China and India’s COVID-19 Vaccine Diplomacy and Health Security Partnerships in Southeast Asia
Ian Tsung-yen Chen（陳宗巖）
COVID-19, vaccine diplomacy, Singapore, Cambodia, Myanmar
Contemporary Southeast Asia (SSCI)
Chen, Ian Tsung-yen. 2023. “China and India’s COVID-19 Vaccine Diplomacy and Health Security Partnerships in Southeast Asia.” Contemporary Southeast Asia. 45(2), pp. 193-215.
By analysing three case studies—Singapore, Cambodia and Myanmar—this article investigates health security partnerships formed by Southeast Asian countries during the COVID-19 pandemic, focusing on their responses to China and India’s vaccine diplomacy. It argues that a combination of factors—the capability of national governments in responding to the pandemic and the cost of doing so, as well as the credibility of vaccines and geopolitical relationships with potential partners—led to a divergence in partnerships. Singapore did not rely on Chinese vaccine donations but its acceptance of assistance from China was a diplomatic move to maintain a balanced policy amidst the United States-China strategic rivalry. In contrast, Cambodia and Myanmar were obliged to partner with either China or India due to their limited capacity to manage the crisis as well as their lack of financial resources and access to top-tier vaccines. Geopolitics also played a role. China became a leading partner for Cambodia due to the strong strategic relationship they had formed before the pandemic, while the governments of Myanmar—before and after the military coup in February 2021—based their partnerships on varying political and geopolitical considerations.