Chinese Scientists Explored Weaponising Coronavirus, Claims New Report

Early theories of Coronavirus being a man-made biological weapon have resurfaced again in the light of recent reports, which claim that China had first discussed the idea in 2015. However, US, which is alleged to have found that report, is also being linked to it. Let’s look at what’s going on.

Crux of the Matter

Recently
Reports in Australia have claimed that a 2015 document was obtained by US State Department while investigating origin of Coronavirus.

What DidThe Paper Say
The paper, titled “The Unnatural Origin of SARS and New Species of Man-Made Viruses as Genetic Bioweapons”, was reportedly written by scientist of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China.

As per the alleged paper, Chinese scientists labelled SARS coronavirus as new era of genetic weapons. The scientists also claimed that those viruses could be “artificially manipulated into an emerging human-disease virus, then weaponised and unleashed in a way never seen before”.

The News
The news has come after WHO investigation claimed that it was ‘unlikely’ the virus was man-made. However, the investigation was widely called ‘incomplete’ as China gave ‘limited access‘ to investigators. It has also brought the Wuhan Institute of Virology to forefront again, as the institute is associated with controversial gain of function research.

Gain Of Function Research
The research is also done in other countries, most notably in US. Several reports claim that it was banned under Obama, only to be allowed again under Trump. Some reports also claim that US has backed China’s ‘gain of function’ studies.

For example, as per Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, New York’s EcoHealth Alliance had “funded coronavirus research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology”.

Take a look at what is Gain of Function research here: Why Is Gain Of Function Research Making News Amidst The Pandemic?

Curiopedia
  • Opened for signature on 10 April, 1972, Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) is a disarmament treaty banning biological and toxin weapons. 183 States have ratified or acceded to the treaty as of May, 2021.

Australia, NZ And The Oceanic Equation With China

Australia, NZ And The Oceanic Equation With China

China recently cancelled its economic dialogue with Australia amidst continuous conflict since the pandemic started. Meanwhile, New Zealand, Australia’s Oceanic neighbour, who normally has a different stance on China, recently recognized China’s Uighur rights violation though with a caveat. In that light, let’s look at the equation between the three and how they respond to China differently.

Crux of the Matter

What Happened Recently
China indefinitely halted ‘China-Australia Strategic Economic Dialogue’. It was done just after Australia cancelled Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) project between its state Victoria and China.

Across In New Zealand
NZ officially recognized human rights abuse of Uighurs in Xinjiang of China. However, it didn’t recongize it as ‘genocide’ on demand of PM Jacinda Ardern’s party. Still, the move alleviated widespread accusation of NZ ignoring China’s violations.

A Tale Of Two Countries
Oceanic nations Australia and New Zealand have widely differed in response to China. Generally, the former has more aggressive policy.

Australian Policy

  • Australia was among the 1st to ban Huawei and ZTE 5G of China in 2018 over ‘security issues’.
  • It was also among the nations not working with China’s Belt and Road Initiative and had in fact cancelled the one between its state Victoria and China.
  • The big ‘dent’ came in 2020, when Australia called for independent investigation into Coronavirus origin.
  • In turn, China, Australia’s biggest trade partner, imposed heavy sanctions on its exports like 80% on Barley, 200% on wine etc.
  • Chinese investment in Australia also decreased by 61%.

New Zealand

  • Analysts claim NZ is more pro-China in policies than Australia.
  • New Zeland was the 1st developed nation to sign ‘Free Trade Agreement’ with China in 2008.
  • Notably, NZ was the 1st ‘Five Eyes’ group country to join China’s BRI.
  • The country also refused joint condemnation of Uighur conditions with Five Eyes group.

Five Eyes is an intelligence sharing group formed in WW2. The countries members if this group are Australia, Canada, NZ, UK and US.

Similarities

  • Australia and NZ have China as their biggest trade partner which leads to constraint on level of antagonism they can afford with China.
  • Both, although recognizing ‘rights violation’, refuse to recognize treatment of Uighurs as ‘genocide’.

Curiopedia
  • The south China sea is an important trade route for transportation of crude oil. It creates the route from Arabian gulf to Thailand, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan.
  • The Nine-dash line is a self-defined demarcation line adopted by China. It is used by them for their claims of territorialization over major parts of south China sea.
  • Mineral deposits like titaniferous magnetite, zircon, monazite, tin, gold, and chromite are highly exploited in near shore regions in the South China sea.

China’s Belt And Road Initiative And Why Australia Withdrew

China's Belt And Road Initiative And Why Australia Withdrew

Australia recently pulled back from the Belt and Road Initiative of China. BRI has also drawn criticism from Australia’s ally India amidst territorial issues. Why is it happening so? And what’s the initiative all about? Let’s find out.

Crux of the Matter

Australia Cancels BRI
In 2018, Victoria (state in Australia) had signed MoU on Belt and Road Initiative with China. On 21 April 2021, the Australian Govt cancelled their deal citing “national interest” as reason behind it.

Australia-China

  • Strained relations between both the countries since 2020.
  • Australia had called for investigation into Coronavirus origin and criticized China for Uighur and Hong Kong issue.
  • China retaliated with heavy export tariffs and also shared fake image of Australian soldier killing a child in Afghanistan.

Belt And Road Initiative

  • 2013: Xi Jinping became the President and announced an updated ‘Silk Road’ project in Eurasia in the same year.
  • Currently an umbrella term for projects like roads, railways, ports, energy pipelines, etc. to be constructed by China in the nations.
  • Current members: 139 nations as per CFR
  • This includes countries in Africa, Central Asia, Latin America, Middle East, Europe, etc.

Controversy

  • Lack of clarity, as in which projects come under its domain.
  • BRI accused of ‘debt trap’ although several experts blame mismanagement of borrowing nations.
  • One such example is of Hambantota port of Sri Lanka.Though project began before BRI, it was mainly developed under it.
  • 2017: As Sri Lanka failed to repay loan, it leased the port to China for 99 years.
  • Also opposed by India as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) runs through PoK.
  • Tanzania had cancelled along similar lines of ‘exploitative’ nature of the deals.

Chinese financiers set tough conditions that can only be accepted by mad people

John Magufuli, former President, Tanzania

Interestingly, amidst Covid impact, it re-signed in 2021.

Read more: China’s Strategic Control Over South Asian Rivers

Curiopedia
  •  China and Australia were the final two bidders for the 2000 Olympics. Australia subsequently won and Sydney hosted the 2000 Olympics.
  • Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s son is married to a Chinese woman. There are now large numbers of Australian-born Chinese and Chinese-born migrants/Australian Citizens in the cities of Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane. 
  • In the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, the Australian government granted protection for about 20,000 Chinese students in Australia. Since then, Australia has become one of the biggest markets for Chinese students for tertiary education.

How Is Digital Yuan Different?

How is Digital Yuan Different?

In our last story on Digital Yuan, we saw the composition of Digital Yuan and some of its disruptive features. In this story we dive deep into some strategic areas of the currency and try to understand how it is positioned to impact the global economy in long run. And of course, this story answers many of the questions surrounding the new digital currency.

Crux of the Matter

How Is Digital Yuan Different From Bitcoin?

  • Bitcoin is a decentralized currency which means that it has no controlling authority like a government or a central bank. Digital Yuan on the other hand is the legal tender issued by China’s central bank.
  • In bitcoin, the identity of its users is not known. While Digital Yuan with its innate traceability feature overcomes the user anonymity issue.

Currency Stability
China will not increase its money supply by introducing new form of currency. With every Yuan introduced digitally in the market, an equivalent worth of physical cash will be drawn out from the circulation thus ensuring the stability of economy.

Will Digital Yuan Disrupt The Global Financial System?
The US Dollar holds 88% share in international foreign-exchange trades. Moreover, at present most of the international settlements happen over the SWIFT technology which is a messaging network used to securely transmit information through a standardized system of codes. The US administration has a significant authority over both the mechanisms.

The Chinese Renminbi holds mere 4% of share in international foreign-exchange trades. Hence, simply with its own digital currency, China cannot replace US Dollar in international transactions. But it will definitely open up new options for people to transfer money and maybe at better margins.

Dollar Weaponization
With US being the prime source of dollar, it has the ability to freeze institutions and nations by laying various sanctions on them. Sanctioned nations are kicked out of the global financial system as banks and financial institutions are prohibited from doing transactions with them. This entire phenomena is known as Dollar Weaponization.

Examples Include:

  • Crippling Economies of Iran and North Korea owing to US laid sanctions.
  • Blocking the movement of top military officials financial assets in Myanmar amidst the coup.
  • The unending US – China conflict followed by multitude of economic and financial sanctions laid on China.

Aim Of China
One of the prominent aims of Beijing for introducing Yuan is to limit the power of US dollar in international settlements.
Thus, nations that are penalized by US can transact and transfer their money through Digital Yuan – without the knowledge of US.

This takes away sanction leveraging power of the US.

Nicholas Burns, American diplomat

Final thoughts?
It is maybe farfetched to say that Digital Yuan will take over US Dollar. Nevertheless, the building blocks are too important to be ignored.

Curiopedia
  • The official currency of China is Renminbi. Yuan is the basic unit of the renminbi, but internationally the word is also used to refer to the Chinese currency.
  • One yuan is divided into 10 jiao and one jiao is divided into 10 fen.
  • The United States dollar is called Meiyuan in Chinese, and the euro is called Ouyuan.

Solving the Mystery of Digital Yuan

Let us know about the disruptive nature of world's first digital currency designed by China's Central Bank- Digital Yuan.

Since 2014, China’s Central Bank has been working on designing its very own Digital Currency and is now making real world trials across China’s major cities. But what is Digital Yuan and why is it making such a huge buzz in the global economy. Read the story to know more.

Crux of the Matter

What Is Digital Yuan?
Digital Currency Electronic Payment (DCEP) i.e Digital Yuan is a digital version of China’s physical currency Yuan. Simply put, the aim is to to digitize Yuan currency notes and coins in circulation. The currency is designed by China’s central bank People’s Bank of China (PBOC)

What Is So Amusing About It?
Digital Yuan will be the world’s first Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC). It is at present only digital currency that has a legal tender backed by nation’s central bank PBOC.

How Is It Different From Regular E-Wallets?
To avail the services of an online payment, we need to link the wallet to our existing bank account. Thus, a bank is an intermediary for the transactions to happen. Now the money that is transacted via banks is still the physical currency in circulation. Hence in online payments, we are simply transacting physical money via electronic mode.

However, that is not the case with Digital Yuan. To use this digital currency, one will have to install an app, put the digital currency in the wallet and then directly start transacting – just like we do with normal (physical) cash.

What Good Will It Do?
Physical currency is expensive to produce and store. Moreover, it is easy to counterfeit and can thus be employed for illegal purposes. These issues can be resolved by replacing the existing currency with Digital Yuans. Lastly, it will increase competition and thus efficiency in the online payment space.

What Is The Ruckus Around Controllable Anonymity?
Digital Yuan had been under scrutiny for invading an individual’s privacy as it is trackable. As per PBOC member Mu Changchun, monitoring is limited to the transaction undertaken, keeping the identity of parties involved private.

It Is Also Programmable Money
Digital Yuan is programmable – it means that to a larger extent the government can influence the way in which the money can be spent. Say if the Chinese govt wishes to increase monetary flow in the system, they can put expiry dates on Yuan utilisation. This will increase spending, and thus induce the required sentiment in the economy.

How Will The Money Be Distributed?
It will be in 2 tier system:

1. China’s central bank will issue digital Yuan to commercial banks.
2. In turn, commercial banks will be responsible for handing over the Digital Yuans to general public. They will also be provide the service of transforming physical currency into digital.

Curiopedia
  • The official currency of China is Renminbi. Yuan is the basic unit of the renminbi, but internationally the word is also used to refer to the Chinese currency.
  • One yuan is divided into 10 jiao and one jiao is divided into 10 fen.
  • The United States dollar is called Meiyuan in Chinese, and the euro is called Ouyuan.