Commentary on Political Economy

Wednesday 24 March 2021


Paraguay Says Offers of Chinese Vaccine Tied to Dumping Taiwan

  • South American nation says offers come from third parties
  • Taiwan condemns effort to undercut its diplomatic relations

Like many nations, Paraguay faces an uphill battle to procure coronavirus vaccines. But its quest is being complicated by fraught relations between China on one side, and Taiwan and the U.S. on the other.

The Paraguayan government has been approached with offers of Chinese-made vaccines in exchange for breaking ties with Taiwan, the country’s foreign ministry said in statement earlier this week. The ministry said that the offers were made by individuals “whose legitimacy and ties to the government of the People’s Republic of China are not proven.”

Interior Minister Euclides Acevedo vowed in a radio interview Monday not to bow to pressure, according to local news site Hoy. “We are not going to accept them telling us, ‘We sell the vaccines, but they break relations with Taiwan,’” Acevedo said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Wednesday that she wasn’t aware of the source of the allegations, but said the country was “always honorable and above board” with its offers for vaccine support. “On the specific incident you mentioned, I think it is a typical malicious piece of disinformation,” Hua told a regular news briefing in Beijing.

The episode is the latest example of how geopolitics is infecting the global race for vaccines, with major powers dominating production and hoarding supplies. Paraguay is one of only 15 diplomatic partners that recognize Taiwan’s government, officially known as the Republic of China, over Beijing.

China’s Communist Party claims Taiwan as its territory, despite having never ruled it, and has stepped up efforts to poach the island’s diplomatic allies since Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s election in 2016. Tsai, who maintains that Taiwan is already a sovereign nation, and has sought to defend such relationships while pursing greater economic and security ties with the U.S.

“Vaccines should not be used as a tool for political manipulation,” Alexander Yui, director-general of Taiwan’s Department of Latin American and Caribbean Affairs, told a news briefing Tuesday. “We strongly oppose attempts by some parties to use the cutting of Taiwan-Paraguay relations as a precondition for receiving the Covid-19 vaccine from China.”

Hua, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, sought to blame Taiwan for the dispute. “We urge certain people in Taiwan to stop making petty moves or create rumors or engage in political manipulation,” she said.

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