Sinovac is the proudest and loudest coronavirus vaccine plaguing Singapore now. A Chinese netizen working in Singapore (@xiaoqige567 on TikTok) has audaciously mocked what he believed to be our self-sabotaging foreign policy and rejection of China’s vaccine diplomacy. I shall do an intellectual dissection of his video which unfortunately comes with very poorly translated English subtitles – which is why I’m reluctant to share the video itself.
But first, let’s go back a bit to 23 February 2021 when we first received a shipment of 200,000 doses Sinovac from China. This vaccine was ordered last year in anticipation that the complete results from the trials would be released soon. Unfortunately, what the health authorities anticipated from China was not forthcoming. Do we continue to wait? No, the authorities decided to approve it with caveats. It was not till 2 June 2021 that China’s Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine can be administered in Singapore under the special access route after it was approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization (WHO). However, use of Sinovac is not covered under VIFAP.
If Sinovac is safe enough to be allowed for use, under the Special Access Route (SAR), why is it not part of the national vaccination programme and covered by the Vaccine Injury Financial Assistance Programme (VIFAP)?
These are two separate decisions.
For vaccines to come under the national vaccination programme, it has to go through a rigorous evaluation of its safety and efficacy. From global and local data, both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines met these criteria. We are still awaiting some outstanding data on the Sinovac vaccine to complete our evaluation.
In the meantime, we will put the Sinovac vaccine under the Special Access Route, so that private providers can draw on our existing stock to administer to individuals who wish to have it.
“However, since the China-made vaccine is not part of the national vaccine programme, those who choose to receive it will not be eligible for the Vaccine Injury Financial Assistance Programme (VIFAP).”
Now, let’s dissect the video. Before I begin, I need to point out that though the translation in the subtitles is somewhat inaccurate, the Chinese language at this level can be subtly provocative. The title audaciously warns us not to choose the wrong side and end up foregoing a watermelon for a sesame seed. Here goes.
“There is finally news about the vaccine that we’ve been waiting day and night in anticipation.”
“I’m not sure if you have watched Mr Lee’s 24-min speech. The message he intended to convey was roughly within my expectation. There are several very noteworthy points about the news concerning Chinese vaccines. Firstly, Singapore is going to roll out, apart from what has already been done for Pfizer, Moderna and other vaccines that WHO had approved for emergency use, Sinopharm and hitherto unapproved Sinovac Biotech vaccines which will be administered by private institutions. The bad news is, we have to pay for our vaccinations. That’s right, you have to pay for it yourself. The actual cost will depend on what these private institutions charge. I believe it’s not going to be cheap.”
“Apart from that, if you develop any adverse effects from the administration of Chinese vaccines, the Singapore government will not be responsible. I’m not sure whether to celebrate or to lament. For me, I can’t find enough words to describe how I feel. I can only chuckle sardonically. I just want to get a made in China vaccine. Why must it be so difficult? Vaccines are just vaccines. Why must they be treated so differently? Is it a cost factor? Or is the constitution of Singaporeans more suited to vaccines made in USA?”
“Can’t bear to look mighty China in the eye? Or pandering to America’s whims and fancies? Or are you waiting for tens of thousands of Chinese workers to return to China and leave all the job vacancies for Singaporeans? I don’t think this is a price that Singapore can afford to pay. As a foreign worker in Singapore, I can accept unequal treatment. But I cannot accept such a cavalier attitude towards the feelings of tens of thousands of Chinese people. I believe there are many “stories” behind Singapore’s choice of vaccines. Working in Singapore, Chinese people more or less do contribute to Singapore’s GDP. I hope Singapore’s talent in being an opportunist and fair-weather friend does not apply here. Just let the issues of vaccines be purely an issue of vaccines (untainted by other factors). I’m Xiaoqi, speaking on behalf of tens of thousands of brothers and sisters working in Singapore.”
Well, what do you make of it? Xiaoqi’s language is subtle. The translation is laughably awful and presumptuous, but that’s more to do with the translator’s emotive response and not his lack of knowledge. He had added a lot of salt and pepper, but on the whole, there are only a few minor inaccuracies. His interpretation of Xiaoqi’s warrior wolf attitude behind the subtle language is not far off. Xiaoqi had every intention to deride and insult us.
If you look closely, Xiaoqi’s pompous speech is a bag of contradictions. “Can’t bear to look powerful China in the eye?” sums up his bottled feelings of superiority. I know more than a few people from China who had gladly taken the free Pfizer or Moderna vaccine (without making an issue of it or waiting for Sinovac). Could Xiaoqi be ranting because he has to pay for showing patriotism? Well, who doesn’t? Our NDP cost taxpayers $40M.
If paying for it is such an issue, why couldn’t he have just quietly gone for Pfizer and Moderna? Because he is a 网红 who is obliged to set a good example for other patriotic Chinese nationals? Or is he just a 网红 wannabe trying to become famous by garnering support from fellow patriots? Well, he might want to know that many of his 领导 actually waited day and night secretly in anticipation for Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
More contradictions. He complained about our government not taking responsibility for adverse effects. But why would he need any support in this area if Sinovac were really a superior vaccine? I believe he trusts Sinovac, but he thinks it’s an insulting move and he thinks it’s personal. He thinks it’s political in nature because from his perspective and upbringing, every decision not in favour of or deference to hegemonic China is political, foolish and immoral. With his mindset still stuck in a society that is even more intolerant to alternative views than Singapore, he cannot see any other reason why we would treat Sinovac differently apart from his belief that we look up to the US and not to China. But what do the numbers tell us?
Outside the great firewall in Singapore where the internet is minimally censored, Xiaoqi climbed back behind the wall to read all the propaganda and censored news. It’s such an irony that he said that we should decide on vaccines by looking at them purely as vaccines. That’s exactly what we have been courageously doing. And if he is capable of looking at vaccines as just vaccines, why not just take the American vaccines? Why should patriotism come in if he practised what he preached?
We received Sinovac in February. If we had been afraid of trade sanctions or the kind of boycott which Xiaoqi had suggested and that we afford to face, we would have meekly approved Sinovac and used it straight away. I’m proud that we didn’t. The dead silence from other Chinese netizens to Xiaoqi’s video is also mind-boggling. If a fellow Singaporean had made a racist or insensitive remark on social media, you can count on other Singaporeans to call him/her out. The silence from other Chinese netizens can mean several things. They may agree with him – that Singaporeans are a bunch of fools. The fact that we dare to treat Sinovac with so little “respect” (faith and deference) shows that we fail to recognise China’s greatness and choose to lean against a superpower in decline instead of an upcoming one.
He is a modern day 义和团/红卫兵. These are faith-driven zombies who can’t be reasoned with. It may surprise some people who think highly of China but Xiaoqi could be regarded as hero for challenging our foreign policies and threatening us with labour shortage. Remember 2007 when the late Taiwanese president Lee Teng Hui was visiting Japan, a man from China threw a bottle at him. The attacker was released without charges and for his act of hooliganism, he returned to a hero’s welcome in China. I won’t be at all surprised if the same honour is now being bestowed upon Xiaoqi. Even if we had chosen a sesame instead of a watermelon, does Xiaoqi think that we’re really that stupid? Maybe we just don’t share his values?
Back when we insisted on caning Micheal Fay, there was a lot of rhetoric from America. Determined not to be bullied by America, we went ahead and meted out the sentence. More rhetoric, but America took no retaliatory action against Singapore. In contrast, our Terrex were swiftly detained in Hong Kong after the ruling on Scarborough Shoal against China made by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (which has an office in Singapore). While China is a member of the PCA, there is absolutely no assurance that they would abide by any ruling not in their favour! This is one difference between watermelon and sesame which Xiaoqi seems totally ignorant of.
Having said that, Xiaoqi is absolutely correct to infer that we are overly dependent on foreign workers like him and without them, Singapore can’t be as prosperous at the top as she is now. But 90% of us are nowhere near the top. Some may not even aspire to be there if it means sacrificing our dignity and submitting to bullies and hegemony. Nevertheless, fighting corruption in China simply means arresting a bunch of corrupt officials and replacing them with another bunch of corrupt officials. Xiaoqi and his gang may not be as indispensable as they think they are.
A classic statement made by a China woman on a dating show in China: “宁愿坐在宝马车里哭，也不愿坐在单车上 被人笑”. Better to marry someone rich and abusive than someone poor but nice. Do we share the same values? I can’t speak for Singapore’s property tycoons eager to see their mansions being snapped up by China’s tycoons, but I certainly do not.
Brainwashed folks like Xiaoqi will just keep blowing his trumpet and ignoring the facts. Being a well-read person with access to both China’s 大外宣 and the uncensored world, I know for a fact (even though I seldom agree with our government) that our vaccine policies are purely scientific. It all boils down to the science which is unfortunately impotent against the apocryphal perception that China is always underrated by the West. If you were to ask me whether Sinovac is safe, I would say that it probably is. But if you want me to guarantee that it’s safe, I would be extremely hesitant. China may be able to give you their guarantee, but history tells us that when something happens, they are much better at covering up the news and silencing whistle blowers than actually compensating victims. Those who bring up the issues are accused of 唯恐天下不乱.
Unfortunately, Xiaoqi’s vaccine chauvinism has infected many of our own people. This is one epidemic which cannot be curbed with a vaccine. The brainwashed Singaporeans who think that 中国的最好 are probably just as difficult to counsel as their counterparts in China due to their racial/cultural bias (not to mention readily available CCP propaganda on social media). Below is a screenshot of an official media report quoting Prof Gao Fu, head of China’s CDC, saying that China-made vaccines are currently less effective than mRNA vaccines. The good prof was immediately forced to retract his statement.
There has been a conspicuous spike in the number of videos educating us on vaccination and encouraging us to get it ASAP. The actual workings of mRNA vaccines are also explained to assure the public that it’s not a devious act of mind/body control by Western imperialists. All this is getting a bit awkward (seeing Dr Leong Hoe Nam’s face all the time) but necessary. That’s because 敌在暗，我在明。It’s not a fair fight. They block and censor all major news channels and social media from 1.3 billion people, some 18.47% of the world. We do nothing to prevent CGTN, China Daily, Sina, Weibo from spreading embellished information to the rest of the world.
It’s quite harmless when only our 傻逼 are duped into embracing the superiority of the proudest and loudest vaccine without understanding that our policies vis-a-vis vaccines are based on science and not politics. Yet true to form, all the 小战狼 react to “unequal” treatment like a vindictive spurned lover. It gets really worrying when even our medical profession starts subscribing to CCP propaganda, but what can we do? It would hypocritical to block access to all that pompous rhetoric and propaganda, but in an age of TikTok and one-liners, the battle to win over the shallow majority with boring facts and reason will be an uphill struggle.