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The World This Week
Haiti's political crisis, and China's control of tech giants

  GP Team

The World This Week #127, Vol. 3, No. 28

Joeana Cera Matthews and Sukanya Bali 



Haiti: Political crisis follows the assassination of President Moise
What happened?  
On 7 July, Haiti's President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated at his residence in Port-au-Prince. Hours later, Joseph Claude Joseph took charge as interim Prime Minister and stated: "A group of individuals who have not been identified... attacked the private residence of the President of the Republic and fatally injured the Head of State." He then declared Haiti to be in a state of siege.  A statement made by Claude – Ariel Henry, who Moïse suggested as Prime Ministerial replacement highlights the issue of leadership: "It's an exceptional situation. There is a bit of confusion. I am the Prime Minister in office."

On 8 July, amidst suspicions of external involvement, US President Joe Biden said: "We condemn this heinous act, stand ready to assist as we continue to work for a safe and secure Haiti."  Also on 8 July, Colombian Defense Minister Diego Molano, on the identity of the perpetrators, stated: "Interpol has officially requested information about the alleged perpetrators of this crime. Initially, the information indicates that they are Colombian citizens, retired members of the National Army."   

What is the background?
First, the assassination of President Moise. A heavily armed commando unit of 26 Colombians and two Haitian Americans is believed to behind the attack. The motive of the assassination remains unclear. While a section is accusing the outsiders - especially the mercenaries from Colombia, there are other versions also over the reasons behind his assassination.

Second, the post-assassination political crisis. According to the Haitian constitution, if the President abruptly departs, the head of the Supreme Court is to lead the government; but this position remains vacant since the former head's death. In this power vacuum, the National Assembly could select a new leader; but there is no National Assembly since legislative elections are interminably delayed. This leaves Claude in charge, yet the dilemma persists as Moïse had announced that Claude would be replaced by Ariel Henry, a neurosurgeon connected to the opposition. Despite politicians and other stakeholders expressing their displeasure in Claude taking charge, a transition seems unlikely amidst the crisis. 

Third, the pre-assassination political crises. Even before the assassination, Haiti was in chaos. The country was battered by protests, economic crises, and the pandemic. The crux of the problem was Moïse's illegitimate rule – him overstaying his mandate garnered strong opposition and subsequent countrywide protests. Limiting judicial review and the creation of an intelligence service that answered only to the President further aggravated the public. Haiti's shaky political situation also increased the violence by armed gangs across the country. Large parts of the country are now controlled by these gangs, and the police are rendered inefficient. With the spiralling inflation, worsening coronavirus pandemic, and scarcity of food and fuel – the economic and social crisis only worsened the situation.  

Fourth, the history of external interference in Haiti. International actors like the US and the UN have failed to stabilize Haitian politics despite their immense influence and long history of intervention. Despite the Biden administration's pledge to assist in the investigation, the US turned down Haiti's request for troops to help maintain security – stating they had no intention of providing military assistance at this juncture. Another matter of Haitian concern is the Colombian involvement – 17 of the 26 assailants involved had retired from the Colombian army. The play of double standards raises questions about foreign collusion.   

What does it mean?
The assassination has raised more questions over immediate and long term issues. With the power struggle already in motion – who will lead the country? The political crisis will exacerbate the security situation. Though Haiti would be looking for some international support to maintain order in the immediate future, the US is less likely to get involved. 
The deteriorating economic and social situation will only worsen the situation for Haiti.   



China: Didi, a ride-hailing company in regulatory crosshairs
What happened?
On 9 July, Beijing authorities ordered the removal of 25 more apps operated by Didi Global Inc, which provides ride-hailing and related online services.

On 7 July, China's antitrust authority imposed fines on Didi and another tech for failing to report their merger deals in advance. The regulator also stopped Didi from adding new users. 

On 6 July, China announced new rules on data security and cross-border data flows for Chinese companies, which seek to trade their shares abroad. On the same day, Didi's share value fell 4.6 per cent for the fifth day, which is 15 per cent below its debut price on the New York Stock Exchange, a week ago.

What is the background?
First, the rise of Didi Global. It is the biggest Chinese ride-hailing company with 20 million rides a day. It is an e-platform, which gathers real-time data of users every day, and is used to analyze traffic patterns. The app collects users' current location and trip route data for safety and data analysis. It also uses the car's camera to monitor road conditions for around 100 billion kilometres per year. The app operates in 16 other countries and has more than 377 million active users in China as of March 2021. 

Second, the Government scrutiny over tech operations. Beijing has been revamping its policies towards privacy and data security. In April, the government issued a second version of a draft on Personal Information Protection Law, which imposes stricter measures to ensure safe storage. Last year, in September 2020, the government implemented the Data Security Law, for which companies were required to process their "critical data", to conduct risk assessments and submit reports to authorities.  In May, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) accused 105 apps of collecting excessive amounts of users' personal information and illegally accessing it. Beijing seems to be wanting to keep its data-rich firms under control for security reasons.

Third, differences between the government and China's tech conglomerates. For years, China provided a conducive environment for the growth of tech companies. Alibaba, Tencent, JD.com, with state support, grew in size and emerged as dominant players in the marketplace. However, over the past few months, the scrutiny over these companies has increased. In the past few months, Beijing has fined Alibaba USD 2.8 billion for antimonopoly violation, Alibaba backed Nice Tuan USD 200,000 for unfair competition practices. In November 2020, Ant Group, came under the watchdog scanner a few days before its massive IPO. The move thwarted the company's listing in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Similarly, the CAC announced an investigation into Didi soon after its IPO on 30 June in order to protect "national security and the public interest" citing the Beijing Cybersecurity Law of 2017. CAC said: "After checks and verification, the Didi Chuxing app was found to be in serious violation of regulations in its collection and use of personal information." 

What does it mean?
Beijing's action against the homegrown tech companies shows that politics and tech in China are intertwined. It also shows that the government discourages Chinese tech companies from listing in the US. 

Second, this shows Beijing's interest in keeping essential data within its borders and help domestic players to grow in an environment without unfair practices. Also, it indicates the government's interest in tech giants to show their loyalty towards the CCP.



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

East and Southeast Asia This Week 
China: 14 companies blacklisted by the US on Human Rights issue
On 9 July, the Biden administration added 14 more companies to the 'entity list' of alleged human rights abuses and high-tech surveillance in Xinjiang. The US Commerce Department said the companies had been added to the entity list "for their involvement in, or risk of becoming involved in, activities contrary to the foreign policy and national security interests of the United States." Chinese Foreign Minister said: "The Chinese side will take all necessary measures to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies and reject the US attempts to interfere in China's internal affairs." 

China: Astronauts conduct a second spacewalk 
On 4 July, two Chinese astronauts worked for around six hours in extravehicular activity outside the core module of space station Tianhe. China's first spacewalk was in 2008. The China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) said: "The safe return of astronauts Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo to the Tianhe core module marks the complete success of the first spacewalk in our country's space station construction." CMSA reported the task included "elevating panoramic cameras outside Tianhe core module and testing of station-robotic-arm, which will be used to transfer future modules around the station." 

Japan: North Korea considered a major cyber threat
On 8 July, a Japanese government cybersecurity organization in a draft "Cybersecurity Strategy" assessed North Korea as a threat to the country. With the increasing cyber capabilities of China and Russia, along with North Korea, they aim to achieve political goals or foreign currency by conducting cyberattacks. The draft calls for Japan to strengthen its capabilities. According to NKNews, ESTsecurity Security Response Centre (ESRC) head said: "the singling out of the three countries reflects their outsize role in the current cybersecurity landscape." He further said: "It's not that there's no attack from countries like Vietnam or Iran, but China, Russia, and North Korea take up a large volume."

Malaysia: UMNO withdraws its support 
On 7 July, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob as his Deputy and his Foreign Minister as senior Foreign Minister. He further said both leaders will retain their security and diplomatic profile respectively. At the same time ruling coalition party United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) threatened to withdraw its support. On 8 July, the largest ruling party announced its withdrawal support for the Prime Minister. The UMNO president said, "Muhyiddin's government has failed to rein in the coronavirus pandemic." He further said,  his "inconsistent policies and half-baked lockdown measures have deepened economic hardships." 

Myanmar: NLD's Vice-Chairperson charged with corruption
On 6 July, the military regime announced filing corruption charges against National League Democracy Vice-Chairperson, Zaw Myint Maung and former Mandalay Region Minister of Electricity, Energy and Construction, U Zarni Aung under the anti-corruption law. Zaw, who is already detained by the military regime, is further accused of taking bribes from private companies and for receiving 65 million kyats for the Amarapura urbanization project. Similarly, U Zarni has been accused of charging below-market-rate rent for properties leased to the NLD offices. Both the former leaders are already facing incitement charges under the regime.

Myanmar: Norway's Telenor to sell its subsidiary
On 9 July, Norwegian telecom group Telenor announced the sale of its subsidiary in Myanmar due to the military coup. Telenor Chief Executive said: "The situation in Myanmar has over the past months become increasingly challenging for Telenor for people security, regulatory and compliance." He further added: "We have evaluated all the options and believe a sale of the company is the best possible solution in this situation." Telenor will be sold to M1 Group for USD 105 million which will continue the operation of its fixed and wireless network in Myanmar. 
 
South Asia This Week
India: Foreign Minister meets Russian counterpart in Moscow 
On 9 July, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, in a three-day visit to Moscow, held "productive" talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, for bilateral cooperation on space, nuclear, energy, and defence sectors. Both the leaders also discussed global and regional issues of Afghanistan, Iran, and Syria. Jaishankar said: "the talks were as always very warm, comfortable, comprehensive, and productive." He further added, "despite the fact that so many things are changing in our world both before and as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, our time-tested and trust-based relationship is very much not just in place but remains very strong, continues to grow."
 
Sri Lanka: Fourth Rajapaksa brother enters the Cabinet  
On 8 July, Basil Rajapaksa was sworn in as Sri Lanka's Finance Minister. He became the fourth Rajapaksa brother and a fifth member of the family to enter the Cabinet. Until now the position was helmed by Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is now allocated the newly-created portfolio of Economic Policies and Planning. In 2015, Basil was arrested on allegations of corruption and was later released on bail. 
 
Afghanistan: Biden reiterates the exit, as Taliban violence expands 
On 8 July, US President Joe Biden announced that the US War in Afghanistan would end on 31 August 2021. He said: "While we will not stay involved in Afghanistan militarily, our diplomatic and humanitarian work will continue. We'll continue to support the government of Afghanistan. We will keep providing assistance to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces." President Biden pledged to fund and equip the Afghan security forces and urged all Afghan leaders to unite to ensure peace and prosperity in Afghanistan. On 7 July, the Taliban launched an offensive on Qala-e-Naw and showcased a deadly battle with the Afghan security forces. With the offensive on the city, the Taliban defied the US-Taliban agreement on not attacking major cities and provincial capitals. On 7 July, the Taliban and Afghani politicians agreed to a joint declaration in Tehran. Despite the joint declaration on working towards a peaceful solution, violence perpetrated by the Taliban is on a rise in multiple parts of the country. 
 
Pakistan: Chief of Army Staff discusses bilateral relations in Qatar on a two-day visit 
On 7 July, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa held a meeting with Qatar's Deputy Prime Minister and other top officials in Qatar. The leaders discussed issues of mutual interest, defence and security cooperation and regional politics. The leaders also pledged to work together on enhancing their bilateral relationship and encouraging cooperation between the countries. On 5 July, General Bajwa also held a meeting with Turkish Land Forces General Umit Dundar at General Headquarters in Pakistan. The two leaders discussed matters of defence and agreed to strengthen military ties. 
 
Central Asia, Middle East and Africa This Week
Armenia: Prime Minister discusses Nagorno-Karabakh with Putin 
On 7 July, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan held a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. At the meeting, the two leaders discussed the situation in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Pashinyan said: "The presence of Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh is becoming an important factor of stability and security in the region." They also stressed refocusing on bilateral trade relations as the economic exchanges between the two countries fell in 2020 due to the pandemic. 
 
Saudi Arabia: Difference with the UAE on oil production leads to volatile prices
On 5 July, the OPEC meeting was cancelled due to disagreements on extending the production of oil between the UAE and Saudi Arabia. The meeting is yet to be rescheduled as the UAE refuses to accept the Saudi initiated boost of oil production to almost two million barrels per day between August and December 2021 and extending cuts until end of 2022. However, the UAE has refuted extending the cap on production as it attempts to break out of an economic slowdown caused by the pandemic. The difference in opinion has led to the volatility of oil prices. 
 
Israel: Water-sharing deal with Jordan 
On 8 July, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi consented to a water-sharing deal according to which Jordan would buy 50 million cubic meters of water from Israel. Jordan will also increase its exports to West Bank from USD 160 million to USD 700 million annually. Safadi also urged Israel to cease all illegal operations in Palestinian areas and pushed for a two-state solution. Yair Lapid tweeted regarding the deal and said: "Jordan is a neighbour and important partner...the foreign ministry will continue an ongoing dialogue."
 
Iraq: Protests continue over power outages
On 9 July, hundreds of protestors expressed dissent against continuous power cuts as temperatures rise incessantly in the country. Several protests took place at different towns in southern Iraq and a government-run power-plant. In the city of Basra, protestors have been on the streets for over a week, pressuring the government to act on the extensive shortage of electricity. 
 
South Sudan: Youngest country celebrates ten years of independence 
On 9 July, South Sudan celebrated a decade of independence. President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar made reassuring speeches on the occasion of the celebration. Kiir said: "I assure you that I will not return you back to war again. Let us all work together to put our country back to the path of development in this new decade." Machar also made a statement and said: "Our people expect a lot from us. The world is also expecting a lot from us; for us to continue independence celebrations every time, we need to keep the peace alive." On the same day, Pope Francis also urged that the country must work ardently to preserve peace and promised to visit the country. 

Ethiopia: Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's landslide victory in the parliamentary elections 
On 10 July, the election board of Ethiopia announced that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's Prosperity Party won the majority in the parliamentary elections. With this election victory, Abiy has secured another term in office. He secured 410 seats out of the total 436 parliamentary seats. However, three regions in the country did not participate in the voting process due to a boycott by the opposition, the war in Tigray, ethnic violence and certain logistical drawbacks

GERD: UN Security Council calls Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan to resume negotiations 
On 8 July, the United Nations Security Council extended support for the African Union's mediation efforts on the dispute over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and urged Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan to resume negotiations. The US ambassador to the UN said: "A balanced and equitable solution to the filling and operation of the GERD can be reached with political commitment from all parties. This begins with the resumption of productive substantive negotiations. Those negotiations should be held under the leadership of the African Union, and should recommence with urgency." The Foreign Ministers of Egypt and Sudan pushed for the adoption of the resolution drafted by Tunisia which calls for a binding agreement between the involved countries for a period of six months. 
 
Sahel: French President announces troops withdrawal from the region
On 9 July, French President Emmanuel Macron announced the downsizing of French troops in the Sahel region after a meeting with the G5 members including Niger, Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania. Macron said: "We will remain committed. But to remain committed is also to adapt. France doesn't have the vocation or the will to stay eternally in the Sahel." He also emphasized that France would continue its fight against terrorist outfits such as ISIS and al-Qaeda but would reduce its troops to 2500 to 3000. 
 
Europe and The Americas This Week
Russia: Foreign Minister announces readiness in activating military base in Tajikistan 
On 7 July, a top Russian diplomat announced that Russia would send approximately 6000 troops and over a thousand tanks to its military base in Tajikistan. The diplomat explained that Russia was prepared to activate its base in Tajikistan as the Taliban in Afghanistan continued capturing regions near the Afghan-Tajik border. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said: "We'll do everything, including using the capabilities of the Russian military base on the border of Tajikistan with Afghanistan, to prevent any aggressive encroachments against our allies." 
 
Hungary: Government bans LGBTQ content from schools and television  
On 8 July, a ban on LGBTQ content in schools and television took effect in Hungary. The new law has brought intense criticism within the country and the regional bloc as well. A member of the Budapest Pride said: "The clear effect of Viktor Orban's very, very homophobic and autocratic politics is that year by year, we find it harder and harder to find venues. A lot of venues are afraid to host LGBTQ events because they fear that they are going to be attacked in the propaganda media." Since the ban came into effect, Hungarians are protesting against the discriminatory ban and caution the government against the harm it will cause to the younger generation. 
 
Europe: UK and EU differ over the Brexit settlement
On 9 July, the UK government responded to the EU's assessment that Britain would owe the regional bloc a total of EUR 47.5 billion as a part of the Brexit settlement. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "We don't recognize that figure. The UK's estimate remains in the central range of EUR 35 to 39 billion." The assessment was published in a budget document and accounts for Britain's commitments that continue to benefit the country and other incomplete obligations. An EU spokesperson revealed that the estimated amount of EUR 47.5 billion was considered to be final. 
 
Colombia: International human rights body accuses the government of rights violation 
On 7 July, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) released a report that held the Colombian government responsible for the abuse of human rights and the deaths of dozens of citizens. According to the report, the government forces and the police used excessive force against the protestors causing numerous fatalities in the past two months of protests. The report adds to the criticism piled against President Ivan Duque who also faces multiple accusations of corruption and a heavy crackdown on dissent. Duque responded to the report and said: "nobody can recommend a country to be tolerant with criminal acts."
 
Brazil: President Bolsonaro pushes for modernization in Mercosur
On 8 July, President Jair Bolsonaro reported that Brazil was desperate for results and hoped to launch a negotiation to conclude incomplete trade deals. Brazil also assumed the temporary presidency of Mercosur, the South-American trade bloc. President Bolsonaro promised to actively work towards the reduction of trade tariffs and eliminate obstacles to free flow of trade within the region and in the world.  He said: "We cannot allow Mercosur to continue to be seen as a synonym of inefficiency, waste of opportunities and trade restrictions."
 
The US: President Joe Biden pledges to take action against Russian cyber-attacks 
On 9 July, the US stated that it would take all necessary steps to end the increase in cyber-attacks from Russia. The statement was made by President Joe Biden while he discussed the threat with President Vladimir Putin via phone call on the same day. However, Russia denied having a conversation regarding the issue. President Biden said: "I made it very clear to him that the United States expects when a ransomware operation is coming from his soil, even though it's not sponsored by the state, we expect them to act if we give them enough information to act on who that is."

The US: Pro-slavery Confederate General's statue removed from the base
On 10 July, the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee was taken down from Charlottesville in Virginia. The move took place four years after white supremacist protests led to the death of a woman.  Along with General Robert Lee, the statue of Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson was also taken down while the people cheered the gesture. On 29 June, the House of Representatives passed legislation to enable the removal of statues of individuals with a legacy of supporting slavery. The removal of pro-slavery Confederate Generals' statues is now becoming a key focus of the anti-racist movements across the US as well as the world



About the Authors
Joeana Cera Matthews is a research intern in the School of Conflict and Security Studies at the National Institute of Advanced Studies. Sukanya Bali and Avishka Ashok are Research Associates at NIAS

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