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Lecture | Lunch Research Seminar

Political Economy of Vaccine Diplomacy: Explaining Varying Strategies of China, India, and Russia’s COVID-19 Vaccine Diplomacy

Friday 25 February 2022
Leiden, room TBD (if online, link sent to registered participants)

Registration: Please register at least 4 days in advance at l-peg@hum.leidenuniv.nl to receive a copy of the paper and attendance details.

Abstract:  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 highlights the role of geopolitics in the choice of recipient countries, it has yet to explain the specific strategies countries adopt in their vaccine diplomacy. Why are some countries fixed on vaccine sales while others are more open to donation? Why do some prefer bilateral, yet others use multilateral channels in distributing vaccines? This paper analyzes China, India, and Russia’s strategies in vaccine diplomacy and argues that countries adjust strategy in line with their relative advantage in development, manufacturing, and delivery of vaccines so that they can efficiently advance their diplomatic and economic goals. Each country has unique strength, and this gives rise to the varied patterns we see in vaccine diplomacy. By revealing that political economic factors, in addition to geopolitics, shape the ways these non-Western powers conduct vaccine diplomacy, this paper contributes to a better understanding of rising power politics and of the future of global health governance.


This research seminar is co-convened by the Leiden Political Economy Group and Global Transformations and Governance Challenges.

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