Connect with us

East Asia

The problem is not China but Communism

Published

on

“What bothered us most about the Government is that they treated us like idiots”. This quote is attributed to a German worker during the twilight of the communist regime in East Germany.   Somebody should make the same claim but this time to Communist top leaders in Beijing. It is time we have a debate about the consequences to have a superpower under an authoritarian and secretive regime operating within the post-Cold War international system.

There is no doubt that around the world, the efforts and personal sacrifices of the valiant people of Wuhan have been widely recognized. The desperate efforts to contain the disease and treat those who were infected by the virus by the Chinese medical community will be remembered as an example of the remarkable capacity that China possesses to contribute positively to the world’s wellbeing. Doctor Li Wenliang’s martyrdom at the hands of the communist regime in sounding an alert and treating his colleagues and community makes it very clear. But Dr. Li was a physician and not a political scientist; were he more politically aware, he would have known that the biological coronavirus that he so desperately tried to make the authorities aware of had been hybridized with the political virus called communist secrecy. The recent affirmation made by the German magazine Der Spiegel that Xi Jinping personally requested to the World Health Organization to delay a global warning about human to human transmission, besides to make WHO an accomplice of such practices, only reinforce the problem. In other words, the central problem here is the lack of transparency in the Chinese communist regime.

This should not come as a surprise. Although firmly of the prejudices of his time, sixty-four years ago, George Keanan, in his famous long telegram, had already offered good elements of where to set the foundations of our mistrust on a Communist regime:

In atmosphere of oriental secretiveness and conspiracy which pervades this Government, possibilities for distorting or poisoning sources and currents of information are infinite. The very disrespect of Russians for objective truth–indeed, their disbelief in its existence–leads them to view all stated facts as instruments for furtherance of one ulterior purpose or another. There is good reason to suspect that this Government is actually a conspiracy within a conspiracy.

Considering the CCP’s performance until now in coping with the coronavirus pandemic, Keanan’s assessment of the Soviets acquires terrifying new contours. It was not the Chinese people that tried to cover up the initial phases of the pandemic when they first became aware of it. This was a result of a historic and perverted need of Communist regimes to display a layer of cohesiveness and solidity to make every single social problem understood as a conspiracy to overthrow the government or embarrassing those at the top of it. So far, this was exactly what Beijing apparently did, or is trying to do.

Add to that, in a moment where monitoring – and therefore information – is the fundamental weapon against the virus, the world has been forced into a state of disbelief with every Chinese report about the situation on the ground. The numbers released by Beijing authorities simply do not add up and, as with most other official data, to make things worse they are nearly impossible to check. It is true that not all Western democracies are in consonance with the ideals of transparency and accountability, but it is hard to believe that a similar phenomenon in Western Europe or North America would illicit a similar misinformation campaign. With mass media based on the idea of a free press, together with the scrutiny of opposition powers, the constant shadow of brave whistle-blowers and social groups pushing for their own agendas, someone would expose the story and it would quickly bespread from social networks to mainstream media, and from there straight to the government agendas.

For too long, based on the course of other former authoritarian nations, Western powers have indulged in wishful thinking about China, imagining a delayed democratization or, at least, flexibilization of the Chinese regime as a result of its economic development and its integration into the world supply chain. The Western liberal order did not compromise in bringing most of its erstwhile rivals in the Soviet-orbit into the fold of liberal democracies, as if by phagocytosis. This was accomplished by a guided transformation of their entire political systems. The Russian refusal to do so explains in part its current international marginalization. Although the some sectors of the American political elite still hold on to their radical views about the welfare state—seeing it as a branch of socialism—the truth is that former authoritarian countries had to spontaneously, or under pressure, adopt not only a veneer of the liberal economic model, but to embrace its values as well. Failure to do so has been used as an explanation, in the hallways of power in Brussels and Washington, for those states’ incapacity to be fully integrated into the European Union system and into the global economy as well. If it is true that in Beijing there is an anxiety about what is thought to be a long-delayed unification with Taiwan, the same anxiety happens in the West about the long-awaited democratization of the Chinese regime. So far, the characteristic secrecy of the Chinese manner of practicing government had, until now, been a Chinese issue. But the Coronavirus episode has made it a global problem. As it is in Washington, from now on what happens in China does not stay in China, and that is the price for any nation with superpower aspirations. The leaders inBeijing seem to either refuse to accept, or refuse to understand, this fundamental feature of the global order.

That is the reason for Mearsheimer’s thesis that a revisionist China is inevitable, in the sense that CCP seems more desirous to reform the international system so that it mirrors their model, than the other way around. Unable and unwilling to go through such a flexibilization process, China literally bought its ticket to ride to the world liberal order imagining that loans and abundant investments in infrastructure around the globe would do enough to ease these ideological tensions. But the coronavirus era is showing us that this is not entirely the case.

Thus, this event more than any other makes it clear that membership in the globalized world in which we live carries with it responsibilities—and not just rights—on the part of its participants. China is one of the most tightly integrated economies—by design, in fact—in this globalized world, and thus far, the more responsible, albeit smaller, nations of the world have not pushed the communist giant to wield its power more responsibly. China’s CCP regime has a high degree of power and influence outside of its borders, and it therefore has the duty to use this power not just for the furtherance of its own rule, but for the betterment of the global order – or, at the very least, in a way that does not lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of victims in other countries. Until that day, the pressure must be kept on the regime to take accountability for its failures, and designation of this pandemic as the CCP Virus is but a small step in that direction.

Dr Moises de Souza is Lecturer in Asia Pacific Studies at the School of Humanities, Language and Global Studies and Chair of the Northern England Policy Centre for the Asia Pacific (NEPCAP) at University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).

Continue Reading
Comments

East Asia

Who would bell the China cat?

Published

on

If the G-7 and NATO china-bashing statements are any guide, the world is in for another long interregnum of the Cold War (since demise of the Soviet Union). The G-7 leaders called upon China to “respect human rights in its Xinjiang region” and “allow Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy” and “refrain from any unilateral action that could destabilize the East and South China Seas”, besides maintaining “peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits”.

China’s tit-for-tat response

The Chinese mission to the European Union called upon the NATO not to exaggerate the “China threat theory”

Bitter truths

Amid the pandemic, still raging, the world is weary of resuscitating Cold War era entente. Even the G-7 members, Canada and the UK appear to be lukewarm in supporting the US wish to plunge the world into another Cold War. Even the American mothers themselves are in no mood to welcome more coffins in future wars. Importance of the G-7 has been whittled down by G-20. 

Presumptions about the China’s cataclysmic rise are unfounded. Still, China is nowhere the US gross National Product. China’s military budget is still the second largest after the US. It is still less than a third of Washington’s budget to be increased by 6.8 per cent in 2021.

India’s role

India claims to be a natural ally of the G-7 in terms of democratic “values”. But the US based Freedom House has rated India “partly free because of its dismal record in persecution of minorities. Weakened by electoral setbacks in West Bengal, the Modi government has given a free hand to religious extremists. For instance, two bigots, Suraj Pal Amu and Narsinghanand Saraswati have been making blasphemous statements against Islam at press conferences and public gatherings.

India’s main problem

Modi government’s mismanagement resulted in shortage of vaccine and retroviral drugs. The healthcare system collapsed under the mounting burden of fatalities.  

Media and research institutions are skeptical of the accuracy of the death toll reported by Indian government.

The New York Times dated June 13, 2021 reported (Tracking Corona virus in India: Latest Map and case Count) “The official COVID-19 figures in India grossly under-estimate the true scale of the pandemic in the country”. The Frontline dated June 4, 2021 reported “What is clear in all these desperate attempts is the reality that the official numbers have utterly lost their credibility in the face of the biggest human disaster in independent India (V. Sridhar, India’s gigantic death toll due to COVID-19 is  thrice  the official numbers”, The frontline, June 4, 2021). It adds “More than 6.5 lakh Indians, not the 2.25 lakh reported officially are estimated to have died so far and at best a million more are expected to die by September 2021. The Seattle-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates that actual Indian casualties may be 0.654 million (6.54 lakh), not the official count of 0.221 million (2.21 lakh as on May 6 when the report was released. That is a whopping three times the official numbers, an indicator of the extent of under-reporting”.

Epidemiologist Dr. Feigl-ding told India Today TV on April, 16, 2021 that “actual number of COVID-19 cases in India can be five or six times higher than the tally right now” (“Actual COVID-19 cases in India may be 5 to 10 times higher, says epidemiologist. India Today TV April 16, 2021).

Concluding remarks

India’s animosity against China is actuated by expediency. There is no chance of a full-blown war between China and India as the two countries have agreed not to use firepower in border skirmishes, if any. Modi himself told the All-party conference that not an inch of Indian territory has been ceded to China. In May this year, the Army Chief General M M. Naravane noted in an interview: “There has been no transgression of any kind and the process of talks is continuing.”

It is not China but the Quad that is disturbing unrest in China’s waters.

History tells the USA can sacrifice interests of its allies at the altar of self interest. India sank billions of dollars in developing the Chabahar Port. But, India had to abandon it as the US has imposed sanctions on Iran.

Continue Reading

East Asia

Xinjiang? A Minority Haven Or Hell

Published

on

While the G7 meets under the shadow of Covid 19 and the leaders of the most prosperous nations on earth are focused on rebuilding their economies, a bloodless pogrom is being inflicted on a group of people on the other side of the world.

In this new era, killing people is wasteful and could bring the economic wrath of the rest of the world.  No, it is better to brainwash them, to re-educate them, to destroy their culture, to force them to mold themselves into the alien beings who have invaded their land in the name of progress, and who take the best new jobs that sprout with economic development.  Any protest at these injustices are treated severely.

Amnesty International has published a new 160-page report this week on Xinjiang detailing the horrors being perpetrated on Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.  Amnesty has simultaneously announced a campaign on their behalf.

Persecution, mass imprisonment in what can best be described as concentration camps, intensive interrogation and torture are actions that come under the definition of ‘crimes against humanity’.  More than 50 people who spent time in these camps contributed first-hand accounts that form the substance of the report.  It is not easy reading for these people have themselves suffered maltreatment even torture in many instances.

The UN has claimed that 1.5 million Muslims (Uighurs, Kazakhs, Uzbeks and Tajiks) are in these internment camps and China’s claims of re-education camps made to sound as benign as college campuses are patently false.

People report being interviewed in police stations and then transferred to the camps.  Their interrogation was frequently conducted on ‘tiger chairs’:   The interviewee is strapped to a metal chair with leg irons and hands cuffed in such a manner that the seating position soon becomes exceedingly painful.  Some victims were hooded; some left that way for 24 hours or more, and thus were forced to relieve themselves, even defecate, where they sat.  Beatings and sleep deprivation were also common.

Activities were closely monitored and they were mostly forbidden to speak to other internees including cell mates.  Trivial errors such as responding to guards or other officials in their native language instead of Mandarin Chinese resulted in punishment.

Amnesty’s sources reported the routine was relentless.  Wake up at 5am.  Make bed — it had to be perfect.  A flag-raising and oath-taking ceremony before breakfast at 7 am.  Then to the classroom.  Back to the canteen for lunch.  More classes after.  Then dinner.  Then more classes before bed.  At night two people had to be on duty for two hours monitoring the others leaving people exhausted.  You never see sunlight while you are there, they said.  That was because they were never taken outside as is done in most prisons.

The re-education requires them to disavow Islam, stop using their native language, give up cultural practices, and become Mandarin-speaking ‘Chinese’.

Such are the freedoms in Xi Jinping’s China.  If China’s other leaders prior to Mr. Xi effected moderate policies in concert with advisers, it is no longer the case.  Mr. Xi works with a small group of like minds.  He has also removed the two-term or eight-year limit on being president.  President for life as some leaders like to call themselves, then why not Mr. Xi.  His anti-democratic values make him eminently qualified. 

An enlightened leader might have used the colorful culture of these minorities to attract tourists and show them the diversity of China.  Not Mr. Xi, who would rather have everyone march in lockstep to a colorless utopia reminiscent of the grey clothing and closed-collar jackets of the Maoist era. 

Continue Reading

East Asia

Looking back on India-China ties, one year past the Galwan incident

Published

on

modi xi jinping

Two nuclear-armed neighbouring countries with a billion-plus people each, geographically positioned alongside a 3,488-km undemarcated border in the high Himalayas. This is the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between India and China’s Tibet Autonomous Region. Differences in perception of alignment of this border for both sides have contributed to a seemingly unending dispute.

Chinese unilateral attempt to change status quo in 2020

One year back, on 15 June 2020, a clash between Indian and Chinese troops in the Galwan Valley of eastern Ladakh turned bloody, resulting in the death of 20 soldiers in the former side and four in the latter side. It was an unfortunate culmination of a stand-off going on since early May that year, triggered by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops encountering Indian troops who were patrolling on their traditional limits.

It was followed by amassing of troops in large number by China on its side and some of them crossed the line over without any provocation, thereby blocking and threatening India’s routine military activities on its side of the traditionally accepted border. It was a unilateral attempt by the Chinese Communist Party-run government in Beijing to forcefully alter the status quo on the ground.

The LAC as an idea

Over the years, the LAC has witnessed one major war resulting from a Chinese surprise attack on India in 1962 and periodic skirmishes along the various friction points of the border, as seen in the years 1967, 1975, 1986-87, 2013, 2017, and the most recent 2020 Galwan Valley incident, the last being the worst in five decades. Post-Galwan, the optics appeared too high on both sides.

The LAC as an idea emerged with the annexation of Buddhist Tibet by Chinese communist forces in the early 1950s, bringing China to India’s border for the first time in history. This idea just emerged and was taking shape through the Jawaharlal Nehru-Zhou Enlai letters of correspondence that followed.

In 1962, while the world was engrossed upon the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Chinese inflicted a huge military and psychological debacle on unprepared and outnumbered Indian soldiers in a month-long war along this border.

Even to this date, there is still no mutually agreeable cartographic depiction of the LAC. It varies on perceptions.

What could’ve led to 2020 stand-off?

One of the reasons that led to the current new low in India-China ties, other than differing perceptions, is the improvement in Indian infrastructure capabilities along the rough mountainous terrains of the Himalayan borders and its resolve to be on par with China in this front. This has been a cause of concern in Chinese strategic calculations for its Tibetan border.

The carving up of the Indian union territory of Ladakh with majority Buddhists from the erstwhile Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir in 2019 has indeed added to Beijing’s concerns over the area.

For the past few years, India has been upfront in scaling up its border infrastructure throughout the vast stretch of LAC, including in eastern Ladakh, where the 2020 stand-off took place. There is a serious trust deficit between India and China today, if not an evolving security dilemma.

Post-Galwan engagement

Several rounds of talks were held at the military and the diplomatic levels after the Galwan incident, the working-level mechanisms got renewed and new action plans were being formed before the process of disengagement finally began.

The foreign ministers of both countries even met in Moscow on the side-lines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meet in September, which was followed by a BRICS summit where Narendra Modi and Xi Jinping came face-to-face in November, although virtually.

By February 2021, the process of disengagement of troops gained momentum on the ground around the Pangong lake area. So far, eleven rounds of talks were held at the military level on the ground at the border. But, the disengagement is yet to be fully completed in the friction points of Hot Springs and the Depsang Plains.

Diplomacy is gone with the wind

All the bilateral border agreements and protocols for confidence-building that were signed between the both countries in the years 1993, 1996, 2005, 2012 and 2013 were rendered futile by the Chinese PLA’s act of belligerence in Galwan.

The spirit of two informal Narendra Modi-Xi Jinping summits to build trust after the 2017 Doklam standoff, one in Wuhan, China (2018) and the other in Mamallapuram, India (2019) was completely gone with the wind. This is further exacerbated by the Chinese practice of ‘wolf-warrior diplomacy’, which is clearly undiplomatic in nature.

India’s diversification of fronts

Coming to the maritime domain, India has upped the ante by the joint naval exercises (Exercise Malabar 2020) with all the Quad partners in November, last year. Thereby, New Delhi has opened a new front away from the Himalayan frontiers into the broader picture of India-China strategic rivalry. Australia joined the exercise, after 13 years, with India, Japan, and the United States, a move indicative of militarisation or securitisation of the Quad partnership.

Recently, India has been consolidating its position over the union territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, lying southeast to the mainland, and close to the strategic Strait of Malacca, through which a major proportion of China’s crude oil imports pass through before venturing out to the ports of South China Sea.

Economic ties, yearning to decouple

Last year, India’s external affairs minister S. Jaishankar remarked that border tensions cannot continue along with co-operation with China in other areas. In this regard, the Narendra Modi government has been taking moves to counter China in the economic front by banning a large number of Chinese apps, citing security reasons, thereby costing the Chinese companies a billion-size profitable market. The Indian government has also refused to allow Chinese tech companies Huawei and ZTE to participate in India’s rollout of the 5G technology.

Moreover, India, Australia and Japan have collectively launched a Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI) in 2020 aimed at diversifying supply chain risks away from one or a few countries, apparently aimed at reducing their dependence on China. In terms of trade, India is still struggling to decouple with China, a key source of relatively cheap products for Indian exporters, particularly the pandemic-related pharmaceutical and related supplies in the current times.

But, the Indian government’s recent domestic policies such as “Self-Reliant India” (Atmanirbhar Bharat) have contributed to a decline in India’s trade deficit vis-à-vis China to a five-year low in 2020, falling to around $46 billion from around $57 billion in 2019.

The broader picture

The border dispute remains at the core of a range of issues that define the overall India-China bilateral relations. Other issues include trade and economics, Beijing’s close ties with Islamabad, the succession of Dalai Lama who has taken asylum in India since 1959 and the issue of Tibetan refugees living in India, educational ties, and the strategic rivalry in India’s neighbourhood, i.e., South Asia and the Indian Ocean Region, among others.

Chinese belligerence has led India to find its place easily in the evolving ‘new Cold War’

The more China turns aggressive at its border with India, the more it will bring India close to the United States and the West. Despite India’s traditional posture of indifference to allying itself exclusively with a power bloc, in the recently concluded G7 summit, India referred to the grouping of liberal democracies as a ‘natural ally’.

India has been raising the need for a free, open and rules-based Indo-Pacific in as many multilateral forums as possible, a concept which China considers as a containment strategy of the United States. Possibly, India might also join the G7’s newly announced infrastructure project for developing countries in an appropriate time, as it is initiated as a counterweight to China’s multi trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative.

There was a time in the past when the former Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru sought to lead Asia by cooperating with China. Considering today’s changed geopolitical realities and power dynamics, nowhere in anyone’s wildest dreams such an idea would work out. Prime Minister Modi’s muscular foreign policy imperatives are aligning well with the Joe Biden-led Western response to the looming common threat arising from Beijing.

Today, encountering Xi Jinping’s grand strategy of Chinese domination of the world (by abandoning its yesteryear policy of ‘peaceful rise’) is a collective endeavour of peace-loving democracies around the world, to which Asia is particularly looking forward. Most notably, it comes amid an inescapable web of global economic inter-connectedness, even among rival powers.

Continue Reading

Publications

Latest

Defense1 hour ago

Foreign Troops withdrawal at a faster pace from Afghanistan

The US is withdrawing troops at a faster pace than expected. It has been reported that almost half of the...

Southeast Asia4 hours ago

ASEAN Peace Initiative and the Myanmar Crisis: A Failed Attempt?

Historically, ASEAN is closely linked with Myanmar. As part of the Southeast Asian region and an ASEAN member, Myanmar enjoys...

Russia6 hours ago

Biden-Putin Geneva Summit: Even A Little More Than Nothing Means A Lot

Was the, with little expectations, but a lot of combinations and nervousness, awaited summit of the Presidents of America and...

Defense8 hours ago

What position would Russia take in case of an armed conflict between China and US?

China and Russia have seen increasing interactions and closer bonds as they face amid US pressure. The trilateral relations of...

Defense10 hours ago

“African Lion 2021”: More than military Show between the US and Morocco

On June 7th, 2021, Morocco, the US, and NATO began joint African Lion maritime drills in the Atlantic Ocean south...

Europe11 hours ago

American diplomacy’s comeback and Bulgaria’s institutional trench war

Even though many mainstream media outlets have not noticed it, US diplomacy has staged a gran comeback in the Balkans....

Economy17 hours ago

How Bangladesh became Standout Star in South Asia Amidst Covid-19

Bangladesh, the shining model of development in South Asia, becomes everyone’s economic darling amidst Covid-19. The per capita income of...

Trending