It is naïve for Pakistan government to play China model overnight. China resents its history of humiliation at eh hands of foreign powers (forcible take-over of its sea-ports and resources). Its `religion’, now dollar-orientation, obedient labour force, enlightened leadership with a world vision, and hardwork ethos are different from Pakistan’s.
A water Kingdom
Take water aspect alone. Our lethargy marks a contrast with China’s history. There are more than 22,104 dams in China over the height of 15 m (49 ft). Of the world’s total large dams, China accounts for 20 per cent of them, 45 percent for irrigation. The oldest dam in China Dujiangyan Irrigation System dates back to 256 BC. In 2005, there were over 80,000 reservoirs in the country and over 4,800 dams completed or under construction that stands at or exceed 30 metre (98 ft) in height. As of 2007, China is also the world’s leader in the construction of large dams. The tallest dam in China is the Jinping-I Dam at 305 metre (1,001 ft), an arch dam, which is also the tallest dam in the world. The largest reservoir is created by the Three Gorges Dam, which stores 39.3 billion m3 (31,900,000 acre feet) of water and has a surface area of 1,045 km2 (403 sq mi). Three Gorges is also the world’s largest power station.
Yet, water is scarce in China. The country provides only one-quarter of the global average water per person. Despite international furore about ecological and human disasters due to dam building, China went ahead unruffled. Small dams are built even in rain-water catchment areas, Philip Ball, in The Water Kingdom; A Secret History of China, p. 293) observes `China lacks a strong tradition of environmental protection, but is in that respect no different to the West’. While building dams, particularly the Three Gorges, China shrugged off international uproar at human displacement. We could not even develop consensus on Kala Bagh among our provinces?
China’s Marxist-social metamorphosis
China was able to bridge the stark differences that existed between rural and urban lifestyles. The hukou system was designed to prevent rural to urban migration.
Our banking sector has consumer orientation. The Chinese system with about 37 tiers has investment orientation.
China `entertained’ foreign investors in every possible way. `In 2001, a count of the out-of wedlock children produced by Shenzhen’s working women and mistresses over two decades numbered 5,20,000…the sex industry is one of the few robust conduits of money backs to China’s impoverished areas (Ted C. Fishman, China Inc. 2003, p. 98). There are karaoke clubs to entertain burly foreign investors.
Aside from Tiananmen Square political protest, China has no tradition of industrial protests. `A fundamental problem with the Chinese working class is that it was disorganized and its protests were often leaderless (Alvin Y.So and Yin Wah Chu, The Global Rise of China, p.144). The so-called unions just collected funds to organise birthday parties and recreational events. In November 1999, the government announced new rules for public gatherings regarding assemblies larger than 200 to obtain approval from local public-security authorities.
Marxism, too, had different trajectory in China. It first arrived in China in late nineteenth century. Around 1899, Communist Manifesto was first translated into Chinese. Many strands of Marxism were involved in overthrowing Qing dynasty. China’s metamorphosis to present-day status was not a straight-path transition. It witnessed several cataclysmic changes, even conspiracies, national and international. It was a turbulent period in lives of political elites and also global status of the country. Following Chinese nuclear explosions, USA and USSR even mulled option to strike at Chinese nuclear installations. Yet, Chinese deft diplomacy helped it avert the threat. China, later, even got recognized as a permanent member of the United Nation’s Security Council.
Divested of morality, an ordinary Chinese consider it just normal to give or take `body pleasure’ for money. In Khanewal some Chinese engineers scuffled with police when it tried to prevent them from going to a `red-light area’. Recently some Chinese gangs have been busted at Faislalabad, Lahore and Rawalpindi for fake marriages with Pakistani girls including some underage and later exploiting them as sex slaves (Dawn, Tribune, etc dated May 9, 2019). The police recovered illicit aphrodisiac `drugs’, `gold ornaments’, `dowry’, Chinese passports and weapons. It is generally believed that the arrests are just a tip of the iceberg. In some Karachi areas, Chinese have rented congested adjacent housing units in various Karachi areas and turned them into `out of bound’ to Pakistanis. What they do there is anybody’s guess. Traditionally, Chinese prefer to develop and live in China towns wherever they go on the globe. In Pakistan, they have avoided doing so as what they eat (cats, dogs, monkey brains, insects) may sound revulsive and non-kosher to Pakistani onlookers.
The FIA’s human trafficking cell headed by Deputy Director Nadeem Zafar, in an intelligence based operation recovered three Pakistani women and detained 27 Chinese nationals who were allegedly involved in the trafficking of Pakistani women on the false pretext of marriages. The Chinese gang in cahoots with Pakistani go-betweens is making use of internet to attract girls for marriage. Similar gangs are active in Nepal who buy women and take them to China. An underage Pakistani girl revealed that she had married a Chinese man who pretended to be Muslim on the internet but later she found out that the he is an atheist.
The accused conned Pakistani families by `marrying’ girls with the help of local agents and the victims were subjected to sexual exploitation after being trafficked to China soon after their ‘fake’ marriage. Chinese embassy had also tweet-reacted on the reports of the cross-national marriages saying: “Chinese laws and regulations strictly prohibited cross-national matchmaking centres and we hope that the public does not believe in misleading information and work together to safeguard China-Pakistan friendship”.
Chinese campaign against social evils
During the early years1950-54, the Chinese government embarked upon campaign to uproot social vices, a `legacy of the old society’. Brothels in Beijing were closed and prostitutes and procurers were arrested. Opium-smoking and gambling apparatus were confiscated. Mao’s actress wife, Jiang Qing (1938) shared Mao’s vision of empowerment of young people and their promotion to party positions.
Since nineteenth century May fourth and the New Culture Movement influenced literature, poetry and intellectual contributions. `The True Story of AhQ’ was the first-ever true story to be published in vernacular Chinese, as spoken by ordinary Chinese.
Mao Zedong (born 1893, Hunan) went to Beijing in 1918. He worked for some time in Peking University’s library. There he became associated with Li Dachau and Chen Duxio, co-founders of Chinese Communist Party, and became a Marxist. On September 21, 1949, Mao Zedong proclaimed to the world, `Our nation will never again be an insulted nation. He envisioned an ideal party of workers, peasants and soldiers. This vision was in stark contrast with alternative vision of a party of intellectuals, technocrats, religious leaders, overseas Chinese and former capitalists. For one thing, the Chinese leaderships have all along been bottoms-up not tops-down. On September 21, 1949, Mao Zedong proclaimed to the world, `Our nation will never again be an insulted nation. He envisioned an ideal party of workers, peasants and soldiers. This vision was in stark contrast with Liu Deng’s vision of a party of intellectuals, technocrats, religious leaders, overseas Chinese and former capitalists.
Mao’s Cultural Revolution (1964-76) was no bed of roses. During 1964-66, intra-elite transformation was in a state of flux. Radical years 1966-66 witnessed mass mobilization. During 1967-69, an imaginary May 16 Conspiracy led to arrest of two strands of leading radical figures, 25 of 29 Party first secretaries was sacked. Lin Biao became Mao’s closest `comrade in arms’ and heir apparent. He masterminded a plot to assassinate Mao, fled towards Mongolia in airplane and was killed in air crash. Period 1968-76 was marked by demobilization, palace intrigues, popular anxiety and subsequent reforms. (Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom (ed.), The Oxford Illustrated History of Modern China).
The Chinese experience of symbiotic relation between political stat ability and economic progress is different from other countries. China’s history does not corroborate democracy-and -development zeitgeist. China underwent different phases of political orientation 1985-1988 liberal neo-authoritarianism, 1989-1992 neo-totalitarianism, 1993-1996 hard authoritarianism, 1997-2008 soft authoritarianism, 2009-2015 hard authoritarianism, 2016-2018 fluid merit-based authoritarianism. Its political future is constrained by economic transformation of its society. Economic well-being has created a tsunami of expectations. China’s income per capita per annum is US$ 7,593. It has 1.09 millionaires and world’s second largest number of billionaires. Chinese urbanites now possess ‘four rounds’ (a bicycle, a wrist watch, a sewing machine, and a washing machine) and `three electrics’ (a television, a refrigerator, and a private telephone connection).
China’s political future?
What lies ahead for China? Its political orientation in future will be determined, inter alia, by stability in its political periphery including Xinjiang (Uighur unrest), Tibet, Hong Kong and Taiwan. There have been riots at Lhasa (March 2008), Urumqi (July 2009 and May 2014), and at Hotan and Kashgar (July 2011)
USA’s bully position in South China Sea and its hard line on trade with China also will affect China’s political orientation. The real American aim was to bring home to China that it does not care a fig about Chinese occupation of Manila-claimed isles of Mischief Reef (1995) and Scarborough Shoal (2012). During recent US exercise in South China Sea, a Phillipino general said, “Since Americans are our friends in one way or another; they can help us deter any threat.” US entente against North Korea, India’s reign of terror in Kashmir and terrorist infiltration into Pakistan from Afghan border are windows into US intentions against China and Pakistan.
In any case, trajectory of China’s political future is fluid. It may vacillate between various levels of authoritarianism and semi-democracy. None of them looks like even a quasi-semi-democracy. Yet, Chinese authoritarianism (recall Tiannenmon Square) will continue to heat up Chinese economy to boiling point.
How leaders transform societies?
Pakistan’s prime minister’s office is at stone’s throw from his sprawling 300-kanal-and-10-marla residential estate. But he prefers to fly to and fro office with his dog. His predecessor also were fond of flying in helicopters rather than in motor cavalcades. When heli-borne leaders like them look down upon people, they look like pygmies, insects and then vanish. Perhaps that’s the reason `mahatma’ Gandhi walked around 18 km a day for nearly 40 years. From 1913 to 1948, he walked 79,000 km — equivalent to walking twice around earth. He travelled a lot in third-class railway apartment also to deliver speeches en route about swaraj (freedom). Similarly, Mao Zedong travelled over 6000 kilometers in Long March to create awareness in people. kilometers to create political awareness. Mao’s struggle reflects China’s fascinating Marxist transformation.
China’s metamorphosis to present-day status was not a straight-path transition. It witnessed several cataclysmic changes, even conspiracies, national and international. It was a turbulent period in lives of political elites and also global status of the country.
Around 1899, Communist Manifesto was first translated into Chinese. Many strands of Marxism were involved in overthrowing Qing dynasty. Following Chinese nuclear explosions, USA and USSR even mulled option to strike at Chinese nuclear installations. Yet, Chinese deft diplomacy helped it avert the threat. During the early years1950-54, the government embarked upon campaign to uproot social vices, a `legacy of the old society’. Brothels in Beijing were closed and prostitutes and procurers were arrested. Opium-smoking and gambling apparatus were confiscated. Mao’s actress wife, Jiang Qing (1938) shared Mao’s vision of empowerment of young people and their promotion to party positions.
Since nineteenth century May fourth and the New Culture Movement influenced literature, poetry and intellectual contributions. `The True Story of AhQ’ was the first-ever true story to be published in vernacular Chinese, as spoken by ordinary Chinese.
Mao Zedong (born 1893, Hunan) went to Beijing in 1918. He worked for some time in Peking University’s library. There he became associated with Li Dachau and Chen Duxio, co-founders of Chinese Communist Party, and became a Marxist. On September 21, 1949, Mao Zedong proclaimed to the world, `Our nation will never again be an insulted nation. He envisioned an ideal party of workers, peasants and soldiers. This vision was in stark contrast with Liu Deng’s vision of a party of intellectuals, technocrats, religious leaders, overseas Chinese and former capitalists.
Mao’s Cultural Revolution (1964-76) was no bed of roses. During 1964-66, intra-elite transformation was in a state of flux. Radical years 1966-66 witnessed mass mobilization. During 1967-69, an imaginary May 16 Conspiracy led to arrest of two sands of leading radical figures, 25 of 29 Party first secretaries was sacked. Lin Biao became Mao’s closest `comrade in arms’ and heir apparent. He masterminded a plot to assassinate Mao, fled towards Mongolia in airplane and was killed in air crash. Period 1968-76 was marked by demobilization, palace intrigues, popular anxiety and subsequent reforms. Both Gandhi and Mao had a vision which they shared with people. Could our `change’-chanting leaders do so?
Pakistani sand-dune `leaders’ sans Weltanschanschauung?
Bolman and Deal say `Great leadership begins when a leader’s world view [Weltanschanschauung] and personal story, honed over years of experience, meet a situation that both presents challenges and opportunities’. They add, `Great leaders test and evolve their story over time, experimenting, polishing abandoning plot lines that don’t work, and re-inventing those that do. Bad stories often lead to disaster, but good ones conjure magic’(Lee G. Bolman and Terrence E Deal, How Great Leaders Think: The Art of Reframing, 2014, Jossey-Bass, page 193). Weltanschauung is a German word which literally means `world view’. The word combines “Welt” (“world”) with “Anschauung” (“view”), which ultimately derives from the Middle High German verb schouwen (“to look at” or “to see”). It is a particular philosophy or view of life; the world views of an individual or group. It is a concept fundamental to German philosophy and epistemology and refers to a wide world perception. Additionally, it refers to the framework of ideas and beliefs forming a global description through which an individual, group or culture watches and interprets the world and interacts with it.
Study of leadership styles across swathes of literature indicates that the two traits, a `world view’ and a `story line’ are common in all business leaders (Steve Job, Penny, Eisner, Ford, and Rockefeller). Or, in political leaders like Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Lincoln, whether you abhor or adore them. Some management texts sum up leadership styles (Robert Blake and Jane Mouton) through grids of `concern for people’ (country club, human orientation) and `concern for results’ (task orientation). The leaders share their `world view’ with people who fall in line to leave behind a legacy, a story.
Hitler, otherwise viewed as a psychopath, explains his `world view in Chapter 1 of his autobiography (Weltenschauung and party, page 298) Mein Kampf (My Struggle). He says `Thus we brought to knowledge of public those first principles and lines of action along which the new struggle was to be conducted for the abolition of a confused mass of obsolete ideas which had obscure and often pernicious tendencies’. In his autobiography (written in prison), Hitler reviews all aspects of German life, the World War I defeat, collapse of the Second Reich, `the mask of Federalism’, `propaganda and organisation’, `German post-War policy of alliances’, and Germany’s policy in Eastern Europe’. His efforts to forge alliances with adversaries reflect that he was a rational flexible man. Napoleon’s `world view’ (like Julius Caesar’s) is less pronounced than his lust for `power’ and contempt for `constitution’ (a la ZA Bhutto, Zia, et al). Pakistan’s prime ministers and prime-ministers-to-be forgot French jurist Jean Bodin’s dictum `majesta est summa in civas ac subditoes legibusque salute potestas, that is ‘highest power over citizens and subjects is unrestrained by law’ (Roedad Khan, Pakistan: A Dream Gone Sour, p. 179.). Napoleon told Moreau de Lyonne, “The constitution, what is it but a heap of ruins. Has it not been successively the sport of every party?” “Has not every kind of tyranny been committed in its name since the day of its establishment?”
During his self-crowning in 1804, Napoleon said, “What is the throne, a bit of wood gilded and covered with velvet. I am the state. I alone am here, the representative of the people”. Take gen Zia. While addressing a press conference in Teheran, he said, “What is the Constitution?” “It is a booklet with ten or twelve pages. I can tear them up and say that from tomorrow we shall live under a different system. Is there anybody to stop me? Today the people will follow wherever I lead them. All the politicians including the once mighty Mr. Bhutto will follow me with their tail wagging (ibid. pp. 87-88). Dicey said, “No Constitution can be absolutely safe from a Revolution or a coup detat”.
Today, Pakistan has no leader, like Quaid-e-Azam, with a `world view’, no `story line’ of sustained committed struggle. MJ Akber rightly observes `The [Pakistani] political leaders act like sand dunes. They move in the direction the wind blows’ (Akber, In Pakistan Today, Mittal Publications, New Delhi, p. 216). John R. Schmidt agrees, ` The mainstream political parties in Pakistan can best be viewed as patronage networks, whose primary goal is seeking political offices to gain access to state resources, which can then be used to distribute patronage among their members’ (The Unravelling, Pakistan in the Age of jihad, pages 36-37). Why it is so? Stanley A. Kochanek unpuzzles the conundrum by pointing out `Parties in Pakistan are built from the top-down and are identified with their founders. The office holders are appointed by the leader. Membership rolls are largely bogus and organizational structure exists only on paper’ (Interest groups and Development, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1983, p.64). `Most political parties are non-democratic in their structure, character and outlook. The process for leadership selection is not by election, but by nomination. Political parties have no links with policy process as personalities rather than issues matter’ (Saeed Shafqat, Contemporary Issues in Pakistan Studies, pp. 247-256).
Do the people in a land of sand-dunes have the right to revolt? Liberalist philosophers suggests there is a limit beyond which obedience to rule of law is no longer sacrosanct. Locke suggests when government no longer fulfils its duty to provide for the common good, individuals have the right to rebel against it; the [social] contract has been broken’.
Human beings created a social contract wherein they bartered some of their naturally derived freedom to get security from a sovereign ruler. They did so as in a state of nature they were `solitary, poor, nasty, brutish …’ (Hobbes).Locke suggests when government no longer fulfils its duty to provide for the common good, individuals have the right to rebel against it; the [social] contract has been broken’. The US Declaration of Independence a‘ la Locke provides that it is citizens’ duty to throw off a despotic government and provide new Guards for their Security.
An average Pakistani believes that revolutions are not made, they come about from Heavens. He is unmindful that a revolution, revolt or rebellion is `as natural a growth as an oak’ (Wendell Phillips). Yet, the bitter truth is that `a government which is united’ [by mafias in every sphere of life] `cannot be toppled’ (Plato). Apathy had been a feature of pre-partition society also. Till 1857, Moghal `emperors’ lived on British dole, less than one lac (Jaswant Singh’s Jinnah: Partition, India Pakistan). History of intruders is no history (Marx).Only a handful of rajputs committed johar (suicide en mass like Jews at Masada) when besieged or defeated.
The masses remained silent spectators to War of Independence (Sepoy Mutiny 1857) and isolated uprisings in Bengal _ Faraizi movement 1830-57, Santal Pargana 1855, Indigo districts 1859-61, Tushkhali 1855, Indigo districts 1872-75, Pabna 1873, Chhagalnaiya 1874, Mymensingh 1874-1882 and Munshigang 1980-81. David Hume, not any Indian, created Congress followed by four English presidents.
Aware of selfishness of the Indian people, the British created a class of chiefs (chieftains) to suit their need for loyalists, war fund raisers and recruiters in post -`mutiny’ period and during the Second World War. Peek into the pre-partition gazetteers and you would know the patri-lineage of today’s’ tiwanas, nawabs, pirs, syed faqirs, qizilbash, kharrals, gakhars, and their ilk. A gubernatorial gazetteer states, `I have for many years felt convinced that the time had arrived for the Government to try to introduce some distinction for those who can show hereditary services before the Hon’ble Company’s rule in India ceased. I have often said that I should be proud to wear a Copper Order, bearing merely the words `Teesri pusht Sirkar Company ka Naukar’.
Some pirs and mashaikh even quoted verses from Holy Quran to justify allegiance to Englishman (amir), after loyalty to Allah and the Messenger (PBUH). They pointed out that Quran ordained that ihsan (favour) be returned with favour. The ihsan were British favours like titles (khan bahadur etc), honorary medals, khilat with attached money rewards, life pensions, office of honorary magistrate, assistant commissioner, courtier, etc. A tiwana military officer even testified in favour of O’Dwyer when the latter was under trial.
Gandhi astutely perceived psyche of the Indians (Pakistanis included) (a la Tolstoy’s A Letter to a Hindu) that Indians themselves allowed themselves to be colonized for their own material interests. Otherwise there was no way 30,000 `rather weak and ill-looking Britons could enslave 200 million `vigorous, clever, strong, and freedom loving people (Stegler, 2000). He lamented that Indians had become `sly sycophants and willing servants of the Empire thereby proving to the world that they were morally unfit to serve the country. Gandhi’s ethos sound reverberated in revolutionary ideologies of several revolutionary movements. If government and people are nationalistic, there would be no need to overthrow them (Lincoln’s dictum `Government of the people for …’). SunYat-sen (China) translated Lincoln’s principles into nationalism, democracy and socialism. Marx theory of society postulated that economics determines the socio-political realities. Marx visualized god as creation of human hands, rather than His hand guiding the humans. Lenin envisioned a professional core to lead the revolution.
Mao like Gandhi was rueful at passivity and docility of people. He wanted people to struggle (douzheng) to smash prevailing social inhibitions in such a dramatic and traumatic way that participants could never again re-establish their pre-struggle relationship. Mao says `If you want to know the taste of a pear, you must change the pear by eating it yourself. If you want to know the theory and methods of revolution you must take part in revolution. All genuine knowledge originates in direct experience’. `A person learns to swim in the water not in a library’ [of how-to-swim books] (Paulo Freire). Sanerro Luminoso (the Shining Path) also advocated Mao’s ideas of prolonged guerilla warfare as the only way to overthrow the government. Paulo Freire points out “To affirm that men and women are persons and parsons should be free and yet do nothing tangible to make this affirmation a reality is a farce’.
Ayub Khan added the chapter of 22 families to the English-raj aristocracy. About 460 scions of the pre-partition chiefs along with industrial barons created in Ayub era are returned again and again to assemblies. Pakistan’s successive ruling coteries are a miracle that defies common sense and principles of political science. Pakistan’s sand-dune rulers could not come up with, at least a uniform education, healthcare and housing policy.
China’s leaders and morality is different from Pakistan’s. Pakistanis are `committed’ to Islamic orientation. It is however questionable why Islamic clauses in Pakistan’s constitution became a hostage to miniscule obscurantist minority. Those claiming to transform Pakistan could learn a lot from Mao Zedong. He first understood principles of socialism, and then travelled over 6000 kilometers to create awareness in people. Do our leaders have any vision, ideology?
Ukraine’s losses are China’s gains
The conflict in Ukraine will have major strategic consequences for Chinese foreign policy in the Indo-Pacific. It will promote the deepening of Russian–Chinese economic cooperation that will make both countries more resilient to Western economic pressure. Long-term instability in Europe will make it more difficult for the United States to boost its Pacific presence for years to come with significant US financial and military resources being drawn toward supporting Ukraine.
The conflict has demonstrated that the West is not able to impose sanctions on a major economy without damaging its own stability. The war has also shown the effectiveness of the Russian nuclear deterrent, making even a limited Western intervention unthinkable.
China will be the main beneficiary of the Ukraine crisis. But this is not reflected in China’s political rhetoric which has been carefully calculated to avoid any major fallout with the European Union and other developed countries, while also maintaining close cooperation with Russia.
The official Chinese position has remained consistent with the statement made by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in February 2022 at the outbreak of the war: China is concerned with the violence and wants it to stop. It maintains that the territorial integrity and security interests of all parties need to be respected. China also maintains that NATO enlargement is partially responsible for the crisis.
On the economic front, China has seized the major strategic opportunities provided by the war. During the first four months of 2022, trade between Russia and China increased by 25.9 per cent. Russian exports to China grew by 37.8 per cent, to US$30.85 billion. The physical volume of natural gas exports also jumped 15 per cent.
China is in line to supplant the European Union as Russia’s main economic partner. The Chinese Ambassador to Russia Zhang Hanhui has called upon Chinese businesspeople to ‘fill the void’ left in the Russian market by outgoing Western businesses. Cooperation with China has contributed to Russia’s federal budget surplus between January–April 2022 despite the war. Maintaining this financial and economic stability appears to be Russia’s strategy as it continues to press in Ukraine.
By 2023, most or all bilateral trade is expected to be conducted in renminbi. Chinese companies and brands will likely dominate large segments of the Russian consumer market and will become Russia’s key industrial and technological partners. There is also a growing trend towards a large part of Russian trade being conducted with third countries in renminbi.
With the expected expansion of the logistical infrastructure, China will obtain a major source of strategic commodities. China will be able to procure these commodities at significant discounts because Russia will be isolated from many other markets and China will be using its own currency. This will significantly reduce the West’s ability to leverage economic pressure points against China.
Some of China’s top-tier global companies are visibly reducing their presence in Russia because secondary sanctions could affect their operations in international markets. But cooperation in many areas will be overtaken by second-tier corporations with limited or no global exposure. Such companies will still be powerful enough to operate in the Russian market. Their operations will be serviced by specialised banks with no exposure in the West, like in Iran.
Strategically, this transition — coupled with deep internal changes in the Russian political economy — will make Russia largely immune to economic warfare. For the foreseeable future, the West will have no other means to deter Russia in Europe except for costly military options. In turn, this will provide major strategic opportunities for China in the Pacific.
The military lessons of the war for China are too early and too difficult to assess based on available data. One characteristic of the Ukrainian conflict is an unprecedented scale of propaganda and misinformation from all sides.
But two clear lessons have emerged from the war so far. First, US and NATO allies will always try to avoid a direct military confrontation with a major nuclear power. Even if a power is fighting a full-scale war at their doorstep. Second, economic war on Russia has caused significant problems for Western economies, including rising inflationary pressures and falling growth rates. Any comparable actions against China, an economy ten times bigger, will devastate much of the world economy. This makes any such action extremely unlikely.
From our partner RIAC
Taiwan dispute, regional stability in East Asia and US policy towards it
In the 1950s, armed confrontation erupted between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC) over vital islands in the Taiwan Strait. ROC-controlled islands were bombarded by the PRC on two distinct occasions in the 1950s. The US retaliated by acting actively on favor of the ROC. Tensions in the Taiwan Strait were exacerbated by US policy toward East Asia during the early Cold War. In late 1949 and early 1950, American authorities were prepared to allow PRC forces to cross the Taiwan Strait and defeat Chiang, but when the Korean War broke out in June 1950, the US moved its Seventh Fleet into the Taiwan Strait to keep the conflict from expanding south. The advent of the Seventh Fleet enraged the Chinese Communists, who moved soldiers from Taiwan to the Korean front in preparation for an attack. This served to postpone military conflict in the Strait until after the Korean War, when the US withdrew its fleet.
Beijing claims there is only “One China,” of which Taiwan is a part. It considers the People’s Republic of China to be China’s only legitimate government, a position it refers to as the “One-China concept,” and desires Taiwan’s eventual “unification” with the mainland.
China, Mongolia, Taiwan, Tibet, and the South China Sea remain part of the ROC, according to Taiwan’s KMT-drafted constitution. The KMT opposes Taiwan’s independence and has repeatedly advocated for tighter ties with China. However, in light of recent election setbacks, KMT leaders have pondered whether the party’s position on the 1992 Consensus should be changed. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the KMT’s main adversary, has never supported the 1992 Consensus’s understanding. President Tsai, who is also the DPP’s leader, has refused to recognize the consensus in writing. Instead, she has endeavored to find a different formulation that Beijing will accept. Tsai declared she was “Elected President in accordance with the Constitution of the Republic of China,” which is a One-China document, and that she would “Safeguard the Sovereignty and Territory of the Republic of China” in her 2016 inaugural address. Tsai also promised to “Handle Cross-Strait Affairs in accordance with the Republic of China Constitution, the Act Governing Relations Between People of Taiwan Area and the People of the Mainland Area, and other applicable legislation.” Beijing, on the other hand, rejected this statement and severed ties with Taiwan.
UN Membership Status for Taiwan
China directly rejects the participation of Taiwan in other international organizations that only allow governments to join. Taiwan complains its absence on a regular basis, while the US advocates for Taiwan’s meaningful involvement in such groups. Taiwan, on the other hand, is a member of over forty organizations, the most of which are regional in nature, such as the Asian Development Bank and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum, as well as the World Trade Organization. On several additional bodies, it has observer or other status. Only fourteen countries have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan. No government has ever maintained formal diplomatic relations with both China and Taiwan at the same time.
Economic Situation of Taiwan
Taiwan’s economy is still based on trade with China, the island’s most important commercial partner. However, their economic relationship has been strained in recent years, partially as a result of Beijing’s pressure on Taiwan and Taiwanese leaders’ rising concerns about the island’s overdependence on Chinese trade. President Ma, who served from 2008 to 2016, signed over twenty agreements with the PRC, notably the 2010 Cross-Straits Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement, in which the two countries agreed to remove trade barriers. Direct sea, air, and mail ties between China and Taiwan were reestablished after decades of prohibition. They also agreed that banks, insurers, and other financial service providers would be permitted to operate in both markets. Tsai’s main program, the New Southbound Policy, has had some success in increasing trade and investment with Southeast Asian and Indo-Pacific countries. Between 2016, when the project was announced, and 2021, trade between Taiwan and the eighteen nations increased by more than $50 billion. Nonetheless, Taiwan’s exports to China reached an all-time high in 2021. Beijing has exerted pressure on other countries to refrain from signing free trade deals with Taiwan. Only a few nations have signed free trade agreements with the island, with New Zealand and Singapore being the only industrialized economies to do so.
The United States and the People’s Republic of China established formal diplomatic ties in 1979. At the same time, it cut diplomatic ties with the ROC and terminated their mutual defense treaty. However, the US maintains a strong unofficial relationship with the island, selling defense weapons to its military. Beijing has frequently pushed the US to stop sending weapons to Taiwan and to cut ties with the country. The United States’ strategy is guided by its One-China policy. It is based on a number of documents, including three US-China communiqués issued in 1972, 1978, and 1982; the Taiwan Relations Act, passed by the US Congress in 1979; and President Ronald Reagan’s recently disclosed “Six Assurances”, which he delivered to Taiwan in 1982. According to these documents, the United States:
“Acknowledges the Chinese stance that there is only one China and Taiwan is a part of China” and that the PRC is the “only lawful government of China”
Disposes the use of force to resolve the conflict; maintains cultural, commercial, and other ties with Taiwan through the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), commits to selling arms to Taiwan for self-defense and maintains the ability to come to Taiwan’s defense while not committing to do so, a policy known as Strategic Ambiguity was created.
The major purpose of the United States is to maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and it has urged both Beijing and Taipei to do so. It declares that it opposes Taiwanese independence. For decades, the US has tried to strike a careful balance between backing Taiwan and avoiding a confrontation with China through its policy of strategic ambiguity.
Over Chinese protests, the US strengthened ties with Taiwan under President Donald Trump, selling over $18 billion in armaments to the military and erecting a $250 million facility for its de facto embassy in Taipei. Tsai and Trump spoke by phone before Trump’s inauguration, the greatest degree of engagement between the two since 1979. He also dispatched several top administration officials to Taipei, including a cabinet member, and the State Department lifted long-standing limitations on where and how US officials can meet with their Taiwanese counterparts during his final days in office.
Biden’s Administrative and Military Relations with Taiwan
The Biden administration has taken a similar approach, maintained arms shipments and endorsed Trump’s decision to allow US officials to meet with Taiwanese officials more freely. Biden was the first president of the United States to invite Taiwanese officials to the inauguration. The US regularly sails ships across the Taiwan Strait to demonstrate its military presence in the region, and it has encouraged Taiwan to raise its defense budget. The United States has been more supportive of Taiwan in recent years than it had been before China adopted a rejectionist stance toward the current Taiwanese government. On cross-strait problems, Tsai has been noticeably and consistently moderate. The fact that she would push the limit by declaring full formal independence is not a risk Beijing has to be concerned about. During Tsai’s presidency, Washington has increased its support for Taiwan, primarily in response to Beijing’s increasing pressure on the island. The Biden administration has a variety of grievances about Chinese behavior and its coercion of Taiwan has been towards the top of that list, as seen by congressional legislation and presidential and administration policy comments.
U-S Implications for Strategic Stability over Taiwan Issues
Strategic stability refers to a condition in which both the United States and China can pursue their key national interests without jeopardizing, if not increasing, regional and global stability. Such strategic stability may also help to establish a pattern of bilateral relations that decreases the likelihood of accidental conflict particularly military conflict while simultaneously enhancing the possibilities for future collaboration. However, the reality on all three sides make stability appear like a far-off dream. Beijing has made it obvious that it feels its national might is quickly expanding and that it will soon be enough to exercise diplomatic, economic, and military supremacy, at least in the western Pacific. Furthermore, the realities of Beijing’s expanding power have allowed it to engage in resentment diplomacy, accusing the US and other foreign powers of being responsible for China’s “Century of Humiliation” and demanding retribution. If strategic stability is to be achieved, it must begin here for the US to change its policies toward Taiwan and China, they must opt.
Both militaries have increased their capabilities in order to dissuade and defeat the other. The two countries have moved from rivalry to conflict, and both have made establishing Taiwan’s future the focal point of that clash on numerous occasions. Taiwan, whether you call it a pawn or not, is caught in the crossfire. As a result, lowering tensions over Taiwan might be the first step toward avoiding potentially devastating instability and, possibly, developing a cautious trust on both sides that other lingering problems can be resolved successfully. A reinforced US policy of dual deterrence, coupled with authoritative assurance, can be a first step toward restoring trust in enormous strategic stability between these two superpowers.
Fujian Aircraft Carrier Owes Its Existence to the BRI
With China officially launching its aircraft carrier Fujian, questions have arisen concerning such a development. Here, we have answered some questions on different levels according to the timeline, so as to present a clearer picture of the situation, showing the close relations between China’s economy and the country’s national defense.
As things stand, the vessel, referred to as a Type 003 carrier, owes its existence to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the “golden decade” in its economic development.
The emergence of the BRI requires China to defend its maritime routes. In the hypothetical scenario where the BRI does not exist, China’s geopolitical interest would not have expanded to the extent that a blue-water navy is necessary. Ukraine for instance has no navy at all, yet it still can control the Black Sea with shore-based “Harpoon” missiles. Therefore, without global interests, there would be no aircraft carrier today.
It should be remembered that not only the construction, but also the maintenance of aircraft carriers would require financial resources, and such resources were obtained through China’s economic development. In Russia’s case, after the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the collapse of Russia’s economy, its aircraft carrier fleet had to be disbanded, and this is a good example of the relations between the national defense with the economy. It is precisely because of the “Golden Decade” of China’s economy that laid the foundation for the country to establish its blue-water navy today.
The next question is, why did China launch the BRI? How did such an initiative come into being?
With China emerging as the major manufacturer for the rest of the world, conflicts follow suit. Furthermore, overcapacity eventually kept the price down, then came the overstocked inventory and debts. In resolving such issues, I had thought of the principle of the Marshall Plan, and this formed the predecessor and foundation of the BRI. Any detailed discussion on this topic would be long and arduous, yet in essence, the focus is on transferring production capacity, increasing investment in the world, transferring capital, and so on. These are all, in fact, related to resolving China’s own problems, that is to maintain its stable development.
This suggestion has attracted the attention of the Chinese leadership, and related policies were eventually introduced. After such a formation process, the policy was finally implemented as the BRI. It is now harder for the public to find books and narratives about the formation process of the BRI. The reason is that most did not go through such a process at all, and many only participated in it later. This, of course, does not mean that the policy formation process did not exist. After all, there is cause and effect for everything. As for the subsequent implementation results of the grand plan of the BRI, how a large number of projects went out of control is a different story, with its own causes and consequences.
The final question is, why did the “golden decade” come into play in China?
The BRI has created numerous demands, as was originally intended. In those years, not only did Chinese enterprises become larger and more prominent, but the annual growth rate of the government’s fiscal year also far exceeded the growth rate of GDP. It was such an accumulation of financial resources that supported the construction and development of aircraft carriers and other grand projects.
It is common knowledge that China’s economy entered a high growth stage after the year 2000. The annual economic growth rate was more than 10%, i.e., at a double-digit growth stage. Even when faced with the Wall Street financial crisis in 2008, China reacted by issuing an RMB 4 trillion economic stimulus package and the crisis did not impact the country much. The downturn in China’s economy was something that happened after 2012, and there are hard data that can prove this.
The so-called “golden decade” refers to an approximate time period where the main growth drivers are as follows: 1. The presence of a large amount of foreign investment and the continuous investment of foreign companies in China, making the country the world’s factory during that time. 2. China’s large number of net exports supported its economic growth. 3. Urbanization drove the development of the real estate sector, which in turn pushed the Chinese consumption and supported the economic growth. 4. China’s currency issuance, as well as investment, had driven its economic development. As it is well-known, the country’s economic growth is investment-driven. These factors worked together to form China’s “golden decade” and promote the rise of its economy into a salient global force.
The financial resources generated enabled the country to undertake various projects, including constructing aircraft carriers. Some of these projects were unimaginable in the past, yet China managed to accomplish them, such as high-speed rail networks, manned spaceflight, and so on. However, all these needed both demand and money. Of course, demand and money do not exist out of thin air, and there are driving factors behind them.
As an independent think tank, ANBOUND has the honor of participating in these great processes to a certain extent at a fundamental level through the construction of public policies, as well as in policy formation. Here, we briefly introduce some of the logical relationships and basic principles.
Looking into the future, China will face continuous challenges. From the point of view of naval projects such as aircraft carriers, as an important military asset in the future, their very existence will require more financial resources. To sustain them, China will either need to continue gaining money or it will need to tighten its belt. These are the only two options left for China.
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