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Why Global Players Must be Concerned of New Version of Charm Offensive in Xi Jinping 3.0 Era?

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When Joshua Kurlantzick coined the term ‘charm offensive’ for China in 2007, it simply referred to China’s use of soft power to improve its global status and image, as part of its peaceful rise. Many strategists named Mao Zedong’s era as China 1.0 and Deng Xiaoping’s era of opening up of economy as China 2.0, wherein USA helped China get richer, least realising the magnitude of challenge it may pose after its rise.

Xi Jinping’s rise to power as “Chairman of Everything” in 2013 saw a transformation of peaceful China to Assertive China (China 3.0) marching towards its Dream of national rejuvenation, and the goal of turning China into a modern socialist prosperous and strong country, by 2049. The charm offensive then transformed into what China termed as  “Public Diplomacy”.

Michael Pillsbury decoded this trajectory in his 2016 book The Hundred-Year Marathon: China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower. The competition between China and USA in Xi’s era also transformed into Cold War 2.0, with both sides intensifying the economic, political and diplomatic competition between them. The COVID-19 pandemic and push back against China, seen to be profiteering out of it, besides aggressive postures in neighbourhood, led to  “Wolf Warrior Diplomacy” and coercion, aimed to avoid criticism of its actions during pandemic.

The constitutional oath-taking ceremony in Beijing at the ‘two sessions’ 2023, started with Xi Jinping 3.0 era, with challenges of internal dissent due to ‘Zero Covid Policy’ and increasing decoupling, which has led to a ‘Smart Diplomacy’ as latest version of Charm Offensive, where it seems to have made some significant gains in denting US influence in many areas. The ‘Telephone Diplomacy’ by new Foreign Minister Qin Gang of China of talking to his counterparts globally, and series of successful visits by Xi Jinping have seen some favourable results. The obsession of Biden Administration with war in Ukraine, pursuing Cold War 1.0 with Russia, in addition to Cold War 2.0 with China has worked to China’s advantage, leaving US overstretched to pursue both cold wars simultaneously.

Growing Strategic Footprints in West Asia

Chinese smart diplomacy of Xi Jinping 3.0 era aims at having strong relations with any country, which has troubled relations with US due to any reason, on Chinese terms. It signed a $ 400 billion deal with Iran, to ensure its long term supply of oil, which suited Iran too, which was suffering under US sanctions. What Chinese have learnt is to avoid picking up issues with partner country, which do not impact it economically. Therefore, China ignores what Iran is doing to its women protesters, or Taliban doing to its people as part of its new smart diplomacy. In contrast US obsessed with global moral policing (despite inability to control its own internal gun violence) arrogantly assumes moral right to lecture the world on human rights, thereby spoiling relations with many countries including friends, on issues not necessarily relevant to US interest.

President Xi Jinping’s successful visit to Saudi Arabia, after not so welcomed visit of US President, scored a diplomatic point with many commercial agreements in place. China brokering resumption of diplomatic ties between arch rival Saudi Arabia and Iran, has bigger implications in shrinking US strategic space in West Asia. The Arab unity seems to be rejuvenating with some of them welcoming Syria in Arab fold. The biggest advantage which China may gain is that such group of partners will soon be trading in local currencies/Yuan which marks the beginning of decline long term monopoly of dollar, which made US most powerful, due to its hold on global financial system.

Is China a Wild Card in Russia Ukraine War?     

President Xi Jinping’s recent visit to Moscow with “Strategic Partnership with no limit” tag was impressive optics, but nothing worthwhile in terms of military hardware support to Russia. It however gave stern diplomatic message that neither Russia is diplomatically isolated as US led NATO will like to imagine, nor sanctions can bring Russia to knees and both countries are looking towards “Multipolar Global Order”. The partnership also assumes significance in context of Sino-Russian footprints in Arctic region and North Atlantic Ocean.

China has left USA led NATO speculate with concern, the extent of Chinese lethal support to Russia (if any), notwithstanding Zelensky’s reports of increasing traces of lethal support, as it may become a crucial turning point of war. US threatened China for sanctions, which responded by mocking US as morally not qualified to give orders to China, after sending billions of dollars’ worth in aid, to fuel the war and its history of invasions in Iraq and Libya. China, however is unlikely to compromise its largest consumer market in US and EU; hence, has denied any combat/lethal support to Russia. China also improved its diplomatic score by offering a 12-point peace proposal, which it knows that US/Ukraine will never agree.

The most significant diplomatic ripples are visible in Europe, which under immense economic pressure seems divided in following US dictate in prolonging war or decoupling with China, which is largest trading partner of many European countries. During visit to China, President Macrons suggestion that European countries were too subservient to the US and should not be Washington’s “followers. His remarks “Being an ally does not mean being a vassal” and similar sentiments by various segments of society in Germany have adequately discomforted the US led NATO and can be encouraging for China’s smart diplomats. The beeline of visitors from Europe and other continents (including President Lula) to Beijing on excuse of using Chinese influence to moderate Putin, in real term indicates economic interests outside US orbit.    

Growing Trade with Global Players

During peak of COVID-19 pandemic, the global pitch was to decouple from Chinese led supply chain. Interestingly, last one year has seen that trade volume of China with every competitor, and critique has increased despite each of them announcing the relations as strained. Be it US, Europe or India, all have made significant gestures of decoupling, but ended up with more trade with China. Incidents of application of Chinese ‘Three Warfare Strategy’, influence operations, secret police stations, spy balloons and digital encroachment have been reported, but it hasn’t affected trade to the extent claimed. In case of India, despite the ongoing standoff at Ladakh, the trade grew to record $ 136 billion and trade deficit crossed $100 billion in favour of China. It indicates a smart power play in ‘Big Power Contestation’ in Xi Jinping 3.0 era.

What Can India Do?

In ongoing global powerplay, India has made some good diplomatic moves in recent past including not taking sides in Russia Ukraine War and withstanding pressures from China as well as the West, in its own national interest. It has made India’s position important for West as well as anti-West camps, as both will like to have India on their side, as it changes the strategic balance significantly. For US led West, its not possible to keep China under check without India and for India too China with unresolved border and ongoing standoff, can’t be its friend, so long the border issue sees some resolution.           

India therefore needs to continue with all ongoing strategic partnerships, not take sides, continue acting as per its national interest and most importantly develop its Comprehensive National Power (CNP) through self-reliance and diversification of inescapable dependencies in both opposing camps. Till India attains a high level of CNP, self-reliance, military capacity building and infrastructure development and inclusive growth on borders, it has no choice but to continue with strategic balancing in Big Power Contestation, while maintaining its strategic autonomy, besides maintaining strong military posture to maintain its territorial integrity, on its borders and at strategic points in maritime domain.

The world community must take note of the Chinese new era of Charm offensive, use of soft power, infrastructure offensive, digital and economic encroachment to pursue Chinese interest and undermining interest of others. It must counter it in similar dimension, collectively, to ensure that assertive China` doesn’t become too aggressive to build a China centric chaotic world order on the name of multi-polar world order.

The author is a veteran Infantry General with 40 years experience in international fields and UN. A globally acknowledged strategic & military writer/analyst; he is currently the Chief Instructor of USI of India, the oldest Indian Think-tank in India.

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East Asia

Mongolia To Strengthen Transparency Through Constitutional Reforms

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The Government of Mongolia has this week made efforts to strengthen the governance of its legislature and increase transparency by passing into law a number of changes to the country’s constitution. The country hopes to create more opportunities for civil society representation by moving to a mixed electoral system.

Representatives in the country’s parliament, the State Great Khural, debated and approved reforms that will increase the number of members in the parliament from 76 to 126, with nearly 40% of the MPs now being elected through proportional representation. The Government is also shortly due to introduce separate proposals that will increase the representation of women in the parliament. All these changes are set to be in place in time for the next set of general elections in 2024.

Mongolia’s political system is centred on the sharing of executive power between the Prime Minister as the head of government, and an elected President. The country’s Constitution was adopted in 1992, with amendments made in 1999, 2000, 2019, and 2022. Recent changes have focused on securing political stability in the country, through for example limiting the maximum term of the presidency from two four-year terms to one six-year term, and amending the number of parliamentarians who can hold ministerial positions. 

The increase in the size of the State Great Khural will address the rise in the number of voters represented by each parliamentarian, which has increased from 27,000 in 1992 to 44,000 today. Alongside the move towards a more proportional electoral system, the reforms are designed to bring parliamentarians closer to the people they are elected to serve by enhancing the scrutiny given to new laws.

A separate amendment to the country’s constitution creates a role for Mongolia’s Constitutional Court in reaching a final decision on citizen petitions alleging breaches of civil rights and freedoms, including equal rights between men and women, freedom of thought, speech, and peaceful assembly.

Commenting on the proposed changes to the constitution, Mongolia’s Prime Minister, L. Oyun-Erdene, said:

“I strongly support these proposed changes to Mongolia’s Constitution. They represent a further step for our country in the direction of a more inclusive and democratic future. Through increasing the representation in our parliament and broadening input into the law-making process, we will be better placed to meet current challenges and ensure that we continue to make progress towards our Vision 2050 goals, improving the livelihoods of people across Mongolia.”

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East Asia

Taiwan’s International Status: “A Country Within a Country”

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Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen met with US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California. (Photo: Taiwan's Presidential Office)

In California, a recent meeting was held between the President of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, and the U.S. House Speaker, Mr. Kevin McCarthy, which holds political significance. This aforementioned meeting facilitated a negative shift in the bilateral relations between China and Taiwan.  The latent hostilities between China and Taiwan possess the potential to escalate into full-scale armed conflict at any given juncture.

The proposal

The incongruent dynamic existing between China and Taiwan has persisted since 1949, when Taiwan made the conscious decision to separate from mainland China.

From 1949 onwards, China and Taiwan have been embroiled in a geopolitical imbroglio pertaining to their respective territorial integrity and claims of sovereignty. The Chinese government asserts that Taiwan is an integral component of its sovereign geography. On the contrary, Taiwan is assertive of its autonomy as a distinct, self-governing entity that operates independently and is no longer subject to Chinese jurisdiction.

The discordant relationship between the two sides which has escalated over the preceding biennium, potentially heightening the likelihood of military confrontation.

Over the course of the past two years, there have been several instances in which China has deployed the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to conduct military maneuvers in close proximity to Taiwan. The aforementioned initiative was aimed at preventing any activities fueled by Taiwan that could have been construed as provocative and potentially encroach on China’s claims of rightful control over Taiwan’s sovereignty and territorial boundaries

The persistent geopolitical tensions between China and Taiwan since 1949 can be attributed to diverging opinions regarding the formal recognition of Taiwan, in particular, the contentious matter of Taiwan’s sovereignty. Tensions will continue Between China and Taiwan until Taiwan becomes independent or recognizes its self-identification as a constituent part of China.

Since 1949, the China has exerted persistent pressure upon Taiwan to acquiesce to the notion of reunification or the incorporation of Taiwan into the mainland territory of China. Nevertheless, it appears that Taiwan’s internal political circumstance and dynamics persist in maintaining its political choices and ideology as a democratic and self-governing entity.

The prolonged inability of both parties to develop a more extensive and adaptable resolution or methodology to address the matter implies that the aspiration to “normalize” relations between China and Taiwan continues to exist solely within the realm of rhetoric.

In order to achieve the objective of unification under the the idea of the “One China Principle” or One China Policy and to surmount the political divergence concerning Taiwan’s official position, has engendered several propositions by China aimed at resolving this issue. A proposed approach adopt the implementation of a “one country, two systems” protocol akin to that employed in Hong Kong and Macau.

The Chinese government has expressed that the policy is exceedingly permissive and capable of surmounting the distinct system variances that exist between the mainland region of China and Taiwan.

The proposal of “special administrative region” attributed to Taiwan enables the continued preservation of its economic, social, and security system that they have built so far, while attenuating or obviating any undue influence or interference by China. Nonetheless, the aforementioned proposal appears to be insufficient in instigating political transformation in Taiwan, given the persistent refusal of Taiwanese individuals and governmental officials to endorse unification and uphold their desire for independence.

In view of China, safeguarding Taiwan and accomplishing the complete unification of the country is not solely a matter of fulfilling its constitutional obligations, but also serves the purpose of preserving its stature as a dominant and revered nation on the global stage.

In contrast, Taiwan persistently endeavors to establish diplomatic and cross-strait relations through a range of diverse strategies and approaches with multiple nations across the globe. The clear objective is to secure the hearts and compassion of the global populace. Taiwan undertook this action with the aim of restoring its position in the global arena and paving the way for its eventual recognition as a self-governing entity with full political autonomy.

“Country within a country”

Again, the China-Taiwan issue is rooted in a territorial and sovereignty perspectives. In the global arena, China maintains a comparatively advantageous position. China, is a prominent participant in the United Nations, the most extensive intergovernmental organization encompassing numerous states worldwide, Positioning itself as a powerful participant in the direction and reflection of global politics. Furthermore, China belongs to “the distinguished” member of UN Security Council’s five permanent members, which has so far strong and great influence on world politics.

On the other hand, the international position held by Taiwan is considerably intricate. The question regarding the statehood of Taiwan remains a matter of unsettled dispute, given the absence of any universally recognized body empowered to render definitive judgments regarding the status of a nation-state.

Since the adoption of Resolution A/RES/2758 by the UN General Assembly on October 25, 1971, Taiwan has lost its international “stage”. This is because the resolution affirms China as the sole legitimate representative of China to the United Nations and consequentially nullifies Taiwan’s membership from the organization.

It is a well-documented reality that numerous nations have forged informal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, particularly in the realm of trade and investment. The United States, for instance, has solidified such relations through the Taiwan Relations Act. To the present day, a limited number of 22 nations have formally acknowledged and established official diplomatic intercourse with Taiwan. A notable aspect is that the majority of these nations lack any substantial sway or significant leverage on the international political sphere. Specifically, countries of comparatively small size in the African and Latin American regions, namely Haiti, Belize, and Tuvalu.

Taiwan has indeed met the three constitutive elements or absolute requisites deemed necessary for a country as exemplified by the 1933 Montevideo Convention. These components include the presence of a defined territorial boundary, a functioning populace, and a duly constituted government. However, Taiwan lacks a crucial element in its diplomatic status, namely the recognition from the international community through a declarative act.

The restricted global acknowledgement of Taiwan undoubtedly carries considerable political and legal ramifications. Recognition is widely regarded as the key component in modern international politics that has the potential to enhance the legitimacy and sovereignty of a given state.

Taiwan faces formidable challenges in achieving recognition. In order to attain successful governance, Taiwan must display adeptness in efficiently managing both internal and external political dynamics. Otherwise, the current state of affairs will persist, leading to Taiwan’s classification as a “subnational entity” Or “A country within a country”.

Ultimately, the resolution of the China and Taiwan conflict proves to be a formidable challenge. In order to mitigate potential future crises and uphold regional and international stability, it is necessary for China and Taiwan to refrain from engaging in provocative actions. It is imperative to adopt a cooperative approach through negotiations and concessions that are all-encompassing and pertinent, in order to attain a sustainable resolution that caters to the interests of both China and Taiwan’s populace of 23 million, while acknowledging and adapting to their respective challenges and circumstances.

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East Asia

The Sino-Russian-led World Order: A Better Choice for the Globe?

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Photo: Grigoriy Sisoev, RIA Novosti

International forums, which were once established to promote cooperation and dialogue among the world’s states, are now increasingly being used as platforms for confrontation and accusation. The recent example of G20 and G7 summits, where China and Russia faced criticism and isolation from Western countries over the Indo-pacific and their actions in Ukraine, plus India’s accusation of Pakistan as a terrorist sponsor state in the SCO summit, illustrate these trends. Instead of working towards finding a solution to pressing global problems, these meetings have devolved into platforms for airing grievances and pointing fingers – this shift in focus has undermined the effectiveness of these forums in addressing the very issues they were created to solve.

At their recent summit in Hiroshima, Japan, the G7 leaders issued their strongest-ever condemnation of Russia and China. They accused them of using economic coercion and militarizing the South China Sea and urged them to push Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukraine. Furthermore, at the G7 summit, leaders of the significant democracies pledged additional measures targeting Russia and spoke with a united voice on their growing concern over China.

Similarly, in Feb 2023, at the G20 finance minister’s summit held in Bengaluru, Russia and China declined to sign a joint statement condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and of course, as a sovereign state, Russia has the right to defend its territory and combat threats that pose a danger to its survival. These are just a few instances that illustrate how the Western world reacts to the actions and policies of China and Russia on the global stage.

Consequently, this recent condemnation and blaming at the Hiroshima summit demonstrate that international forums can no longer address serious global issues; instead, they have become arenas for blaming and accusing one another. This shift in the nature of international forums has significant implications for global governance and cooperation – It highlights the need for the failure of the current global system dominated by the Western bloc.

Besides, accusing states such as China and Russia at international forums is not a solution to global problems; instead, it can exacerbate regional tension and promote anti-sentiment against influential states. Furthermore, instead of promoting cooperation and dialogue, such accusations can foster an environment of mistrust and hostility, making it more challenging to find common ground and work towards resolving global issues.

In one of my previous papers, I argued that “the contemporary geopolitical landscape is characterized by escalating tension between the United States and its allies and China and Russia. This can be attributed to the absence of transparent and inclusive unipolar world order that effectively addresses the interests and concerns of all nations.

I further elaborated that the US and its allies are not inclined to recognize the emergence of a Sino-Russian-led world order, as evidenced by the recent summit development. The West has frequently chastised China and Russia for their autocratic governments, breaches of human rights, and expansionist ambitions. Such claims, however, are based on a skewed and obsolete understanding of the global system that ignores the two countries’ legitimate interests and aspirations. Instead of making allegations, the Western world should be grateful for the Sino-Russian-led international system, which provides a more democratic, multipolar, and peaceful alternative to the US-dominated regional hegemony.

To begin with, the Sino-Russian-led international order is more democratic than the Western one since it recognizes the globe’s diversity of political systems and cultures. China and Russia do not push their ideals or ideologies on other countries but instead encourage them to exercise their sovereignty and self-determination. They also reject any influence or intervention in the domestic affairs of other countries, particularly by the United States and its allies. In contrast, the Western world has frequently employed economic and military force to compel or remove governments that do not share its interests or tastes. Iraq, Libya, Syria, Venezuela, and Iran are a few examples. Such operations have breached international law and generated insecurity and misery in several places.

Second, the Sino-Russian-led international order is more multipolar than the Western one because it balances the strength and influence of many global players. With expanding economic, military, and diplomatic capacities, China and Russia have emerged as crucial powers in the twenty-first century. They have also formed strategic alliances with other growing nations, including India, Brazil, South Africa, Turkey, and Iran. They have joined forces to oppose the US-led unipolar system and call for more egalitarian and inclusive global governance. On the other hand, the Western world has attempted to preserve its domination and hegemony over other countries, particularly in regions such as Europe, Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, and Africa. Many countries seeking greater autonomy have expressed displeasure and hostility to such a system.

Third, the Sino-Russian world order is more peaceful than the Western one because it values discussion and collaboration above confrontation and war. China and Russia have settled their historical differences and formed a comprehensive strategic alliance based on mutual trust and respect. They have also collaborated on several regional and global concerns, including counter-terrorism, non-proliferation, climate change, energy security, and pandemic response. They have also backed international institutions and procedures such as the United Nations (UN), Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa), Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and others. In contrast, the Western world has frequently instigated or intensified tensions and disagreements with other countries, particularly China and Russia. A few examples are NATO expansion, missile defense deployment, sanctions system, and commerce.

Finally, international forums have the potential to promote cooperation and dialogue among nations; however, their effectiveness is hindered when they become platforms for confrontation and accusation. In contrast, the Sino-Russian-led world order is a superior choice for the globe to the Western one. It is more democratic because it values diversity; multipolar because it balances power; and more peaceful because it promotes dialogue – thus, rather than criticizing, the Western world should commend the international order led by Sino-Russian cooperation.

In conclusion, while international forums have the potential to promote cooperation among nations, they are increasingly being used for confrontation. In this context, the Sino-Russian-led world order offers a more democratic and peaceful alternative to the US-dominated hegemony and may be a better choice for promoting global cooperation.

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