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There are many ways in which the coronavirus pandemic has exposed the weakness of the West, and this week China moved up a gear in the pivotal area of vaccine diplomacy.
A string of positive announcements from Beijing contrasted sharply with the mood in the West, which was dominated by the news the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine trial had been briefly paused following a suspected adverse reaction in a British volunteer.
Scientists and financial analysis are now, perhaps for the first time, seriously considering whether China might be first to develop an effective vaccine (see graphic below).
Diplomats, meanwhile, are turning their attention to what that might mean for geopolitics in the difficult winter months ahead. It could make the flare-ups over China's exports of face masks and ventilators during the early stages of the pandemic look like minor spats.
In truth, China has been at or near the front of the Covid-19 vaccine race from the off. Of the nine candidates in Phase Three trials, four are Chinese.
And while the leading western candidates – Oxford-AstraZeneca, BioNTech-Pfizer and Moderna – have all won plaudits for their use of state-of-the-art technology platforms, experts are starting to wonder whether China's strategy of focusing on "old school" vaccine technologies may eventually prove to be more prudent.
"Three of the four Chinese candidates use inactivated Sars-CoV-2 virus which ultimately may prove to be the best bet," said Dr Vipul Chowdhary, technical lead at leading biomedical think tank Policy Cures Research.
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