As expected, the Alaska talks between China and the US were not very warm. The discussion derived in a public spat and crossed accusations to reinforce their tough stance towards their domestic audience. Signs of hope for cooperation included mentions to climate change and, especially, the fate of the nuclear deal with Iran, where China has stated that it will take a constructive role. However, tensions with the West continue rising after two events. First, after sanctions imposed by the EU on Chinese officials for Human Rights’ abuses in Xinjiang, China answered with their own sanctions, harsher than those set by the EU, which could put the CAI in jeopardy. Secondly, the Asian country extended their sanctions to independent researchers, as well as to companies such as H&M, for refusing to buy cotton produced in Xinjiang.
On the internal front, the country’s chip champion, Tsinghua, has suffered a freezing of assets by international bondholders, given its high corporate debt. The recent crackdown on Big Tech by Chinese regulators has forced companies such as Tencent to sit down and negotiate with them. However, Jack Ma, after the failure of its IPO in November, has found leverage on the popularity of its mobile payment system, Alipay, given the impossibility of many enterprises to expand without it. The government has started pilot trials of a “Digital Yuan,” in a clear attempt to reduce its dependency on applications such as Alipay.
India, which had engaged in “vaccine diplomacy” alongside China, has found itself cutting exports in order to tackle rising infections at home. This is a problem for dozens of low and middle income countries, as the Serum Institute of India is the main supplier of COVAX, which provides jabs to states in need. The delay in the supply of jabs could result in full vaccination delayed up until 2023. The country is also dealing with a difficult diplomatic situation, at odds with Saudi Arabia over the price of oil, and with the government criticized for their rejection of Myanmar nationals fleeing their country.
In Myanmar, the death toll after the coup continues to rise, reaching 320 people killed. This included 39 killings on the 14th of March, when martial law was also declared in some parts of the country. The crackdown has included foreign journalists, and has led to an escalation of sanctions by the US and the UK. With a combination of repression and gloomy economic prospects (according to the World Bank), some protestors have started to form anti-military armed groups.