Anyone who has at least some idea about the theory of international relations should remember the oft-quoted formula put forward by the father of British geopolitics, Halford Mackinder: “Who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island; who rules the World-Island commands the world.” For those who are sceptical about geopolitical constructs and terminology, this logical chain may seem like a meaningless shamanic incantation. Over the course of a century, “Mackinder’s formula” was repeatedly criticized, corrected, repudiated, anathematized, parodied and ridiculed. And yet, strange as it may seem, not only has this formula survived an entire century, but it is also perhaps more relevant today than it was a hundred years ago.
Of course, the question hinges on how we understand the concept of Heartland. Mackinder interpreted it as the geographical centre of Eurasia, or, more precisely, as the massive central and north-eastern part of the Asian continent, which on the whole coincided with the Asian areas ruled by the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. Today, it seems obvious that the “Eurasian core” must be sought south of the harsh, poorly developed and scarcely populated Siberian plains and barren deserts of Central Asia. Just like in the days of Mackinder, Siberia and Central Asia remain repositories of raw materials and energy resources. Just like before, these lands may be considered the “great natural fortress” of the land peoples, adjusted for the new arsenal of means of projecting military power that appeared in the 20th century. However, these lands did not become a true “axis of history”: contrary to Mackinder’s prophecies, their transport infrastructure remained incomplete and disconnected, while their role in the development of the Eurasian continent over the past 100 years has shrunk rather than grown.
At the risk of incurring the righteous indignation of the current geopolitical orthodox, let us postulate that the Eurasian Heartland of the 21st century is actually what Mackinder saw as the “inner crescent.” Primarily China and India, in relation to which the rest of the Eurasian massif – Russia, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and even the extended European peninsula of the Asian mainland – act as continental limitrophe states. Despite the undeniable significance of these border states to European history, politics, economics and security, the fate of Europe depends primarily on how relations in the new Heartland (that is, between China and India) unfold. And the future of the whole world to a great degree depends on the fate of Eurasia. This is one of Mackinder’s main points, and it is by no means outdated.
The Prerequisites for Consolidation
It would seem that there are no fundamental obstacles to the consolidation of the Heartland: the interests of Beijing and New Delhi coincide on most major international issues. China and India have much in common. Both countries are, in their own way, historically stable and internally cohesive alternatives to Atlantic civilization. China and India are, along with the Arabic East (and to a lesser extent Tropical Africa south of the Sahara), the two most important points of the crystallization of “non-western” ideals. The fact that China and India are growing stronger is the most significant indicator that the “western” stage in the development of the system of international relations has drawn to a close.
As powerful drivers of economic growth both in Eurasia and around the world, both China and India are currently experiencing a stage of long-term economic, cultural and civilizational upheaval. Neither has fully overcome the deep trauma of national consciousness caused by their status as outsiders in global politics in the 19th and 20th century, and this trauma continues to have an impact on the historical narratives that dominate China and India and the foreign policy ambitions that emanate from these narratives. Beijing and New Delhi are “revisionist” players on the global stage in the sense that both China and India are interested in revising the old rules of the game that serve the interests of the “collective West.” China is leading a broad economic and financial offensive – from Central Europe to Latin America. India, lagging behind China in terms of foreign economic expansion, is focusing instead on closing the political gap by laying claim to a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.
The two countries are exposed to all the standard “growing pains” – the negative side effects of rapid economic and social growth. Both China and India suffer from severe environmental problems, a shortage of natural resources, growing social inequality and widespread corruption. In addition to this, there are pockets of separatism and terrorism in both countries. China and India are also witnessing a conflict between modernization and traditionalist forces. The concept of “national sovereignty” is paramount in both states, and any attempt to interfere in their domestic affairs is met with hostility. People in both countries question the stability of the current model of socioeconomic development, and many fear or predict inevitable crises and upheavals in the future.
Historically, relations between India and China have always been less conflict-ridden than, say, the relations between the Islamic and Christian worlds in the west of the Eurasian continent. In a sense, it is fair to speak not only of the economic, cultural and spiritual compatibility of these two ancient civilizations, but also of the fact that these aspects have penetrated the other country and even complement one another. There are numerous examples of this – from the epic history of the Great Silk Road to the equally impressive chronicle of how Buddhism spread across Eastern Asia. In essence, the consolidation of a China–India Heartland would not mean the creation of something fundamentally new, but simply the natural reunification of a torn Eurasia, the restoration of a recently lost continental unity.
Hence, there are objective prerequisites for the consolidation of a new Heartland. It is worth adding here that, while recognizing all the difficulties and tactical losses, such a consolidation would serve the long-term interests of both countries. The implementation of the joint China–India project would contribute to the stabilization of the geopolitical situation in the entire Eurasian space and open up fundamentally new opportunities for transcontinental cooperation in various fields.
It would not be out of place to draw a parallel with post-War Western Europe here, when the reconciliation between France and Germany led to the launch of European integration processes. In turn, it was ultimately France and Germany that benefitted most from this process: the political will and the willingness to compromise demonstrated by the leaders in Paris and Bonn paid off time after time in the following decades.
The numerous benefits of consolidating the Eurasian heartland are too obvious to not be a subject of contemplation on both sides of the Himalayas. Relations between Beijing and New Delhi have, for at least the past six decades, developed more along the lines of a rivalry than cooperation – and this rivalry has on more than one occasion turned into direct confrontation. Why is this the case? Could it be the subjective mistakes of the leadership? Personal ambitions of leadership? The underhand practices of internal forces? The tragic accidents of history? Or perhaps there are some objective “ force majeure circumstances” that stand in the way of a new Heartland coming together?
The Dimensions of the Eurasian Schism
Let us start with what everyone already knows – the two countries represent very different types of government. The differences between China and India today are greater than those between France and Germany 50 years ago. While China is much farther away from Europe than India, it is, on the whole, considerably closer in terms of being a nation state in the European mould. Despite the fact that there are a significant number of national minorities in China and substantial regional differences, ethnic Chinese (Han Chinese) are a single people and make up more than 90 per cent of the country’s population. Of the 34 Chinese provinces, including the autonomous regions and cities of central subordination, only Taiwan falls outside the vertical power system of governance, for obvious reasons.
India does not have a dominant national people. In terms of its ethnocultural and linguistic diversity, the Indian subcontinent does not resemble a separate European state or China, but rather the European Union as a whole. And in terms of religious diversity, the multi-structural nature of the economy and the regional disparities, India goes way beyond the whole of Europe put together. India is made up of 29 states and seven union territories, which exist in a state of complex political interaction. India is essentially a grandiose integration project in South Asia that is primarily turned inwards rather than outwards. If we stretch the analogies somewhat further, we can say that, as a single state, China has the same problems in its dialogue with the eclectic and insulated India that centralized Russia has in its interactions with the amorphous and insulated European Union.
Evidently, the historical trajectories of the two countries have also diverged greatly, especially over the past 250 years. India was a British colony, and the nearly 200 years of British rule left an indelible imprint not only on the country’s political system, but also on its culture. China, on the other hand, has never been colonized by a foreign country. While British democracy was a “system-forming” factor for independent India, communist China regarded the Soviet Union of the 1950s as a model to be emulated. Despite the fact that both countries have moved far from their original models of the mid-20th century, there are no grounds to suggest that their political or economic systems have drawn any closer.
In theory, the China–India partnership could even benefit from the fact that their political systems are so different: China would assume the main role in its interaction with various authoritarian regimes, while India would take the lead when it comes to developing ties with western liberal-democratic regimes. In practice, however, the dissimilarity of the systems hinders cooperation and, more importantly, mutual understanding. In is noteworthy that Beijing has found it far easier to establish relations with Moscow in the 21st century than with New Delhi, although the history of China–Russia relations is far more dramatic and controversial than the history of China–India relations.
Since China and India are the two largest countries in continental Asia, competition for natural resources, foreign markets, control of transport corridors and influence over common neighbours is inevitable. The close proximity of the two major powers gives rise to border disputes: the countries share 4000 km border, and the problem right now is not even about resolving territorial disputes, but merely about preserving the territorial status quo and preventing an escalation. The sides feel tempted to support various instruments of influence in each other’s territories. What is more, the question of what best meets the development needs of other Asian countries – Chinese socialism or Indian democracy – remains open.
Trade between China and India is growing at a rapid pace; however, both India and China are more focused on global markets than they are on each other. And for decades they have been purchasing the main resources needed for modernization – investments and modern technologies – from the West, often competing directly with each other for them. Bilateral trade remains asymmetrical, with Chinese exports to India far outweighing its imports from that country. Moreover, Chinese economic activity in India is far from always seen by the latter in an exclusively positive light.
A stable balance of powers between China and India in Asia is hindered by the fact that, right now, China is stronger than India both economically and militarily, and this asymmetry is likely to persist for the foreseeable future. A consolidated Eurasian Heartland would be less of an equal partnership than that of France and Germany in the second half of the 20th century.
India is still dogged by painful memories of the 1962 Sino–Indian Border Conflict. The model of Asia and a “closed” system is thus advantageous for Beijing, with China’s dominance in this system being in no doubt. For the same reason, New Delhi is interested in an “open” Asia, in which the asymmetry in the balance of powers between China and India could be compensated by introducing external players (who are, of course, on India’s side) into the mix.
The Interests of External Players
The interests of the United States in Asia are obvious and depend very little on the change of administration in the White House, although Donald Trump’s team has articulated these interests more clearly and more gruffly than its predecessors. Washington cannot but fear the consolidation of the European Heartland and will therefore continue to capitalize on the deepening contradictions in China–India relations. Naturally, it is trying to manage this process somehow without steering it towards a large-scale military conflict with unpredictable consequences.
Today we are witnessing an attempt by the United States to replicate the successful approaches of Henry Kissinger taken in the 1970s and to build a Eurasian geopolitical triangle. The difference is that the USSR is replaced by China, and China is replaced by India. This explains the increased attention of the United States to New Delhi and the persistent attempts to involve India in multilateral groupings that include allies of the United States that are located on the island periphery of the Eurasian continent, namely Japan and Australia (the concept of a “democratic Indo-Pacific”). If Washington had succeeded in achieving the sustainable institutionalization of these groupings in the form of a military-technical alliance similar to NATO, this would have created long-term guaranteed preventing the consolidation of the Heartland. However, at this juncture, any format of allied relations with Washington is politically unacceptable for the Indian elite, which is pushing for the preservation of the country’s strategic independence. What is more, India cannot sacrifice its continental Eurasian partners (primarily Moscow and Tehran) – not even for the sake of friendship with Washington.
The European Union is less interested in the preservation, much less the exacerbation, of the confrontation between China and India. Of course, the consolidation of the Heartland would present a serious challenge for Europe too, but one that is more to do with economics than geopolitics. The formation of a single Eurasian economic space would undoubtedly speed up the displacement of Europe as the economic centre of activity in Eurasia to Asia and reduce the role of the European Union in the Eurasian and global economies. On the other hand, China and India are two of the most promising foreign markets for the European Union, and the further development of these markets in line with the strategic interests of Brussels.
As far as the European Union is concerned, the main question is: On what basis can the consolidation of the Eurasian Heartland take place? Of course, Brussels would like to see Eurasian consolidation based on European standards, in compliance with European procedures and in line with European standards. The worst option for Brussels would be the gradual “economic absorption” of India by China and the implementation of the Eurasian integration process based on something that is entirely different from the European vision (for example, on the implementation of the One Road, One Belt initiative).
Russia’s interests in the various development scenarios for China–India relations are the subject of heated debates within the country’s expert community. On the one hand, it is often argued that maintaining tension in relations between Beijing and New Delhi makes Moscow a more valuable partner for both sides. Right now, Russia’s relations with China and India are better than those between China and India, meaning that it occupies the most advantageous position in this triangle. Based on this logic, we can assume that the consolidation of the Eurasian Heartland around the China–India axis would entail a further shift in the Eurasian centre of gravity towards the south of Russia’s borders. This would marginalize Russia even further as a participant in the Eurasian community.
On the other hand, it is safe to predict that attempts to capitalize on the contradictions between China and India will inevitably raise suspicions both in Beijing and in New Delhi, cause them to doubt the sincerity of Russia’s actions, etc. It is easy to imagine a situation in which Moscow will be unable to maintain its neutral position and be forced to choose between its two most important partners in Asia, and whatever choice it makes will inevitably entail major losses. Let us not forget that the escalation of the confrontation between China and India – a factor that stands in the way of the consolidation of the Heartland – would leave the door wide open for the United States, which is not likely to be among Moscow’s friends any time soon. Moreover, such an escalation is fraught with the risk of a major military conflict breaking out on the continent, and this would inevitably affect Russia’s security. To summarize the advantages and disadvantages of consolidation for Russia, the only reasonable conclusion is that the expected benefits of a consolidated Heartland clearly outweigh the potential costs.
Let us make it clear right away – whatever Russia’s role in the consolidation of the Eurasian Heartland, it will by no means be decisive. China–India relations have their own internal logic and their own dynamics that no external player (be it the United States, the European Union or Russia) can change. It would appear that, as the stronger party in these bilateral relations, China should go the extra mile to reduce suspicion and gain New Delhi’s trust. We could argue about what steps need to be taken and in what order, but this, strictly speaking, is not an issue for Russian foreign policy. However, this does not mean that Russia does not have a role in this most important issue.
On December 1, 2018, an attempt was made on the side-lines of the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires to step up the activities of the mechanism of tripartite cooperation between Russia, China and India (the RIC countries) and resume the practice of regular high-level meetings after a 12-year hiatus. According to Vladimir Putin, these meetings should focus on various aspects of security and the fight against protectionism and politically motivated restrictions in international trade. Developing these ideas, Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi identified four possible areas for cooperation: regional and global stability, economic prosperity, the exchange of experience in areas of mutual interest, and cooperation on how to respond to emerging challenges. Similar thoughts were expressed by the President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping, who stressed the special responsibilities of the three powers to support regional and global stability.
In recent years, the RIC format has remained in the shadow of the more representative five-party cooperation structure that includes Brazil and South Africa (together, the five countries make up the BRICS association). Without belittling the significance of the latter two countries, it is worth noting that the geographical expansion of RIC into BRICS entailed certain institutional costs: the two non-Eurasian countries had their own tasks and priorities that differed from the agenda of the original Eurasian members. The fact that the last presidential election was won by Jair Balsonara, a far-right congressman, the so-called “Donald Trump of Brazil” raises a number of questions about the future of the five-party structure. In any case, it would surely be a grave miscalculation for Russian policy to “dissolve” RIC into BRICS completely.
In all likelihood, in the near future, tripartite summits will be held on the side-lines of larger multilateral events (G20 summits, BRICS, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the Asia–Europe Meeting, etc.). However, if everything is limited to brief and infrequent interactions between leaders, statements of coinciding positions or even the signing of general political declarations, then this will do little in terms of the consolidation of the Heartland. It is necessary to articulate, in a frank manner, the existing differences with regard to the most serious problems facing Eurasia. The leaders of the three countries should focus on the problems that are standing in the way of consolidation of the Eurasian space.
At the same time, considering the fact that these trilateral meetings are inevitably short, the issues raised should be studied thoroughly beforehand by experts and the relevant ministries in the track 1.5 and track 2 formats and with a view to developing specific “road maps.” It is precisely the specifics that have traditionally been lacking in joint statements adopted at the end of the annual meetings of RIC foreign ministers. Another urgent task that could help solve the problem of trust between the Chinese and Indian militaries is the creation of a permanent tripartite mechanism for military consultations and the holding of regular military exercises.
A practical political trialogue could begin with an open discussion of such issues as the future of Syria and Afghanistan, which are of great importance for all three participants. Equally significant are the development of individual functional dimensions of the Eurasian Heartland – joint initiatives in the fight against terrorism, managing migration flows, food and energy security, issues of international information exchange and the development of artificial intelligence. It is from the widest possible set of such functional regimes, not from old or new rigid institutional blocs, that the new Eurasian Heartland should be built.
India and China are Arctic Council observer states. As one of the leading members of this organization, Russia could suggest to its partners that they discuss Arctic issues together so that none of them could have any suspicions about Moscow possibly harbouring a position on these issues that could be considered “pro-China” or “pro-India.”
And, of course, more active trilateral interaction on issues that go beyond the geographical boundaries of the Eurasian continent would serve as a powerful incentive for the consolidation of the Heartland. The future of multilateral arms control. The reform of the United Nations, the World Trade Organization and other global organizations. The development of international public law in the 21st century. Climate change and environmental issues. The management of technological progress. If Russia, China and India develop a united position on these and many other issues, it will carry far greater weight on the international arena than the individual opinions of each of these countries.
Ultimately, the Eurasian Heartland of the 21st century is not just a geopolitical, or a geo-economic concept. It represents, to a certain extent, common or similar views of leading Eurasian states on the future of the world order and a strategy for restoring manageability to a world that is coming apart at the seams. It is a joint sense of global stability and a common readiness to look beyond the narrow horizons of immediate national interests. It is only in the presence of such a community that the new Heartland can become the “axis of history” the illustrious father of British geopolitics and member of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom Halford Mackinder wrote about, albeit in an entirely different context and according to a completely different logic.
First published in our partner RIAC
Will China bubble burst owing to authoritarianism?
In his book The Age of the Economist, Daniel R. Fusfeld tells how economics governs our life today. In today’s market or quasi-market economies, no country can live in economic isolation (sakoku). India, USA and their `satellites’ are trying to isolate China in economic field. Already, they have hung isolationist Financial-Action-Task-Force Sword of Damocles over China’s all-weather ally Pakistan’s head. Through its economic relations and defence purchases, India scuttled Pakistan’s effort to draw world’s attention to Kashmiris in prison. India’s defence ministry approved purchase proposals amounting to an estimated Rs 38,900 crore. Heretofore is a bird’s-eye view of her shopping itinerary. Procurement of 36 Rafales and 12 Su-30 MKI aircraft and 21 MiG-29. Upgrading Indian Air Force’s existing MiG-29 aircraft. The MiG-29 procurement and upgradation from Russia will cost Rs. 7,418 crore. Producing the Su-30 MKI at the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited will cost Rs. 10,730 crores.
In Sri Lanka, india, through its underhand machinations, managed to remove Mahinda Rajapaksa from office 2015. Rajapakse had leased out strategic Hambantota port to China and allowed docking Chinese submarines in in Sri Lanka. Now Sri Lanka has handed over control of Humbantota to India. India gave Sri Lanka $45.27 million aid to develop KKS harbour (Jan 12, 2018).
India extended 2.1-billion Nepalese Rupee (NR) aid to Nepal as reimbursement of the first tranche of housing support to 42,086 governments of India- supported beneficiaries in Nuwakot and Gorkha districts. It pledged Nepal US $1 billion aid and soft loan (25%) for Nepal’s post-earthquake. India bears pension liability of Gorkhas equivalent to Nepal’s annual budge. But, offended at occupation of Kala Pani territory by India, Nepal enacted law to affirm its territorial sovereignty. Nepalese prime minister Oli is tottering because of India’s underhand effort to topple him.
India has no border at Doklam with China.yet it, like a super power jumped in `at Bhutan’s request’ to stop China from constructing a road there. It pledged to contribute Rs 4,500 crore to Bhutan’s twelfth five-year plan (2018 to 2023). It completed Mangdhechu Hydroelectric project and Ground Earth Station for South Asia Satellite and launch of RuPay card in Bhutan. Besides, it committed assistance of Rs 4,500 crore for implementation of development projects and Rs 400 crore for transitional Trade Support Facility during Bhutan’s 12th Five Year Plan (2018 – 2023). Under the 12th 5-Year Plan, 51 large and intermediate projects and 359 Small Development Projects (SDPs)/High Impact Community Development Projects (HICPDs) are being carried out. India’s commitment to the 12th Plan constitutes about 14.5 per cent of the Plan outlay which is around 38.75 per cent of the capital outlay and 71 per cent of the total external assistance.
To Bangladesh, India extended three $8 billion loans. A total of 1.16 Gigawatts of power is now being supplied by India to Bangladesh. The increase, in the reckoning of the Prime Minister, signifies a “quantum jump from megawatts to Gigawatts and is symbolic of a golden era” in bilateral ties. Markedly, Mamata Banerjee has pledged to raise the power supply to Bangladesh to 1,000 MW. Though electricity will not be a substitute for Teesta water, the plan to boost power supply is on anvil.Bangladesh is however annoyed at dillydallying at Teesta Accord, and India’s inability to brief her about Glawan situation (rebutted by India).
Launching the ‘Act Far East’ policy, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced (September 5, 2019) that India will give a line of credit worth US$ 1 billion to Russia for the development of the Far East.India provided Lines of Credit worth $ 96.54 million to Niger for projects in transport, electrification, solar energy and potable drinking water. It granted $15 million to Niger for organising African Union Summit.
India and Japan have launched their own joint initiative in the shape of Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC) vis-a-vis China’s Belt-Road Initiative for undertaking development and cooperation projects in the African continent.
India’s knee jerks to Malaysia and Turkey: Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohammad had said in September last that India had “invaded and occupied” Kashmir. He was joined by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who said that India had virtually imposed “a blockade” on Kashmiris.Their views on Kashmir and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) irked India.India punished
Turkey by not allowing it to bid for construction contracts. Import of palm oil from Malaysia was truncated.
Will China’s economic bubble burst for lack of institutions and authoritarianism: The spectacular economic growth in China in the past four decades has inspired a large strand of research to understand China’s unconventional growth path. China is expected to suffer a sudden economic collapse because of lack of inclusive institutions, debt policies, and authoritarianism. Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson in their book Why Nations Fail argue that without economic institutions particularly private property , and competition, nations fail to promote economic growth and alleviate poverty. Powerful people should not seek to grab complete control over government undermining broader social progress. It is freedom that makes people rich. Without political change, even sensible economic ideas and policies are doomed to fail.
To strengthen his rule, Xi Jinping has allegedly assumed an absolute control over all the institutions of country in guise of national rejuvenation and reforms.
Norwegian political scientist stein Ringen in his book “The perfect dictatorship: China in the 21st Century calls XI’s rule as “Controlocracy”. Xi chairs, roughly, eight of the leading small groups including national security commission. He also handles internal security directly, thereby reducing any possible chance of mutiny.Tai Ming Cheung a professor at the school of global policy and strategy at UC San Diego alleges “No other Chinese Communist Party leader, not even Mao Zedong, has controlled the military to the same extent as Xi does today. Mao had to share power with powerful revolutionary-era marshals.” To show how “hands-on” he is, Xi has taken the new post of commander-in-chief of the PLA Joint Battle Command.
This view is debatable. Discussion papers are included in in Allen, Franklin & Qian, Jun & Qian, Meijun, 2018. “A Review of China’s Institutions,” CEPR Discussion Papers 13269. Their paper focuses on the recent development of China’s institutions, financial markets, innovations and government-business relations in the context of their roles in supporting China’s growth. Alternative financing channels and governance mechanisms, rather than the markets and banks, continue to promote growth in the most dynamic sectors of the Chinesed economy.
Pro-China view: Tom Orlik, chief economist – Bloomberg Economics and David Dollar, senior Fellow, Foreign Policy, Global Economy and Development, John L. Thornton China Center, do not agree. They trust China would tide over economic crises through out-of-box thinking and ingenuity of mind. Klaus Muhlhahn in aking China Modern: From the Great Qing to Xi jinping highlight role of institutions in China’s rise. During the nineteenth century, China suffered humiliation of defeats in the Opium Wars at the hands of Western imperialists. Like a sphinx, China rose from ashes to baffle the world, we live in, through its flabbergasting if not unprecedented economic growth and participation on the geo-political state as a powerful player.
Charismatic leaders (Sun Yat Sen, Mao to Xi Jinping) did contribute their effort in transforming China. China’s rise, per official line began with Deng Xiaoping’s rule in 1978. But a dispassionate look at history reveals that China’s recovery was in the making for about a century. Historical legacy, cumulative experience a desire to see a better tomorrow and resilience in overcoming adversity contributed to China’s emergence as a conundrum or a miracle during twentieth or twentieth century.
China’s rise is not an overnight exploit or legerdemain of some leaders. Its present status is cumulative product of its institutions in early modernity or late imperial period (mid-seventeenth through eighteenth century). Beginning in 1644 during the Qing dynasty reign, many core institutions were developed and the empire achieved its zenith. The social and cultural institutions of this period account for China’s brilliant trajectory into nineteenth and twentieth century. The institutions of yesteryears, about three centuries , relate to key areas of government economy sovereignty, border security and exploitation of natural resources.
Inference: In cahoots with USA, India wants to get China declared a pariah state. The aim is to impose economic sanctions, or aid or trade embargo on China. The USA uses a flexible format to dub or delete a country as axis of evil, money-laundering conduit, sponsor of terrorism or pariah (Tamil paraiyar, outcastes), or rogue (Iran, Sudan, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela). Ottoman Empire was persecuted as an outcast by European States since the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 until the nineteenth century on a religious basis’.
Deon Geldenhuys. points out multifaceted criteria for declaring a state pariah_ having ‘artificial borders’ (Iraq), siege mentality, anti-West sentiments and desire to subvert the international status quo, or not being a considerable `world power’(“Pariah States in the Post-Cold War World: A Conceptual Exploration, March 5, 1997). So far, China has eluded pariah label proving it to be a `world power’.
Why India is hostile to China? Indian prime minister Modi himself told an all-party conference, “Neither have they [Chinese] intruded into our border, nor has any post been taken over by them (China)”. Even former defence minister AK Antony and former foreign secretary Shyam Saran denied China had taken over 640 sq km of Ladakh territory. Even, “The Indian army denied that Ladakh had shrunk. Change in the river course was cited as a reason for the loss of 500-1,500 meters of land annually”. Then, why the storm in a teacup.
Talk of Chinese bubble bursting appears to be a propaganda tip.
China’s new strategic positioning
While China is “narrowing” its production lines at national or international levels, a very important signal is the new relationship established between Turkey and the United States to replace China as a supply chain.
Obviously the new “cold war” between China and the United States cannot but create good opportunities for countries such as Turkey which aspire to establish their hegemony over Central Asia and hence to reduce China’s weight both in global and regional trade.
This is the price that Turkey pays happily and without particular problems to the United States for affording its autonomous policy in the Maghreb region, in the Eastern Mediterranean, in the Balkans and in Central Asia, up to supporting the Xinjiang Muslims in China above all to nip the Chinese Belt & Road Initiative in the bud.
Meanwhile Botas, the state-owned distributor of Turkish natural gas, has proposed the construction of a pipeline from its Northern Turkish coast to Nakhicevan, Armenia, so as to reduce Armenia’s imports from Iran and thus slowly distancing from Iran. This is music to American ears.
Therefore, Erdogan’s Turkey also bets on the new “cold war” between the United States and China, thus proposing itself as a third wheel and hence as the basis for the technical and commercial replacement of the production networks from China itself to the area controlled by Turkey.
There is a “but”, however: Turkey has a public deficit of 5.6 billion U.S. dollars (according to April 2020 data), but so far only Chinese capital and funds have arrived to support a 400 million swap between the renmimbi and the Turkish Lira.
A Chinese company bought the Kumport Terminal, on the Sea of Marmara, for 940 million, and in November 2019 Turkey saw the first train arriving from Xi’an, through the Maramay tunnel built and funded by China, which allows to have a non-stop line from China to Europe. An asset not to be overlooked.
The Turkish e-commerce platform, Trendyol, was later acquired by Alibaba but, as all Turkish finance experts say, it would require a further and probably strong devaluation of the Turkish lira which, however, needs substantial “fresh” investment from abroad.
Therefore, it is unlikely for an economy such as Turkey’s to take harsh and definitive action against Chinese interests.
Nevertheless, what does Donald J. Trump’s America really want from China?
The US Presidency’ Strategic Approach to China, published on May 26, 2020, maintains that the threat posed by the CPC to U.S. economic, military and strategic interests, as well as to its “values” is a primary danger.
If we look at the history of such statements, only in the days of the harshest “Cold War” with the USSR were such terms used.
As to economic competition, the United States accuses not the State, but directly the CPC, of overtly “protectionist State policies that have harmed American workers and businesses”.
With damage caused also to global markets, the environment and global trade law. Nevertheless,the sanctions imposed by China on U.S. goods in 2019 were anyway adopted by the WTO, whose negotiation system has been called into question by the United States itself.
In fact, Trump’s America accuses particularly the CPC of “taking advantage of its WTO membership to become the world’s largest exporter, but systematically and harshly protecting its domestic market”.
What is the United States doing? The U.S. real and deep accusation is against the Belt & Road Initiative: the United States interprets this great commercial-strategic operation as an attempt to reshape the world market according to the internal needs of the Communist regime in China.
Moreover, as the United States always maintains, China wants to use not the international networks, but its own courts, as arbitration courts. Is it true or false? Obviously there is the ICC, but other courts of reference are also formally possible, based on UN-type commercial law.
As to the Chinese challenge to American values, the U.S. document states that “China is engaged in an ideological competition with the West”.
The U.S. current idea is based on President Xi Jinping’s old statement (dating back to 2013) whereby China must prepare for a “long phase of cooperation and conflict” with the capitalist West, and it is always stated that “capitalism is dying and Socialism will triumph”. It could not be otherwise considering his Marxist background and ideas.
Obviously so, since President Xi does not certainly come from a salon in Manhattan.
Moreover, the United States never wants China to project itself as a world leader and a country of great global influence. Here again it wants the fight against corruption to stop, since for the United States it was only and exclusively a way to eliminate president Xi’s opponents.
Is it true? Yes, but obviously not only so. One and a half million corrupt people punished by the State, but many of them are real, while others are certainly “enemies” of President Xi’s policy line.
The U.S. Presidency, however, is mainly afraid of the Chinese Military-Civil Fusion and hence of the commercial-security blockade that, in the very long run, could put an end to the traditional U.S. hegemony in the Pacific.
Moreover, the two military games made by the RAND Corporation, about a year ago, concerning a clash in the South Pacific between U.S. and Chinese-Russian forces, demonstrated that the United States would soon be defeated.
Hence, as usual, for the United States once again it is primarily a matter of “protecting the People, the Homeland, the American way of life”. There is great fear for Chinese “propaganda” in the United States, as if it could not be opposed at all. A sweeping analysis was made for Chinese students, the largest foreign community in the United States, and a regulation called Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act was enacted. In January 2020 the United States and China signed also the “Phase One” of a major trade agreement that, according to the United States, is expected to change Chinese business practices significantly. In fact, the agreement provides that the CPC cannot force or orient foreign companies to transfer their technology to keep on producing or selling in China. It also strengthens the rules on the protection of intellectual data in China and finally opens up Chinese markets to U.S. agricultural products, on which it has much relied for its foreign policy.
On the military level, the U.S. Administration (and it would be anyway the same if there were another President) wants a new relationship with “similar” and “friendly” countries so as to counter the Chinese military build-up and develop the Indo-Pacific Strategy Report. In other words, obviously the U.S. block of every “One China Policy”, but hence implicit support to internal factionalism, in Hong Kong and Taiwan, as well as proposing a stop to the Chinese expansion between Xinjiang and Pakistan’s maritime network.
Furthermore, as to the ideological struggle, support for Religious Freedom, the usual fight for “human rights”, the U.S. protections for “minorities’ liberties”. That is all. But we do not think it will be enough.
Certainly, Chinese infrastructural investment is currently designed to competing with the United States and better controlling civil society.
The 55-kilometre bridge going from Hong Kong to Macao, with two artificial islands that allow the road to sink 7 kilometres into a very long underwater tunnel is an eminently political and strategic project.
Obviously, it is in fact a matter of building a Unified Commercial Zone, like the one in New York or Tokyo.
But it is also a matter of creating a strategic control zone to currently protect those coasts, which are currently more economically important than China. However, it is precisely in this area that as much as 4% of the regional and national GDP is dedicated to the construction of quantum computer networks and encryption. The classic civil-military dual objective.
Currently China is already a leading country in quantum communications between Space and Earth. It has already built a Quantum Computing Laboratory in Hefei, Anhui Province, with 10 billion U.S. dollars, while the China-U.S. Economic and Security Commission has established that, as early as 2000, China had bridged the technological gap with the United States with regard to quantum computing.
Is it true? We do not know for sure, but this is certainly where the real economic and intelligence war between China and the United States is developing.
As Krugman maintained in an old article for Foreign Affairs, nations are not corporationsand they do not compete one another as companies always do. Nations, however, certainly compete for market outlets, for financial resources, for technologies and for cultural or influence operations.
There is nothing else. Nevertheless, we must never forget that the major countries’ strategic “policy line”, to which Italy adapts in a sheep like way, envisages variables – also for the small and medium countries – which are not at all negligible.
Also at military level, China’s operations in Ladakh and Tibet are an example of the interest – dating back to Mao Zedong’s times – in using Tibet as “the palm of the Chinese hand” to expand China’s influence throughout South Asia, which is a primary strategic axis.
It is a matter of encircling India and later stable geo-economic blocs are built, just against India, with the Chinese expansion in Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
There must always be a spatial logic – we would classically define as geopolitics – which follows the definition of a country’s primary interest. When it knows how to evaluate it,however, which certainly does not happen currently in Italy.
In any case Tibet would have been India’s first natural defence line, if China had not already taken itas early as 1950.
Hence Tibet, with its strategic “five fingers”, i.e. Ladakh, Sikkim, Nepal, Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh, will be China’s checkpoint from the South, and we do not believe it will be easily opened by India’s collaboration with other countries, such as the United States.
Without Tibet available, economic, military and intelligence operations against the Belt&Road Initiative will be largely blocked.
Furthermore, President Xi Jinping – who knows the Party and State apparatus very well – has recently launched a campaign of “Security Apparatus Clean-up”. Since November 2012, President Xi Jinping has also marginalised the old leader of the Chinese security apparatus, Zhou Yongkang, directly acquiring an assignment from Politburo and not from Politburo Standing Committee.
Nowadays, China’s security apparatus budget is officially estimated at 183,272 million yuan, equivalent to 26.6 billion U.S. dollars.
While Zhou Yongkang, a man of Hua Guofeng and later of Deng Xiaoping, was arrested in 2012, Hu Jintao himself sent as many as 3,000 Intelligence Service executives to re-education camps.
3,000 executives in a total of 1.97 million officials and operatives.
Nevertheless, this year the turning point has been the establishment of the Safe China Construction Coordinating Small Group, now led by Guo Shengkun.
Later Lin Rui came. President Xi Jinping still trusts him and, however, he is a computer engineer.
Nevertheless, the “clean-up of the security apparatus”in Xi Jinping’s hands will most likely be completed next year.
A new “Yan’an Rectification Movement”, like the one that Mao Zedong promoted.
Rectification campaigns, collection of Xi Jinping’s sayings to “set the policy line”, with the collection of the “four consciences” (ideology, the whole country, principles and policies) and the four trusts (Socialism with Chinese characteristics; trust in a system that proposes the nature of Chinese Socialism; trust in its own culture and values).
Hence this will be the intellectual and operative scenario with which Xi Jinping will fight against the United States. A fight which will not be easy, but not even with a predictable result.
Here is How China Responds to US in Indo-Pacific
Trump administration recognizes the Chinese style of war with the term of “Unrestricted Warfare,” unlimited war on all fronts, not merely a matter of arms war. Therefore, Trump continues to try to bulldoze China from various sides, the economy, corporation, media, education, the military, etc. How China sees war is not a new things. James Burnham in his book “The War We Are In“, half a century ago, has very clearly been explained. I argue, in addition to continuing to enjoy the “Thucydides trap” theory, the way how China has been looking at war is also crucial in determining the Chinese style of facing America in the South China Sea. China clearly hopes to play with a long-term strategy, given its very long leadership period. Unlike the American President, who will always be threatened by his position once every four years.
So China most likely will not fight America openly in the South China Sea, but continue to increase its power. While on the other hand, China begin to undermine America’s strategic partners one by one. Such as, South Korea, Japan, India and Australia. That’s why, China certainly needs North Korea to disrupt. Why? Based on the American “island line” strategy, South Korea is the center of the first “island line”. There are approximately 28,000 more American troops in South Korea. Moreover, North Korea’s nuclear warhead can reach Japan, even reaching the center of America’s second “island line” on Guam. Providing dangerous threats in America’s first and second “island line” circles will make Taiwan easier to seize and then disrupting the coordination lines of American power in South China Sea with its closest partners
While in the East, China continues to press and is ready to have a military dispute with India on the Line of Actual Control. Without much public attention, China has surrounded India for the past several years. China already has military bases in Djibouti and possibly in Gwadar Pakistan, both thanks to the cooperation of the Road and Belt Initiative, where Djibouti was finally unable to pay debts, then its port was diverted to China and made a military base. The same thing happened with Gwadar. And most likely, China will be very able to convince Russia not to get involved by offering economic benefits from the war between India and Russia, because both countries –China and India — are consumers of Russian weapons.
On the other hand, China will continue to wreak revenge on trade war with America to Australia, to the maximum extent that losses can be received by the land of Kangoroos. Especially after the involvement of the Australian Frigate in the American international navigation convoy on South China Sea and after Australia reacted on China about covering up Covid 19. China is Australia’s biggest trading partner. China seems to be quite sure, with the application of high tariffs for many Australia’s export commodities will weaken the country’s economic capabilities. And all the shock therapy will give a bad signal to the countries around the South China Sea.
The same way will be played with Canada that has imprisond Meng Wanzhou, CFO Hua Wei, at the request of American extradition law. And don’t forget, slowly but surely, the Belt and Road Initiative has also divided Europe, Africa, and slowly in the Middle East. Now, when it comes to Chinese matters, the European Union does not all agree that China is a threat (just competitor even after Covid 19 and Hong Kong Case), since the fast train line and any infrastructure projects have split the blue continent.
Then at the American domestic level itself, China will probably continue to intervene and infiltrate elections, ride various issues that have the potential to weaken Trump’s position. Although China said, it is very happy if Trump was re-elected because Trump has the potential to damage the American alliance with many countries. But, it’s pretty sure to translate that China really want Joe Biden to win. It’s easier for China if democrats are enthroned.
Is America likely to lose? I still believe, the Chinese war is not for today. Today, militarily and economically, America still has the upper hand. However, Xi is a marathon runner, Xi may be the president for life. But the signals of the threat of Unrestricted War are already visible. Today, on the other hand, geostrategically America has long made an alliance to surround China. In South China Sea, America still has Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore (maybe Indonesia) even though South Korea and Japan are intimidated by North Korea. Also in economic side, for example, though China stay growing 6 percent stably and America is only 1-2 percent stably, China still needs decades to catch up to America’s GDP per capita.
Therefore, China will play long and pay in instalments one by one the target. China will probably not focus on South China Sea with hard power, but on Taiwan first, after Hong Kong was successfully acquired without war, by continuing to spread threats in the South China Sea to divide American concentration. After Tse Ing Wen came to the power, peace unification with China had failed. The offer of “one country two systems” was rejected by Tse Ing Wen and the people of Taiwan. As a result, China will boast more power around Taiwan, while preoccupying South Korea and Japan with North Korea’s actions, and still looks aggressive at South China Sea.
This is one form of “Omni-dimensional war” of China, as Burnham wrote. But China will really need a lot of energies and patience to play long, more over after pandemic which has been throwing them to the corner of international order. Meanwhile, in short, US will be more aggressive in South China Sea to get more attention from Trump’s domestic supporter till the next election day. So, the more successful Trump in making Americans angry (hate) at China is one of the keys to Trump getting a majority of votes in the elections later. I’m pretty sure, Trump will continue to play this Chinese card in the next few months ahead, until the election comes. And the medium term result is that South China Sea will just be provocative theater for both.
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