It was a bizarre situation that Uğur Şahin experienced in his Shanghai hotel on the morning of April 21.

Last October, the founder of the Mainz-based pharmaceutical company BioNTech had spoken to the local leadership of the Communist Party on video to advertise that his vaccine would be approved in China - as the first foreign vaccine ever.

The largest market in the world with 1.4 billion people was so important for the Mainz-based company that six months later, Şahin personally flew to the Chinese economic metropolis for more than ten hours.

Once there, he met Party Secretary Li Qiang again for a conversation - but again only virtually.

Thiemo Heeg

Editor in business.

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Hendrik Ankenbrand

Business correspondent for China based in Shanghai.

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On the table in front of her name tag and teacup like at a Chinese party congress, Şahin in a blue suit and red tie spoke at the side of BioNTech's chief strategy officer Ryan Richardson, as before from Germany.

Together with the Shanghai conglomerate Fosun, they want to produce a billion doses of the vaccine in China every year, the scientist and new billionaire explained to the top executives.

The German consulate general had not even informed the BioNTech people about their visit to Shanghai and, as the Chinese requested, they went into quarantine immediately after their arrival, which they did not leave again during their talks.

One of BioNTech's biggest misjudgments to date

Despite the bubble in which the Chinese government had kept him at a distance, the German developer of the world's most effective vaccine flew home to Germany full of confidence - party secretary Li had at least verbally embraced his company as the “leading vaccine manufacturer” around the globe. He was "optimistic about being able to help the Chinese people," said Şahin after his return. The vaccine will be approved by the Chinese authorities “by June at the latest”.

It was probably one of the biggest misjudgments in the German entrepreneur's career to date.

In China, airport areas, entire container ports and even megacities as well as parts of provinces are being cordoned off for weeks due to new virus outbreaks, which contributed to the fact that the economy in the third quarter of the year grew more slowly than it has for a long time.

Nevertheless, the BioNTech vaccine has not yet been inoculated in China - and according to observers, it will not be approved anytime soon.

"Everything in this vaccine drama is political"

Because the German vaccine based on the comparatively new mRNA technology, with an effectiveness of 95 percent, is much better than the traditionally developed Chinese vaccines from Sinopharm with a measured effectiveness of 79 percent and from Sinovac (51 percent), the President wants to say According to business circles, Xi Jinping does not show any nakedness in front of its own population with the approval of the German miracle drug. The German manufacturer therefore realized that the market launch of his product was currently not realistic. "BioNTech has pulled the plug."

After the vaccine was still not approved in July, contrary to the prognosis of company boss Şahin, the Chinese media reported that Beijing wanted to administer it at least as a “booster shot” in addition to the Chinese vaccines.

From a secret meeting of the Shanghai BioNTech partner Fosun it was rumored that a committee of scientists appointed by the government had already officially given the vaccine the green light.

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