A Year on, China Keeps Trying to Rewrite the Origins of the Pandemic

A Year on, China Keeps Trying to Rewrite the Origins of the Pandemic
People wearing masks on New Year’s Eve in Beijing, Dec. 31, 2020 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Assistant Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. WPR contributor Rachel Cheung wrote the lead story in China Note this week. Subscribers can adjust their newsletter settings to receive China Note by email every week.

China, where it all started, seems to have weathered the coronavirus pandemic better than most countries. Its economic recovery is well on track, and Beijing has secured a prominent position in the global vaccine race. While infection rates and death tolls continue to soar in the United States, the United Kingdom and across Europe, life is slowly returning to normal in China, where the spread of COVID-19 is largely contained.

Mass vaccinations of people in high-priority groups are underway, after China approved its first home-grown COVID-19 vaccine for commercial use, and the government is aiming to inoculate 50 million more people ahead of the Lunar New Year next month—an ambitious goal to avoid a mass outbreak during the annual holiday. At 79 percent effectiveness, the vaccine developed by state-owned Sinopharm was given the green light last week, though the full results of its late-stage trials have still been kept in the dark. Despite questions about the safety and effectiveness of other Chinese vaccines, Sinovac Biotech and other firms are rolling out supplies of nearly 400 million doses to friendly countries across Latin America, the Middle East and Asia, scoring a win for China’s vaccine diplomacy.

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