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China 70 years from now

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In my opinion, after the 19thCPC National Congress, two changes characterize the new form of Communist China: the amendment to the Party’s Constitution, with the phrase “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” introduced directly by current President Xi Jinping. The other change is the new autonomous dimension of the Party’s ideology and hence of its practice.

 This is the “miracle” promised to China by President Xi Jinping in his speech on the 40th anniversary of China’s Reforms started by Deng Xiaoping. A miracle that has in fact made China ready for a “new start”, while “the Party has strengthened China’s new pride” – after the mistakes of the “Cultural Revolution”, in particular – while the economic and social reforms could anyway lead to “sudden storms”.

 Therefore China will not allow separatisms – “not even an inch of our Motherland can and will be separated from China”. Hence a hegemonic China, but “without seeking hegemony”.

 The instrument to put an end to contemporary hegemonism, in a context in which President Xi Jinping uses again Mao Zedong’s “Three Worlds Theory”. The capitalistic and developed World, which includes the “two empires” -the two superpowers – and the two client States, and finally the Third World that will be led by China.

 Hence China as owner of an economic development that “poses no threats to others”. On the contrary, and precisely for this reason – as President Xi Jinping maintains – “no one is currently in a position to dictate to China what should or should not be done in the world”. In its essence, this is exactly the “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics” that President Xi Jinping wants to reaffirm both nationally and internationally.

 Again according to the current CPC’s tradition, the origin is to be found in Marx’, Engels’ and Lenin’s ideology, but above all within the project redeveloped by Mao Zedong, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao.

 As can be seen, after Lenin the traditional sequence of Chinese points of reference for Marxism-Leninism was over. It continued with Mao and was later resumed – after the Four Modernizations – temporarily a few years ago.

 Nothing has been decided yet. A Great Helmsman is still needed to guide, orient and direct the Socialist modernization of China.

 Hence, there is no actual link between the Russian tradition of Communist revolution and the Chinese one.

 This is also understandable: Russia wanted to follow the capitalist West so as to later destroy it – albeit it failed in this regard – while China was mainly concerned with the Third World, to which Communist Russia certainly did not belong. Later Russia accepted the Cold War, the useless “paper tiger”, in which China has never believed. Finally it imitated capitalism, without ever having a real potential to do so,  while China was building its rational (and national) Socialism in rural areas, without imitating – at least after the Great Leap Forward from 1958 to 1961 – the European capitalist accumulation, nor the huge massacre of the Russian Bolsheviks’ crazy “rural reforms” between Crimea and Ukraine.

 Hence, currently President Xi Jinping think that the result of implementing his Thought is the definitive “sinicization” of Socialism and the Party.

 The effects of this new operational and political tradition by President Xi Jinping are seen – first and foremost – in the greater efficacy of the Chinese government.

 President Xi Jinping’ Socialist government adapts to Chinese society – in view of transforming it – fitting like a glove on a hand.

 The doctrinal and abstract tradition of Chinese Marxism-Leninism ended precisely with President Xi Jinping’s action. Currently the Chinese Nation and its historical project, namely Socialism, are the same thing.

 Progress towards Socialism -now inherent in the fabric of the Party, of the State and of society – is the same as the peaceful and multilateral reaffirmation of the Chinese Nation as such.

 Pragmatism, above all adherence to the reality of Chinese society, but together with a profound modernization of the system, of society and of the CPC itself.

Hence, President Xi thinks that there are currently four goals at reach. Firstly, Socialism with Chinese Characteristics that now, thanks to President Xi Jinping, is fully embedded in China. Secondly, the Party’s ideology, which is always falling within the State’s competence and is hence responsible for the Nation’s and People’s national evolution, but now merges national interest with Socialism. Thirdly, the reaffirmation of the Party’s role on the State, which may still be lagging behind President Xi Jinping’s project. Fourthly, the Party’s culture, which is the one and only guidance for the Party itself.

 In other words, this means strengthening the Party’s culture to improve its role as an example, as policy line and as future direction.

 According to President Xi Jinping, the Party’s primary goal for the whole Chinese Nation, and not only for its proletariat, is the improvement and, above all, the current consolidation of the People’s living conditions.

 Wellbeing is one of the goalsof “President Xi Jinping’s policy line” that dominates the Party, in addition to the gradual construction of a Great Country for everybody (no limitation to China’s military and strategic prestige) and a Strong Country (no limitation to Socialist China’s geopolitical projection). Also a Civil Country (no limitation to the people’s cultural and ideological evolution) shall be constructed and a Democratic Country (the maximum representation, within the Party, for all the voices of Chinese society), as well as a Harmonious Country, i.e. without the typical imbalance of society with respect to the evolution of its political direction. “Productive Forces” and “Relations of Production”, just to put it in Marxist terms.

   Hence the Party dictates the policy line and the Chinese harmonious society adapts it to every condition and situation.

 It is in this sense that today, under President Xi’s leadership, we can speak about a particular “China’s Renaissance”.

 A mass Renaissance – just to recall Antonio Gramsci’s theories -that hence avoids the problem of being – like the Italian national Risorgimento- a “reform led by the elites alone” and limited in its scope and purposes.

 Hence national and cultural mass renaissance, spread among all classes of the People, the Party and the Nation.

 We should not believe that this historical phase is based on a limited, artificial or ad hoc memory.

 As early as July 1921, when the Communist Party of China was established in Shanghai, the founding members included Li Dazhiao, the founder of the Research Association on Marxism.

 From the beginning, there was an independent study on the dialectic of classes and on historical materialism, based on Chinese material conditions.

 Hence the study was focused on the specificities of the possible Chinese Communist revolution, as well as on the autonomy of the national and social thought. Maximum attention was paid to the classics of Marxism, while the Russian Bolsheviks were still unable to define their own way, between global revolution in capitalist countries and what could already be perceived, namely “Socialism in one country”.

 As early as August 1921, a few days after the Party’s foundation, Zhang Guotao established the Secretariat of Chinese Workers.

 From the beginning – and this is a sign that persists and, indeed, is strengthening even today – the workers’ representation and the Party were almost the same organization that overlapped. It never happened in the history of any Communist Party.

 Hence no Stalinist “transmission belt”: the trade union and the Party were both inside the Chinese society and transformed it every day, without the old-fashioned separation between “reforms” and / or “revolution” – the sign of a rough thought and, to many extents, not typical of Chinese wisdom, in which every change and every revolution are either large or small. It depends but, however, it is not a subjective evaluation.

 Also the relationship between the newly founded Communism and the Chinese national movement strengthened from the beginning. There was not the long discussion between the national and progressive movement and the proletarian movement that was the basis for the evolution of the European, Western and Russian Communist debate.

 Sun Yat-Sen’s Kuomintang immediately opened its doors to Chinese Communist trade unionists, who characterized the trade union movement far beyond the limits of their Party.

Another anomalous tradition of Chinese Marxism compared to the West, as well another root of the bond between the Party and the Masses, that President Xi Jinping still passionately emphasizes.

 In 1922 Mao Zedong, Liu Shaoqi and Li Lisan organized trade unions and mass strikes, not only of the Communist workers – as in the West – but in the Hunan Province. Again in July 1922, the Chinese Communists decided to collaborate with the then progressive nationalism of Sun Yat Sen and the Kuomintang, even in opposition to Mao, who did not fully agree.

 That choice was at the origin of both the CPC’s nationalist roots – without delays and rhetoric – and of certain ideological infiltrations that Mao Zedong tried to later use or eliminate.

 A problem that President Xi Jinping has definitely solved.

 A very severe problem, i.e. adapting without imitating and, hence, without absorbing the contradictions of Western capitalism, which is still in Xi Jinping’s mind.

 Only in 1923 did the CPC and the CPSU sign a mutual collaboration agreement.

 When, while referring to Russians, Deng Xiaoping spoke about the “enemies of the North”, he was still the spearhead of an old tradition of Chinese Communism.

 In 1923, however, the CPC officially adopted the “Russian policy line”.

  At the time, Mao Zedong joined the Central Committee and actively collaborated with the Kuomintang.

 Nevertheless, the price paid by the Kuomintang was very high: in January 1924 the CPC became part of the Kuomintang itself, albeit with three clauses: the alliance with the USSR; the stable unity of action with the Communist Party; the equally stable mass action with peasants and workers.

 Three factors that led to the end of Sun Yat Sen’s nationalist movement – except for new and powerful allies.

 In that case there was no obvious “entryism”, as we say in the jargon of European Communism: in China, Mao’s CPC was a Party entrenched within the masses it stably represented and connected with what the Marxists – probably somehow naively – still defined “national bourgeoisie”.

 As early as 1924, in Shanghai the CPC decided to step up “mass work”, while preserving its organization independent of the Kuomintang.

 The national bourgeoisie and the so-called “compradora” bourgeoisie merged in China-and hence in the Kuomintang. Therefore the CPC needed to become autonomous and work with every part of the revolutionary bourgeoisie.

 Unlike what happened in Europe during the same period,  when the national Communist Party either stood as the enemy of everyone – and above all of the progressive bourgeoisie – or rendered itself useless by remaining in a sort of splendid and useful isolation.

 Or it accepted unity with everyone, thus starting to lose itself and its political autonomy.

 The Canton Merchants’ Corps Uprising of August 1924 – in which the merchants were supported by Great Britain -was initially a rebellion against a new tax imposed by the government, which everyone also considered an expression of the USSR.

 The uprising was repressed, but the CPC’s struggle to avoid being identified as a simple offshoot of Russia was successful.

 On that occasion, the Kuomintang’s Central Bank was created.

  It happened in Canton, while, shortly afterwards, China found itself in four areas dominated by weak military coalitions.

 That was the real and empirical connection of Socialism with national unity in China.

 Without unity of the Chinese people – apart from the identities imposed by colonialism (and by some “friendly” country, currently as in the past) – there could be no unity of the nation and, hence, of Socialism itself which, if not led by the People’s Party of China, would inevitably repeat the “century of humiliation”.

 Finally, in early May 1925, Mao Zedong was elected President of the rural federation, always under the then national and progressive aegis of the Kuomintang.

Hence without an analysis of the peasant conditions – which is not mere productive “backwardness”, according to the old Russian Bolsheviks – there is no Chinese Communism not referring directly to a specific and material analysis of the peasant conditions.

 Hence we cannot reduce the peasant issue to a trivial theme – not by chance used both by the Russian Bolshevik Communists in their heinous “reforms” and by capitalists of the 1960s, the years of “take-off” and “underdevelopment”.

 Rural areas were not tantamount to underdevelopment. They were tantamount to exploitation, if anything.

 Without underdevelopment, what could we eat?

 Hence, as already seen, the CPC was born within the union and realistic context of the protection of needs of a wide majority of people, mainly rural, while maintaining a sound political and ideological class identity – as is still the case today.

 In 1928, Chiang Kai-Shek’s troops, the Kuomintang, occupied Peking.

 In that year, again referring to the rural masses, the CPC ordered the “Autumn Harvest Uprising”, thus triggering and resolving the problem of the true origin of class struggle in China, i.e. the clash between poor peasants and landowners.

 In 1929, the law confiscating the lands of Xing’guo and the new Civil Code were enacted. Hence the confiscation of State lands and of those belonging to landowners started.

 The war against Japan, which had invaded Manchuria, began.

 In February 1936, the Red Army marched towards Shiensi and recruited thousands of peasants, also with the support of the local warlord.

 The CPC asked not to requisition the lands of those who had fought against Japan.

 Nation and People, but also Socialist transformation of the economy. All three things together – as is currently the case.

 After many acts of war, also the tragic Nanjing massacre took place.

 A cruel slaughter of local inhabitants by Japan.  350,000 civilians were annihilated.

  China’s main cities were conquered by Japan, which meanwhile had established the capital in Peking.

 In 1943 the war was not over yet: the CPC adopted the so-called policy line of the “Resolution of the Many Traditional  Problems”, under Mao’s direct supervision.

  In 1945 Mao’s positions at the CPC Congress gained the upper hand in Ya’an – hence the policy line of the coalition government.

 Therefore the CPC’s essential political issue was solved, i.d. the national bourgeoisie that had become part of the Party. Also the social issue was solved, with the autonomous leadership of the CPC, which dealt with the great agrarian reform. There was also the military and strategic issue that, at the time, was already outside the CPSU scope. Finally uniqueness of power after the evident defeat of the Kuomintang.

 Almost the same as today.

 In 1948, the Chinese People’s Bank was established as issuing bank.

 In particular, it guaranteed the funds necessary for the companies to reach the goals of the five-year plan.

 Autonomy from the global financial cycle, when needed – as is currently the case.

 In 1949 the Red Army returned to the liberated city of Shanghai.

 What about the Belt and Road Initiative? Today’s Long March? What role does it currently play?

 It is largely a legacy of Hu Jintao and of the solution of the Chinese border issue by Jiang Zemin.

 At predictive level, it is a matter of 65 countries with a maximum trade totalling 2.5 trillion US dollars over ten years, with a project like this one that is expected to amount to 26% of the current Chinese foreign trade.

 An opportunity to find a way out, to remove dangerous land borders and to finally put an end to China’s estrangement from contemporary world.

 Not a “Cold War”, but a gradual multilateral and bilateral integration.

 Hence making the energy supply safe for China with the Belt and Road Initiative, as well as getting out of the spiral between monetary QE and commercial expansion, only thanks to the huge dimension of the Belt and Road Initiative, and finally finding an outlet for foreign direct investment that China desperately needs.

 A current sum of factors responding to the three policy lines with which the Party was founded: national interest at first, unity of the Nation and economic development.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

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East Asia

North Korea’s Nuclear Threat and East Asia’s Regional Security Stability

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Authors: Raihan Ronodipuro& Hafizha Dwi Ulfa*

The East Asian region’s anarchy system is colored by mutual distrust, which makes the countries in this region constantly competitive. There are both internal and external forces driving countries in this area to continue to improve their national security.

North Korea, like other East Asian nations, believes that it must continue to strengthen its armed forces in order to defend itself from external threats. Internally, North Korea is considered to have a juche philosophy, which emphasizes independence from other countries and emphasizes military force as a defensive policy.

Meanwhile, North Korea raises its military strength in self-defense efforts to balance the United States’ defense alliance with South Korea and Japan, where the alliance is perceived as a challenge to North Korea in the region.

Likewise, South Korea sees nuclear North Korea as a major threat to its security as a neighboring nation that threatens international peace and wishes North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

Since the 1950s, North Korea has been working on developing nuclear missiles. North Korea’s production and testing of nuclear missiles has heightened tensions and fears in the East Asian region. North Korea has performed a series of nuclear missile drills, which are believed to be destabilizing the region’s atmosphere.

In 2006, this nuclear test was performed for the first time. This move attracted a strong reaction from the international community, with several nations, including Russia and China, who have diplomatic contacts with the communist state, condemning North Korea’s test action and urging all parties concerned to show caution in order to prevent regional tensions.China’s active involvement is also expected to have a positive impact, but in reality China always has a double role. Beijing finds itself caught in a dilemma in preventing North Korea nuclear strategist. In this context, China’s relations position with United States as an influential country in the region will have an important role for the nuclear settlement process on the Korean Peninsula.

Furthermore, China and the United States debated the prospect of a UN Security Council resolution in reaction to North Korea’s nuclear test. The international community is still concerned about North Korea’s ongoing nuclear production and research. The production of nuclear missiles by North Korea will strengthen the United States, South Korea, and Japan by improving military technology to fight the North Korean nuclear threat.

The presence of growing mistrust between countries could also spark a traditional arms race in East Asia. North Korea’s defiant posture is shown by the trials it continues to conduct, rendering the situation in the country more complicated and unpredictable. North Korea, South Korea, and Japan all agree that their countries must continue to strengthen their defense in order to protect themselves from external attacks.

North Korea’s nuclear weapons have three kinds of consequences: international stability, proliferation, and the nuclear nonproliferation policy. North Korea’s nuclear weapons production will increase security vigilance in the East Asian zone, potentially making events volatile.

This nuclear proliferation has a major effect on the stability of regional security in the East Asian region, and it has the potential to ignite a nuclear arms race among regional countries, as well as the expansion of capabilities among other countries with nuclear weapons, such as the United States, China, and Russia, as well as the rise of interest in nuclear weapons by a nation that does not have one.

To maintain equilibrium in an anarchist international system, such as the viewpoint of realism, a balance of power is needed. This power balance is complex in nature, and it can move in response to changing developments at both the national and international levels.Apart from the United States interests as an influential country in the East Asia geopolitics and geostrategy, it is hoped that United States can implement policies that maintain the stability and security of the East Asian region.

In the end, an equilibrium will arise, either through peace or through war. This is consistent with East Asia’s complex balance of power, in which one country’s defense policy affects other countries in the region, causing mistrust between countries to surface and color their relationship. Because of their mutual mistrust, these countries are able to use military force or wage war in the East Asian region.

In a realist perspective, the state is a rational actor, and the interactions carried out by the state are nothing other than the interests of the state itself, which is not unusual if the greedy existence of this state then creates a confrontation if there are gaps of interests between nations. In this situation, the public interest may be viewed as a weapon used by the state to accomplish its goals.

A state’s national interest also serves to defend its citizens and its territories. North Korea’s interest in nuclear production is motivated by a desire to strengthen its country’s defense in the face of external challenges, especially from the United States and South Korea. In this situation, it is clear that North Korea is attempting to amass as much strength as possible within its boundaries.

Then it is related to the theory of National Security, which is characterized as the allocation of resources for the development, execution, and implementation of what is known as a coherent facility, which is used by the state to achieve its country’s interests. North Korea’s nuclear program is designed to strengthen its national security defense and negotiating power. The presence of this nuclear weapon force, however, allows for the rise of an arms race and has an impact on security stability, especially in the East Asian region.

*Hafizha Dwi Ulfa is a Research Assistant of the Indonesian International Relations Study Center with focus analysis in ASEAN, East Asia, and Indo-Pacific studies.

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The Galwan Conflict: Beginning of a new Relationship Dynamics

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The 15th June, 2020 may very well mark a new chapter in the Indo-Chinese relationship and pave the way for totally new politico-strategic equations, shaping the way for a more complex and unstable world order in the near future. On this night, a bloody, violent and unusual armed clash took place between two of the world’s fiercest armies, Indian and Chinese, at the heights of Galwan Valley in Ladakh. Officially, India has admitted losing 20 of its soldiers, including a senior officer while China, continues to be discreet about PLA casualties and after a good 8-months hiatus, came up with a what everyone knows a blatant lie– a 4-death figure.

This border conflict however, has made the situation volatile between the two Asian powers. The borders between the two, almost 3,400 Kms continue to remain unclear and non-demarcated in the form of Line of Actual Control (LAC) and that is something the Chinese side, is quite keen to continue with. It is the Chinese strategy that it has employed since 1950s to continue occupying territories without firing a single bullet. From Tibet to Aksai Chin to South China Seas, China has gained territories by portraying itself as a great military power but not really able to showcase its military might anywhere.

However, the efficacy of its military remains questionable on certain credible grounds. It is well known that the Chinese PLA comprises of officers and troops who are recruited on account of their loyalty and service to the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) and not entirely on professional grounds and hence, is a politicized force. Internal reports leaked out from China have also indicated of massive restructuring and training exercises for the PLA to keep it as a proper fighting force, being initiated on direct orders of the Chines President, Xi Jinping.

The PLA again does not have a distinguished military track record. In 1954, it occupied Tibet, a free, sovereign country till then who had at best, a medieval age, security force to defend itself. In 1962 border conflict with India, it won due to the impuissance of Nehru and his lack of politico-strategic vision and leadership. However, the border conflict at Nathu La with India in 1967, proved to be its undoing with PLA losing more than 300 soldiers against Indian losses of 80 troops.

Even in the Vietnam war, it failed to emerge as a clear winner against the tiny Vietnam. Since then, it has had no real time fighting exposure. In one of the highly embarrassing episodes, a unit of the PLA as part of the UN peacekeeping duties, ran away leaving their weaponry and armaments, in Sudan in 2016. In the very recent Galwan fight-off with the Indian border troops, again the PLA failed to show it in a gallant light as in spite of a virtual 4:1 ratio against Indians, it failed to ensure a victory and in fact had to concede the area to Indians it had occupied surreptitiously a few weeks ago.

It is true that since the commencement of economic reforms in China in early 1980s, the single party political dictatorship has helped China to grow economically and emerge as the manufacturing hub of the world. The impressive economic turnaround has helped China to enhance its political stature in the comity of nations while also providing with enough money to use them for furthering its politico-strategic objectives. From making huge investments in national economies of Europe, US, Canada to Africa, South and South-East Asia to becoming a major player in global capital and bond markets, China has strategically made its presence felt.

With Xi Jinping’s accession as the Chairman of CCP, ambitions of China got a new fillip. The highly ambitious politico-strategic initiative, in the form of debt diplomacy, the much-touted Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) emerged as the innovative neo-colonialist Chinese weapon to secure the political and military control of the world. Already many countries beneficial of Chinese strategic benevolence like Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Congo, Senegal, Kazakhstan are feeling the pinch. Their politico-strategic sovereignty is under a severe threat from China. No wonder, other countries like Bangladesh, Myanmar, Maldives and many others are trying to balance their politico-strategic relationship with the middle kingdom.

Subsequent to the Galwan fiasco, after the Doklam setback in 2017 China seems to be in a catch-22 situation. It is not in a position to go for even a limited war with India while compelled to a negotiated settlement with India, has affected its perceived military capability adversely. While losing the political and military trust of India in a hurry, it has made India more emboldened and cautious.

India has suddenly gone into a military build-up overdrive with scores of new missiles and armaments that have been tested in recent months. On the politico-strategic front, much to China’s dismay, QUAD is getting into a shape while the US Navy and Air Force is constantly increasing its presence in South China Seas. Taiwan too, is getting bold and willing to face China, with the US as its protector.

Japan that till recently maintained its dependence on the US alone for its security, too has opened up and started bolstering its defences with China in mind. Countries in the region like Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam are getting into strategic dialogues with India to counter China’s strategic dominance. They are also opening up to arms imports from India. And most importantly India has started seeing itself as a strategic rival to China, more explicitly. Voices in New Delhi regarding getting closer to Taiwan, are undoubtedly a pointer in that direction. And so is the Chinese reactions when its embassy is seen publishing full page advertorials in Indian media, cautioning against abandoning the so-called One-China policy.

While military and diplomatic negotiations on disengagement and de-escalation continue between India and China, it will remain debateable if China actually gained out of its latest incursions in Ladakh. While its PLA had an element of aura till Galwan, since then questions repeatedly are being raised on the capability and leadership of the entire PLA. How far those assessments are correct or otherwise need to be seen but it seems absolutely certain that China has lost much in the process. It will have to prepare for a new, emerging politico-strategic dynamics that could well be not to its liking.

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Sino-US rivalry and the myth of Thucydides Trap

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The writer of the view that are an outcome of complex phenomena. One can’t understand them through the lens of Thucydides trap which he considers nothing short of a China-bashing myth. He points out that nuclear capability itself is a great deterrence to war adventurism.  He stresses that wars are outlandish in terms of postulates of Modern theory of Conflict Management; that states conflict is not spread by a black sheep but it is natural to human relations. It can’t be eliminated by eliminating the blacksheep. The key to success lies in keeping the conflict to its minimal point while remaining peacefully engaged with one’s adversary.

Wars end in ceasefires, “grand concerts’, and realisation that they were avoidable. That they were cumulative upshot of reciprocal stupidities of belligerents.  Post-World War II period has not witnessed any war between major powers as they realise that how destructive a nuclear war would be. The potential belligerents nowadays enjoy armchair warfare blaming one another of hostile intentions.

Fallacy of thinking templates

The best way to analyse why a war broke out in the first place is to interview the key warriors or belligerents. But, most of them stand perished in wars unable to tell their part of the story. As such, major powers rely on thinking templates like Thucydides Trap to create imaginary rivals to fit in the crucible of their templates.

Thucydides’s Trap comes about “when a rising power threatens to displace an established power. Graham Allison, in his Destined for War (page vii) says, ‘As a rapidly ascending China challenges America’s accustomed predominance, these two nations risk falling into a deadly trap  first identified by the ancient Greek historian Thucydides…He explained: It was the rise of Athens and the fear that this instilled  in Sparta that made war inevitable’. Though key players may abhor wars “unexpected events by third parties or accidents that would otherwise be inconsequential or manageable, but even ordinary flashpoints in foreign affairs, can act as sparks that trigger large-scale conflict”.  Thucydides trap could perhaps be rephrased as stupidities trap.

Arnold Toynbee once said” history is something unpleasant that happens to other people”. Through their myopic decisions rulers sleep walk into the vortex of war. They are sure that their enemies would perish both they would survive. Yet the outcomes are quite pungent. Look at the outcomes of the World War I (1914-18) and II (1939-45). When the World War I ended  in 1918, the Austro Hungarian Empire had vanished, German Kaiser ousted, Russian Tsar shown the door, France, Britain and so many other countries were left to mourn loss of depletion of their treasuries and extinction of youth  capital (scientists/engineers/doctors/teachers/intellectuals-to be). At the end of the World War II, Germany could not replace the United Kingdom. Two unexpected hegemons the erstwhile Soviet Union and the USA were born out of the womb of the war. The UK lost the fifty colonies that Hitler much talked about in his fiery speeches.

Before committing suicide, Hitler must have reminisced ‘ I was mistaken not to have thought about eliminating England as they were sons of a German tribe l’anglais who migrated to britain due to vagaries of nature’. ‘I was a fool to have ventured into the freezing Russia’. John Fitzgerald Kennedy rejected the dictum “better dead than Red”. Yet many of his decisions pushed closer and c loser to a nuclear confrontation with the Soviet Union. During post-WWII, McCarthyism had blurred American vision so much that they saw red in everywhere.

Classical versus Modern theory of conflict management

Relations and conflicts between states  

Thucydides trap takes a simplistic view of relations and conflicts between states.Thousands of years back Chanakya posited his mandal (interrelationships) doctrine.

One of his most misunderstood postulate is ‘all neighbouring countries are actual or potential enemies’. So they have to be subdued. Little attention is paid to another of his counter-balancing postulate, mandal (interrelationships) doctrine. In mandal, Chanakya thinks in terms of intersecting and just touching circles. He focuses on intersecting section of two intersecting circles like in mathematical solution set theory.

Even Kissinger, Kafka, et al, believed in establishing effective ‘spheres of influence’. Rich, powerful and progressing countries could but would not shun their poor pals in the comity of nations.

History shows that weakness invites aggression. Often militarily strong countries have attacked weaker nations with ‘litany of problems’ on one pretext or another. Economic motive could be unearthed in both modern and ancient wars. For instance, the Trojan War (1250 BC) was caused by an economic rivalry between Mycenae and Troy. Grants by Persia of good western Anatolian land to politically amenable Greeks, or to Iranians, created a casus belli for wars with rivals.

Yet all wars are justified by the now discarded  Classical Theory of Conflict management, and rejected by the Modern Theory of Conflict management.

According to modern theory of conflict management, terrorism or any conflict for that matter is not really caused by a few black sheep, as assumed under the Classical Theory of Conflict Management.

The Classical Theory says that “conflict is created by a blacksheep. If he is eliminated the conflict is eliminated there and then”. The modern theory, on the contrary postulates “No matter what you do conflict cannot be eliminated. It is natural to relations. However, through effort, it could be kept at its minimal point. And the minimal point is the optimal point”.

Fallacy of rising Dragon

It appears that Joe Biden is not a prisoner to Thucydies trap. He views rivalry with China as intense competition not as confrontation. He calls the shots but then quickly defuses the situation. For instance, to pacify furious China about `freedom of navigation’ in the South China Sea, he dispatched USS Pal Jones into the Lakshadweep waters. The aim was to send the message, that China need not fume and fret much about the Quad. The USA still thinks in terms of some principles.

Neither Sparta nor Athens was a nuclear power. If so, they would have perhaps preferred to remain engaged in a long period of cold war. In the ancient Greek world, it was Athens that threatened Sparta. In the late 19th Century, Germany challenged Britain. Today a rising China is believed to be challenging the United States. But, neither China nor the USA is structurally similar to Sparta or Athens. For ease of thinking we liken the two states to either China or the USA.

Today’s China is more inspired by Song dynasty which pushed economic progress through peace rather than wars like some other dynasties. China remarkably grew in terms of Gross Domestic product, imports, exports and reserves. But it still lags behind the USA.

China’s GDP of 7%  as a percentage of the United States’  in 1980 rose to 61 % in 2015, imports from 8%to 73%, exports from 8% to 151%, and reserves from 16% to 3140%.  Chinese economy doubled every seventh year. Still, it is no match for the USA. Chinese workers have become more productive. Yet they are quarter as productive as the American.  China still lags behind the USA in major economic indicators. Look at Chinese economic size in terms of GDP:  year 2000 ($ trillion 1.211), 2010 (($ trillion 6.101), 2016 (($ trillion 11.199). Corresponding figures for the USA are: U.S. 2010 ($ trillion 10.285), 2011 ($ trillion 14.964), 2016 ($ trillion 18.624). GDP per capita ($) for the aforementioned years from 2010 to 2016: China 940.  4,340, 8,250. U.S. 36,070, 48,950, 56,810. Researchers in R&D (per million people) China: 547.3, 903, and 1176.6. Corresponding figures for the US:  3475.7, 3868.6, and 4232. R&D expenditure (% of GDP) China:  0.896, 1.71, and 2.066. U.S.: 2.617, 2.734, and 2.794.

True, China has been the fastest-growing economy since 1979. Yet, it is nowhere near surpassing the USA even on one account that is gross Domestic Product. Heretofore are China and US figures of economic growth for the years 1977, 1987, 1997, 2003, 2008, and 2019. China: China 843,097, 1,883,027, 3,706,647,   6,187,983, 8,908,894, US$ trillion) 14.4.  USA: USA: 3,868,829, 5,290,129, 7,109,175, 8,431,121, 9,485,136, and 21.44.

Engagement not containment

Wars precede isolation. A benign corollary of Sino-US rivalry is that they are not isolating from one another but engaging in multi-dimensional economic relations.

Mr. Trump was viscerally predisposed to viewing China as a looming military threat to peripheral countries, in general, and the USA, in particular. True, Mr. Biden is also viewed as an America Firster.

Biden realises that China is much behind the USA in economic and military prowess. China trails behind the USA in terms of expenditure on its defence forces and possession of actual military equipment. Despite ongoing modernization, China spends approximately $ 5 billion in arms export far below US exports of about $ 46.5 billion. China’s sales are about three per cent of global sales while the USA’s are about 79 per cent.

The US has over 8,000 operational and inactive warheads as against China’s 240 mostly non-deployed.  The US has 2,000 nuclear weapons with strategic/intercontinental-range compared with China’s twenty. The US have sixteen ballistic missile submarines compared with China’s one, and more than 1000 US nuclear cruise missiles, compared with none for China.

The US has ten aircraft carriers plus one under construction attached to the Fifth and Seventh Fleet. China currently has two aircraft carriers, with a third in early construction, and a fourth planned for sometime in the mid-2020 or 2030s. Their first carrier, the Liaoning was commissioned by the PLAN in 2012, though it was first laid down in the early 1990s.

Shades of China’s critics

China critics in the USA are not monolithic. They have many shades including `Engagers’, `Realists’, `Duopolists’, ` China Lead’, `Declinists’ and so on.

The `Critics’ have an un-reconcilable antipathy toward China because of its repression of a wide spectrum of human rights (religious, labour, media and ethnic minority).

The `engagers’ lookup for common ground with China as a matter of national interest. The `engagers’ are optimistic that globalization, economic interdependence and rules of multilateral trade will lead to democratisation in China.

`Realist engagers’ are convinced that China has learnt lessons from the collapse of the former Soviet Union about the dangers of imperial overstretch. As such, China understands the realities of the current international system and limited capacity to change it.

`China Duopolists’ believe the USA and China could cooperate to bring into being a Chimerica (G-2), being the two most important countries.

The `China lead’ school believes China is already on the verge of replacing the USA as the world’s number-one power.

The `Declinists’ believe that the demise of the US global leadership already occurred as `Washington consensus’ has been replaced by `. It is now Beijing, not Washington that is dictating new rules to govern the international economy.

Joseph Biden belongs to the `America Firster’ School that China can’t replace the USA as number-one, even if it tries to. After visiting China, Biden wrote `the United States has nothing to fear from China since it is far ahead of China in size of the economy, per capita income, scientific innovation, and educational excellence among other indicators’ (Biden, China’s Rise Isn’t Our Demise, New York Times, September 7, 2011, online ed.).

Global Leadership

At present, China lacks the soft and hard power to supplant the USA.  To do so, China needs to:

(a) Command loyalty of the majority of the countries. (b) Initiate, innovate and articulate policies, programmes and activities, including dispensing rewards and punishments. (c) Being a `model’, worth emulating, of values, culture, language, laws, and social and political practices. (d) Excel in soft-power resources such as educational and public-health systems

Concluding remarks

Thucydides traps is a china-bashing myth. Biden is a whiff of fresh air, though he has no magic wand to change the climate and trade atmosphere.  He has promised to rebuild America’s decrepit infrastructure, spend more on health and education, and ease immigration.  He has pledged to raise tax on firms and the wealthy.

He is no revolutionary though his policies are tilted to the left of what Trump did. His job is to re-unite fractious American democracy. He is inclined to shun the personalized style of his predecessor’s rule, scorning decency and truth.

Joe understands China better than his predecessor. But, it remains to be seen how the USA would set right the topsy-turvy alliances that Trump had interwoven. Confrontation with China will make it difficult for Biden to deliver his promises to the American electorate.

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