Yellen Encourages Vaccinations in China as Covid Restrictions Slow Growth

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BALI, Indonesia — Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said on Monday that she hopes China is able to roll out a more effective vaccination campaign to combat the coronavirus. Thus far, Beijing has largely contained its spread with strict lockdowns and travel restrictions that have slowed its economy and weighed on global economic growth.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Group of 20 gathering, ahead of a meeting between President Biden and China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, Ms. Yellen said the United States was prepared to help China in its efforts to stop the spread of the virus.

“I believe that we have offered China American mRNA vaccines, and I believe that they have not been interested in taking us up on that,” Ms. Yellen told reporters, referring to the vaccine technology that was first developed in the West and has been adopted in many countries.

Ms. Yellen added: “To the extent that it might be helpful to them, certainly we want to see them be able to deal effectively with the pandemic, both for their own sake and the sake of the entire world. So we certainly stand ready to be of assistance.”

A Treasury official said that Ms. Yellen was not suggesting that the United States would donate vaccines to China, but rather was noting Beijing’s refusal to import vaccines produced by U.S. drug companies.

China has focused on developing homegrown vaccines but has yet to roll out one with the mRNA technology used in the inoculations that have proved most effective. An mRNA vaccine that China developed was approved for use in Indonesia in September.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany said in Beijing this month that he had been assured that China would accelerate the approval process for Covid-19 vaccines made by the German company BioNTech and that, in turn, he would push for Chinese vaccines to be granted regulatory approval by the European Union.

China has maintained a zero-tolerance approach to Covid, and Ms. Yellen said that Beijing’s pandemic policies were among the reasons that the Chinese economy is slowing. Last week, China softened some of its Covid restrictions, which pleased investors, but a rise in infections has raised questions about whether measures will be tightened again.

The Treasury secretary will be participating in Mr. Biden’s meeting with Mr. Xi later on Monday, and she is expected to meet with Yi Gang, the governor of the People’s Bank of China, later this week. She told The New York Times on Saturday that she hopes the meetings will help “stabilize” the relationship between the United States and China and improve communication between the world’s two largest economies.

“We’ve been very clear that we have national security concerns and would like to address those,” Ms. Yellen said on Monday. Those concerns, she said, include the dependence of American supply chains on China for minerals that are used in batteries and solar panels.


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