Saturday, U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines stated that Chinese leader Xi Jinping is unwilling to accept Western vaccines despite the challenges China faces with COVID-19, and while recent protests in China do not pose a threat to Communist Party rule, they could affect his standing.
Although China's daily COVID cases are close to all-time highs, some cities are easing testing and quarantine regulations in response to Xi's zero-COVID policy, which precipitated a severe economic slowdown and civil unrest.
Haines, speaking at the annual Reagan National Defense Forum in California, stated that despite the social and economic impact of the virus, Xi "is unwilling to accept a better vaccine from the West and is instead relying on a Chinese vaccine that is not nearly as effective against omicron."
"Seeing protests and the response to them contradicts the narrative he likes to promote, which is that China's government is so much more effective," Haines said.
"It's not something we see as a threat to stability or regime change at this time," she said, adding, "How it develops will be crucial for Xi's reputation."
China has not approved any foreign COVID vaccines, opting for domestically produced vaccines that, according to some studies, are not as effective as their foreign counterparts. According to experts, this means that easing virus prevention measures could pose significant risks.
The White House stated earlier in the week that China had not requested vaccines from the United States.
A U.S. official told Reuters that there is currently "no expectation" that China will approve western vaccines.
"At this time, it seems unlikely that China would approve Western vaccines. National pride is at stake, and they would have to swallow quite a bit of it if they chose this path "stated the official.
Haines added that North Korea was aware that China was less likely to hold it accountable for the "extraordinary" number of weapons tests conducted by Pyongyang this year.
Amid a record-breaking year for missile tests, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un stated last week that his nation intends to have the most potent nuclear force in the world.
In a later panel, the commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, Admiral John Aquilino, stated that China had no motivation to restrain any country, including North Korea, that was causing problems for the United States.
Aquilino countered, "I'd argue quite differently that it's in China's strategy to exacerbate these issues."
He said China had significant leverage to pressure North Korea over its weapons tests, but he was pessimistic about Beijing "doing anything constructive to stabilize the region."