China has reported a 18,3 percent GDP growth in the first quarter of the year, although doubts have arisen about the quality of that growth. For instance, much of it has been built upon new debt and polluting activities, such as steel production. The country has also announced that it will conduct a stress test to all of its banks. And it has its called tech companies to stop anti-competitive practices within a month. The push for more regulation of Beijing has resulted in a fine of $2.8bn to Alibaba for abuse of market position. The company has announced that it will obey the new rules and help regulators to maintain ‘market order.’
Xi Jinping will meet Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel , and John Kerry will speak with Chinese officials in Shanghai, before the Earth’s Day Summit hosted by President Biden next April 22. There is hope in the EU that these talks can help in easing tensions with China, although the recent jail sentence for pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong could complicate this goal. The PRC has also mulled the possibility of sending peacekeeping forces to Afghanistan on the wake of the US withdrawal of troops. The latter have confirmed that they will do so by September 11, as well as announced sanctions against Russia for their ‘continued and growing malign behaviour.’
Biden is also meeting Japanese PM Yoshihide Suga, his first in-person meeting with a foreign leader, today. How to deal with China, as well as coordinated action to back up Taiwan, are the main topics on the table. Suga could use the meeting to boost his image at home, with a very unpopular administration and ten more regions adopting restrictions to fight Covid infections this week. Besides, there has been controversy regarding the plan to release 1 million metric tonnes of Fukushima’s treated radioactive water into the sea. The government has been forced, for instance, to scrap ‘little Mr. Tritium.’, the mascot of the project.
In India, there has been a new daily infection record set for 8 of the last 9 days. Regulators have granted emergency approval to the Sputnik V vaccine, as cities such as New Delhi or Mumbai are not even able to treat all patients. In Bangladesh, rubber bullets and tear gas were used to crack down on the protests instigated by the radical Hezafat-e-Islam group, opposing Modi’s visit. And in Pakistan, the French embassy has advised its citizens and companies to leave the country, given the anti-France sentiment fostered by the TLP. This far-right Islamist party has called to take the streets against blasphemy, resulting in two police officers dead, and its banning under the anti-terrorist law.