Autor: Francisco Urdinez (2023)
Global health emergencies present opportunities for countries to enhance their soft power by demonstrating generosity and technological capabilities. Although China’s initial association with the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak had a detrimental impact on its international reputation, the country endeavored to rebuild it by visibly distributing vaccines and medical supplies. By countering U.S. vaccine nationalism, China positioned itself as an alternative provider of public goods in the Global South. The COVID-19 crisis provides a unique opportunity to examine how aid translates into reputation, particularly when donors are facing reputational damage. This article assesses the impact of alternative goods provision on China’s reputation using original individual-level panel data collected from six Latin American countries between 2020 and 2021, employing a difference-in-differences research design. By positing the existence of absolute and relative reputational effects, we observe that Chinese vaccines improve public opinion of China and elevate its reputation in comparison to the United States. These findings are substantiated through a survey experiment, which demonstrates that when individuals receive information about China’s provision of medical supplies, it enhances China’s reputation relative to the United States.