Panel 18 (Satur)

Neo-hegemony of China in-between the Connectivity of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and European Union in Times of Covid-19

Panel organizer

Dr. Luzile Satur (University of Cologne)



Panel abstract

As a global crisis, the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted connectivity on both an interstate and interpersonal level. Vaccines are seen as an important driver in restoring this disrupted connectivity. However, vaccine inequity remains a serious problem in Southeast Asia and can prolong the pandemic if not addressed adequately by the countries in the region. As key diplomatic and trading partners to Southeast Asia, both China and the European Union (EU) have sought to assist vaccination efforts in the region through their respective vaccine diplomacy initiatives. This paper presents the case studies of vaccination efforts of four Southeast Asian countries, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. Furthermore, the paper analyses the vaccine diplomacy initiatives of China and the EU in the region. Vaccine diplomacy for the two major powers can be viewed as an extension for their respective larger strategies—China’s Belt and Road Initiative and the EU’s Connectivity Strategy. China and the EU, however, have taken different approaches in handling their respective vaccine diplomacy efforts. Despite these differences, both major powers have opted to focus vaccine diplomacy efforts on individual Southeast Asian countries rather than the region as a whole. This in turn has implications for the role of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in combating vaccine inequity at a regional level. We point out that Chinese vaccine diplomacy challenges the relations between ASEAN and EU due to China’s neo-imperial interest. China reinforces “Health Silk Road” by offering the largest amount of vaccines in the region given that Chinese vaccines are not as effective as the EU vaccines.

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