Preserve, Pressure, Protect, and Peel: The US-China Rivalry and the Politics of Vaccine Provision

29 September 2023, Version 2
This content is an early or alternative research output and has not been peer-reviewed at the time of posting.


Lead states compete for influence, and the COVID-19 pandemic made clear the provision of vaccines, is a foreign policy tool. How and to which countries do providing states distribute aid amidst global a crises and great power rivalry? This article integrates both into a novel typology of strategies: preserving existing partnerships, pressuring opponents, protecting recipients based on need, and peeling off countries from geopolitical rivals. It analyzes US and Chinese COVID-19 vaccine distribution through 2021-2022. Regression results and Bayesian reasoning of original interviews suggest the US approach is characterized by protecting and peeling. China appears to be pressuring, preserving, and protecting. Case studies of Paraguay and Nicaragua – historic allies of Taiwan - further support these conclusions. This raises important questions regarding the circumstances under which aid provision is instrumental and how hegemonic rivals compete during global crises.


vaccine diplomacy
United States
bayesian reasoning


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