Vaccine Development, the China Dilemma and International Regulatory Challenges
NYU Journal of International Law and Politics, Vol. 55, 2023, Forthcoming
Texas A&M University School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 22-60
23 Pages Posted: 30 Nov 2022 Last revised: 20 Jan 2023
Date Written: November 30, 2022
Since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic in March 2020, countries, intergovernmental bodies, nongovernmental organizations and individual experts have called for the development of new global frameworks and adjustments to international regulatory standards. As the pandemic has become more successfully contained—at least in the global North—demands for emergency relief measures have given way to debates on the development of new standards to provide a more effective response during the inter-pandemic period and in the post-COVID era.
One challenging and inevitable debate concerns the role of China in such development at the intersection of intellectual property, international trade, and public health. Among the important issues are whether China will support the development of new international regulatory standards, whether its participation will create complications, how its role will evolve in the near future and how other countries should engage with China in the international regulatory system. Improving global pandemic preparedness in this system is particularly important considering that many medical and public health experts have already predicted that another global pandemic will happen in the next decade or two.
Written for the 28th Annual Herbert Rubin and Justice Rose Luttan Rubin International Law Symposium, this article begins by briefly discussing the role China has played in the global health arena during the COVID-19 pandemic. It then highlights the difficulty in determining how best to engage with China in the development of new international regulatory standards. The article shows that the preferred choice of engagement will likely depend on one's perspective on China's potential contributions and complications: a perspective that focuses on international competition is likely to differ significantly from one emphasizing global health. This article concludes by drawing four lessons on the challenges and complications that China has posed, or will pose, to policymakers in the development of new international regulatory standards.
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