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Bitcoin dominated the cryptocurrency market two years ago, accounting for 70% of its market value. However, as the sector has grown to approach $2 trillion in assets, it has splintered. Today, bitcoin’s market share is below 40%, and new crypto networks are springing up on a daily basis. Following the software developers who construct and manage crypto networks is one way to cut through the noise and understand where the industry is headed.

The amount of developers working on a crypto network, according to Avichal Garg, a managing partner at crypto-focused investment company Electric Capital, “is a leading indicator of where value will be created and accrued over the next 10 years.”

Working on bitcoin platforms now has 18,000 active developers (including both full-time and part-time workers), up from around 10,000 a year ago. The increase is proof of the industry’s success and durability. When individuals vote with their feet and their time, it’s a strong indication that they’re working on something long-term.

Nearly 500,000 pieces of code and 160 million code modifications were studied in Electric Capital’s research. It calculated growth by comparing December 2020 to December 2021.

The list of the largest crypto ecosystems is as follows:

  1. Ethereum
  2. Polkadot
  3. Cosmos
  4. Solana
  5. Bitcoin
  6. NEAR
  7. Cardano
  8. Kusama
  9. Tezos
  10. Binance Smart Chain

All of the fastest-growing platforms are competitors to Ethereum, the second-largest crypto network, which was founded in 2015 and has 1,300 full-time workers working on it. Ethereum is a decentralised computer on which applications can be developed, with over 5,000 “nodes,” or computers, that help validate transactions. One disadvantage of Ethereum’s widespread distribution is that it can only execute roughly 15 transactions per second (in comparison the NASDAQ Stock Market averages roughly 20,000 transactions per second), and a single transaction cost can easily reach $100.

All of these rapidly expanding crypto networks employ a different approach to decentralisation and “consensus,” the computational process of approving a transaction, than Ethereum. They settle transactions more quickly and have cheaper costs, but they aren’t as decentralised as Ethereum.

Korea-based Terra was formed four years ago by Do Kwon, a 30-year-old entrepreneur. Its UST “stable token,” a cryptocurrency pegged to the value of the US dollar, has risen swiftly to $10 billion in market capitalization, placing it among the top five stable coins in the world. based in San Francisco Solana has stunned many crypto insiders by attracting hundreds of developers in the last year. Solana-based applications have become highly popular, ranging from crypto trading platforms to loan companies to music apps. Solana’s SOL token increased in value from $1.85 in January 2021 to $170 by the end of the year, reaching a market capitalization of $53 billion.

Alexander Skidanov and Illia Polosukhin founded Near, a protocol based in the Bay Area, in 2017. Solana and Near were created in Rust, a popular programming language that is more widely utilised than Ethereum’s Solidity. EOS, which had roughly 125 total active developers in December 2020 but only 80 a year later, was one platform that lost a substantial number of developers.

Electric Capital’s research reveals which networks have the most total developers, in addition to the fastest-growing networks. Ethereum has held the top rank for a long time, and Ethereum was chosen by one out of every four new crypto developers that joined the field in the last year.

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Instagram Outage: A World Without Instagram?

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instagram-outage

One evening when I returned from a long evening stroll, the Instagram world had toppled; it was almost like mayhem. Carefully viewing stories of my friends who have alternate accounts, a few of my favorited poetry pages, and other small business accounts from where I usually shop – all were blaring the same horn! A massive Instagram outage had caused a furor over accounts losing followers within seconds, some of the accounts being suspended. Honestly, it felt like a crisis, especially with the tectonic shifts in Twitter only from a few days ago.

The Instagram outage was confirmed via tweets, but the nature of the outage seemed absurd. In my history of using the platform, I haven’t come across an outage this bizarre, but it made me backtrack a few steps and think through an interesting theory I read several years ago. Donna Haraway’s Cyborg Feminism emerged from an essay she wrote in 1985 titled “A Cyborg Manifesto”. Our imagination may fuse to understand the word “cyborg” as being part-human, part-machine or even something right out of the Frankenstein novel’s monster. But it is none of that, and it is a simple idea with complex implications, just like this time’s Instagram outage.

Haraway’s essay calls upon feminists to use technology for social progress, moving away from the traditional and essentialist perceptions of gender in everyday life. Before that, one is to define the term “cyborg”, as mentioned by Haraway. Owing to our increasing involvement with technologies, each individual has merged with the machines becoming a cyborg (a phrase that combines “organism” and “cybernetic”). The term cyborg is also a metaphor for political activity and conflict. In an interview with Wired magazine, Haraway clarified that being a cyborg does not always include having silicon chips implanted under the skin or having mechanical pieces attached to one’s body. Instead, it implies that the human body has developed traits that it would not have been able to do on its own, such as extending life. Even maintaining physical fitness is more technological, with workout equipment, various nutritional supplements, and apparel and footwear explicitly made for athletic activity.

Furthermore, the culture surrounding fitness would not have been possible without the idea that the human body is a highly effective machine whose performance can be enhanced through time. These new digital health tools enable tracking, recording, and turning into data various physical actions. These data are conveniently downloadable into a digital database where cutting-edge algorithms can examine them to produce statistics on a single person or hundreds of people.

Our smartphones are an extension of our memory and even our mental capabilities resulting in an Instagram outage taking the status of nothing short of a phenomenon. Making one compelled to think that this user-creator binary was irked and challenged with one glitch in the grand orchestra of the Instagram world. Some even fear the loss of “followers” or the community they’ve built over the years. We can be present remotely and outside our temporal and spatial frameworks thanks to technological developments in GPS and communication. These technological developments expand the human species and improve our mental and physical capacities turning us into cyborgs.

The widely spread #MeToo movement, the recent anti-hijab movement in Iran, pro-hijab movement in India gained enormous momentum through these social media platforms. Haraway, in calling each one of us cyborgs, advocated the “feminist” use of social media for voicing opinions, advocating, taking charge of the narratives, and sharing their lived experiences. In short, using the extended cyborg arm in the form of our smartphones combined with social media. Cyborg, in this context, becomes the hybrid of machine and organism – a creature of social reality and the one we find in fiction. The social reality is the lived social experiences in the present context of women’s experiences. For example, a fantastic initiative called the “Museum of Rape Threats and Sexism” is a project that highlights the power of social art. This project aims to “memorialise verbal violence that women go through every day”, which is most often normalised and brushed under the carpet.

Cybernetics challenges gender norms in this situation. Women have ingrained that it is in their “nature” to become mothers and wives as ‘destiny’, and that they belong to the weaker sex, are submissive and incapable of independent thought . According to Haraway, these roles cannot be altered if they are all considered “natural”. Through online games, discussion forums, or social media, where our identities can be as varied as the online platforms we use, the social aspect of technology plays a part in the formation of our identities. Men and women, on the other hand, are both social constructs, and nothing about them is intrinsically “natural” or absolute.

Haraway’s argument skips over addressing other significant intersections like accessibility, race, and colour and how each intersection would have a different impact. Despite several shortcomings, the essay is a source of discourses and discussions frequently in feminist circles. The erasure of these identities overnight, or tampering with these identities, feels threatening, especially when this identity became the sole channel to “connect” while remaining physically distant in the COVID-19 pandemic with other human beings as a means of subsistence and earning a continued livelihood, for education to continue, for necessities and groceries being ordered – in short, for every possible human need that there is in these last two years of the worldwide pandemic. I will leave you all with this quote by Michel Foucault that resonated with me reading through all the outage outrage splattered across social media.

“From the idea that the self is not given to us, I think that there is only one practical consequence; we have to create ourselves as a work of art.”

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Conflict, COVID and Climate Crisis: Major Risks of our Time

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Conflict, COVID and Climate Crisis: Major Risks of our Time

‘If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it’s most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war. Not missiles but microbes……’ words spoken by Bill Gates in 2015 at Ted Talks proved true, especially in the wake of the COVID pandemic that brought the world to a stand-still. Killing millions of people within two years with tons of collateral damage in areas of health, economy, national security, etc. has shaken the world to its core. But is it just the microbes over missiles that are going to cause mayhem, or a combined effort of both, catalyzed with cyber-catastrophe? The current Russia-Ukraine conflict, Taliban take-over in Afghanistan, the Worst Emergency crisis in Sri Lanka, and the never-ending Israel-Palestine war – these all point towards intensified armed-conflict chaos around the world. On the other hand, the worsening climate crisis is further aching the world manifold. The Australian Wildfires in 2020, East Africa droughts in 2011, 2017 and 2019, regular cloud bursts, and the melting of icebergs in Antarctica are a few of many natural disasters that beg for climate action. But the newest addition to the list of challenges for survival is cyber-warfare. During COVID lockdown, even large-scale businesses and industries moved online for their survival. This transition was never expected to be as sudden as it did during these troubled times. As a result, the move was made out of fear and fright rather than undergoing due diligence which is the general practice when shoring a business from stores to wires. Hence, the threats of cyber-attacks and other associated risks have further escalated. The increased threats required improved IT security thereby leading to a substantial number of corporate entities signing up for consultancies that offer digital dependency in business processes. This even led to a sharp increase of $20 Billion in the cyber-insurance sector between 2020-2025, which is almost triple to what it was. The market is anticipated to grow even more strongly with the additional momentum gained from digitalization. Munich Re, an insurance company that provides coverage for cyber risks has experienced meteoric growth in this sector gaining a share of 10% of the total market, making it one of the world’s leading insurers.

 Multi-Dimensional Crisis

The Doomsday clock is stuck at 100 seconds to midnight. The world seems to be inching towards a civilization-ending apocalypse. Rising conflict, worsening climate change, and never-ending microbe attacks have the world hanging by a very thin thread of hope, perseverance, of resilience. While a larger section of the world wants to live in a world free of war, the power concentration sadly is inversely proportional to the mammoth population. Even a minimalistic endeavor of having a healthy family, working just enough to put food on the table and have access to quality education for children, seems bleak. But is it really the end or is it just a prolonged halt looking forward to an update?

The World Economic Forum has stressed ongoing and upcoming challenges created by cyber fraudsters, climate change, and space technology. As per the Global Risks Report, 2022 released on January 11, cyber security and space technology were listed as the most emerging risk sectors for the global economy followed by the existing pandemic. Cyberthreats are in no way a particular-sector-centric threat. It has the potential to affect entire civilizations as we live in a time where there is absolutely no connection-deficit. Everyone is connected with everything and vice-versa. And hence, cyber threats are growing faster than society’s ability to effectively prevent and manage them. The rise of cryptocurrencies has given birth to a new breed of online dacoits, resulting in an increased number of malware and ransomware attacks.

What can be done?

It is a race. A race between what trumps what. Ever since the lockdown around the world has been lifted, inter-state wars and conflicts have dominated the attention of decision-makers. Needless to say, the pandemic is by no means over. Similarly, the climate-associated risks are piling up and it remains the largest and most complex existential challenge of our time that warrants unparalleled action. Evidently, vaccination is on roll and has proved to be effective against the invisible enemy, and hence one needs to understand the gravity of 7 million deaths where air pollution has been a major contributor. A heating world, in general, is detrimental to human health and thus, significant obstruction to a thriving society. While a total of 110 countries are now monitoring the quality of air their population breathes, it’s simply not enough. The deterrent theory of removing factories and industries and adapting the primitive way of living is also impossible, especially in the urbanized world. Hence preserving nature and also concentrating on all-around economic development seems oxymoronic and ironical.

But, technological advancements during the wake of COVID have hinted that if ideas are shared and transcended beyond boundaries, there is hope. A simple instance of Tesla championing the sector of electric automobiles has prompted even a developing country like India to work in the furtherance of completely replacing fossil fuels with an alternative transformative source thereby resulting in an increase in electric vehicle production. A hybrid power strategy is inadvertently the need of the hour today. But how much does a country like India which promises a good mix of bright sun and wind along its coasts, requires resources to make the shift to Net Zero. Setting up hybrid power plants is also cost efficient as the plants share common equipment, electronics, and storage, as a dedicated hybrid plant can work round-the-clock with only sporadic recourse to storage.

The aforementioned mechanism is just one facet of a multi-dimensional resolution that the world warrants. The national leaders of countries can no longer lament and find nonchalant advisory bodies to pin their blames act. Furthermore, the citizens are also to be self-monitored. Citizens cannot resort to unveiling a red carpet for a government that completely negates the existence of climate change and cyber security. Rather, the citizens are to hold the constitutional entities accountable, answerable, and liable for negligence and poor performance.

Conclusion

Peace underpins all that is good in our society. But with each passing day, a realization of sorts that ‘peace’ is in short supply, resurfaces itself. The horrors of Covid have shown the world, that no matter how technologically advanced, monetarily rich, and systematically sustainable it looks, it is as vulnerable as one can be. The only upside that one can perceive from the horrifying pandemic, is that the loss of millions of lives and trillion dollars have only waken up the world from its deep slumber. Digitalization and globalization may have brought the world close, but the shrunk world is failing to realize that, with great inter-connectedness comes great interdependencies. And thus, the multi-dimensional crisis is not an individual but collective responsibility.

 

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Finding a New Earth: the Race to Find a New Inhabitable Planet

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Anyone who has even a passing interest in the global environment is aware that things are not looking good. But how serious is the situation? Our new study reveals that the future of life on Earth is bleaker than previously thought. Over the next few decades, the problems, which are all linked to human consumption and population expansion, will probably definitely worsen. The consequences will be felt for centuries, and all species, including our own, face extinction. This issue has highlighted the importance of finding a habitable planet to replace our own.

 

Humans have travelled to Mars in quest of life beyond our planet, and a surprising discovery from this desolate world has offered up new potential. The Curiosity rover, which is now trundling around Mars, discovered that several of the samples are high in a form of carbon that is connected with life processes on Earth. Perseverance landed in the Jezero Crater region of Mars. The location is thought to have a massive old lakebed, according to scientists. NASA thinks the area is a good site to look for signs of microbial life. If life existed on Mars, scientists believe it would have existed 3 to 4 billion years ago when water flowed on the planet. Perseverance is the fifth rover sent to Mars by NASA.

 

Planet discoveries appear to be plentiful these days: more than three thousand planets have been discovered around other stars, implying that there are hundreds of billions of planets in our galaxy alone. Seven years ago, no one – not a casual stranger on the street, nor even the most knowledgeable astronomer – could tell you if any planets similar to Earth existed.

 

Planet-hunting missions like NASA’s Kepler Telescope, TRAPPIST, and a slew of other studies have revealed that there must be a plethora of rocky planets out there. The search for extraterrestrial life has recently taken a giant step ahead. Researchers working on the Breakthrough Initiatives-funded New Earths in the Alpha Centauri Region (NEAR) project may have identified a new planet in the habitable zone of the neighbouring star Alpha Centauri A, which is 4.37 light-years from Earth. Their findings were reported in the journal Nature Communications.

 

The scientists noticed a second bright object in a photograph of the star acquired with the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile. They believe it might be a planet four to five times the size of Earth, or around the size of Neptune. It’s between one and two astronomical units (AU) away from its star (one AU equals the distance between the Earth and the sun), putting it in the habitable zone, where water might form and support life.

 

China is now looking at other solar systems after sending robots to the Moon, landing them on Mars, and building its own space station. Scientists will disclose comprehensive plans for the country’s first mission to find exoplanets later this month. More than 5,000 exoplanets have been identified in the Milky Way, largely because to NASA’s Kepler telescope, which was operational for nine years before running out of fuel in 2018. Some of the planets orbited small red dwarf stars and were rocky Earth-like bodies, but none fulfilled the description of an Earth 2.0. Earth 2.0 is a Chinese mission that aims to change that. It is now in the early design phase and will be supported by the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The mission team will receive money to begin building the satellite if the designs pass a review by a panel of specialists in June. The spacecraft will be launched on a Long March rocket before the end of 2026, according to the crew.

 

This revolution in planet-hunting is amazing, but it raises the question of whether this pursuit for a new planet is sustainable, even in a galaxy where there are more planets than stars.

 

Scientists are concerned that an increase in rocket launches and the advent of space tourism would harm the environment and contribute to climate change. Much of the globe gasped in wonder when billionaires Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos flew into space this month aboard their companies’ suborbital tourism spacecraft. 

 

For other scientists, though, these anniversaries marked more than just a technological achievement. The flights signalled the potential start of a long-awaited era in which rockets may fly into the so-far relatively pristine upper layers of the atmosphere significantly more frequently than they do today, despite severe hurdles. These flights are powered by a hybrid engine that burns rubber and creates a cloud of soot in the case of SpaceShipTwo, the aircraft operated by Branson’s Virgin Galactic.

 

A single Virgin Galactic suborbital space tourism flight, lasting roughly an hour and a half, can cause as much pollution as a 10-hour trans-Atlantic flight, according to Dallas Kasaboski, the lead analyst at the space consultancy Northern Sky Research. In view of Virgin Galactic’s plans to transport paying tourists to the edge of space many times a day, some experts find this alarming.

 

Of course, Virgin Galactic’s rockets aren’t the only ones to blame. According to Maggi, all rocket motors that utilise hydrocarbon fuels produce soot. Solid rocket engines, such as those used in the boosters of NASA’s space shuttle in the past, burn metallic compounds and release aluminium oxide particles together with hydrochloric acid, both of which are harmful to the environment. The biggest problem, according to Karen Rosenlof, a senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Chemical Sciences Laboratory, is that rockets pollute the higher layers of the atmosphere — the stratosphere, which begins at an altitude of about 10 kilometres and the mesosphere, which begins at 50 kilometres. 

 

Pollutants are being emitted in regions where they are not ordinarily emitted. We must grasp the situation. What are the consequences if we raise these factors? According to Northern Sky Research, the number of space tourism flights will increase dramatically over the next decade, from perhaps 10 per year in the near future to 360 per year by 2030. This forecast falls far short of the growth rates that space tourism companies like Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin anticipate. The consequences of generating pollutants in places where you wouldn’t ordinarily emit them are poorly understood. Though it is expected that the space tourism sector will grow tremendously in the future years, with the quantity of fuel consumed by the space industry being less than 1%, it is unclear when rocket launches will begin to have a significant environmental impact.

 

It is not only naive but also dangerous, to ignore the magnitude of the issues that face space travel and exploration. And science has a significant role to play in this. Scientists must be honest about the enormous problems that lie ahead. They should instead tell it like it is. Anything else is at best deceptive, and at worst possibly fatal for the human endeavour.

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Climate Crisis; Cries Asia

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By 2050, regions of Asia may see rising average temperatures, deadly heatwaves, extreme precipitation events, catastrophic hurricanes, drought, and water supply problems (see figure below). The GDP of Asia is threatened by global warming, accounting for more than two-thirds of the total yearly global GDP at danger. According to McKinsey & Company’s Climate Risk and Response in Asia report, countries in Frontier Asia (Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan) and Emerging Asia (Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam) are the most vulnerable to climate change consequences.

 

Climate change consequences are predicted to be less severe in advanced Asia (Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea) and China, which is a separate category. In fact, increased crop yields are predicted to constitute a net agricultural benefit from climate change in these countries. However, owing to more frequent extreme precipitation events and typhoons in many locations, hazards to infrastructure and supply systems will increase in these countries, which is especially critical given China’s significance in global supply chains.

 

Warming has a significant impact on what is known as Natural Capital. By 2050, the glacial mass will have decreased by up to 40%, fisheries harvests may have decreased by half, and 90 per cent of coral reefs would have suffered significant degradation. Rising temperatures and deadly heatwaves have an impact on livability and effective working hours in key Asian countries, with up to 10% of daylight work hours likely to be lost by mid-century.

 

The paper by McKinsey & Company discusses possible solutions to this massive problem. They point out that, thankfully, Asia is ideally positioned to handle these issues and seize the benefits that come with efficiently managing climate risks — if they choose to do so. Many Asian countries are still developing their infrastructure and metropolitan centres. This gives the region an opportunity to make sure that whatever is built is more robust and capable of withstanding the increased hazards of climate change.

 

The paper by McKinsey & Company discusses possible solutions to this massive problem. They point out that, thankfully, Asia is ideally positioned to handle these issues and seize the benefits that come with efficiently managing climate risks — if they choose to do so. Many Asian countries are still developing their infrastructure and metropolitan centres. This gives the region an opportunity to make sure that whatever is built is more robust and capable of withstanding the increased hazards of climate change.

 

As the Himalayan glaciers have receded, the annual melting water supply used to feed farmland in India’s Ladakh area has decreased. A system was devised to store meltwater in massive standing structures, allowing for year-round irrigation. However, without major decarbonization, these initiatives are likely to fail. Asia is responsible for about half of all greenhouse gas emissions. The research examines the transition from coal to renewables, which includes a combination of solar and wind power with battery storage, as well as rewards to coal asset owners for retiring assets before they reach the end of their useful lives.

These tactics have not proven to be very effective in the real world, and they consume a lot of energy. For everything, the amount of renewables required to reach these goals would require more steel than China now produces, and that doesn’t include renewables to make green hydrogen to decarbonize steel manufacturing. Leading Asia through the challenges of a warming planet is a huge task, but one that is just as important as leading the rest of the globe to the same objective.

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Digital Yuan: The Breakthrough Digital Currency of Winter Olympics 2022

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Shen Xue, a retired Chinese pair skater and 2010 Olympic champion, appeared on Chinese media in December 2020 as the first person to purchase a Beijing Subway pass using the country’s official digital money. Shen celebrated the start of China’s campaign to market its central bank digital currencies overseas during the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics by swiping the turnstile with ski gloves equipped with the latest digital yuan wallet. The Winter Olympics were supposed to be a big premiere for the e-CNY, a digital version of China’s sovereign currency that would be seen by millions of people across the world. Without a local bank account, foreign visitors will be able to use e-CNY to purchase things at the games, which begin on Friday.

With the emergence of the COVID-19 epidemic, which locked the Chinese capital to the rest of the world, those plans went awry. Beijing has adopted a “closed-loop system” for the games, which isolates the 11,000 participants from the general public as part of a “zero COVID” policy aimed at preventing any virus transmission.

The People’s Bank of China, a forerunner in the development of central bank digital currencies (CBDCs), first proposed a digital yuan in 2014, while its colleagues were still assessing the benefits of virtual currencies. CBDCs are issued and managed by a central government, unlike cryptocurrencies, which China banned last year because of worries about financial stability and crime. The central bank announced in January that more than 261 million individual users have enrolled for a digital yuan wallet, an app that allows users to utilise e-CNY. Since October, the number of users has roughly doubled.

According to the Beijing Financial Supervision Authority, Beijing has been pilot-testing its digital currency for usage at the games for more than a year, with 9.6 billion CNY ($1.5 billion) in transactions by the end of 2021.

Before the Olympics, the city tested the digital yuan in over 400,000 “scenes” involving real transactions of products and services, according to the regulator, with over 12 million individual users and 1.3 million business users in the capital registering on the app. Mobile payments handled a record 432 trillion yuan ($67.9 trillion) in transactions in 2020, largely on Alibaba’s Alipay and Tencent’s WeChat Pay. Last year, Bloomberg Intelligence predicted that by 2025, the digital yuan would have a 9% domestic market share. Alipay and WePay are thought to have a combined market share of over 90% at the moment.

According to Suji Yan, founder of Mask Network, a Singapore-based cryptographic and encryption start-up, transitioning from tech giants’ digital payments to a CBDC is a simple transition for Chinese citizens. They are already paying with internet giants such as WeChat and Alipay, and the shift [of payment applications] makes no difference to the majority of Chinese customers.

Distrust overseas

Beijing’s Olympic showcase for the digital yuan may be met with scepticism abroad, owing to a rising mistrust of Chinese technology, particularly in terms of data protection and regulatory monitoring. For overseas users, anonymity and privacy are the most pressing concerns when it comes to using the digital yuan. According to official media Xinhua, four levels of user categorization are currently accessible, allowing users to choose how much information to submit with the digital wallet app in order to meet different usage restrictions. Even in the most basic model, with simply a cell phone number, no one believes their transactions will be completely anonymous and private.

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