Two of China’s largest corporations are facing backlash: Ant Group has seen competing lending platforms emerge on the wake of the scrapping of the groups’ IPO in November, after the government’s crackdown on the company; Huawei, on the other hand, has warned that its orders for smartphone components will drop by 60 per cent this year, following a drop of 22 per cent in 2020, impacted by US sanctions. Their woes contrast with the rise of TSMC, the Taiwanese chipmaker, which expects to double its capital expenditure this year, and accounts for 15 per cent of the island’s GDP. The Chinese government, meanwhile, has been accused of blocking a Taiwanese deal with BioNTech to acquire 5 million doses of their vaccine, silently backing the coup in Myanmar with their “Great Firewall,” and trying new forms of state surveillance through the implementation of a digital currency.
India, where the Serum Institute —the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer— is located, has ramped up its vaccine diplomacy by giving around 23 million doses under their “vaccine friendship” programme. Deemed as a new and important form of diplomatic currency, India, Russia and China have embarked on this task even at the cost of vaccination at home. However, they are clearly winning this race against the West, which has been accused of stockpiling more than 1 billion extra doses. India has also flexed its diplomatic muscles by reinforcing their security and defence ties with Saudi Arabia, as well as participating in the first meeting of the Quad, vowing to work closely with ASEAN and Europe, as well as pressuring for a return of democracy in Myanmar. However, at home, the Indian government has continued its crackdown on dissent, jailing a climate activist for sharing a Google Doc about the farmers’ protests with Greta Thunberg, and demanding Twitter to censor contents from opposition members and demonstrators.
Meanwhile, Facebook has stated that people and publishers in Australia will no longer be able to share or see any news from local or international outlets. This comes in response to the “Media Bargaining Code,” expected to be approved by the Australian parliament. Under the proposed law, Google or Facebook would have to negotiate with media groups to publish their news. Google, Facebook, and Youtube make up more than 80 per cent of the country’s digital advertisement, and while Google has announced revenue sharing agreements with the main media groups, Facebook has decided to escalate the situation. They argue that the value exchange between Facebook and publishers runs in favour of the later, but the ban has caused a backlash, as it has also affected pages such as the weather bureau or emergency services. Prime Minister Morrison has announced that he will not be intimidated, pointing to the law as an example that will be followed by many Western governments.
In Japan, Don’t Be Silent —the online campaign started by a young student— gathered global support and more than 150,000 signatures to oust the Olympics’ organising chief, Yoshiro Mori, after his sexist remarks. He has been replaced by former Olympian Seiko Hashimoto, in a process criticised by lack of transparency, but which has helped in fuelling a gender equality debate in the country. In a recent move, the ruling party LDP has promised to allow five women lawmakers to join their boards’ meetings—but only as silent observers. Meanwhile, despite reports of fewer than 500 infections for the 13th day in a row in Tokyo, there are still concerns about the viability of the Olympic Games, especially after a belated start of the vaccination campaign.