Here, I analyse the rise of China under an overambitious Communist Party (CCP), and what it means for the rest of the world, despite all its exceptional domestic accomplishments. How do the CCP’s acts of belligerence in China’s neighbourhood openly challenge the notion of peaceful coexistence?
The People’s Republic of China is one of the only five remaining ‘politically’ communist states in the world, the others being North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, and Cuba. On July 1, 2021 the ruling Chinese Communist Party observed its 100th anniversary of establishment with much pomp and splendour in the historic Tiananmen Square of Beijing.
The party was formed by a small group of radical Chinese intellectuals in the eastern city of Shanghai in 1921, without much expectations of ruling a vast country like mainland China in a matter of decades, which was then in its Republican Era that continued till 1949.
The CCP seizes power
With the fall of the nationalist Kuomintang government led by Chiang Kai-shek in the aftermath of the Chinese Civil War (1927-1949) the communists seized power in Beijing with the proclamation of the People’s Republic on 01 October 1949 by Mao Zedong, then Chairperson of the Communist Party, in Tiananmen Square, a name that would turn infamous after four decades for a brutal crackdown on democratic aspirations by the CCP using the armed forces and the massacre of hundreds of Chinese youths, including university students, in 1989.
The party’s leadership is enshrined in the Chinese constitution and its top leader, the General Secretary, is the de-facto head of the Chinese state. Over the past 72 years many charismatic leaders have occupied this particular post like Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao and the current leader Xi Jinping, who has been in power since 2012. In times of Xi, the party’s goal has gone beyond the traditional goal of national rejuvenation and state consolidation towards the assertion of might and comprehensive national power.
The centennial: From consolidation to assertion
32 years after the bloody Tiananmen incident, in the same Square, General Secretary Xi Jinping delivered a keynote speech highlighting the CCP’s achievements in front of more than 70,000 attendees, marking the party’s centennial celebrations, followed by glaring military parades, cannon firings and mesmerizing aerial shows by the air force. Other prominent figures present alongside him included former General Secretary Hu Jintao, ex-premier Wen Jiabao, and the respective chief executives of the special administrative regions (SARs) of Hong Kong’s and Macau, over which he said Beijing exercises “overall jurisdiction”.
Among other things, General Secretary Xi stated that realizing China’s complete “reunification” by resolving the Taiwan question is an unshakable commitment and mission of the Communist Party and resolute action will be taken to defeat any attempt toward “Taiwan independence”. This was an indirect political message to the United States.
He also said, “The Chinese people will never allow any foreign forces to bully, oppress or enslave us. Whoever nurses delusions of doing that will crack their heads and spill blood on the great wall of steel built from the flesh and blood of 1.4 billion Chinese people”. This was a direct message to all democracies of the world that relate with the concerns of the Taiwanese people on the preservation of the island’s democratic system.
By invoking such historical revanchist sentiments of the Chinese people and repeated reiterations of ‘the century of humiliation’ faced by imperial China under colonial powers, Xi Jinping gave a blunt warning to all present-day foreign powers, which includes China’s systemic, strategic and geopolitical adversaries.
By pledging to expand China’s military capabilities and global influence, he reiterated the end of China’s peaceful rise, something which he already hinted two years back, in 2019, when the People’s Republic observed its 70th anniversary. The rhetoric was overly nationalistic in tone, in many ways resembling that of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich, which also spilled similar toxicity.
The party has indeed led the Chinese state to becoming a formidable economic giant in about three to four decades, starting from 1978, when economic liberalisation ushered in the era of prosperity in the country. The party embraced a self-contradictory capitalist economy since 1978 and has skilfully adjusted itself along opportunistic lines throughout its later history.
Today, the party has about 92 million members out of China’s population of 1.4 billion. The CCP, along with the other four communist countries, has outlived the collapse of the Soviet Union and its affiliated Eastern bloc.
All Chinese leaders have initiated their own signature philosophies as the guiding force of the CCP’s state policy during their respective tenures. It includes, “Hide your strength, bide your time” (Deng Xiaoping), “The Three Represents” (Jiang Zemin), “Scientific Outlook on Development” (Hu Jintao), and the current “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” and the “Community with a Shared Future for Humankind”.
The CCP is currently ruling over the world’s most populous nation and an economic superpower. The global power transition is not going to be smooth, while the Western alliance led by the United States is rising up to the new challenge by renewing their alliance. This seems also true considering the party’s hidden agenda to dominate the world on all perceivable aspects of society, primarily by utilizing its superior economic and technological might, supplemented more recently by boosted military capabilities.
The concept of ‘imperial overstretch’ is put forward by Paul Kennedy, a Yale University historian to explain a situation wherein an empire or a major power extends itself beyond its military and economic capabilities, which would eventually lead to its collapse. This was true in the case of rise and fall of powers and leaders such as Napoleon Bonaparte in 1815 and Adolf Hitler in 1945.
In today’s scenario, the 72-year old regime in mainland China under the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) show signs of such an ‘overstretch’ in its neighbourhood. But, unlike in the distant past, the nations of the world are interconnected and interdependent on each other, making the situation much more complex.
A quote on imperial China, then under the Qing dynasty, often attributed to French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte goes like this, “Let China Sleep, for when she wakes, she will shake the world”. As said, it turned out that China’s new rulers, the Communist Party, is arguably adept in ‘shaking’ the status quo of peace, using a combination of economic, military and diplomatic tools with both tactical and strategic implications.
For short-term gains, it is antagonizing all the countries that refuse to accept Chinese hegemony in Asia. The CCP often forgets the fact that it has to co-exist peacefully with other nations, or it’s not willing to, and constantly attempts to alter the existing regional and global order and power equations in a unilateral manner.
Both Adolf Hitler and Xi Jinping and his predecessors since Deng Xiaoping were successful enough in building a strong domestic economy and strikingly good enough in bringing in rapid industrialisation of their respective countries, but the real problem lies with its engagement with the rest of the world.
Germany too was incredibly industrialized during Hitler’s regime, but the problem was a lion’s share of it was oriented towards the accomplishment of military objectives. It’s not about how much economic muscle has been built up over the years or what size is the country’s economy but how it is being used in a way jeopardizing the interests of other nations, particularly in the periphery and neighbourhood.
Contentious periphery and neighbourhood
The communist state’s armed forces, which calls itself the People’s Liberation Army has sworn their allegiance to the party and not the Chinese state, unlike democratic countries. It has annexed predominantly Buddhist Tibet in 1951 and much before that predominantly Muslim Xinjiang or East Turkestan was also incorporated into the People’s Republic. Instead of liberating peoples, the communists themselves turned into oppressors.
Today, the CCP is using economics as a tool to correct its political wrongs, particularly in Tibet, where it is intensifying infrastructure development. Once the current Dalai Lama, who is in exile in India, attains nirvana, the CCP will also attempt to install a puppet by diluting the institution of the Dalai Lama itself, thereby jeopardizing the Tibetan culture and religion. This would bring the CCP in collision with India, where tens of thousands of Tibetan refugees live.
Most recently, China has also been trying to exploit unemployment in areas close to Tibet’s border with India, such as the strategic Chumbi Valley wedged between Bhutan and India’s Sikkim state. The CCP has started recruiting militias of Tibetan origin, who are accustomed to high altitude warfare, to fight for the CCP’s armed wing, the People’s Liberation Army. India too has a secretive force comprising of Tibetan refugees, called the Special Frontier Force (SFF). In the event of a flare-up in these areas, it is going to be Tibetans versus Tibetans, fighting on rival sides.
In the Himalayan frontiers, the CCP is engaging in the strategy of ‘salami-slicing’ by laying claims on lands belonging to its Himalayan neighbours – India, Bhutan and Nepal – by making gradual advancements, followed by mobilisation of troops. This was most recently evident in the Galwan incident and standoff, last year, wherein the Chinese laid claims on the entire Galwan Valley, belonging to India, after locking horns with Indian troops.
The CCP makes ten steps forward and later retreats two steps back after negotiations that follow. India and China fought a war in 1962 when the latter unexpectedly attacked and defeated the latter, in a hugely asymmetric war, as an attention diversion tactic to bury Mao’s domestic failures.
Similarly, in the south, Hong Kong’s autonomy has been jeopardized by introducing a draconian national security law last year. This is now being used to crush democratic dissent and freedom of the press, as evident the circumstances leading to the closure of pro-democracy newspaper and CCP-critic Apple Daily, following the arrests of its journalists and seizing of its assets. Democratic gatherings are also banned.
Potential for great power rivalry in the maritime domain
Coming to the Taiwan Strait, there has been an exponential rise in air space incursions by PLA jets in the past few months, indicative of a looming threat of annexation of the self-ruled island state by the CCP.
In the South China Sea, located at the centre of the Indo Pacific region between China and Southeast Asia, the CCP has resurrected an old and legally invalid idea of ‘Nine-Dash Line’ in 2013 to claim over 90% of waters of the sea as its sovereign territory, which overlaps with the legitimate territorial waters and exclusive economic zones of neighbouring countries such as Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Indonesia.
However, the recent origins of the CCP’s assertion goes back to late 2000s, when Chinese PLA navy submarines surfaced in the middle of US naval ships engaged in freedom of navigation operations in the East China Sea. It was a kind of political message to the otherwise great power active in the region, the United States.
The Chinese have been openly disregarding international maritime law and the United Nations Convention for the Law of the Seas of 1982, of which Beijing itself is a party, by making such illegal claims. This is nothing but blatant cartographic aggression by the CCP.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague in Netherlands has ruled these claims as illegal in a landmark 2016 verdict, which was in favour of the Philippines, a key security ally of the United States in the region. For Manila, it was matter of food security as well, considering the large section of its population that engaged in fisheries as a means to livelihood. But, the dispute still continues, as Beijing decided not to respect the 2016 verdict and naval collisions occur periodically even to this day.
The CCP also has a dispute with Japan, another US ally, over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. The US always had a security presence in Southeast Asia, the backyard of China, right from the 1950s when SEATO (Southeast Asia Treaty Organisation) existed and the subsequent isolation from the region following the debacle in the Vietnam War. But, at that time China never projected its power in the region, as it did from 2013 onwards with new ambitions for strategic influence. Today, even a once adversary Vietnam finds strategic convergence with the United States, considering the South China Sea dispute.
The United States greatly values its right of freedom of navigation and conducts passage exercises in maritime regions across the world. In the recent past, this has increasingly come in direct collision with China-claimed territorial waters when US ships frequently encounter Chinese ships in the region. Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made it clear in July 2020 that “the South China Sea is not China’s maritime empire”.
Last year, an annual report released by the Pentagon showed that the People’s Republic of China has built the largest navy in the world, surpassing even the US Navy, in terms of overall battle force. In 2020, China had approximately 350 ships and submarines in comparison to 293 of the US.
As part of the PLA Navy’s modernisation efforts in the recent past, it has embarked on a rigorous ship-building programme that includes “submarines, surface combatants, amphibious warfare ships, aircraft carriers, and auxiliary ships as well as indigenous weapons, sensors and command and control systems”, the report stated.
But, the dragon is still far behind the eagle in terms of overseas bases and comparative operational reach. This means, China is using this enormous amount of naval might in the contentious seas in its backyard, the South and East China Seas, aimed at its maritime neighbours.
The Indian Ocean too is vulnerable to potential Chinese militarization in the near future, particularly in places such as Sri Lanka, which is trapped in Chinese debt-trap. The first Chinese overseas military base in Djibouti and the strategic Gwadar port in Pakistan, where the BRI’s maritime route meets land, are already operational.
The other side of the China story
One of the many things that China admirers and the left-leaning fraternity of intelligentsia, academia and the media in democratic countries keep on articulating is the way China rapidly modernized and industrialised in the past three to four decades and how it lifted about 800 million of its citizens out of poverty, and crediting that success as the basis for legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party among the Chinese people. They say China achieved the feat by not subjugating other countries, unlike the West.
But, in fact what they comfortably neglect or rather doesn’t wish to mention is how that is achieved and how the original communist ideology is tweaked to the highest extent possible for that purpose or how sustainable that development model is. They don’t wish to say how the northern and eastern frontier provinces of Tibet and Xinjiang, which was culturally never part of historical China Proper or the Chinese civilization, was forcefully annexed, ‘colonized’, its natural resources drained and subjected to ‘Han’ization of those regions’ demography.
They seldom talk about the murder of democracy in Hong Kong or the threat of Beijing’s potential invasion of Taiwan. In Xinjiang, reportedly over a million Uyghur Muslims are arbitrarily put in re-education camps where alleged forced labour is taking place, which supposedly includes production for world markets.
One of the other tactics followed by the CCP in the 1990s was pretending to abide by and be part of the liberal international world in order to convince the United States other Western countries to support China to join the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which it ultimately accomplished in 2001, thereby beginning a new era of international competition wherein cheap Chinese products began flooding world markets in a matter of few years.
From ‘peaceful’ to ‘disruptive’ rise
The CCP has reshaped the rules of geo-economics since early 2010s by initiating a spree of investments and infrastructure projects in trillions of dollars in vulnerable countries and regions of the world such as in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Africa, with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) being its core. Many a times it leads the country into a spiral of inescapable debt-trap. By doing so, the CCP envisions positioning China as the centre of global economy and trade, which it already more or less is.
It has been trying to split the West and the United States by fishing in troubled waters using the same geoeconomic tools by leading groupings such as Cooperation between China and 17 Central and Eastern European Countries (17+1) and also by engaging Latin American countries such as Nicaragua, where it is building an alternative waterway to the Panama Canal that connects the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.
Moreover, Beijing sides with Moscow to take on the Western alliance. If the world’s democracies fail to tame the dragon, it might plunge into another war, more possibly in the Taiwan Strait or in the South China Sea or may be even in the Indian Ocean.
There was a time when ‘peaceful rise’ was the party’s policy orientation as advocated by Deng Xiaoping and his immediate successors. Today, under Xi, it has grown into a global ambition supported by a daunting grand strategy, often with disruptive characteristics.
The need for balancing singular concentration of power
For the first time, in June 2021, the 30-member NATO alliance and the G7 acknowledged China as a systemic challenge to be handled with, other than Russia. New infrastructural projects are also in the offing to counter its Chinese equivalents. New balance of power coalitions are taking shape such as the Quad grouping of democracies, consisting of the US, Japan, India and Australia.
Democratic nations are coming together in bilateral, trilateral and multilateral mechanisms to prevent one disruptive power from dominating others. The Biden administration is heavily investing on Washington’s diplomatic capital in renewing America’s alliances across the world that was put in a sorry state to the advantage of China by his predecessor. He is building on coalitions and partnerships intensified by the previous administration, as well.
The world today is dealing with a delusional power that exhibits an increasingly confrontational style of diplomacy, often called ‘wolf-warrior diplomacy’ that seldom cares about co-existing with other countries in peace or respecting each other.
So, there is strong need today for preventing singular concentration of power and for balancing power with the involvement of more responsible actors that is willing to coexist peacefully, so do the need for a new set of confidence-building measures among rivals, drawing lessons from the past.
A larger task of this power balancing is at hand for the world’s democracies, which includes the preservation of rules-based international order, prevention of expansionist policies from gaining ground, and the promotion of alternative development models with sustainability at its core and without ulterior motives.
Hollywood with Chinese Characteristics
Authors: Dr. Abhishek Srivastava and Ms. Shreyasi*
Cinemas are an effective tool to project soft power and influence communities at large. A number of Hollywood production-finance firms in the last decade have seen a major rise in Chinese investments. Some of the biggest Hollywood box office hits are backed by Yuan. To maximize profit off of the Chinese domestic movie consumption market, these movies either have elements of Chinese culture or they self-censor to appease the Chinese censorship authorities. A dominant explanation to this phenomenon is that China pursues a significant influence in the American culture by infiltrating Hollywood. Hollywood itself has, through its movies, exported American values since its inception. Any impact on this industry will consequently reflect on its movie consumers eventually.
China wears the global box office crown worth $7.3 billion and reigns as the biggest movie consumer market in the world. It bounced back from the pandemic slump of 2020 and turned twice the amount of revenue only 26% less than pre-pandemic numbers. During the pandemic movie theatres all over the world were shut down, literally zeroing down the movie theatre business. China due to its regime style, somehow managed to open up theatres to some extent and garner revenues.
China opened its domestic movie market for outside films only in the 1990’s. The ever-growing domestic movie market China has made it a golden spot for foreign language films to get screen time and thereby huge returns. More and more Hollywood movies and especially blockbuster category movies are lining up to get a spot since Chinese authorities allow only 34 films per year quota to foreign language movies. This strategy along with the promise of money has resulted in Hollywood movies altering their plot, stories, scenes etc., to suite the regulations of the Chinese censorship authority. The censorship authority’s aim is to induct Chinese values and promote their ideas through the Hollywood movies. Last 10 years has culminated into an intersection of free market and Chinese censorship. This is an unprecedented path whose outcome is very unpredictable.
Another strategy is the use of China’s economic power to get into the American movie business and then trying to induct a cultural change. Los Angeles has a big presence of Chinese firms and conglomerates who have major or minor shares in big production houses or have co- financed individual movie projects. It is not only limited to production companies but theatre chains, distributing retails and public relations management companies are also being brought by Chinese firms.
Chinese Soft power and public diplomacy through movies
Joseph Nye coined the term soft power and further broadened the area of study to public diplomacy. Much of what he has written on soft power, tools used by the United States to exercise soft power is relevant even today. According to Nye, Hollywood in itself is the biggest soft power influencer of the United States. The power Hollywood movies have had on different countries through generations is incomparable.
According to Stanley Rosen, a professor of political science in University of South California and a specialist on politics in the People’s Republic of China, even after spending $10 billion year in exercising soft power, China has not been able to compete with the U.S. Chinese soft power is much more involved in dealing with the domestic crowd. Much of the soft power is controlled by the state. This does not allow a natural spurt in soft power. Successful American soft power on the other hand has largely grown away from the clutches of the government. And this is what Chinese authorities are trying to bank on.
China in Hollywood
As explained before, the Chinese production house and firms exert control by buying up screen spaces. But movies themselves self-censor to appease the censorship board of China. The aim is to make it to the list of 34 movies which is allowed screen time in the domestic movie landscape. Chinese real-estate and entertainment conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group Co. has signed a deal for a majority stake in Legendary Entertainment that would value the U.S. film and television company at nearly $4 billion. Chinese internet giant Tencent Holdings bought 10% of Skydance Media, the Hollywood company behind movie Terminator. The valuation of the deal of the production company is at approximately $1.5 billion. As part of the arrangement, Tencent and Skydance will co-finance movies, TV shows and video game projects too.
Apart from the Chinese values, an instance which shows the Chinese government’s good governance, foresight, China’s technology boom, good standard of living are expected to be shown in the movie by the producers themselves. The production houses of these movies often have Chinese co-financiers who work to make the Chinese authority happy. Any image which shows the country in a bad light is frowned upon. In the disaster movie, 2012, humanity is saved because the Chinese government had the foresight to build the life-saving arcs. In Gravity, Sandra Bullock survives by getting herself to the Chinese Space Station which was shown to be the most advanced one.
The 2006 released book titled World War Z, a zombie apocalyptic horror novel written by American author Max Brooks was adapted in a 2013 movie of the same name by the Paramount pictures production. The original plot of the book is about a global pandemic in which people infected with the virus turns into a zombie. The virus origins or the patient zero as mentioned in the book is found in China but the movie adaptation refers to the source of the virus to be in Taiwan. This allowed the release of the movie in Chinese theatres.
In 2014, hacked Sony e-mails revealed that the original script of the movie PIXELS, which was released in 2015, called for blowing up of the Great Wall of China but finally in the movie, Taj Mahal of Agra is seen being blown up. This change was done with the hope that the movie could gain access to the Chinese theatre market. Blowing up of a national heritage site was not something the audience or the national film agencies of China would have appreciated. This incident is a classic example of American movie self- censoring themselves to gain access to a huge market, thereby ensuring a decent profit margin.
Understanding how important movies are in constructing imagery, the Chinese authorities make sure the country is represented in the fairest and best way possible. This includes hand picking visuals of the country in movies, curating dialogues, altering plots, storylines and characters, changing the way the people are represented in the movies. The censorship is so strong and rigid that certain words and cases are not allowed in the movies. Issues of homosexuality, democratic values and free spirit, rejection of authority, liberty and equal rights are certain areas which are a significant part of the Western cultural discourse. Nuances regarding these issues are often put up in public discourse through movies. But when such movies are presented to the Chinese censorship for approval, scenes representing these issues are straight away omitted. This is an attempt by the authority to isolate the local population from western cultural values. A prime example is the 2018 hit, Oscar awarded movie The Bohemian Rhapsody. The movie represented the life and times of Freddie Mercury, lead singer of the British music band The Queen and a well-known member of the LGBT community who died of AIDS. The movie’s cut which was shown in Chinese theatres lacked certain sections of the cinema which talked about the lead singer’s life as a homo sexual. This takes us again to Stanley Rosen’s argument that a bigger chunk of Chinese soft power strategy is within its border for its own public. The country keeps her media in check by regulating movies, especially foreign ones.
The 1997 movie, Seven years in Tibet starring Brad Pitt, depicts China’s controversial takeover of Tibet and the harsh Chinese rule in the country. Director Jean-Jacques Annaud and stars Brad Pitt and David Thewlis were allegedly banned from even entering China.
In the May month of 2021, actor John Cena apologised publicly on Chinese social media platform for referring Taiwan as a country. The production house of the movie, Universal pictures has a long-term co-financing deal with a Chinese entertainment company called the Perfect World Pictures. The movie is backed by Chinese money which made it mandatory for the actor to publicly apologise.
The sensitivity regarding Taiwan is so much that even public acknowledgement of the island nation as a country sparks outrage and objection by China. Tibet, Taiwan, Tiannamen square, Uighur province etc. are certain sensitive issues for the Chinese. The authority does not want any incident, in real life or in movies, to happen that could legitimise their existence, both amongst the domestic and the international audience.
China’s sensitivity to Tibet could be seen in the 2016 hit movie Doctor Strange, part of the popular Marvel Cinematic Universe of the Marvel production house. The ethnicity of a major character was changed completely. In the original comic books, the Ancient one is a Tibetan character, and the studio that was making Doctor Strange changed it to a Celtic character. The movie went on to earn around $109 million in the country. Eliminating a Tibetan character is an attempt to remove the issue of Tibet from the minds of any average movie watcher.
One of the top three highest grossing films in the box office of 2022 is the movie Top Gun: Maverick, a sequel to the 1986 movie Top Gun. In the original 1986 movie, the central character of Tom Cruise’s wears a jacket which went on to become a national rage in Northern America and consequently in more English language movie watching countries. The jacket on its back had a flag patch of US, Japan and Taiwan. In the trailer for the sequel released around two years back, Taiwan’s flag, which the island country has used since 1949, was seen being replaced with an ambiguous patch. This self-censoring by the movie makers was somewhat expected by audience since the movie’s co –producer, Paramount Pictures signed on Tencent, a Chinese tech firm to co-finance the movie. The Shenzhen-based conglomerate hoped to act as an “investor and co-marketer” of the film. But things turned out to be a different when the movie was released.
How receptive is the American movie industry and consumer?
The reaction of the American audience to the trailer, specifically to the changes made in the original jacket in the movie was extremely fierce. The aware audience has somehow grown a resentment towards artistic changes and additions made to American movies, done solely to appease the Chinese authorities. The makers of the movie sensed it and reverted to the original jacket which had the flag patch of Taiwan.
The case of Chinese authorities curating American movies is seen by Hollywood stakeholders as an attempt at altering culture and value system of the nation as well as the larger audience who are American movie watchers. Another matter of concern is the literal buying up of domestic movie production and distribution houses of America by big Chinese firms and conglomerates. A law has been introduced to the US Congress, that would regulate funding of these big American production house by foreign companies. In April 2020, Republican Ted Cruz introduced a bill titled “The Stopping Censorship, Restoring Integrity, Protecting Talkies Act” that the Texas Senator described as “cutting off Hollywood studios from assistance they receive from the Department of Defence if those studios censor their films for screening in China.” The legislation, called the SCRIPT Act, was introduced in May and referred to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. 2020 was also the time when tensions between the U. S. and China were at its peak and a probable trade war between the two countries was looming large.
Soft power is a long-term strategy which reaps benefit only in future. It’s arduous, laborious and results might not be visible instantly, unlike hard power which yields outcomes almost as soon as it is used. But when it does, it is the most profitable and significant investment a country could make in terms of both time and money. China realised this way back in the 1970s, when it mended relations with the U.S. The country has come a long way since the days when Bruce Lee’s movies were dubbed and rationalized to suit American and world audience. It is amazing to see how the world’s most powerful movie industry plays tune to China’s censorship authority’s pipe.
However, Beijing’s strategy of using money to implement soft power tactics has been unveiled. For a very long time this phenomenon was under wraps. Chinese firms pumping money in Hollywood production houses rose only post-2010 but it was done aggressively around 2015. When it comes to allowing foreign language movies to open in China, a limit of 34 movies have been posed. But these movies happen to be the biggest blockbusters of Hollywood, watched by a huge audience across globe. The impression these movies make is simply unimaginable. By censoring and planting favourable plot lines in movies, Chinese authorities intend to artificially manufacture of opinions. Off course, these opinions work in favour of the Chinese regime. This allows them to present to the world a narrative on issues close to Beijing’s heart.
*Ms. Shreyasi Post graduate Student, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
The U.N. as a collective security says no to politicalized agenda
Since the United Nations was founded at the end of the WWII, it has played a seminal role in preserving the world peace and international justice from time to time. Based on the U.N. Charter which champions the no-use of force and collective security, the U.N. is seen as a relatively efficient global organization of sovereign states since then. There is no question that the U.N. has historically promoted the decolonization and changes in the composition of the international community when the U.N. General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples in 1960. Since then, it is fair to say that the new states have come to end the dominance of the West which then commanded a majority of the seats in the General Assembly.
From the very beginning, a world public opinion is seen as the most potent of all forces for peace. Nowadays, it has been since more strongly developing throughout the world. In particular, the U.N. General Assembly is declared to be “the open conscience of the world as Hans Morgenthau used to argue. China has consistently and persistently championed the legitimate rights of the all states in general and the small/weak countries in particular. As Chinese government has reiterated that as the world’s largest developing country, China will continue to stand with all developing States, who are no longer the silent majority in international and multilateral processes.
Also as one of Five Permanent Members of the U.N. Security Council, China should and also must stand up to defend the sacredness of the United Nation as it is a permanent forum in which countries could come together to deliberate and attempt to resolve disagreements rather than sowing the seeds of hatred among them. In reality, the U.N. has been used properly but is also misused and even abused by some governments for the purposes of politicalizing the issues and demonizing its rivals with no moral criteria or any bottom lines. Given this, this essay argues for the necessity of preserving the sacredness and purity of the U.N. for the original goal of acting a collective security rather than unilateral tool abused by any small bloc.
Recently, China allies itself with the statement made by Eritrea on behalf of a group of like-minded countries. Chinese ambassador Geng Shuang made it clear that remedy and reparation is an important way to deliver justice, offer consolation and promote reconstruction after wars and conflicts. Deeply victimized by numerous foreign wars against China in the modern history, China has endured immense losses. Accordingly, the Chinese people and the elite empathize with the heartbreaks of war victims, and sympathize with their misery. Meanwhile, China opines that any remedy and reparation should be achieved through correct political means and legal proceedings in line with international will, fairness and justice, and the humanitarian spirit. The U.N. Security Council and the General Assembly should and can play the role as expected by the international community.
Regarding the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, China has reiterated its sincere concerns with the current situation in Ukraine and the four points about what must be done in the wake of the outbreak of the crisis and the four things the international community must do together later. It is self-evident that given a global, composite crisis in Ukraine, it is important to give serious thought to the following: first, conflicts and wars produce no winner; second, there is no simple solution to a complex issue; and third, confrontation between major countries must be avoided. China has and will continue to look forward to a resumption of peace talks between Russia and Ukraine. At the same time, it is imperative that the U.S. and its allies of the NATO and the EU should hold direct dialogues with Russia. This is the nature of classic diplomacy championing negotiation, persuasion and mutual compromises rather than driving a decisive victory in the battlefield.
Due to the discussion of China’s stances on the international issues and the role of the UN in the crises management, it is quite easy to perceive China’s refusal of the draft resolution on remedy and reparation submitted for actions of the Emergency Special Session of the U.N. General Assembly on November 16 since it has obvious flaws and loopholes and does not conform to China’s position and proposition. However, Chinese Ambassador Geng Shuang presented three points to verify the general principles and practices of the UN as a collective security forum.
First, legally speaking, China believes that the draft resolution intends to address the issue of international legal responsibility directly through the General Assembly, thereby overstepping GA’s authority. As it is well-noted that the UN Charter clearly stipulates the mandates of the principal organs of the UN and the General Assembly is not an international judicial body. Thus, it has no legal power to define and hold accountable for internationally wrongful acts. As a matter of fact, the resolutions previously adopted by the 11th Emergency Special Session of the GA do not constitute solid legal basis for remedy and reparation.
It is clear that the draft resolution aims to invoke the Articles on the Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts to pursue accountability, yet, doing so lacks legal basis in a professional way. The aforementioned Articles are research products of the International Law Commission which is an expert body. It is not an inter-governmental treaty and not legally binding. From a perspective of international law, neither do the Articles provide legal norms to define an internationally wrongful act or determine whether such an act exists. Hence, it is not appropriate to cite the Articles to make legal determination and pursue accountability.
Second, given the fact the draft resolution intends to bless the creation, by some countries, of a mechanism for reparation and a register of damage outside the UN framework, thus it deviates from the normal practice. The above mentioned mechanisms proposed by some countries are not in the framework of the UN, not overseen by the UN, and do not report to the UN. Nevertheless, the General Assembly is requested to adopt a resolution specifically for their creation. This approach makes no sense and has no precedent in practice.
It deserves noting that the issue of remedy and reparation is of great dimensions and far reaching implications. It concerns peace and security on the one hand, justice and conscience on the other. Moreover, it concerns not only the sacredness of the United Nations, but also the justice of international rule of law. Thus, the issue of remedy and reparation needs to be presented in a legal and procedural way. Historically, countries in the world victimized by internationally wrongful acts such as colonialism, external interference, unilateral sanctions and economic blockade have the right to seek remedy and reparation. The action taken by the General Assembly today should help to provide correct guidance for the settlement of possible future claims of relevant countries for remedy and reparation. Yet, the red-line is that it should help to maintain the impartial image of the UN that treats all member states equally. It should help to ensure various UN bodies can work in concert according to their respective mandates. Regrettably, the sponsor states did not organize consultations in earnest, did not substantively respond to the concerns of member states, and instead insisted on pushing the General Assembly to take a hasty action which is totally unconstructive.
As it is well-known that the Ukrainian crisis has been ongoing nearly nine months. It has sent shockwaves throughout the world and brought more uncertainty and instability to the world. Since the crisis serves no parties’ interests including Ukraine and Russia, China has appealed to all parties concerned to return to dialogue and negotiation as soon as possible. In so doing, the international community, including the General Assembly, should work actively to this end, instead of intensifying tensions, provoking confrontation and aggravating divides. In fact, China’s position on the Ukraine issue is clear and consistent. That is to say that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries must be respected and the purposes and principles of the UN Charter must be fully observed. However, the legitimate security concerns of all countries must be also taken seriously. Accordingly, China endorses the tireless work with the international community to play a constructive role in promoting the early realization of ceasefire and cessation of hostilities.
To sum up, China has no bias against any parties concerned in the Ukrainian crisis. Yet, the key is that China must act a responsible power to upload the authority of the UN Charter and the credibility of the General Assembly. Given this, China decided to vote against the draft resolution along with more than ten other countries, though they were a minority. For the end of safeguarding true multilateralism and maintaining the international rule of law and fairness and justice, China has done as it should do as always.
Silence on Uyghurs and Kashmir: A tacit quid-pro-quo between India and China
On the 7th of October, India abstained from voting on a resolution for “holding a debate” on China’s alleged atrocities on Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region. Although, on previous occasions, India had called for the human rights of Uyghurs to be respected, and had taken note of a UN Human Rights report finding human rights violations by China; When presented with an option to finalise and consolidate its stance on the matter, India chose to abstain from voting.
In this post I argue that, India’s choice to abstain from voting against China’s alleged human rights violation in the Xinjiang province, is part of a tacit quid pro quo between the two states to remain silent on each other’s human rights violations.
Uyghurs, a Muslim ethnic community in the Xinjiang region of China, have been, and continue to be subjected to severe human rights abuses by the Chinese state. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has established centres which the international media has come to refer to as, “re-education centres”. At these centres the CCP works towards preventing citizens from being influenced by extremist thoughts, and to “nip terrorist activities in the bud.”
In the context of Uyghurs, a plethora of allegations have been levelled against China. These range from forced labour, illegal detention, to genocide, and may even extend to crimes against humanity. However, as discussed previously on this forum, even though the corpus of evidence on China’s violations of Human Rights against Uyghurs continue to grow, the same must be protected, and finally utilised to prove the role of the State in these human rights violations.
The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Genocide Convention), to which China is a signatory, defines genocide to include, five acts. Evidence suggests, China has violated every single clause of this article. These include, (i) killing members of a group, (ii) causing serious bodily, or mental harm, (iii) deliberately inflicting conditions of life to bring about the physical destruction of the group, (iv) imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group, and (iv) Forcefully transferring children of the group to another group. (For a consolidated list of human rights violations by China in Xinjiang, see this report by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights)
It is therefore, shocking to see that although India continues to stand for respecting the human rights of Uyghurs, India chooses to abstain from voting on China’s alleged atrocities on Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang province.
However, a closer study of India’s abstention on the Uyghur vote speaks volumes. India itself faces numerous accusations of Human Rights violations in the erstwhile state (and now Union Territory) of Jammu, and Kashmir. These range from civilian killings, to restrictions on freedom of expression, and many other forms of human rights violations. (A consolidated list of human rights violations by India in Indian-administered Kashmir can be found in this report)
Therefore, in light of this, India’s abstention can in many ways be seen as a quid pro quo between India, and China. China’s absolute silence on Human Rights violations by India in J&K, even in the face of growing evidence for the same, must be seen in tandem with India’s abstention at the UNHRC. Alternatively, India’s move to abstain from voting could also be a move to mollify, the ever-increasing Chinese aggression, and expansionist policies in the Indo-pacific.
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