The U.S.-China Vaccine War and Geopolitics in the Post-Epidemic Era

The runaway Indian epidemic not only dealt a serious blow to the original optimistic predictions of many about the epidemic, but also greatly increased the influence of the U.S.-China vaccine war on the geopolitical situation in the post-epidemic era. The biggest news focus of Moon’s visit to the U.S. was that South Korea played the card of wafer investment for vaccine production investment. The vaccine crisis, in other words, became the final weight that made Moon determined to fall fully to the U.S. side in the technology war. Biden would undoubtedly be a blow to the pro-communist forces in Taiwan if he used vaccines to support Tsai at this critical moment when the epidemic in Taiwan is in crisis.

The US-China vaccine war was actually started by China, but it was not as good as the others. Otherwise, if China had the upper hand, it is not hard to imagine that Taiwan’s pro-communist forces would have forced Tsai to accept the Chinese vaccine more forcefully, and then used the situation to try to achieve another party rotation in the next election. I agree with former Japanese Army General Etsukazu Watanabe’s recent blunt statement that the U.S.-China confrontation has in fact entered a new and unprecedented state of war, or what he calls “hybrid warfare. The U.S.-China vaccine war is becoming an important part of that war. Not surprisingly, the U.S. gaining the upper hand in the vaccine war is a very positive factor in the evolution of the geopolitical situation in the post-epidemic era.

For its part, China has also recognized the gravity of the situation and has decided not only to import Pfizer vaccines, but also plans to bring in U.S. vaccine technology for local production. What is not so clear now is what will happen when China competes with the US in the global vaccine market. I believe that China will not admit defeat, but will invest more resources in this area, because if it loses the vaccine war completely to the US, China will be in a very unfavorable geopolitical situation in the post-epidemic era.

It is now becoming clear to everyone that this global pandemic is most likely the result of a man-made accident in China, and that this disaster has a tendency to be very long-lasting. This means that U.S. control of vaccine technology will become a previously unanticipated trump card in the U.S.-China confrontation. There is no way to predict how much of a global geopolitical role this trump card sent to the United States by China’s triggering of the epidemic will play, but the basic logic is that the greater the risk of the epidemic and the longer it drags on, the worse it will be for China. This is something Xi did not expect last summer when he resolved to “use the epidemic as a hegemon”.

What is not yet clear is what the long-term trend of the epidemic risk will do to China’s domestic situation. What is certain is that the Beijing authorities are not prepared for this and think they have a so-called “institutional advantage” in controlling the epidemic. In the case of the United States, the epidemic has accelerated a new trend of population migration, as working from home via telecommuting is becoming a dominant mode of work, with far-reaching implications for the housing industry and settlement patterns in the United States. My judgment is that the prolonged risk of the epidemic will also have a profound impact on China, but the adjustment will be more difficult in China than in the United States. This is because the impact of a prolonged epidemic risk on China’s employment model, which is highly dependent on migrant workers and mobile populations, is very large.

There has been a recent epidemic in Guangzhou, but the transparency of the government’s announcement of information about this epidemic is far from comparable to the reporting of epidemics in the northeast and remote areas. This suggests that the Guangzhou government is aware that releasing details of the epidemic could have too big an impact on the local economy, and that an economic problem in Guangdong would mean a big problem for the Chinese economy, since Beijing is now highly dependent on a few areas such as Guangzhou and Shenzhen for its financial resources.

Of course, we cannot expect that the U.S. vaccine advantage will be the decisive factor in deciding whether the U.S.-China confrontation will be won or lost. The recent conflict between Israel and Hamas reinforces the judgment that the shape of warfare in the 21st century is very different from that of the 20th century. A U.S. victory in the vaccine war is likely to exacerbate other forms of conflict, such as a more violent cyber attack on Taiwan’s power supply facilities.