BY: ASHOK CHOWGULE JULY 7, 2020
Ever since the recent attempt of the China Communist Party (CCP) leadership to pressure Bharat militarily along the Line of Actual Control in East Ladakh and Bharat responding firmly, confusing explanations are being offered by sundry analysts for CCP’s open belligerence. The Chinese system being opaque and no clues being available from any internal debate on CCP’s foreign policy decisions, analysts have to rely on Chinese standard propaganda lines to gauge Chinese thinking, resulting in speculation about Chinese motives and ascribing some rationality to what may well be irrational policy choices by the CCP.
Some of the explanations given for China’s conduct are listed below. All can be challenged as specious, exaggerated or self-serving:
- Bharat’s accelerated infrastructure work along the LAC.
- Revocation of Article 370.
- Bharat is seen as an obstacle by the CCP leadership for its hegemonic ambitions.
- A perception has grown internationally that Bharat could present an alternative to China. So, China would want to cut down Bharat to size.
- Bharat opposed the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and decided not to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
- Bharat is getting closer to the USA, Australia, Japan, etc as part of America’s Indo-Pacific strategy to encircle China. The Quad project has a similar objective.
- The attack on Bharat is actually a message to the USA.
- Xi Jinping is facing domestic leadership issues in the CCP and is seeking to distract attention by a foreign operation to mobilise national support.
- China wants to divert world attention away from its suppression of the truth about the Wuhan virus.
- Xi wanted to give Modiji a bloody nose.
When such multiple reasons are given, one can wonder whether the analysts really know what is happening. Some want to shift the focus away from the reality of a power-drunk, belligerent CCP leadership. Others rationalise this expansionism as a natural corollary of a great power status that China now enjoys.
It is indisputable that abandoning hard Marxist economic policies in favour of a freer market, China’s economy (in terms of GDP) has grown impressively, with a drastic decrease in poverty. It is also true that the CCP leadership thinks consequently that this gives the coterie an unquestioned right to world leadership. And here is where the real problem is.
China’s pre-meditated aggressive moves in Ladakh have to be seen in a wider context. The CCP leadership has created border disputes with South Asian and East Asian countries. These are based on untenable historical claims, arbitrary drawing of lines, scant regard for international law and military muscle-flexing. China’s conduct in the South China Sea in violation of the Law of the Sea affects the interest of all countries with regard to unrestricted trade flows and freedom of navigation and overflights.
Shekhar Gupta placed a proper issue on the table, when he tweeted:
Shekhar Gupta @ShekharGupta While it’s perfectly good that we debate exactly where the Chinese are in Ladakh, we also must ask another imp question: what kind of aspiring superpower starts bullying most of its neighbours militarily even as they fight with the virus it exported to them..
But he has not followed it up by seeking an answer to this important question. In fact, a week later, he falls back to the default position of the ‘analysts’ when he tweeted:
Shekhar Gupta @ShekharGupta Be sure that Xi Jinping has fully taken into account the economic/trade loss this would entail for China. He’s thinking not money but hegemony. The world is looking at a militarily expansionist China. Its non-surrogate neighbours are just the first responders…
In the past, many people across countries have condemned the USA for trying to dominate the world. A similar ambition by China is not considered wrong by the same people. They will not condemn the CCP leadership for seeking global hegemony.
The important question that Gupta asks (namely, what kind of aspiring superpower starts bullying most of its neighbours militarily?) begs the additional question whether the current pandemic has been caused by the Chinese virus or not. In line with this, I would like to put the following for discussion:
- Does an aspiring power want to be feared or respected?
- Why has the CCP leadership spent so much money for such a long time along both Bharat’s border and the areas they illegally control in Ladakh?
- While China has economically prospered, are the policies of the CCP leadership in the long-term interest of the people in the poorer countries?
- Why does the CCP leadership persist in creating border disputes with neighbours in South Asia?
- Was not the present stand-off triggered in Ladakh by the People’s Liberation Army’s attempt to change the status quo?
- How do the people of China benefit by asserting highly contestable historical claims over the territory of other sovereign countries?
And so on.
The CCP leadership’s hostage taking with respect to Canada gives another insight into its unlawful behaviour. They kidnapped two Canadian citizens visiting China and stated that they would be released if Canada dropped the extradition of Meng Wanzhou, the Chinese telecom executive (Huawei), to the USA. An editorial in The Globe and Mail (June 26, 2020) has briefly narrated the whole incident.
Taking a specific event, the editorial has correctly set out what to expect of the CCP leadership when it wants things to happen its way. The editorial also reports a demand for appeasement of the CCP leadership by those who would be called the civil society. “This week, a group of prominent lawyers, former parliamentarians and diplomats wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau imploring him to allow the Justice Minister to use his legislated power to unilaterally end Ms. Meng’s extradition proceedings. Doing so, they argued, would save the lives of the two Michaels, and put Canada’s relationship with China back on track.”
When Bharat decided to resist the bullying of the CCP leadership, international clamour has grown for exposing the true nature of this leadership. Many analysts, as well leaders of democratic nations, have begun to make a distinction between the people of China and the CCP leadership. The prosperity of the people of China is not linked to the prosperity of the CCP cabal.
I would like to end this note with a proposition made by Bhayyaji Joshi, the Sahkaryavaha of the RSS, namely, that Bharat seeks to be an accountable and responsible power, not a superpower. In fact, every country in the world, irrespective of its size, should aspire to be the former. That is the best route to achieve economic and social prosperity, and allow the people to grow to their full potential.