Political economy of vaccine diplomacy: explaining varying strategies of China, India, and Russia's COVID-19 vaccine diplomacy

Image of President Rodrigo Duterte and Ambassador Huan Xilian at arrival of 600,000 doses of Sinovac vaccines at Villamor Air Base (Feb. 28, 2021); PNA photo by Avito C. Dalan, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Event details


Date & time

Tuesday 23 August 2022


online via Zoom only
ANU Canberra


Suzuki Mao and Shiming Yang

The COVID-19 pandemic and global responses to this crisis reveal the changing landscape of global health governance. As countries around the world struggle to secure COVID-19 vaccines for their citizens, some non-Western powers have actively distributed vaccines internationally – an act broadly recognized as vaccine diplomacy.

While existing literature suggests that geopolitical concerns affect the selection of recipient countries, it has yet to explain other aspects of vaccine diplomacy. Why are some countries focused on vaccine sales while others are more open to donation? Why do some prefer bilateral to multilateral channels in distributing vaccines? Through comparative analysis of China, India, and Russia, this article shows that political economic factors, in addition to geopolitics, shape the ways non-Western powers conduct vaccine diplomacy.

We argue that these countries adjust their strategies in line with their relative advantages in development, manufacturing, and delivery of vaccines. Each country has unique strengths and weakness, which gives rise to the varied patterns in vaccine diplomacy. Our findings suggest that their strategies of vaccine diplomacy are enabled as well as constrained by their economic realities, and the rise of these countries in this field does not necessarily mean an outright challenge to the existing international system.

About the Speakers

Mao Suzuki is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the National University of Singapore. She has a joint appointment at Yale-NUS College. She holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and International Relations from University of Southern California, Los Angeles. Her research and teaching areas are global governance and international political economy, with a specific focus on global health. Her current research explores the role of non-state actors – both the business sector and civil society organizations – in the formation of transnational public-private initiatives. Her publications appear in journals including World Development, Review of International Political Economy, and International Journal of Health Policy and Management.

Shiming Yang is a university lecturer (assistant professor) in Global Political Economy of China at the Institute for Area Studies, Leiden University (the Netherlands). She studies environmental politics and international political economy with an emphasis on developing countries. Her current book project, A Global South Divided: Rising Powers in International Environmental Politics, examines China and India’s emerging divergence on global environmental issues. She was a postdoctoral researcher in Global Transformations and Governance Challenges at Leiden University (2021-2022). She received her PhD from the University of Southern California.

This event will be delivered online via Zoom only.

Image credit: President Rodrigo Duterte and Ambassador Huan Xilian at arrival of 600,000 doses of Sinovac vaccines at Villamor Air Base (Feb. 28, 2021); PNA photo by Avito C. Dalan, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Updated:  10 August 2017/Responsible Officer:  Director, RegNet/Page Contact:  Director, RegNet