China’s bear hug for the blockchain

As the world confronts the profound social, economic and political challenges that have emerged in the wake of Covid-19, Beijing has unleashed digital innovations that hold profound implications for the future of international trade, global governance, and geopolitics.

On April 25, in the midst of battling the pandemic, China’s government established the world’s largest blockchain ecosystem, the Blockchain Service Network (BSN), and its central bank introduced “digital yuan” pilot programs across four cities – making the People’s Republic the world’s first major economy to issue a national digital currency.

SIGNAL Note 72: Top reasons Israel has (so far) survived coronavirus

Israelis are now once again taking to the streets in large numbers. Automotive traffic has resumed full force, schools are opening, stores and gyms are reopened, and even indoor markets and malls are now opening for business. Some restrictions limiting the number of individuals within closed spaces are in place, and face masks are required by law.

That said, many Israelis are quickly ditching the masks, or wearing them around their chins or below their exposed noses, as the number of new coronavirus infections continues to decline. Prime Minister Netanyahu has announced that all coronavirus restrictions are likely to be removed by the middle of June, provided the numbers of new cases remains low.

Death tolls in Israel have been among the lowest in the world per capita and are comparatively lower than other First World nations with similar numbers of reported cases. Since the virus first hit Israel in March, 254 Israelis have died. Most of those who succumbed to the virus lived in nursing homes. Others were elderly and had pre-existing health conditions. The number of previously healthy individuals who died from corona measures at most a few dozen.

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The ongoing pressure by the US for Israel to be warier of Chinese investments and involvement in sensitive areas such as technology and infrastructure may seem like a net negative for relations between Beijing and Jerusalem.

There are genuine security threats involved in allowing a foreign country to control so much of Israel’s infrastructure, and certainly the COVID-19 crisis highlighted the need for more self-sufficiency in an emergency. Specific issues have come up with Chinese companies around the world, such as weaknesses in communications projects that help Beijing gather intelligence, but Israel didn’t do much about the problem until the US pushed it.

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