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China has taken an early lead in developing vaccines against COVID-19. For many developing countries, these are the only way out of the crisis.    © Illustration by Michael Tsang
The Big Story

Red Pill? Behind China's COVID-19 vaccine diplomacy

Southeast Asia bargains with Beijing for lifesaving drugs

CK TAN and ERWIDA MAULIA, Nikkei staff writers | China

SHANGHAI/BANDUNG, Indonesia -- Starting at noon on select days, green hospital curtains go up on the windows and doors of a Puskesmas -- a spare, government-run medical clinic that resembles a large shed -- in the heart of the city of Bandung in Indonesia. One by one, people begin to arrive, almost furtively ushered into the interior by officers. They emerge hours later with a single plaster on their arm.

The Puskesmas is offering what may be the only way out of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic that has gripped Indonesia now suffering around 100 deaths per day. Behind the green curtains, a team of researchers from the local Padjadjaran University and Indonesian state-owned vaccine maker Bio Farma inject volunteers with a new vaccine made by Sinovac Biotech, a Chinese company.

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