The World This Week

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The World This Week
China's new census, Cyber attack on a US energy grid, and 100 days of military rule in Myanmar

  GP Team

The World This Week #119, Vol. 3, No. 20

Mallika Devi, Lokendra Sharma, and Aparupa Bhattacherjee


China: What does the Census 2020 say?

What happened?
On 11 May, the Seventh National Population Census of the People's Republic of China (Chinese: 第七次全国人口普查 pinyin: Di Qi Ci Quanguo Renkou Pucha), better known as 2020 Chinese census was released. The census work began on 1 November 2020 and continued till 10 December 2020. The census covers all Chinese citizens living in mainland China, as well as those living abroad on temporary visas. Foreigners living in China for more than six months are also included. This release was originally planned for April but was delayed by a month.

The census data shows the population of mainland China as 1.41 billion. The data shows a fertility rate of 1.3 children per women for 2020 alone, which is at par with ageing societies like Japan. The data shows that the population in mainland China in the 2010-20 decade grew by 5.38 per cent to 1.41 billion. This increase in the population is the least since modern census-taking began in 1953. 

In the earlier decade 2000-10 the rate of population growth was 5.70 per cent. China's working-age population (16-59) in the current census declined by 40 million when compared with the last census of 2010. In 2019 China had recorded 14.65 million births; in 2020, it recorded 12 million births, a decrease by 18 per cent, making 2020 births the lowest since 1961. In 2016 China had recorded 18 million births. 

The elderly population, those above 65 years, comprises 13.5 per cent of the population, whereas in the last census in 2010, this segment of the population was 8.9 per cent. Census data also reveals an increase in the population movement to urban centres, with a decrease in the average household size to 2.62 persons. The UN had predicted the number of people living in the mainland would peak in 2030 before declining.

What is the background?
First, data collection accuracy. The census was conducted, for the first time, amidst a pandemic. The effect of the pandemic on data collection is not clearly known.  

Second, the falling birth rate. It is firmly established that the birth rate is falling despite the one-child policy being replaced by the two-child policy in 2016. The policy did increase the number of births for 2016 and 2017, but the impact was short-lived, and birth rates fell from 2018. This trend is directly attributed to China's economic and social development wherein there is a rise in delayed marriages, postponement of childbearing and a rise in costs of childraising combined with low public child care funding. The cost of raising a child, according to a 2005 report by a state think-tank, is 4,90,000 Yuan for an ordinary family in China. By 2020 the local media reported that the cost had risen to as high as 1.99 million Yuan, four times the 2005 figure. The two-child policy did not provide sufficient incentives to couples and particularly would-be mothers to have more children. Childbearing puts higher costs on the bodies, careers and personal lives of women as compared to men. Thus, incentivizing would-be mothers is of prime importance. 

Third, strained working population. The other fact which is categorically established is the decline in China's working-age population and simultaneous increase in the elderly population. In the same vein- at the two sessions meeting of China's essential government apparatus in March- premier Le Keqiang confirmed that China would raise the retirement age, which has remained the same for four decades at 60 for men and 55 for women.

What does it mean?
While it would be too early to say that China is in the midst of demographic crises, but surely it is beginning to lose it's demographic dividend. The trend indicates that population growth will continue to slow in the future. An increase in the elderly population means increased demand for workers to support the elderly, plus increased demand for health and social care. The data may also indicate that China might be faced with an irreversible population decline.



The US: Ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline sparks fuel shortages in the east coast

What happened?
On 12 May, Colonial Pipeline restarted operations after being shut for five days due to a ransomware attack on 7 May. Colonial said in a statement: "Following this restart, it will take several days for the product delivery supply chain to return to normal." Bloomberg and the New York Times reported that the company paid USD 5 million (about 75 Bitcoin) as ransom to DarkSide, the hacking group responsible for the attack.

On 10 May, when asked about the attack in a press meet, President Biden said: "So far there is no evidence-based on, from our intelligence people, that Russia is involved, though there is evidence that the actors, ransomware, is in Russia. They have some responsibility to deal with this." On the same day, the FBI released a statement on Twitter holding the group DarkSide responsible for the attack. 

On 10 May, CNBC reported the following statement issued by DarkSide on the attack: "We are apolitical, we do not participate in geopolitics, do not need to tie us with a defined government and look for our motives. Our goal is to make money, and not creating problems for society. From today we introduce moderation and check each company that our partners want to encrypt to avoid social consequences in the future."

What is the background? 
First, the increasing intensity and frequency of ransomware attacks on the US. The victims include the US government agencies, private companies, police departments and even schools and colleges. According to the New York Times, this year alone has seen so far 26 government agencies being recipients of ransomware attacks. According to cybersecurity firm Emsisoft, in 2019, ransomware attacks cost the US about USD 7.5 billion. 

Second, the geographic focus of cyber-attacks. The ransomware attacks of the preceding decade reveal a geographical division: while most attacks, whether state-backed or non-state, emanate from Russia (or countries part of the former Soviet Union) and China, the recipient countries are the affluent countries of Europe, North America as well as Japan, Australia and New Zealand. In fact, this week has seen two more ransomware attacks: one on Ireland's health care system and another on Toshiba corporation. 

Third, the nature of ransomware attacks. A type of cyber-attack, ransomware involves infecting the victims' system with malware that encrypts the data. The hackers then demand a ransom for releasing the encryption key that the victims can use to get back their data. As organizations have started keeping back-ups of their data, the ransomware attacks increasingly feature not just encryption but also stealing of data accompanied by a threat to leak it if the ransom is not paid. The US government maintains a position that organizations should not pay the ransom and encourage hackers. However, this may turn out to be more costly than the ransom amount itself. Lastly, all the payments are demanded in cryptocurrencyies to avoid traceability of transactions. 

Fourth, the attack and its fallouts. Colonial Pipeline, which runs for 8,850 km, supplies gasoline, diesel and jet fuel to meet 45 per cent of the US' east coast requirement. Due to the attack on 7 May, the closure of the pipeline was followed by fuel shortages across the States on the east coast. Four States - North Carolina, Virginia, Florida and Georgia - declared a state of emergency. As panic buying surged, the prices of gasoline soared to USD 3 per gallon, for the first time since 2014.  

What does it mean? 
First, the attack on Colonial Pipelines is part of a larger trend of increasing attacks on the US-based organizations. However, with one difference: while the past attacks have only had localized impacts, the one on Colonial Pipeline demonstrates that not just a powerful state actor with deep cyber capabilities but also small non-state hacker groups can pose a danger to critical infrastructure. 

Second, as conventional deterrence fails in the case of cyberattacks because of the problem of attribution and the role of non-state actors, retaliation by the US will only serve limited purposes. In such a case, building strong cyber defense systems may be more fruitful.   



Myanmar: 100 days of military rule is marked by instability, with use of force and public protests
What happened?
On 11 May, several protests, strikes, and rallies were organized across Myanmar to condemn the 100 days of military rule. Following an organized coup to establish the military government, on 1 February 2021, public protests and civil disobedience movement are common. 

On 8 May, the government denounced the newly formed National Unity Government (NUG), a parallel government, as a 'terrorist' group. On 7 May, the government transferred the control of the General Administrative Department (GAD) back to the Home Affairs ministry to revive the neighbourhood surveillance networks. On 5 May, NUG declared to have formed peoples' defense force which comprises of common citizens who are given defense training by some of the ethnic armed groups. 

This week witnessed several bomb attacks targeting the security forces and military-owned institutions and infrastructures. The skirmishes between Tatmadaw and the ethnic armed groups, especially KIA, KNU, and KNLA escalated, forcing citizens to escape to the neighbouring countries.

What is the background?
First, 100 days of consolidation by the military. The military took over, stating fraud in the 2020 election and to 'uphold democracy.' None of the claims by the military regarding the fraudulent nature of the last election had any proof. The detention of Aung San Suu Kyi, former President, with several members of the National League of Democracy has not helped the government gain the required legitimacy. Further, this government has concentrated on repressing anti-government voices through atrocities, violence, detentions, and suppressing media rather than development. The government has no clarity about the COVID-19 impact on the country or the dissemination of vaccines (received 5,00,000 vaccines on 4 May from the People's Liberation Army). As per a UNDP report, by 2022, nearly half of the population in Myanmar will be in poverty due to the ongoing conflict and pandemic.

Second, 100 days of popular resistance. Immediately after the coup, several public servants and health facilitators have called for a civil disobedience movement. Within a week, full-fledged protests erupted across the country, demanding the release of detained leaders and restoring the elected government. Although the protest was primarily youth-led, it received support from all walks of life. The response from the security forces seemed cautious in the beginning but they quickly resorted to vehement repressions. More than 700 have been killed and 4,000 have been detained to date. In response to the growing atrocities, several groups of protestors have used homemade bombs, guns made of cycle tyres, and Molotov cocktails since mid-March. These groups are actively supported by several ethnic armed groups. Most of the ethnic armed groups, including those who had signed the National Ceasefire Agreement, have not recognized this government.

Third, 100 days of international apathy and weak regional response. Australia, the US, New Zealand, the UK, and several other countries have criticized the coup, de-recognized, and levied sanctions on the military government. But the sanctions are ineffective, as stated by a government spokesperson to CNN because they are habituated to dealing with severe sanctions in the past. The UNSC has failed to officially condemn the government owing to the support of Tatmadaw's two allies, China and Russia. In the region, the efforts from ASEAN have also proved lousy and without impact.

What does it mean?
First, although the government has assured an election by 2022 it is evident it will be a sham and will be a repeat of history from 2010. Second, the conflict within the country is likely to escalate and may also head towards a civil war. This will derail the little hopes of development that the country had during the previous partial-democratic government.



Also, in the news …
By Sukanya Bali and Avishka Ashok

East and Southeast Asia This Week 
China: Tianwen-1 landed successfully on Mars 
On 15 May, the Chinese uncrewed Tianwen-1 spacecraft landed on the northern plain of Mars known as Utopia Planitia. The spacecraft reached Mars in February and had been in orbit since then. The successful landing made China the second nation after the US to reach Mars. The solar-powered rover, Zhurong will be further deployed to survey and collect the rock sample for the next three months. Xi Jinping issued a congratulatory message, "You were brave enough for the challenge, pursued excellence, and placed our country in the advanced ranks of planetary exploration." He also said: "Your outstanding achievement will forever be etched in the memories of the motherland and the people."

Hong Kong: Government seize Jimmy Lai's shares of Next Digital 
On 14 May, Hong Kong Security Bureau seized Jimmy Lai Chee-Ying's shares in Next Digital media company and assets from local bank accounts of three of his companies, under the national security law. The shares accounted for USD 45 million. Recently, Lai was sentenced to 14 months imprisonment under the taking part in the unauthorized assembly in 2019. 

Hong Kong: Singapore travel bubble unlikely to begin on 26 May
On 14 May, Hong Kong officials warned that the travel bubble with Singapore, which was set to begin on 26 May, is likely to be delayed due to the rise in COVID-19 cases. Singapore Transport Minister said: "[But] given the rising cases in Singapore it is very likely that Singapore will not be able to meet the resumption criteria." As per the agreement signed if the seven-day average of COVID-19 cases is more than five in either of the countries, the quarantine-free travel arrangement would be suspended.

South Korea: Israel signs Free Trade Agreement with Seoul
On 12 May, South Korea and Israel signed the free trade agreement in Seoul. The agreement will be implemented after the approval of parliament. South Korea becomes the first Asian country to sign the pact with Israel, and it aims to bolster bilateral relations between the two countries. Under the pact, South Korea will lift the tariff on 95.2 per cent of the products, while Israel at 95.1 per cent. Yoo Myung-hee, Trade Minister said: "The FTA with Israel will not just center on lowering tariffs or improving the business environment, but it will also serve as a solid platform that builds foundations for their economic growth by speeding up cooperation in advanced industries." 

South Korea: Fisheries Association files lawsuit against the Japanese government 
On 13 May, the South Korean fisheries association filed a complaint against the Japanese government at Jeju District Court. The association aims to seek compensation for the future release of the contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The National Federation of Fisheries Cooperatives demanded compensation of USD 8,800 per day from the Japanese government and Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings. 

Japan: Anti Olympic campaigners urge to cancel the Tokyo Olympics
On 14 May, a petition signed by 350,000 people to cancel the Tokyo Olympics amid the rising of COVID-19 cases, submitted to the International Olympic Committee and International Paralympic Committee. Kenji Utsunomiya, one of the campaign organizers said: "We are not in that situation, and therefore the Games should be cancelled." He further added, "Precious medical resources would need to be diverted to the Olympics if it's held." The move came after Japan declared a state emergency in three prefectures due to a surge in cases. 

South Asia This Week
India: Sputnik V roll out begins 
On 14 May, India began administering doses of the Sputnik V vaccine received from Russia. The Hindu reported: "Members of the senior leadership of Dr Reddy said that the vaccine would be supplied at- INR 948 plus five per cent GST- to both government and private sector." Dr Reddy's is the marketing partner of Sputnik V, received a consignment of 1.50 lakh dose earlier this month. GV Prasad, Co-Chairman and Managing Director of Dr Reddy's, said: "We are prioritizing our efforts to launch Sputnik V vaccine across India." 

India: Agreed to resume the trade talks with the EU 
On 8 May, the EU, member state, and India held a virtual summit and agreed to revive the stalled free-trade negotiation. A joint statement released said: "We recognized the importance of strengthening the specific mechanisms for the promotion of human rights and the role of national human rights institutions, civil society actors and journalists." Both sides also agreed to build joint infrastructure projects, cooperate in climate change and also hold meetings to collaborate on renewable energy, energy storage technology and modernizing power grids.

Sri Lanka: World Bank signs USD 80.5 million vaccine agreement  
On 14 May, Sri Lanka and World Bank signed additional financing of USD 80.5 million to strengthen countries vaccination drive. The agreement was signed between the Secretary of Finance, and Faris Hadad-Zervos, World Bank Country Director for Sri Lanka. Zervos said: "Solidarity and support of all stakeholders are key to fight this pandemic." He also said: "The World Bank remains responsive to the health priorities of Sri Lanka as well as emergency needs. Effective deployment of the vaccines will help Sri Lanka protect people, build human capital and facilitate inclusive economic recovery." 

Afghanistan: Ceasefire violation, President Ghani telephonic conversation with the US State secretary 
On 13 May, two landmines exploded in Kandahar and Kunduz soon after a three-day ceasefire between Taliban and Afghan forces. The explosion led to the killing of nine people and injured 17.  On 14 May, an explosion inside a mosque in Shakardara district, Kabul, led to the death of 12 people and wounded 15. Taliban denied its involvement in both the attacks. According to Tolo News, Afghan officials stated that at least three Afghan soldiers were killed in separate incidents of "ceasefire violations" by the Taliban. Defense Ministry spokesperson said: "These violations have happened in several areas by groups that operate under Taliban command because they do not obey their leader in action, and this indicates Taliban's weakness."  Meanwhile, President Ashraf Ghani had a telephonic conversation with the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The US State Department said: "the Secretary conveyed America's steadfast support for the US-Afghan partnership and for Afghanistan's security forces." On the same day, the Afghan government and Taliban delegation met in Doha, to discuss further on-peace efforts.

Pakistan: PM Imran Khan and President Erdogan discuss Israel's "heinous" attacks on Palestine
On 12 May, Prime Minister Imran Khan, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, held a telephonic conversation, discussed Israel's attacks on the al-Aqsa mosque and Gaza. Both the leaders agreed to highlight the issue at an international level and mobilize the international community to put an end to these attacks. Pakistan Foreign Minister in a press conference said that the country extended full support to Turkey's call for an emergency meeting with the OIC and the UN on the "dire and the oppressive situation in Palestine." 

Pakistan: Chief of army staff visits Afghanistan 
On 10 May, Pakistan army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa met Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani. Gen Bajwa extended Pakistan's support to the peace process in Afghanistan and emphasized the importance of "a peaceful Afghanistan." According to the Inter-Service Public Relation released a statement, Bajwa said: "We will always support 'Afghan Led-Afghan owned' Peace Process based on mutual consensus of all stakeholders."

Central Asia, Middle East and Africa This Week
Central Asia: Chinese Foreign Minister holds talks to discuss regional cooperation
On 12 May, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi held talks with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan in Xian, China. He offered to expand the regional cooperation and assist with infrastructure development and vaccination drive in the Central Asian countries. The grand Eurasian passageway of interconnectivity, Chinese government scholarships, agricultural cooperation and suppression of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement were the other issues discussed at the meeting. Wang Yi also held bilateral meetings with the countries and emphasized the importance "non-interference in internal affairs."

Saudi Arabia: Turkish Foreign Minister visits Riyadh 
On 10 May, the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu reached Riyadh to hold talks with Saudi Arabian officials over the resumption of friendly relations and bringing an end to the Saudi boycott of Turkish goods.  Cavusoglu said: "We had a very open and sincere meeting. We decided to continue our dialogue." The two countries discussed the sale of Turkish drones and the ongoing violence in Jerusalem. He stated: "Such attacks have to stop now. Of course, we need to protect the rights of Palestinians within the framework of international law. We should never veer from the two-state vision."

Qatar: Emir visits Jeddah to enhance bilateral relations 
On 10 May, the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani arrived in the city of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia and was received by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The two leaders proceeded to discuss bilateral relations and international issues of mutual concern. This is the first interaction between the leaders after the signing of the declaration in January 2021, which aimed at easing tensions between Qatar and the Gulf states. 

Iran: Former President registers for elections for the second time after being disqualified in 2017
On 11 May, the Supreme Leader of Iran Ali Khamenei vowed not to influence the Presidential elections to be held on 18 June 2021. On 12 May, former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad registered his candidacy for the elections and was supported by a crowd of people who were chanting slogans in his support. Ahmadinejad served as the President from 2005 to 2013 but was disqualified from running for elections in 2017 by the Guardian Council. While referring to the elections, he said: "If I'm disqualified, I will not support the elections, and I won't vote." 

Israel: Muslim nations protests against violence in Jerusalem 
On 15 May, the total number of fatalities in Palestine hit 126. Over 1000 people have been injured in the missile attacks between Israel and Palestinian forces, which intensified in the previous week. Countries across the world held protests in the last week to object to the mounting violence in Jerusalem. Protests took place in Pakistan, Lebanon, Kuwait, Morocco, Sudan, Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia and Jordan. Protestors in Turkey set fire to an Israeli flag in front of the Israeli consulate. Senegalese President also condemned the attacks on the Palestinian civilian population. Hundreds of people in Kenya also took to the streets to protest against Israel's use of excessive force. 

Madagascar: Drought conditions worsen due to increasing temperatures
On 10 May, the Guardian reported that Madagascar's drought has resulted in a desperate food shortage in the country, with more than a million people suffering from extreme malnourishment. The UN predicted that the country would only produce half its usual harvest due to a lack of rainfall on the island. The World Food Programme also reported that acute malnutrition in children under five years has doubled in the last four months. Highly inadequate rainfall and sandstorms coupled with rising food prices are the primary causes of the humanitarian crisis in the island country. 

Mali: Interim Prime Minister tasked with forming the new government
On 14 May, Moctar Ouane resigned from the position of Prime Minister but was reappointed on the same day to handle the reshuffling of the cabinet in order to form a broad-based government. Ouane was appointed as the Prime Minister in September 2020 after a military coup. The Ouane government was criticized for its close connections with the military and the slow-paced constitutional reforms. 

Europe and The Americas This Week
Russia: The US and the Czech Republic declared "unfriendly" 
On 14 May, the Russian government officially released a list of countries that have conducted unfriendly activities against the country. The list was released along with a decree signed by the Prime Minister, which declared the US and Czech as "unfriendly states." According to the decree, the Czech embassy will employ 19 locals in Russia, and the US will be allowed none. On 12 May, Russia expelled ten diplomats, including the spokesperson for the US embassy. The move comes as a reaction after the US expelled ten diplomats in April. The US and Czech embassy have until 1 August to comply with the new terms presented by the Russian government. 

Russia: New Arctic spill threatens to cause environmental emergency
On 13 May, over 150 employees of the Russian oil producer Lukoil were engaged in containing a seven-ton crude oil spill in the local soil and waterways of Northern Russia.  The accident occurred at the Lukoil pipeline and reached the Kolva river and a town of 45,000 people. Corrosion of the metal pipelines and delay in maintenance is said to be a cause of the leak. The real impact of the accident is yet to be known. The spill comes almost a year after Nornickel oil leak which is considered to be the worst oil spill in the Arctic. 

Ireland: Cyber attack on health service system slows hospitals
On 13 May, hospitals in Ireland were forced to depend on traditional administrative functions using pen and paper after a Russian gang allegedly hacked into the country's health service computer system. The impact of the hack is yet to be understood, but the country was forced to shut its system on 14 May as well. The cyber attack has caused the hospitals to slow down, urging non-emergency patients to medicate at home. The Ireland Health Service Executive refused to pay the ransom money. 

France: French military personnel issue unanimous open letter to the President
On 9 May, a letter authored by a group of French military personnel was published in the Valeurs Actuelles magazine. The letter, intended for French President Emmanuel Macron, warns against a looming civil war situation in France due to the "concessions" that have been made for Islam in the country. The letter blames the President for giving way to Islam in the country while the soldiers spill blood in Afghanistan, Mali, the Central African Republic or elsewhere."

Colombia: Foreign Minister resign amid intensifying protests 
On 13 May, Colombian Foreign Minister Claudia Blum submitted her resignation through a video message as protests continue to incite violence in the country. She did not cite a reason for the sudden resignation, but her handling of the protests and the country's conditions prior to the pandemic are being criticized heavily by the media. Deputy Minister Adriana Mejia will be taking over the vacant position. The protests which were initially ignited due to controversial tax reform have also led to the resignation of the Economy Minister. 

Brazil: Covaxin approved for clinical trial while Fiocruz Biomedical Institute faces obstacles in the production of AstraZeneca vaccines
On 14 May, the health regulator body in Brazil approved a clinical trial for Biotech's COVID-19 vaccine. The health regulator, Anvisa, had previously suspended the use of the vaccine and denied the certificate of good manufacturing practices to Bharat Biotech as the company failed to meet manufacturing standards. However, the vaccine will now be used on 4,500 volunteers in the country in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled manner to explore the efficiency and safety of the vaccine. On 13 May, Fiocruz Biomedical Institute announced that it would stop the production of the AstraZeneca vaccine due to inadequate ingredients. The facility will have to wait until 22 May for the new supplies. 

Honduras: El Salvador helps acquire vaccines from China
On 10 May, the health minister of Honduras announced that it would join hands with El Salvador and "break the geopolitical blockade" and purchase Chinese vaccines. The move by Honduras is seen by Taiwan as a matter of concern as El Salvador, a previous ally, broke all diplomatic ties in 2018 after being poached by China. Taiwan fears that a similar scenario could repeat itself with Honduras, one of the 15 allies. 

The US: Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa completes the first visit 
On 14 May, the US Department of State published a report on Special Envoy for Horn of Africa Jerry Feltman's first visit to Egypt, Eritrea, Sudan and Ethiopia. The press released placed emphasis on Ethiopia's political crisis and spoke about the human rights violation in the Tigray region. The report stated: "The United States will work with our international allies and partners to secure a ceasefire, end this brutal conflict, provide the life-saving assistance that is so urgently needed, and hold those responsible for human rights abuses and violations accountable." On Sudan, the US promised to extend support to ensure an effortless transition to democracy in the country. During the visit, Feltman also discussed the issue of water security extensively with the four countries. 

The US: Elise Stefanik replaces Liz Cheney 
 On 14 May, the Republican House representatives elected Elise Stefanik to replace Liz Cheny as the party's conference chair after Cheny criticized Trump's statement over rigging of the 2020 elections. Stefanik is considered to be an ardent Trump supporter and her election as conference chair proves the influence of Donald Trump over the Republican Party. The former President also commented on Stefanik's election. He said: "Congratulations to Elise Stefanik for her Big and Overwhelming victory! The House GOP is united and the Make America Great Again movement is Strong."

The US: Antony Blinken extends support to Australia 
On 13 May, the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated support of Australia at a press briefing along with the Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne. Blinken said: "I reiterated that the United States will not leave Australia alone on the field, or maybe I should say alone on the pitch, in the face of economic coercion by China." He also warned that China's moves to intimidate its neighbours in the Indo-Pacific may negatively impact Sino-American relations. 

The US: Elon Musk and Vitalik Buterin cause crash in the crypto-currency market
On 12 May, the prices of Bitcoin came crashing down by 17 per cent after Elon Musk tweeted: "Cryptocurrency is a good idea on many levels, and we believe it has a promising future, but this cannot come at great cost to the environment." The price fell from USD 54,819 to USD 45700 within two hours of the tweet. The tweet also affected the price of Ethereum, which fell by 14 per cent to USD 3,550. Vitalik Buterin moved over USD two billion, leading to further fluctuations in the market. 

The US: President Joe Biden reverses Trump-era policies 
On 14 May, President Joe Biden revoked multiple executive orders passed by former President Donald Trump. The revoked orders include the 2019 proclamation that sought to necessitate owning health insurance for visa applicants. This proclamation, however, met with numerous legal challenges and was not implemented. Biden also revoked "Preventing Online Censorship" action of 2020 which sought to curtail the freedoms of social media platforms. Other policies and plans that have been withdrawn are Garden of American Heroes, rebranding foreign assistance as "American Aid" and "overcriminalization through regulatory reform."



About the Authors
Mallika Devi is a PhD candidate at the Department of East Asian Studies, University of Delhi. Lokendra Sharma and Aparupa Bhattacherjee are PhD Scholars at the National Institute of Advanced Studies. Sukanya Bali and Avishka Ashok are Research Associates in the School of Conflict and Security Studies at the National Institute of Advanced Studies.

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