Picture: 123RF/Tzogia Kappatou
Picture: 123RF/Tzogia Kappatou

1. An escalating cold war

Chinese lawmakers plan to pass legislation this week to retaliate for sanctions imposed by Western governments on Chinese companies and officials. This comes as the country’s rivalry with the US heats up. The new law will provide the legal backing for the government’s plans. Earlier this year it introduced new rules against what it called "unjustified" foreign action against its citizens and businesses.

The sanctions are intended to pile pressure on Beijing over its crackdown on freedoms in Hong Kong and its treatment of the Uyghur minority in Xinjiang.

2. Closing in on Covid

A report on the origins of Covid concludes that the hypothesis of a virus leak from a Chinese lab in Wuhan is plausible and deserves further investigation, The Wall Street Journal reports. The study by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California was drawn on by the state department during the final months of the Trump administration, when it conducted an inquiry into the pandemic’s origins.

It is attracting renewed interest now that President Joe Biden has ordered US intelligence agencies to report to him within weeks on how the virus emerged. The focus is on two scenarios: whether the coronavirus came from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident.

3. Possible provocation

US senators took a military aircraft to Taiwan this week to announce a donation of vaccines. But the offer is a provocation that risks escalating tensions with Beijing. The senators intend to deliver 750,000 doses of the Covid vaccine to the island, which has vaccinated just 3% of its population. Taiwan has apparently refused to accept Chinese-made coronavirus vaccines, and has accused China of blocking its efforts to purchase vaccines internationally.

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