVID-19 vaccines as much as possible to prove their might to the everyone.[3] However, is the rivalry only bringing more harm than good towards the world’s struggle on the handling of the pandemic? Or is it the other way around?

China: The Rising Giant of Mass-Production

Being the underdog once and rise as a giant, is a proper sentence to describe China’s successful revolution. Initiated by Deng Xiaoping, in which able to transform China from a small agriculture country that once being devastated by the Japanese occupation during the World War 2, to being able to rise as one of the largest economy power of the world.[4] [5]

They have surpassed US Purchasing power parity since 2017 according to the World Bank and will likely to continue to rise as there are no signs of declining according to IMF projections with an increase of 5,6% while the US with only 2,5% in 2022.[6] [7] [8] Furthermore, research by Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) is forecasting the Chinese economy will surpasses the US economy by the year of 2028 due to their “efficient” handling on the COVID-19 pandemic.[9]

With enormous money and great infrastructure support, they are able to domestically produce up to 5 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine per year (Sinovac, Sinopharm, CanSino, and Anhui Zhifei Longcom).[10] And in early 2021, China have partnered up with African countries to produce Chinese licensed vaccine in Africa (Algeria, Egypt, and Morocco).[11] The partnership is expected to be able to produce up to 5 million doses of vaccines each months in each facilities.[12]

This of course will be very beneficial for the African countries as well as the global vaccination effort. Even though the Chinese officials deny any political purposes and purely for humanitarian function for this partnerships, this also very beneficial for China as how they able to gain “sympathy” from the African countries which shows on the Chinese government success in spreading their influence.

QUAD, Assemble!

Noticing the Chinese move, the US is planning to counter-balance the Chinese by reaffirming the QUAD cooperation. The meeting on March 2021 produces a joint statement which reaffirm and strengthen their relations, cooperation, and commitments on “containing” the rise of China.[13] The document also mentioned the QUAD commitment on the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. While on 24th of September, QUAD pledges to donate more than 1.2 billion doses globally of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine with the “QUAD Vaccine Partnership” program.[14]

Some scholars believes that the QUAD vaccination program is relying with the US funds and vaccine license, Japanese advance technology and funds, the Australian logistical services capability, and India’s mass-production capability with cheap manufacturing cost.[15] With this distribution of roles, it is believed that it will be able to match up China’s vaccine producing capability. The aim of the QUAD vaccination program is to distribute vaccines for low to mid income countries in the Asia-Pacific and Africa.[16] However, QUAD did not just focus to giving vaccines only, but also investing in the science and health technologies sectors.

A “Beneficial” Rivalry?

Rivalries, conflicts, and disputes are usually bringing more harms than good to conflicting parties and even affecting other parties or even the world. The rivalry between China with the US and QUAD however, is a unique case where it brings more benefit for the world than harm. It is because of both sides vaccine production in which they boost up their production capability more and more in order to have the “pride” to show off on who contributed the most towards the global vaccination progress of the world.[17] The rivalry also enabled poor countries have a chance to access vaccines, better healthcare facilities, and improved human security thanks to the “Vaccine diplomacy” of both sides.[18] [19]

Even though Zha Daojiong and some scholars argued that the enemy should be time and not to each-others and proposing US-China vaccine manufacturing cooperation because according to them it will be more beneficiary.[20] However, it is undeniably that the rivalry already brings massive benefit towards the global vaccination progress. And the rivalry is actually boost both side’s “morale” to continues to increase their scale of production with the hope to beat their opponent capabilities. And such thing would not exist if there are no rivalry between both sides.

While the “Vaccine war” is still going on, with both sides trying to outmatch each-others vaccine production capability. Surely this “race” will be very beneficial for the effort of COVID-19 pandemic handling and hopefully will resulting to a sooner end of the pandemic. In the end, this shows on how the global powers of the world really determines the fate of the whole international society. However, would the rivalry stay within the “safe” parameter or will it escalate to which an armed conflict is inevitable? Nobody knows for sure. It is important to note that rivalries and disputes are often leads harm to conflicting parties and often non-relating parties. And it is very important for leaders all around the world to realize on how devastating if a global-scale conflict occurs. Will they remember from the past? Or will they be lost and drown into ambition and self-righteous ego?

  1. Jude Woodward, The US Vs China: Asia’s New Cold War? (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2017), Kindle edition

  2. Paul Blake and DIVYANSHI WADHWA, “2020 Year in Review: The Impact of COVID-19 in 12 Charts,” World Bank Blogs, last modified December 2020,

  3. Gina B. Serhal, “The Vaccine Race: How the United States and China’s Geopolitical Motivations Have Shaped Their Global Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic,” TRENDS Research and Advisorypage, last modified August 29, 2021,

  4. Susan H. Marsh and MichaeL Kau, “Chinese Reform Socialism under Deng Xiaoping: Theory and Practice,” China in the Era of Deng Xiaoping: A Decade of Reform, 2016, doi:10.4324/9781315287492-9.

  5. Ken Moak and Miles W. Lee, China’s Economic Rise and Its Global Impact (Basingstoke: Springer, 2016)

  6. Martin Jacques, When China rules the world (ketika china menguasai dunia): kebangkitan dunia timur dan akhir dunia barat (PT Gramedia Pustaka Utama, 2011)

  7. World Bank, “GDP, PPP (constant 2017 International $) – China, United States,” World Bank Open Data | Data, last modified 2021,

  8. INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND, “World Economic Outlook Update, January 2021: Policy Support and Vaccines Expected to Lift Activity,” IMF, last modified January 26, 2021,

  9. Centre for Economics and Business Research, WORLD ECONOMIC LEAGUE TABLE 2021:A world economic league table with forecasts for 193 countries to 2035 (London: Centre for Economics and Business Research, 2020),

  10. Riyaz Khaliq, “China’s Vaccine Production Capacity Increases to 5B Doses a Year,” Anadolu Agency, last modified July 16, 2021,

  11. Veda Vaidyanathan, “China Is Manufacturing Vaccines in Africa. The Quad Should Too,” The Diplomat – The Diplomat is a Current-affairs Magazine for the Asia-Pacific, with News and Analysis on Politics, Security, Business, Technology and Life Across the Region, last modified October 5, 2021,

  12. Ibid.

  13. The United States of America, “Quad Leaders’ Joint Statement: “The Spirit of the Quad”,” The White House, last modified March 12, 2021,

  14. The United States of America, “Joint Statement from Quad Leaders,” The White House, last modified September 25, 2021,

  15. Shubhajit Roy, “India to Make US Vaccines with Japan Funds, Australia Logistics,” The Indian Express, last modified March 13, 2021,

  16. The United States of America, ” Joint Statement from Quad Leaders”.

  17. Serhal, ” The Vaccine Race: How the United States and China’s Geopolitical Motivations Have Shaped Their Global Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic,”.

  18. Seow T. Lee, “Vaccine diplomacy: nation branding and China’s COVID-19 soft power play,” Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, 2021, doi:10.1057/s41254-021-00224-4.

  19. Simone McCarthy, “Quad Counters China’s ‘vaccine Diplomacy’ with Billion Doses Pledge,” South China Morning Post, last modified March 13, 2021,

  20. Zha Daojiong, “The Real US-China Vaccine Race is Against Time – Not Each Other,” South China Morning Post, last modified March 6, 2021,

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