Foreign Minister S Jaishankar reiterated India’s position – that the LAC stalemate shed a negative light on the whole Indo-Chinese relationship and that the improvement of the latter depends on the swift resolution of the deadlock – at a SCO meeting in Dushanbe on Wednesday. Should we hold our breath for peace and tranquility to be restored to the border areas and for Indo-Chinese relations to regain balance soon?
To answer it, one could do worse than look to President Xi Jinping’s opening speech on July 1, marking the centenary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) this month. Xi warned foreigners that they would “have a bloody head against a Great Wall of steel forged by more than 1.4 billion Chinese” if they tried to “intimidate” China.
Since no one can remember who has tried to intimidate China lately, a lot depends on what Xi and the CCP interpret as “bullying” or even “China.” The same speech also warned Taiwan and its “foreign” friends against “resolute actions” against “Taiwan independence”, as reunification with China was the “historic mission and unwavering commitment” of the Party. Likewise, the CCP regards Arunachal Pradesh as part of China, as the southern part of its Tibetan province.
The Party is celebrating its centenary with a lot of pomp and pageantry, and indeed it has a lot to celebrate. China was a poor country when the Party was born; it is now a $ 16 trillion giant, on its way to becoming the world’s largest economy. About 800 million Chinese have been lifted out of poverty over the past four decades. At a time when Communist Parties are dying or dying across the world, the CCP has 95 million members, more than the total population of Germany. To all appearances, the CCP today is indeed a glittering and awe-inspiring machine.
Chinese leaders like to cast an air of inevitability on their nation’s continued advance, with a “Chinese century” ahead to serve as a just reward for a so-called “century of humiliation.” They associated this with a narrative of inexorable Western decline – for example, Xi said in a speech last year “The East is rising and the West is declining.” Beijing doesn’t have a very high estimate of New Delhi’s capabilities either – the “Chindia” dream is purely an Indian fantasy.
What many miss about the Chinese Communist Party is that it is a Communist Party – anyone who walks through Xi’s centenary speech cannot miss the Marxist rhetoric. This central fact of the CCP has been obscured by the flexibility and pragmatism it exhibited during the years of reform inaugurated by Deng, designed to ensure its survival when the Communist Parties were in decline.
However, in another keynote speech – when Xi was re-elected General Secretary of the Party for the second time in October 2017 – he essentially overturned Deng’s “hide your strength, bide your time” doctrine: “China has risen. , got rich, got strong and is heading for the front of the stage. So, if Xi’s centennial speech has more than a whiff of “wolf warrior” sentiment, it is no accident. And the certainty of China’s continued advance also stems from the Marxist certainty that it alone has read history well and that it can make the most of its strengths.
This new approach, in what has been officially called “a new era” under Xi’s leadership, introduces rigidities that create vulnerabilities for the Party. Xi is centralizing economic and political decision-making at a time when the Chinese economy is approaching a productivity frontier, as evidenced by the spiral of debt it takes on to crush every additional percentage of growth – its total debt is increased from 140% of GDP in 2008 to almost 290% of GDP today.
To get out of this cycle while ensuring high growth, China needs better technology, and indeed, it is investing heavily in high-tech industries. But it is here that his opacity on the Covid, and his general practice of “wolf warrior” diplomacy, will hurt him. These sparked a strategic confrontation with the United States, which has established a regime of technology and market denial. Meanwhile, the formidable digital age surveillance state that Xi is putting in place internally has led to widespread suspicion of China’s own high-tech exports – look at the growing bans on Huawei products in the world. world.
There are other structural limitations as well – China’s rapidly aging population, its glaring inequalities, and the neglect of its rural population. There is also the question of what happens when Xi, who is currently 68 years old and has abolished his term limits, ages or dies – an intense power struggle within the CCP is almost inevitable.
These factors, however, will only manifest themselves in the long term. In the short term, it is better to remember the prophecy made by the sage of Asia, Lee Kuan Yew: while the “Chinese [initially] want to share this century as equals with the United States ”, they ultimately“ intend to be the greatest power in the world ”.
There is ample evidence that China intends to dominate its periphery; as a result, New Delhi will face intense pressure from Beijing, which will increase and decrease in the medium term. To overcome this, New Delhi must take inspiration from the Beijing book and learn to play the long game. This could include intermittent wars, both on the LAC and the LoC. Indian foreign policy and its military will be tested like never before.
The opinions expressed above are those of the author.
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