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?
Targeting the ‘Heart of Eurasia’: China’s Xinjiang and US’ Game Plan
The cat is out of the bag now, clearly! While it never was a secret, it is becoming increasingly evident that US’ recent posturing over Xinjiang is a tool in America’s commercial war against China, and human rights’ mantra is only a pretext. Importantly, these moves by the US are targeting not only China but threaten the whole region of central Eurasia, and beyond, in more ways than one.
If human rights in any way represented genuine US concerns, most of trade between the US on one hand and countries like India and Israel on the other must have come to a halt by now. In Xinjiang’s case, it is realpolitik, human rights is only a cover.
The latest US move aims to hit hard at key exports from Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR), citing – without any internationally accepted evidence – that the goods exported from this Chinese region involve ‘forced labor.’
How and where from has this ‘forced labor’ emerged suddenly? The US’ legislators and a whole barrage of international anti-China propaganda machinery are trying to make the world believe that China has established a large number of camps where people are forced to do certain works, against their will. And who is propagating this? The same global machinery that left no stone unturned in making the world believe that Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) – based on this, they invaded Iraq, killed millions of people, destroyed the country pushing it back by decades, and the nation is still finding it hard to pull itself together. The world even today sees no dependable traces of WMDs in Iraq, which was the primary pretext of a war that devastated Iraq, and played havoc with America’s own economy.
Xinjiang, and China, luckily are by no means an easy prey, as was Iraq. Hence, the war against them is centered on economic attacks, mainly, in addition to pumping up the Uygur diaspora abroad.
A large number of people coming out of vocational training centers that China has established across XUAR – that the US in particular and ant-China global lobby in general tries to sell as ‘camps’ – tell us different, and very encouraging, stories. Over past months, these training centers have trained thousands of people in a variety of vocational fields, equipping them with skills necessary to live respectable lives in a fast growing and expanding economy. These centers have produced skilled, responsive and dynamic workforce catering to the needs of an emerging modern economy. Industrial workers, technicians, teachers, entrepreneurs, working hands and minds for burgeoning e-commerce, and even fine-tuned artists represent a new, up and coming, confident class of Xinjiang’s present day residents, belonging to all ethnic groups, who have been groomed in these centers.
Past few years have also seen a notable upward economic momentum in Xinjiang. The region’s gross domestic product (GDP) has witnessed a significant jump from less than 147 billion U.S. dollars in 2014 to 205 billion U.S. dollars by 2019, which means an average yearly increase of 7.2 percent. Even in the extraordinary time of pandemic, Xinjiang has witnessed 3.3% GDP growth in the first half of 2020, where most of the countries around have gone into a devastating slump.
So what is really the US is targeting to achieve with its recent moves vis-à-vis Xinjiang? First and foremost, one has to keep in mind that China produces some one fifth of the world’s cotton, and almost 70% of Chinese produce of cotton comes from Xinjiang. So, a large number of Chinese apparel exports to the US may be targeted under this pretext of ‘forced labor’ – a potentially dangerous tool in the hands of Washington DC in its economic war against Beijing. Same is the case with other major products of Xinjiang, tomatoes for instance that are being targeted by the US.
Ironically, US’ own major businesses including US Chamber of Commerce are also opposing America’s economic assault on Xinjiang, as they deem it hitting at their own interests. US’ Customs and Border Protection (CBP) authorities also can’t hide the fact that evidence their administration and legislators cite against Xinjiang is “not conclusive”. It all comes at the height of US’ economic tirade against China; and weeks before US’ presidential elections 2020.
But the US’ game plan about Xinjiang, understandably, is not merely bilateral. US’ opposition to and designs against Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) needs little stress; and it is well-known that Xinjiang is pivotal for BRI’s success. China, over past few years, has pursued policies that have closely integrated Xinjiang with countries of the region – notably Pakistan, Central Asian States and Russia.
It would not be wrong to state that Xinjiang has already emerged as the economic center, the ‘heart’ of re-merging supercontinent, Eurasia, as Beijing has focused extensively on building rail, road and aerial networks for regional connectivity. This has given tremendous boost to regional trade and commerce; figures and data are openly available. Now the economies of countries bordering XUAR are closely intertwined with this Chinese region’s economy.
In the wake of international propaganda about Xinjiang, one has to bear in mind that there is not a single country on the face of the earth where some segments of society does not have some complaints against the government, and beyond that the state. Xinjiang may well be no exception in this regard. But while visiting Xinjiang – and this author has visited some 10 times over past around one decade – one finds that majority of XUAR’s people are quite happy with their lives. This applies to people from all ethnic groups.
It would be unjust to ignore the efforts that central authorities in Beijing and provincial government in Urumqi are trying to address such complains, as well as the extraordinary plans, schemes and programs being run for economic, societal and societal development of all people of Xinjiang, encompassing all of its ethnic minorities. October 1, 2020 also marks 65 years of establishment of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous region, along with 71 years of establishment of People’s Republic of China. These past 65 years have seen Xinjiang grow from strength to strength, internally, as well as in terms of its linkages with wider continental space around it.
It must be stressed here again that international hue and cry about Xinjiang has little to do with human rights but part of a greater design against China and particularly its mega BRI that is playing a momentous role in making the supercontinent of Eurasia remerge as a single economic, and beyond that political, space. Hits at this Chinese region are actually hitting at the efforts made by China and its regional partners, over past decade or so, for bringing this region together.
Countries around Xinjiang in particular need to understand that economic warfare unleashed on this autonomous region of China has far-reaching consequences for broader regional integration; and it is not China alone that will have to face the brunt of US’ policy in this connection.
China’s Belt and Road pinpoints fundamental issues of our times
Based on remarks at the RSIS book launch of Alan Chong and Quang Minh Pham (eds), Critical Reflections on China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Palgrave MacMillan, 2020
Political scientists Alan Chong and Quang Min Pham bring with their edited volume originality as well as dimensions and perspectives to the discussion about the Belt and Road that are highly relevant but often either unrecognized or underemphasized.
The book is about much more than the material aspects of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. In fact, various chapter authors use the Belt and Road to look at perhaps the most fundamental issue of our times: how does one build a global world order and societies that are inclusive, cohesive and capable of managing interests of all stakeholders as well as political, cultural, ethnic and religious differences in ways that all are recognized without prejudice and/or discrimination?
In doing so, the book introduces a moral category into policy and policy analysis. That is an important and commendable effort even if it may be a hard sell in an increasingly polarized world in which prejudice and bias and policies that flow from it have gained new legitimacy and become mainstream in various parts of the world.
It allows for the introduction of considerations that are fundamental to managing multiple current crises that have been accentuated by the pandemic and its economic fallout.
One of those is put forward in the chapter of the late international affairs scholar Lily Ling in which she writes about the need for a global agenda to take the requirements of ordinary people into account to ensure a more inclusive world. The question is how does one achieve that.
It is a question that permeates multiple aspects of our individual and collective lives.
If the last decade was one of defiance and dissent, of a breakdown in confidence in political leadership and systems and of greater authoritarianism and autocracy to retain power, this new decade, given the pandemic and economic crisis, is likely to be a continuation of the last one on steroids.
One only has to look at continued Arab popular revolts, Black Lives Matter, the anti-lockdown protests, and the popularity of conspiracy theories like QAnon. All of this is compounded by decreasing trust in US leadership and the efficacy of Western concepts of governance, democratic backsliding, and the handling of the pandemic in America and Europe.
Mr. Chong conceptualizes in his chapter perceived tolerance along ancient silk roads as stemming from what he terms ‘mercantile harmony’ among peoples and elites rather than states. It was rooted, in Mr. Chong’s mind, in empathy, a sense of spirituality and a mercantile approach towards the exchange of ideas and goods.
It was also informed by the solidarity of travellers shaped by the fact that they encountered similar obstacles and threats on their journeys. And it stems from the connectivity needs of empires that built cities and roads to retain their control that Mr. Chong projects as civilization builders.
There may be an element of idealization of the degree of tolerance along the ancient Silk Road and the assertion that the new silk road is everything that the old silk road was not. But the notion of the role of non-state, civil society actors is key to the overall quest for inclusiveness.
So is the fact that historic travellers like Fa-Hsien, Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta grappled with the very same issues that today’s world is attempting to tackle: the parameters of human interaction, virtue, diversity, governance, materialism, and the role of religion.
The emphasis on a moral category and the comparison of the ancient and the new Silk Road frames a key theme in the book: the issue of the China-centric, top down nature of the Belt and Road. Vietnamese China scholar Trinh Van Dinh positions the Belt and Road as the latest iteration of China’s history of the pioneering of connectivity as the reflection of a regime that is at the peak of its power.
Mr. Van Dinh sees the Belt and Road as the vehicle that will potentially revitalize Chinese economic development. It is a proposition on which the jury is still out in a world that could split into two distinct camps.
It is a world in which China brings much to the table but that is also populated by black and grey swans, some of which are of China’s own making. These include the favouring of Chinese companies and labour in Belt and Road projects, although to be fair Western development aid often operated on the same principle. But it also includes China’s brutal response to perceived threats posed by ethnic and religious minorities.
That may be one arena where the failure to fully consider the global breakdown in confidence in leadership and systems comes to haunt China. That is potentially no more the case than in the greater Middle East that stretches from the Atlantic coast of Africa into the Chinese province of Xinjiang.
Its not an aspect that figures explicitly in political scientist Manouchehr Dorraj’s contribution to the book on China’s relationship with Iran as well as Saudi Arabia but lingers in the background of his perceptive analysis of anticipated changes in the region’s lay of the land.
Mr. Dooraj focusses on three aspects that are important as one watches developments unfold: The impact of shifts in the energy mix away from oil coupled with the emergence of significant reserves beyond the Middle East, Iran’s geopolitical advantages compared to Saudi Arabia when it comes to the architecture of the Belt and Road, and the fact that China is recognizing that refraining from political engagement is no longer viable.
However, China’s emphasis on state-to-state relationships could prove to be a risky strategy assuming that the Middle East will retain its prominence in protests that seek to ensure better governance and more inclusive social and economic policies.
That takes on added significance given that potential energy shifts could reduce Chinese dependence on Middle Eastern energy as well as repeated assertions by Chinese intellectuals that call into question the relative importance of China’s economic engagement in the region as well as its ranking in Chinese strategic thinking.
The implications of the book’s partial emphasis on what Mr. Chong terms philosophical and cultural dialogue reach far beyond the book’s confines. They go to issues that many of us are grappling with but have no good answers.
In his conclusion, Mr. Chong suggests that in order to manage different value systems and interests one has to water down the Westphalian dogma of treating national interests as zero-sum conceptions.
One just has to look at the pandemic the world is trying to come to grips with, the need for a global health care governance that can confront future pandemics, and the world’s environmental crisis to realize the relevance of former Singaporean diplomat and public intellectual Kishore Mahbubani’s description of the nation state system as a boat with 193 cabins and cabin administrators but no captain at the helm.
Mr. Chong looks for answers in the experience of ancient Silk Road travellers. That may be a standard that a Belt and Road managed by an autocratic Chinese leadership that is anything but inclusive would at best struggle to meet.
The Chinese Agitprop: Disinformation, Propaganda and Payrolls
“If you repeat a lie often enough people will believe it and you will even believe it yourself”. -Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Propagandist
Successful dictatorships had always trapped its subjects in an ‘illusion of truth’. Those nations only showed their citizens what they were supposed to see, thus preventing any social unrest or exposure to an unpleasant reality. The primary abstracts of what is popularly known as Propaganda today can be found in the ancient Indian text of ‘Arthashastra’ and Chinese book ‘The Art of War’. In the first half of the 20th century, the Russian Federation, Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany had separate departments within their governments for propaganda works. Even though these administrative units fell over time, their models are still emulated with various scientific up-gradations by the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
Soon after the October revolution in Russia, the new dispensation started sending artists and dramatists to the countryside to romanticise the uprising and to glorify Bolsheviks. These activities were carried out by the Department of Agitation and Propaganda, popularly known as ‘Agitprop’. This propaganda machinery kept the Russians unaware of the massive killings with the state’s patronage, labour camps and death due to famines. After the establishment of PRC, multiple key initiatives were rolled out by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) which deemed to fail. What came later was ‘Cultural revolution’ starting from 1966 and lasted until 1976. In the due period, a large number of citizens were indoctrinated; dissidents were labelled and executed as counter-revolutionaries and millions died due to famine. After opening up its market and becoming a manufacturing hub, China pulled millions of its citizens out of poverty and could later become the world’s second-largest economy. But over-ambitious China had grand designs for its global posturing and creating a utopia through propaganda for their citizens.
To begin with, China has multiple internal issues to hide from the global community. Their persecutions of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province and cell rule in occupied Tibet are among the few issues. Forceful abortions in Uighur women, organ harvesting, imposition of Han culture and massive re-education centres in Xinjiang are condemned by the Human Rights organisations. But ‘the great firewall’ prevents the global community from knowing the gravity of human rights abuses in China. Laogai prison camps which are Chinese equivalent to the Soviet Gulag shelters millions of prisoners, kept under inhumane conditions. Any individual not following the CCP’s axioms stands vulnerable to be named and shamed as anti-State.
China’s grip over its media is also notoriously known. Their official newspaper ‘People’s Daily’ gives a distorted world view for its citizens and CCP’s tabloid ‘Global Times’ carries their propaganda and message to the world. Controlling media is hence an important part of China’s ‘Psychological Warfare’ doctrine. Recently, China claimed that only 82,000 people in China got affected by COVID-19 pandemic. Major international health experts refuted this claim and predicted that thousands could have died in China due to the disease. Numbers will never come out to the public domain unless the CCP wants us to know the truth. China even refused to acknowledge that COVID-19 originated from their nation and accused America of bringing the virus strain to China. There were multiple reports of China exporting faulty PPE kits to the Corona affected countries. But this incident was severely downplayed by global media houses. That shows us the power of Chinese propaganda machinery where they have the resources to hide its entire negative aura and project themselves as a responsible emerging superpower.
Another important aspect is China using soft-power to further push its agenda. Confucius Institutes (CI) operated by the Chinese government is one among many strategies adopted by CCP to influence other nations. China’s National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language (NOCFL) has established 550 CIs in foreign universities and 1172 Confucius Classrooms in primary and secondary levels of foreign schools. CIs and CCs have a presence in around 162 countries globally. U.S Secretary of state Mike Pompeo recently called the Confucius Institute as “an entity advancing Beijing’s global propaganda and malign influence campaign” on American campuses. He also stated that the students of the U.S should have access to Chinese language and culture free from manipulations. China is also using its money power to consolidate its position is western societies using academic and cultural institutions. American Education Department had recently asked Ivy League Universities to report undisclosed funds that they had received from China. Along with the Chinese Mandarin, lessons on Chinese history and polity are taught in these Confucius centres. Students are easy prey to propaganda and hence CCP has the game plan to brainwash them to create a positive image of China abroad. China had initially planned to open 1000 CIs globally by the end of 2020, calling it the Confucius revolution.
Recently, The Indian Express exposed the Chinese snooping of 10,000 influential Indian including the President, Prime Minister, Chief Ministers, Politicians, Academicians and people from all walks of life. CCP had assigned this task to a company named Zenhua Data Information Technology Co having close links with the government and PLA. There were even accusations of China collecting personal data from the users of PUBG and TikTok which lead to its ban in India along with other popular apps. TikTok contained contents that were unscientific and glorified violence but the parent company censored any references to contentious issues in China like the Tibet, Xinjiang, Communism or even ‘Winnie the Pooh’. China had banned popular global social media portals including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and Tumblr. China has developed clones to all these websites which their citizens can use, but the clones are highly monitored. By doing so, CCP restricts Chinese citizens from having any free interaction with the world outside China. But even when these global social media giants are blocked in China, the Chinese government uses them for their propaganda works. Recently, Twitter deleted 1,70,000 accounts linked to China for spreading disinformation. China also uses its Proxies in Pakistan to target their antagonist nations through hybrid warfare (or 5th Generation warfare). So, the Chinese master plan of using its apparatus to create disturbances in other countries while keeping their society intact needs to be identified.
CCP’s fondness for Propaganda can be better understood by looking at China’s international aspirations. In the emerging new world order China find itself at the centre of all economic activities hence materialising the ancient notion of it being the ‘Middle Kingdom’. The Chinese government has a brutal history of crushing all dissidents. It is therefore important for the state to put its citizens in a pseudo-reality and also make the world believe that the internal affairs of China are all normal. CCP has been doing ‘Donation Diplomacy’ (some in the form of gifts) to make nations and social influencers to fall in line to the benefit of China. The U.S had even accused the Chinese government of sending students to their nation for espionage purpose. The Chinese had even launched ‘Operation Fox hunt’ for terminating Dissidents of CCP living abroad.
China’s ‘wolf warrior diplomats’ work overtime to project their nation as the new Messiah for global stability. What they wish to conceal is the repression CCP does back home through enormous propaganda. The major problem with the PRC is that it doesn’t work like a republic. Instead, it functions as a Multi-National Company (MNC) greedy for profit, exploitation of its workers and ruthless extraction of natural resources. In the due process the MNC spends millions of dollars for its image makeover through PR agencies. The rising dominance of China is a threat to global peace, the existence of its neighbouring countries and risks the very notion of reality with manipulations.
Commission sets new plan to support green and digital transition and EU recovery
Today, the European Commission adopted a Communication on a new European Research Area for Research and Innovation. Based on excellence,...
Act realistically in the age of realism
To understand the geo-politics of the world in a simpler or lucid way, there is a law, not in Political...
Nagorno-Karabakh: Finding the path to peace
The clashes on Sunday, 27 September 2020, in the Nagorno-Karabakh region resulted in the largest number of reported casualties between...
India’s Test of Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle and Implications for South Asia
In September this year, India claimed to have successfully tested scramjet engine technology. This has been indigenously developed for its...
Belt and Road in Central and East Europe: Roads of opportunities
The second decade of the 21st century put the geoeconomic emphasis and cooperation within the framework of China’s “One Belt,...
Bernice Notenboom calls for action to tackle “the biggest threat we face – climate change”
“The pandemic gives us some hope because we have proven that we can all join together. But, why do we...
Turkey crossed the red line with Armenia
The red line has been crossed. Turkish Air Force F-16s were deployed against Armenia and shot down an Armenian military...
Eastern Europe12 hours ago
Turkey crossed the red line with Armenia
South Asia3 days ago
Rohingya repatriation: Has the world forgotten about the Rohingya crisis?
South Asia3 days ago
Regional Power politics and Pakistan foreign policy
Intelligence2 days ago
Evolutions of Strategic Intelligence
Economy3 days ago
Amirabad Port: The game changer in Indian foreign trade
Defense2 days ago
The South Asian Dilemma
Terrorism2 days ago
Why FATF treats India as a protégé and Pakistan as a bête noire?
South Asia3 days ago
A Way Forward – Neutralizing the Surge in Insurgency With Diplomatic Empathy in Kashmir