Chinese leader Xi Jinping is unwilling to accept Western vaccines despite the challenges China faces with COVID-19, and while the recent protests pose no threat to Communist Party rule, they could erode his personal standing, said US Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines. on Saturday.
While China’s daily COVID cases are near an all-time high, some cities are taking steps to relax testing and quarantine rules after Xi’s zero-COVID policy triggered a sharp economic slowdown and public unrest.
Haines, speaking at the annual Reagan National Defense Forum in California, said that despite the social and economic impact of the virus, Xi is “unwilling to get a better vaccine from the West, relying instead on a vaccine in China that just isn’t nearly as effective against Omicron.”
“Seeing protests and the response to them contradicts the narrative he likes to put forward, which is that China is so much more effective in government,” Haines said.
“It is, again, not something that we currently see as a threat to stability, or regime change or anything like that,” she said, adding, “How it develops will be important to Xi’s position.”
China has not approved any foreign COVID vaccines, instead opting for domestically produced vaccines, which some studies have suggested are not as effective as some foreign ones. According to experts, this means that relaxing virus prevention measures can entail major risks.
The White House said earlier this week that China had not asked the United States for vaccines.
A US official told Reuters there was “no expectation at present” that China would approve Western vaccines.
“It seems rather far-fetched that China would give the green light to Western vaccines at this point. It is a matter of national pride, and they would have to swallow quite a bit of it if they went down this road,” the official said.
Haines also said North Korea recognized China was less likely to hold it responsible for what she said was Pyongyang’s “extraordinary” number of weapons tests this year.
Amid a record-breaking year for missile tests, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said last week his country plans to have the most powerful nuclear force in the world.
In a later panel discussion, Admiral John Aquilino, the commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command, said China had no motivation to contain any country, including North Korea, that was causing problems for the United States.
“I would argue very differently that it is in their strategy to create those problems,” Aquilino said of China.
He said China had significant leverage to pressure North Korea over its weapons tests, but was not optimistic that Beijing would “do anything to stabilize the region”.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by DailyExpertNews staff and is being published from a syndicated feed.)
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