Skip to content
Subscriber Only
Hal Brands

America Is Overtaking China in Vaccine Diplomacy

China squandered its early advantages, and now the U.S. government and drug makers are leading a second-half comeback.

Friendship in a bottle.

Friendship in a bottle.

Photographer: Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images


China won the pandemic and America lost it. Covid-19 uncovered the decadence of American democracy and the ascendance of smart autocracy. That, at least, was the narrative that gained currency after the virus began racing around the globe in early 2020. A year into the pandemic, it’s time to think again.

To be sure, Covid-19 inflicted horrific harm on the U.S. and revealed its glaring failures. For months, America seemed paralyzed by a pandemic that its primary competitor — China — had started, suppressed and then exploited as a moment of geopolitical opportunity.