China’s Foreign Ministry boasted on Thursday that 30 heads of state around the globe have “openly” received doses of Chinese state-made coronavirus vaccine candidates, notably omitting that China’s own leader, Xi Jinping, has yet to publicly reveal his vaccination status.
“[L]eaders of 30 countries have received Chinese vaccine jabs openly. Leaders of many countries spoke highly of the important contributions made by Chinese vaccines to the local epidemic response,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters at a regular press briefing in Beijing on July 22.
“A growing number of voices based on science and reason have cleared name for Chinese vaccines and labeled them safe,” Zhao said. “This fully shows that Chinese vaccines are effective and safe.”
On Thursday, China’s state-run Global Times supported Zhao’s comments, recalling that “Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic received his first dose of [a] COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] vaccine made by Chinese producer Sinopharm early in April.”
President Vučić joined a long list of world leaders who have received doses of Chinese state-made coronavirus vaccine candidates in recent months, often publicly, as in the case of Vučić. Serbia is a member of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which allows China to fund infrastructure projects in developing or lower-income nations, often through dubious loan structures that push struggling economies further into debt. Serbia’s BRI connection helped the Balkan nation secure shipments of Sinopharm from China this past spring.
Other heads of state who have received doses of Chinese-made coronavirus vaccine candidates include Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on January 14; Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on February 28; Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on May 3; United Arab Emirates (UAE) Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed on November 3; Indonesian President Joko Widodo on January 12; and Seychelles President Wavel Ramkalawan on January 10. Turkey, Hungary, the UAE, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Seychelles all belong to China’s BRI.
It remains unclear if Chinese leader Xi Jinping has received any vaccination against the Chinese coronavirus, let alone one produced by his own country.
“China has said nothing about the vaccination status of its top leaders, who all — including President Xi Jinping — appeared without face masks in Beijing Friday [March 4], mingling with thousands of delegates from across China at the country’s biggest political gathering of the year,” Fortune reported on March 5.
“While officials seated in the rows behind them were all masked, Xi and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang moved around the Great Hall of the People, where the National People’s Congress is opened every year, mask-free. The exception seemed to apply only to members of the Politburo [of the Chinese Communist Party] and a handful of other top Communist Party leaders,” the U.S. business magazine noted at the time.