Despite the difficulties China is experiencing with COVID-19, Chinese leader Xi Jinping is loath to embrace Western vaccines, and recent protests there, while not a threat to Communist Party rule, could harm his personal standing. Avril Haines, the director of national intelligence for the US, revealed this on Saturday.
Despite the fact that China’s daily COVID cases are close to all-time highs, several localities are moving to relax testing and quarantine requirements in response to Xi’s zero-COVID policy, which precipitated a severe economic slowdown
Haines, speaking at the annual Reagan National Defense Forum in California, said that despite the social and economic impact of the virus, Xi “is unwilling to take a better vaccine from the West, and is instead relying on a vaccine in China that’s just not nearly as effective against Omicron.”
China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent on Sunday.
China has not approved any foreign COVID vaccines, opting for those produced domestically, which some studies have suggested are not as effective as some foreign ones. That means easing virus prevention measures could come with big risks, according to experts.
China had not asked the United States for vaccines, the White House said earlier in the week.
One U.S. official told Reuters there was “no expectation at present” that China would approve western vaccines.
“It seems fairly far-fetched that China would greenlight Western vaccines at this point. It’s a matter of national pride, and they’d have to swallow quite a bit of it if they went this route,” the official said.
Haines also said North Korea recognized that China was less likely to hold it accountable for what she said was Pyongyang’s “extraordinary” number of weapons tests this year.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declared this week that his nation aspires to have the most potent nuclear force in the world amid a record year for missile testing.
Admiral John Aquilino, the head of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, stated on a subsequent panel that China had no incentive to constrain any nation, including North Korea, that was causing issues for the United States.
Aquilino said of China, “I’d argue quite differently that it’s in their goal to drive those problems.”
Although he acknowledged that China had significant influence over North Korea about its weapons tests, he expressed pessimism about Beijing “doing anything constructive to settle the region.”