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Brazil needs vaccines. China is winning.

RIO DE ANEIRO – China was on the defensive line in Brazil.

The Trump administration has warned allies around the world to avoid Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications giant, by condemning the company as a dangerous extension of China’s surveillance system.

Brazil, ready to build a multibillion-dollar ambitious 5G wireless network, openly sided with President Donald Trump, and the Brazilian president’s son, an influential member of Congress, promised in November to create a secure system “without Chinese espionage.”

Then the epidemic policy eliminated everything.

Rising to the highest levels of COVID-19 deaths, a dangerous version of a new virus haunting Brazil, the country’s communications minister traveled to Beijing in February to meet with Huawei executives at their headquarters and made a very unusual request to the telecommunications company.

“I took the opportunity to ask for vaccines, which is what everyone is talking about,” said Minister Fabio Faria, referring to his meeting with Huawei.

Two weeks later, the Brazilian government announced the rules for its 5G auction, one of the largest in the world. Huawei, which the government seems to have banned just months ago, is allowed to participate.

The face is a sign of how politics in the region has interfered with the epidemic, of Trump’s departure from the White House, of how China has begun to change the situation.

China has struggled for months with grievances and mistrust as the start of an epidemic, but in recent weeks its diplomats, pharmaceutical executives and other power brokers have made numerous demands for vaccines from desperate Latin American officials where the epidemic is raging. a destructive duty that is growing day by day.

Beijing’s ability to mass-produce vaccines and send them to developing countries, while rich countries, including the United States, are accumulating millions of doses, has offered to open diplomatic and public relations that China is ready to seize.

Suddenly, Beijing finds itself in Latin America with huge leverage, a region with a huge investment network – ambitions to expand trade, military cooperation and cultural ties.

About the face:

Last year alone, Brazilian President Air Bolsonaro, a right-wing leader who was a staunch supporter of Trump, ignored the Chinese vaccine while it was undergoing clinical trials in Brazil and stopped an attempt by the Ministry of Health to order 45 million doses.


But when Trump left, “Brazil’s hospitals were rife with infections,” and Bolsonaro’s government sought to improve the fence with the Chinese, urging them to speed up the delivery of tens of millions of vaccines and components to mass-produce staff in Brazil.

The exact impact of Huawei’s vaccine inquiry into its 5G auction is unclear, but the timing is clear, which is part of a sharp shift in Brazil’s stance on China. The president, his son and the foreign minister sharply stopped criticizing China, while government ministers who were invading Faria by the Chinese were working hard to approve new shipments of the vaccine. Millions of doses have been reached in recent weeks.

“Because of the desperation of vaccines in Latin America, this is a perfect position for the Chinese,” said Evan Ellis, a professor of Latin American studies at the U.S. Army Military College who specializes in regional relations with China. The coveted 5G contracts that are a source of intense geopolitical hockey around the world, including in countries such as Britain and Germany, Huawei once launched a charming attack in Brazil.

It provided software to hospitals to help doctors at the forefront of the epidemic. Most recently, it donated 20 oxygen machines to the town of Manaus, where COVID patients suffocated and died in February as oxygen was depleted in hospitals.

“Let our joint efforts save lives.” This was announced by the Chinese Embassy in Brazil in a message posted on Twitter announcing the gift.

American pressure

Before the first vaccine collection line went off, Huawei seemed to lose the 5G competition in Brazil, which knocked out the Trump administration’s campaign against it. The largest Latin American country had just five months left until the auction to build its 5G network, a major upgrade that would make wireless connections faster and more affordable.

Huawei, along with two European competitors, Nokia և Ericsson, aspires to play a leading role in partnering with local telecommunications companies to build infrastructure. But the Chinese company needed the green light from Brazilian regulators to participate.

The Trump administration moved aggressively to fail. During a visit to Brazil late last year, Keith Crutch, then the State Department’s chief economic officer, called Huawei an industrial pariah who needed to block 5G networks.

“The Chinese Communist Party cannot be trusted with our most sensitive data and intellectual property,” he said in a speech to Brazil on November 11, referring to Huawei as the backbone of the CCP control state.

Krach argued that the “free nations” should agree to unite around a “clean network” that excludes Huawei because “our security chain is as strong as its weak link.”

Weeks after the visit, Brazil seemed to be on board, with Washington trying to blacklist Huawei. In a statement issued after Crach’s meeting, the Brazilian Foreign Ministry said that Brazil “supports the” Clean Network “proposal made by the United States.

The president’s son, Eduardo Bolsonaro, who chaired a foreign affairs committee in the lower house of Congress, tweeted that Brazil would support pressure from Washington.

China was already embarrassed in some parts of Latin America at the start of the epidemic, as concerns were raised that it had inadvertently allowed the virus to spread beyond its borders. Beijing’s reputation came as a blow to Peru after it exported cheap, unreliable COVID tests, which was an early misstep in efforts to curb the country’s infection.

Enters Sinovak

But China was able to move the story earlier this year as its CoronaVac became the cheapest, most affordable vaccine in the developing world.

Due to the epidemic in China, CoronaVac manufacturer Sinovac began shipping millions of doses overseas, offering free samples to 53 countries and exporting to 22 ordering countries. As the first doses of CoronaVac were used in Latin America, China slipped into rich countries that did little to ensure rapid availability of vaccines in poorer countries.

“The global distribution of vaccines must be fair, and in particular affordable for developing countries,” said Foreign Minister Wang Yin in a speech late last month. “We hope that all countries with potential will go hand in hand and make the right investment.”

In late February, when the first doses of Chinese vaccines were used in Brazil, the country’s telecommunications regulator announced the rules for the 5G auction scheduled for July, which does not rule out Huawei.

The change in Brazil reflects how the Trump-led campaign against Huawei lost momentum after its defeat in the November election. Britain has announced that it will not ban Huawei-made devices from its new high-speed 5G wireless network. Germany has taken a similar approach to Britain.

Thiago de Aragio, a political risk adviser based in Brazil who focuses on China’s relationship in Latin America, says two factors saved Huawei from a humiliating defeat in Brazil. The election of President Joe Biden, who has harshly criticized Brazil’s environmental record, has forced the Brazilian government to be less enthusiastic about the Chinese side with Washington by banning Huawei.

“Before October and November, they were on the verge of death, but now they are back in the game,” de Aragan told Huawei. The request for vaccines was made by Brazilian Communications Minister Faria after it became clear that Beijing was holding the keys to speeding up or shortening the vaccination campaign in Brazil, where more than 270,000 people have died from COVID-19.

The only reason Brazil had several million shares of CoronaVac in early February was because one of Bolsonaro’s rivals, Sao Paulo Governor Joao Doria, negotiated directly with the Chinese.

More about the COVID-19 epidemic

In one of the interviews, Faria said that Huawei was not offered a quid pro quo to help with vaccines. In fact, he said, he also asked the heads of competing telecommunications companies in Europe if they could help Brazil get the footage.

“It was not on the table, vaccines against 5G,” he said, aptly describing the vaccines’ request for help.

On February 11, Faria posted a letter from the Chinese ambassador to Brazil, in which the ambassador noted the request and wrote, “I attach great importance to this issue.”

In a statement, Huawei did not say whether it would provide the vaccines directly, but said the company could help “open and transparent communication on the subject with the participation of the governments of the two countries.”

China is also the dominant supplier of vaccines in Chile, which has carried out the most aggressive vaccination campaign in Latin America, delivering millions of doses to Mexico, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia.

As a sign of China’s growing leverage, Paraguay, where COVID-19 cases are on the rise, is struggling to get Chinese vaccines as it is one of the few countries in the world that has diplomatic relations with Taiwan, which China considers part of its territory. ,

In an interview, Paraguayan Foreign Minister Euclid Acevedo said that his country seeks to negotiate the entry of CoronaVac through intermediary countries. He then made an extraordinary appeal to China, which for years sought to persuade the last few countries recognizing Taiwan to change their alliances.

“We hope that the relations will not end with vaccines, but will take on a different dimension in the economic and cultural spheres,” he said. “We have to be open to every nation, because we strive to cooperate, and to do that we have to have a pragmatic vision.”


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