German FM: China using vaccine donations for political ends

BERLIN — Germany’s foreign minister on Tuesday accused China of tying the delivery of coronavirus vaccines to political demands.

Heiko Maas said both Russia and China had been good at publicly promoting the delivery of their vaccines to other countries, but also pursued other aims in doing so.

“We note, in particular with China, that the supply of vaccines was also used to make very clear political demands of various countries,” he said.

Speaking to reporters during a trip to Kalamazoo, Michigan, where Maas visited a Pfizer production facility, he added that such behavior should be rejected.

“In order to prevent this happening in the first place we don’t just have to criticize it, but we have to ensure that the affected countries have alternatives,” he said.

“Those alternative are the vaccines we have available and which we of course want to make available to as many countries and regions in the world as possible,” said Maas. “(That way) the Russians and the Chinese can’t continue to conduct their difficult vaccine diplomacy in this fashion, which only has the purpose of increase their own influence and not necessarily to save people’s lives in the first instance.”

While he didn’t provide any specific examples, Taiwan has accused China of using the delivery of its shots to pressure countries into dropping their support for Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own territory.

Chinese officials said recently that their country is providing coronavirus vaccines to nearly 40 African countries, but said this was being done for purely altruistic reasons.

Last month, diplomats in Geneva told The Associated Press that China had pressured Ukraine into withdrawing its support for a call for more scrutiny of human rights in China’s western region of Xinjiang by threatening to withhold Chinese-made vaccine.