BALI, Indonesia – Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said Monday she hopes China is able to roll out a more effective vaccination campaign to fight the coronavirus. So 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 Supreme 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 think we’ve offered China-US mRNA vaccines, and I think they’ve not been interested in taking us up on it,” Ms. Yellen to journalists referring to the vaccine technology that was first developed in the West and has been adopted in many countries.
Mrs. Yellen added: “To the extent that it can be helpful to them, we certainly want to see them be able to deal effectively with the pandemic, both for their own sake and for the sake of the world. So we stand ready to help.”
A Treasury official said Ms. Yellen was not suggesting the United States would donate vaccines to China, but rather was noting Beijing’s refusal to import vaccines produced by American 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 proven most effective. An mRNA vaccine developed by China was approved for use in Indonesia in September.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in Beijing this month that he had been assured that China would speed up the approval process for Covid-19 vaccines made by the German company BioNTech, and that in return he would push for Chinese vaccines was granted regulatory approval by the European Union.
China has maintained a zero-tolerance approach to Covid, and Ms. Yellen said Beijing’s pandemic policies were among the reasons the Chinese economy is slowing. Last week, China eased some of its Covid restrictions, pleasing investors, but a rise in infections has raised questions about whether measures will be tightened again.
The Minister of Finance will participate 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” US-China relations and improve communication between the world’s two largest economies.
“We’ve been very clear that we have national security issues and want to address them,” Yellen said Monday. Those concerns, she said, include U.S. supply chains’ dependence on China for minerals used in batteries and solar panels.