After weeks delaying it, in a movement criticized by the WHO, China has allowed the entrance of a WHO team to probe the origins of Covid-19. Chinese leaders have portrayed this as a sign of transparency and cooperation, but critics argue that the process of investigation will be ridden with political obstacles. This same week, Hong Kong’s internet provider blocked access to a pro-democratic website, fueling fears of an extension of its web and social media censorship to the island, under the so called “Great Firewall of China“.
Meanwhile, in the last week in office of President Trump, the US have escalated their trade war with China. Nine firms, including Xiaomi, have been added to the “military blacklist” under accusations of having helped China in intimidating neighbours in the South China Sea. This confrontation is unlikely to go away soon, as the Congressional Executive Commission on China has called for holding Beijing accountable for the possible genocide in Xinjiang. China has answered by arguing that any move “harming China’s core interest” will be received with a counter-strike. At the same time, they have sought to hold a summit with leaders from Central and Eastern Europe, the so called 17+1, deepening their push to form alliances in Europe. For instance, Hungary is set to open the first Chinese university campus in the EU.
The US will also have to tread lightly with Japan and South Korea. Apart from their recent bitter clashes, North Korea recently showcased its military power in a parade, including the showcase of a new submarine-launched ballistic missile. Biden has appointed Kurt Campbell as his new “Indo-Pacific coordinator” or “Asian Czar”. He has been received with relief by allies of the US, as a key component in the “Pivot to Asia” strategy of the Obama administration.
Another key player in Asia, India, has been going through internal problems for the past months. Economic contraction, struggling banks and protests by farmers who opposed new farm laws. The later have been temporarily suspended by the Supreme Court, but protesters have vowed to maintain demonstrations until they are completely repealed. At the same time, Indian and Chinese tanks still face each other at the Himalayan border, while the country starts its vaccination campaign, as soon as possible.
After the crash of a Boeing 737 in Indonesia last Saturday, the country suffered a new tragic event, with an earthquake killing 37 people and injuring other 637. With several building collapsing, more than 10,000 people are now in temporary shelters. These have been consecutive blows to a country which registered a record high 11,278 cases of Covid-19 on Wednesday, rushing the approval of the Sinovac vaccine despite efficacy concerns. President Joko Widodo received the first dose of the vaccine, in the start of a massive vaccination campaign to curb infections in the worst hit country of South-east Asia.