tirsdag 18. mai 2021

How Covid-19 helped China boost its soft power in mainland Southeast Asia

The Covid-19 pandemic has provided a window of opportunity for China to exert its international leadership and influence – one Beijing has used to turn the crisis into a diplomatic and strategic opportunity in mainland Southeast Asia. Public health diplomacy has become one of the key sources of China’s soft power projection, enhancing its image and influence, even though it is clear that China’s intentions are not completely altruistic, and it has other strategic intentions with regards to these measures.

Cambodia and Laos have been most receptive to China’s public health diplomacy, including its
vaccine diplomacy, while Thailand and Myanmar also have welcomed Chinese assistance. Vietnam has been reluctant to endorse Beijing’s Covid-19 assistance, including Chinese vaccines.

While China was criticised – mainly in the US and Europe – for its lack of transparency in handling the pandemic early last year, Southeast Asian nations reacted positively to what they saw as Beijing’s decisive, swift and effective response to Covid-19, and they were among the first to offer political, diplomatic, and humanitarian aid to China.