China hopes ‘vaccine diplomacy’ will restore its image and boost its influence

China hopes ‘vaccine diplomacy’ will restore its image and boost its influence

Trading allies such as Brazil are at the head of the queue for Beijing’s huge drug distribution programme

There was no VIP on board the plane from China that arrived in São Paulo airport earlier this month, but the state governor, João Doria, nonetheless led a high-level welcome delegation gathered on the tarmac.

The masked dignitaries were there to mark the arrival of seven refrigerated containers of vaccines, posing for official photos with tiny vials that Doria hopes will end or at least slow the ravages of Covid-19 in the state he runs.

Brazil is among the countries worst hit by the pandemic, with over six million cases and nearly 170,000 deaths.

China has promised that 6 million doses of CoronaVac, made by the biotech firm Sinovac, will reach Brazil by January. São Paulo’s highly respected Butantan Institute, which is testing the vaccine, will get raw materials to make millions more.