The World This Week

World this Week

1. Lithium Price Slide Deepens as China Battery Giant Bets on Cheaper Inputs

By now, it is out in the open that the COVID-19 pandemic played a remarkable role in hastening the global reliance on lithium for EV batteries as the world pushes to reduce carbon emissions as it marches on a path towards an eco-conscious change.

But while lithium is deemed a key ingredient in the production of EV batteries, one Chinese giant’s move to bet on cheaper battery inputs could have a more considerable effect than what’s on the surface. For a while, at least. 

The recent announcement by China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd (CATL) of planning to curtail its use of expensive lithium-ion batteries and start using cheaper lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries will have significant repercussions, not only on batteries manufacturers but also on the market.

This shift of one of the world’s biggest battery manufacturers will most likely increase the demand for cheaper materials, like iron, which in return, will naturally decrease the market’s demand for lithium and its prices. And it’s quite vital to mind, in this case, that the global demand for lithium has been on a downturn for a while now. 

But this effect will only be for the short term. Due to the magnitude of lithium’s importance for EV production, the industry will most likely be safe in the long term, considering the consumption market’s EV needs are exponentially rising. Consequently, securing the lithium demand in the future.

So, what does this really mean?

This switch to LFP by CATL could be another maneuver by the giant to impose control on the market by cutting its own production cost and maintaining a strong market presence by delivering something new. Yet, all must be mindful that while this will most definitely have a short-term impact, it won’t have a long-term impact, that’s for sure.

The long-term outlook for lithium battery production remains hopeful, mainly driven by the progressive need for EVs and the investments in its market.

2. VISA, Mastercard Pause Crypto Push in Wake of Industry Meltdown

In the wake of the recent cryptocurrency industry meltdown, Visa and Mastercard’s decision to suspend their crypto push could have heavy implications for their future endeavors in entering the crypto world.

The pause signals that two of the world’s largest payment networks are still not ready to place their complete trust in the crypto universe and are more cautious now than ever in approaching digital assets as their own.

The payment titans understand the volatility of the crypto market and the pitfalls and liabilities that might tag along with being associated with such a market. This move clearly showcases that Visa and Mastercard are reconsidering a safer approach when dealing with their cryptocurrency endorsement. Meaning slower and more analytical strategies when finally introducing digital assets into their market’s products and services.

When the time finally comes, this move will give them the opportunity to have a more substantial presence in the cryptocurrency industry by developing a robust digital assets infrastructure supported by even more secure policies, potentially supported by governmental regulations.

But what does this really mean?

This does not necessarily mean that this pause of the crypto push could not have gloom-ridden repercussions for the payment giants. This move could most likely mean that Visa and Mastercard might forego their shot of benefiting from revenues from the growing crypto market. Minding the volatility of the crypto market means that, at some point, it will be able to pull itself back up from its current drop. If the history of the crypto market taught us anything, that is. The demand for payment services that support cryptocurrency is increasing, and if Visa and Mastercard do not ride that wave by the time the market pulls itself up, they might lose out on a profit-making revenue stream.

3. Tesla Vows to Halve EV Production Costs, Musk Keeps Affordable Car Plan Under Wraps

As always, Elon Musk’s plans for his EV company, Tesla, can be considered ambitious. Focused on minimizing cost and broadening production capacity, the billionaire hopes to capture the mass market and decrease customer prices.

A plan will most likely be faced with the company’s ever-present battery technology issues, accompanied by the scale-up of the manufacturing of such batteries. 

Tesla’s move can be associated with the CATL’s latest Lithium battery announcement, which would support decreasing battery production cost and increasing battery production.

It goes without saying that Tesla and CATL have a strong relationship. CATL is not only one of the world’s largest battery manufacturers, but the Chinese company also supplies Tesla with lithium-ion batteries. Therefore, the partnership between both companies could be particularly beneficial in Musk’s latest cost-cutting plan.

Suppose CATL is able to produce LFP batteries at a lower cost. In that case, Tesla could be one of the biggest beneficiaries of that production, meeting its new budgeting and production plan, reducing production costs, and expanding production capacity.

While this is only a speculation, the possibility of such a link between both plans and announcements is not that far off.

4. Polish Mayor Targeted by Pegasus Spyware

If we look beneath the surface of the latest unveiling around the Pegasus hack, allegedly at the behest of the Polish government, we will see a clear breach of human rights. Not only on a governmental level but, more accurately, on a civil level.

The targeting of political personas by using spyware is a clear abuse of power by governmental establishments. 

Pegasus spyware, developed by the Israeli company, NSO Group, is no stranger to the endless accusation of abusing its technological power by providing the needed means to target human rights activists, journalists, and even politicians. Such activities supported by the company can be considered as nothing more than a weapon to facilitate the repression of others’ voices and freedom of speech, increasing the company’s cybersecurity dominance and influence on a global scale.

The latest incident is a showcase of the extent to which governments are willing to gain an edge in intelligence gathering, besmirching politicians’ and journalists’ reputations, all while minding the mushrooming of NSO’s pollical and capitalization power.

NSO Group’s power grasp, as well as other espionage companies, is something to be concerned about. Yet the absolute absence of any regulatory movement to halt back the power of such activities raises the question of whether governments benefit from such companies’ offerings.

An outward violation of privacy and civil liberties is taking place, and such companies are gaining power and sensitive data by the minute. Yet, no action is taken to protect civil liberties.

5. US Adds Units of China’s BGI, Inspur to Trade Blacklist

The U.S. government’s decision to add units of BGI (Beijing Genomics Institute) and Inspur to its trade blacklist is the latest move in a series of actions taken by the U.S. to counter what it sees as China’s unfair trade practices and national security threats. 

Considering that BGI is a leading provider of genetic sequencing technology and Inspur is an influential player in the global data center market, the latest American action will undeniably escalate the predominant tension between the East and the West, spreading to trade, technology, and even human rights.

Beijing could perceive Washington’s move as an aggressive move, which in return, China might be forced to retaliate against by taking even heavier measures in this powerplay between both economic powerhouses.

The move will also be deemed detrimental to the already tense trade and investment relationships between both countries, causing a ripple effect on the global economy. Washington’s move will further shake the trade and investment in two of the country’s most critical digital sectors, data and technology. While on the other hand, the blacklisting can be perceived by China as another opportunity for Beijing to impose harsher tit-for-tat exertion of power. 

Yet such measures can hold powerfully adverse effects on China’s rising economy, leading to a decrease in trade and investment flows between China and the U.S.

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