The end of cold war marked the beginning of a new era, an era of American hegemony; in simple words a period where there is no country to challenge the United States in terms of economic and military power. USA dictated the world order and made changes according to its will and wish; whether it be the case of intervention in Afghanistan or the idea of democratization of China.
Looking at the present circumstances, it can’t be disagreed that these actions are failing disastrously at the cost American money and manpower. There are many more examples where American intervention has failed and has resulted into a number of local problems for regional actors.
In the book The Great delusion, John Mearsheimer talks of why china can’t rise peacefully.
He has argued that the rise of china is a part of a long-term competition between the red dragon and the regional powers like ASEAN nations and individual powers like India, which, for regional dominance and hegemony over a spectrum of areas, viz; economic, defense and security and cultural. Though in the present scenario there is a big gap in the general power difference between China and the regional powers but this balance of power difference is only for the time being and eventually other powers will catch up to china and claim their legitimate position in the regional and global order. The rise of china has been very tricky for the global community to deal with particularly because of the manner in which China has risen. The effect of this dilemma is consistently seen in the paradoxical approach of nations with respect to china.
For becoming a superpower china had to challenge the rise of other regional actors like India. The Indian leadership faces a precarious condition where it has to rethink its posture with respect to the rapidly changing world order. China has already penetrated deep into the internal affairs of many nations through its extravagant programs of loan offering and export monopoly which makes it precarious for countries like India which have their own aspirations of becoming a substantial player in the region.
In this article I have tried to present an analysis of the rise of the Red Dragon with a historical study and the factors which acted as a platform for this spectacular growth. I have also brief studied the impact on this rise on India as being a neighbor and a conventional adversary of china.
THE RISE OF CHINA
If we look at the period after second world war, china was already in power, Afterall it fought the US in the Korean war and the Vietnam episode despite of the fact that china was not that a big power compared to the united states. This is just half-truth, china in both these campaigns was helped by Soviet Union in the form of technology and machinery.
In the Korean war the USSR provided crucial air supremacy over major Korean peninsula while in the Vietnam war USSR armed the north Vietnamese rebels. But one point can be deduced from all this and that is the resolute action of the Chinese. Despite being a benign economy china was always ready to flex its muscle. Perhaps it was something like the Japanese adventurism which gave them alliance with the British. But after the death of Stalin, Mao had hoped that he would be chosen as the leader of the communist international and lead the communist movement in the world. Mao faced a decisive blow when Nikkita Khrushchev was chosen as the leader for the leadership.
Scholars believe this to be a bigger reason for the Sino-Soviet split which happened in the late 1960s.though fault lines in Sino Russo relations were already present since the beginning of 1960s. Mao was considered a better politician in his leadership after the setting up of the people’s republic of china than being a leader before. The sentiment across the whole mainland china was against the American aggression in korea and popular sentiment of an “imperial America” was created by the CPC leadership. But after the start of the Sino soviet split Mao wasted no time to connect to America and reorient its relation with the united states bringing into a new phase into the future of china.
This groundwork by Mao was very important for the opening up of economy by Deng Xiaoping, the all-powerful leader of china. Since then china has embarked on a sustained period of marvelous growth in all fields. In 2018, a report from UNDP indicated that china was able to remove 700 million people from poverty and bring them up to the middle-income group. After the 1980s china went on a disinvestment spree and opened its economy for FDIs. The result was a massive inflow of investments into different industrial sectors. A particular example Has been the Guangdong province which homes many important manufacturing units of some of the biggest companies in the world. This has gained china the ‘title of factory of the world.
With this miraculous growth in its economy, china was all set to focus on the other very important criteria for becoming a great power. According to CSIS, Chinese military budget increased from 85 billion USD to 180 billion USD second only to the united states of America. Though SIPRI estimates this amount to be more than 250 Billion USD.
Stockholm international ranks china as the world’s 3rd most powerful nation with nuclear military technology. World’s biggest ports are in china, cement consumer and electricity generator.
These are some facts which point towards the success of china and reflect the long-term strategy of the Chinese leadership to reshape the world order. The Chinese have adopted a dual strategy of cooperation and coercion.
BELT AND ROAD INITIATIVE
After getting elected to the post of president Mr. Xi Jinping inaugurated the belt and road initiative which saw immense popularity among nations and several nations joined. BRI has been considered as a long-term grand strategy of connecting important economic locations across the Eurasian continent through various small and large infrastructure projects. The CPC has popularized this by calling this the modern-day silk route creating a reminiscent feeling among the Chinese masses of their glorious past. The Chinese foreign ministry has managed to pull off an economic blitzkrieg by offering loans to countries that are not in their best shape to take advantage of that loans. This strategy infamously gained the name debt trap strategy over the world. This aims to convert their debt into equity by first providing loans to such countries for a particular infrastructure project and then when the country is unable to return the money, they buy these countries by taking the project on lease.
A very famous example has been the Sri Lankan Habantota port in the Indian ocean region, which was occupied by Chinese companies for a period of 99 years.
The BRI is being supported by the Made in China 2025 plan envisioned by president xi and issued by premier Li Keqiang of PRC in April 2015.This 10-year vision document aims to convert china from being a producer of low-end technology products to a manufacturer of high-end technological goods. Presently china is a producer of a wide range of goods like components for IT, electrical equipment and pharmaceuticals as well as finished products like electric goods, chemicals and defense equipment. these are some products which require cheap skilled labors and manufacturing facilities which cater to the everyday needs of the people of china and the world. The Chinese manufacturing process is well integrated into the global supply chains and has become even become a strategic leverage for the Chinese administration to make its way in the global arena. But the problem is that this manufacturing is short of the technological supremacy that the companies in Unites States have in abundance. The made in china 2025 is there to fill this technological bankruptcy and provide china an edge in the technological realm of high ended manufacturing process like that of united states and some European nations.
CHINA- The New Bully
The Chinese since the very beginning of their civilization were able to create an order which was centred around china. Since the early Han rulers, china has been an expansionist state. The rulers granted tributary status to various kingdoms and never shied away from expanding their territory when disobeyed by others. Its sphere of influence was always visible in other lands foreign lands like Korea, japan and the deserts of central Asia (present day Xinjiang). The Chinese had various instruments to create such an influence; some of which were accepting tributes in return of sovereignty to other kingdoms, the Ancient Trade Route which penetrated deep into the Uighur territory.
Though the global order now does not allow countries to ask for tributes from other countries to grant sovereignty or forcefully annex some neighbouring land and include it in its own domain, yet nations use alternate mechanisms which are modern day tools to change the overall dynamics in international relations. These are tools which can bypass the contemporary concepts of liberal values and human rights or which can provide some material to keep the mouth tight.
With the rapid growth in its economy and increase in the gross domestic product china was able to spend more on its military budget. To add on to that china increased its percentage on defense expenditure too. If we look at the following data than the increase is visible since the period of its growth in economy.in the 90s china was able to spend more than most of developed countries like japan and U.K. and in the 2000s china was able to spend more than the combined major east Asian developing countries.
In 2018 writer John Zmirak has warned that China is “arming faster than Hitler was arming in the thirties.”
China has repeatedly attempted to steal American intellectual property, President Donald Trump said in April, after the U.S. Trade Representative proposed up to 25% tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese imports for what the agency called “harm caused by China’s unreasonable technology transfer policies.”
This transfer in technology has been the result of some domestic Chinese laws which require the foreign manufacturer to transfer some technology to the domestic manufacturer.
A US-China trade war erupted with both countries slapping tariffs on each other’s imports and exports which has brought the global economy to a standstill. The US has been keen on the IPR issue with respect to china.it has accused china of stealing critical technology which helps in building of defence infrastructure and platforms. China has been condemned by several other countries too for stealing their critical technologies. The latest being Russia which due to its relationship constraints with China hasn’t voiced its concerns publicly but has stopped any further delivery of Russian S-400 missile Air defence system to china. It was worried about the Chinese copying their technological design to make its own missile defence system.
“China may be playing an ancient game, which affords it some moral cover, but as Bergson would say, the tools make all the difference — and what makes China different are digital tools that unlock new methods of intellectual property theft, as in the case of Sinovel.”-by David Volodzko in the article The Trade War with China And The Problem With Intellectual Property Rights
Impact on INDIA
A historical study
India got independence a few years after the independence of the people’s republic of china.
If we look at the relation between these countries till date, it has been like a rudderless boat with no long-term cooperation or engagement strategy. Perhaps it can be attributed to the fact that India-china share a very big disputed border and are not in a position to settle it (till 2020 the border dispute has not been solved rather has been responsible for several conflicts between the people’s liberation army and the Indian army.)
The first conflict of 1962 was not only a surprise to Indian PM Nehru but also to many of the world leaders because of the relation between the two countries a few years ago. Though getting independence at a similar period of time, Nehru’s India and Mao’s China took a totally different approach of ideological backing behind government functioning. India took a form parliamentary democratic socialism while Mao changed China into a Communist State with an expansionist vision. A very interesting view has been expressed behind Mao’s aggressive strategy against India by Bertil Lintner in his famous book called China’s India war. Lintner says that Mao was so much concerned about the leadership of third world countries that he found Jawahar Lal Nehru as a threat for his own rise and always wanted to marginalise him. Nehru enjoyed a very respectable position in some of the most powerful countries of his time and among most of the third world countries. At a time when the world was divided into two blocs Nehru came forward with the idea of Non-Alignment and was welcomed by a great fanfare. This has now become a known fact after release of a report from the Woodrow Wilson centre and has gained much support from a multitude of scholars.
The leaders of the two nations have tried to rebuild this relation but not with much success as both have been at the opposite ends in global geopolitical alignment. Despite of achieving some initial success like when Indian PM Rajiv Gandhi went to china and subsequently a Border peace and tranquility agreement signed in 1993 by which both sides agreed on not using any arms against each other in any conflict and also to have confidence building exercises with each other. The reason behind this constantly deepening gulf between these two counties is their respective goals and ambitions
The present crisis
China is in a position where it has the economic and the military prowess which gives its political leadership to envision a Chinese century while India though rising but at a modest rate has to achieve what one might call the preconditions to become a great power, like fair share in the global GDP and decision making.
To better explain this, I have referred to an article- “Deng rightly saw peace on its frontiers and cooperation with the rest of the world as a precondition for modernising China. Xi has a very different objective. He is leading a country that has emerged as a great power, thanks to the sweeping reforms under Deng. For Xi, Asian unity is about getting Beijing’s neighbours to acquiesce in China’s regional primacy, China’s hegemonic ambitions mean that Beijing’s focus is now on building Chinese century”-by C Raja Mohan printed in the Indian Express.
Presently, the situation is such that New Delhi has become so much alarmed by the Chinese actions on its border that there have been an increasing anti-sentiment resonating more because of the actions of Indian Government by banning Chinese Applications and Companies and preventing them from working in the Indian market. Among the Foreign Policy experts and scholars there has been a wave urging the government to rethink its relations with china and possibly chart out a long-term strategy document.
The short-term impact is obviously one which sees a lot of hue and cry from all fronts but the government’s advisor must have now realised that in this worsening of relations there is an opportunity for the country. It is a situation somewhat like the one being discussed when USSR was going to disintegrate. American Scholars from the realist school of thought like Stephen Valt believed that for America to continue to grow with the same pace there is need of an adversary like the Soviet Union and end the of the USSR would bring American Administration into a comfortable position which would not be quintessential for the growth.
Similarly, if we look at the present circumstances the government of India is pretty worried of not repeating the mistake it did in 1962; i.e. of not considering China as an adversary and getting caught off guard.
As far as china is concerned its rise has surely impacted positively many countries but its aggressiveness and false practises have raised eyebrows of many. In my introduction I used the reference of John Mearsheimer and indicated why china cannot rise peacefully. This has been proved on multiple occasions since the first-time china claimed Spratly and Parsley islands in the south china sea in 2012.
What china chooses to do is very difficult to predict but the lines on which previous decisions were based can leave some room for speculation, so here I will try provide some possibility for the Chinese actions in the future. I feel that it’s unlikely that the general aggressive nature of the Chinese foreign policy would not change rather it might get diluted with nations that are key irritant for Chinese regional or global ambitions yet hold key strategic value to the Chinese people business and manufacturing; while china would oppose these at several fronts but would simultaneously try to mend its relationship with these nations. With all the criticism we would expect the Chinese to soften their tone and a passive attitude towards its periphery or otherwise.
For India this situation has brought big opportunities that will help it to collect the low hanging fruits and reap their benefit. India still has big lacunas to fill and create an ecosystem which will help it to become a regional hegemon and having a next-door adversary will make the government more resolute towards that. A whole lot of Scholars believe that India should focus on building its capacity in key manufacturing sectors like Defence, Food Processing, Pharmaceuticals and Renewable energy and its various secondary and tertiary applications. This has already been seen in the Governments ‘ATMA NIRBHAR’ movement which aims to make India a self-reliant nation. Following this was the government’s move to ban import of more than a hundred defence equipment’s and platforms which involve some very sophisticated technology driven machinery like Conventional submarines, Destroyers, Attack Helicopters and Assault Rifles. Though there is a specific deadline for each of these items but this move shows the general intention and political will of the government.
Kishore Mahbubani provides seven pillars that rendered the Asian countries to excel and provided themselves with the possibility to become compatible with the Western counterparts. The seven pillars include: free-market economics, science and technology, meritocracy, pragmatism, culture of peace, rule of law and education.
The near future is going to see a drastic change in great power balance and nations would have to manage their relations accordingly. The nation which would be able to adapt to the changing conditions will not only survive but also rise.
I would like to end by quoting Leon C. Megginson- “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.”