WHO CAN TAME CHINA – PART I

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This post of mine would be in three parts, firstly just to avoid it being too lengthy, and secondly due to the situation in today’s geopolitics, which is very dynamic and changing at a very fast pace.

INTRODUCTION

China is on the prowl and counties are sensing the foreboding. Big or small, far or near, every country has the same question ”will China rule the world one day, and how would we deal with that world”. I have often heard this from various quarters that ”we would prefer the rogue US any day to a saner China”. It is a harsh reality, capitalist prosperity leads to military acquisitions. The economic rise of America led to the building of a great navy. Same was the case with the most European powers, post-industrial revolution. Is China going to follow the same pattern, and become a hegemon in the guise of a trading nation? Are these concerns empirical or just insinuations? Do we really need to tame China?

HISTORICAL FACTS

Before we go into the nitty-gritty of the subject, let us look at a small piece of Chinese history. On October 1, 1949, the People’s Republic of China was formally announced, with Mao Zedong as its leader. Despite massive U.S. support for the Nationalist regime, Mao’s forces were victorious in 1949 and drove the Nationalist government onto the island of Taiwan. Communist China was seen by the United States as an ideological foe and a geo-strategic menace.

During the 1940s and 1950s, Richard Nixon had been a vocal cold warrior and had condemned the Democratic administration of Harry S. Truman for “losing” China to the communists in 1949. However, as early as 1967, Nixon had envisaged the re-incorporation of China into the international order. From the beginning of his presidency, Nixon tried to approach the Chinese government in Beijing, initially through an already existing diplomatic channel in Warsaw, but to no avail. The decision was therefore taken to pursue a different venue, through the Pakistani government. Pakistan, which maintained close diplomatic relations with both China and the United States, began to play the role of facilitator, leading ultimately to the setting up of a secret meeting between the US  National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger and the Chinese leadership in Beijing on 09 July 1971(this was brought out very clearly in the book ”The Blood Telegram” by Garry J. Bass), followed by a week-long visit by the US President Richard Nixon, from 21-28 February 1972. This opened the US markets to China and beginning of a new chapter in US-China relationship.

USCHINA RELATIONSHIP

Now coming to US-China economic relationship and the meteoric rise of China. In 1978 then Chinese Premier Deng Xiaoping shifted from Closed Door to Open Door policy, describing it as ’Socialism with Chinese Characteristics’. This opened up China to foreign businesses who wanted to invest in the country. This policy set into motion the economic transformation of modern China. Starting in the 1980s, U.S. lawmakers weakened the essential controls the state put on the financial system. This was not just led by politicians like US President Ronald Reagan, but also by a set of neoliberals like US President Bill Clinton and many others. Clinton promoted a vision of a globalized world with no nation-states impeding the free flow of capital and goods. This lack of assertive public power allowed private power to take its place, as corporations merged and organized trading flows without having to worry about the demands of public institutions.

A relationship between China and American came into existence. Historian Niall Ferguson and economist Moritz Schularick gave it a term ”Chimerica”. A neologism, based on Greek mythology called ”Chimera”. A monstrous fire-breathing hybrid creature, composed of the parts of more than one animal. It is usually depicted as a lion, with the head of a goat arising from its back, and a tail that might end with a snake’s head(reference Wikipedia). China became the world’s factory. It started supplying goods to the USA. Dollars earned from there by China were invested in Wall Street and in buying the US treasury bonds. This gave the American banks free flowing dollars, which they in turn provided to the American populace at cheap rates to buy more white goods supplied by China. Neither US government nor the corporate world realized that they were creating a leviathan which would challenge them one day.

These historical events changed the fortunes of the Chinese people. Chinese per capita income was almost similar to Indian per capita income till 1980, but by 2018 it stands almost four times that of India. China was the world’s leading economy and most urbanized state until the 16th century. Chinese people take a lot of pride in that fact. They have lots of remorse also that China lost is its sheen in the 18th and 19th century. Since 1949, the central leadership and ”Ying Pai”(hawks or eagles) of China have been planning and selling ’Hundred Years Plan’ to dominate the world and bring back the lost glory of China, to Chinese people(. In November 1999, the the US embassy in China reported about a military analysis submitted by two Air Force colonels ”Unrestricted Warfare: War and Strategy in the Globalization Era”(full version on fas.org). The analysis recommended that Beijing should use ”Asymmetrical Warfare”(it means everything from catastrophic terrorist attacks to insurgents’ roadside bombs, to the the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), to advanced computer viruses –  ausa.org) to attack the United States. Chinese hawks were pressing for using ancient Chinese doctrinaire ”Thirty-Six Stratagems”(available in detail on changingminds.org). The world was feeding a minotaur for the last 40 years, without having Theseu, the son of Aegeus, to slay it.

CHINA’S GEOGRAPHY AND DISPUTES

At approximately 9.6 million sq kilometers, China is the world’s fourth largest country. It has the longest land border in the world and shares it with 14 countries. However, it stakes its claim over territories of 23 countries. China has the biggest border disputes with India, Russia, and Vietnam. Another hot potato is ”The South China Sea”, where China has a dispute with every existing nation big or small. China estimates large oil and gas reserves in the area. The area also accounts for 30% of the world’s sea traffic. China is building artificial islands in the area and this could become a future flashpoint.

Recent Chinese aggression in the Doklam area of Bhutan is fresh in everyone’s mind. At Doklam world’s two largest armies were face to face for months and the world was praying nervously. However, there are many other issues which are not known to ordinary people. Russian Far East or RFE is being flooded by illegal Chinese people. The Chinese are invading Russia, not with tanks but with suitcases, according to Alexander Shaikin, head of the border control, over 1.5 million Chinese have illegally entered RFE. While Shaikin’s claim is likely exaggerated, increased Chinese migration marks a return of Chinese influence to historically Chinese territories. Unlike Sino-Russian disagreements over Ukraine or India, a territorial dispute over the Russian Far East holds the potential to formally rupture relations between the two continental powers. There are as many as 60,000 Chinese living and working in Pakistan adding to the nervousness of local populace. Howard W. French’s book ”China’s Second Continent – How a Million Migrants Are Building a New Empire in Africa”, claims over a million Chinese live on the African continent. As per local leaders, as of now Pakistani populace and Africans are acquiescent, and matters are under control. However, that’s a fallacy. It is a matter of time when the situation exacerbates and locals realize that their jobs and businesses have been taken over by Chinese. A similar situation is there in all the other countries, where Chinese companies are working on various projects, whether in the neighborhood or around the globe.

XI JINPING – THE BIG BROTHER

Now let us look at the leadership of present-day China. Today’s China is being ruled by Xi Jinping, the authoritarian, all-powerful Big Brother. He has systematically destroyed all opposition. He has amended the two-term rule for the president. That means he can stay on as president as long as he wishes. In some experts eyes, he has become the most powerful leader after Mao. As per ’J Tepperman’ of foreignpolicy.com ”to maintain his power, Xi and his nomenklatura are repressing dissent and ruling by intimidation. Because bureaucrats and citizens live in fear, they compete to flatter their bosses. Nobody tells the truth, especially when it could make them or their leaders look bad. As a result, cloistered tyrants, their egos bloated by constant, obsequious praise, find themselves increasingly cut off from reality and the rest of the world (think Kim Jong Un, Bashar al-Assad, or Robert Mugabe) and end up ruling by whim and instinct with little sense of what’s actually happening in their own countries. The impact of this ignorance on domestic and foreign policy is disastrous.

Tepperman adds ”Today, Xi is systematically undermining, virtually every feature that made China so distinct and helped it work so well in the past. His efforts may boost his own power and prestige in the short term and reduce some forms of corruption. On balance, however, Xi’s campaign will have disastrous long-term consequences for his country and the world.

Xi is proving 1949 written, George Orwell’s book ”1984” so true. Orwell states ”One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship”.

In the next series, we would take up economic and military issues arising from what we discussed till now.

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70 thoughts

      1. Very interesting first Chapter Sandomina….crystal clear perspective highlighted by you. I am eagerly waiting for the next one and your thoughts on what India needs to do to counter the Chinese juggernaut both militarily and economically.

      2. A very thought provoking article Sandy. I need to go back in history to contemplate on what you have brought out. Will share my views soon

  1. Beautifully analysed and equally well articulated. Should make a good quick reference for a wide spectrum of readers. Novices to experts.

  2. Very nicely written . If there is one thing I could suggest , it would be to throw some more light on Xi’s role.. good and bad.. how exactly is the capitalist and socialist ideology being married, or is it complete goodbye to socialism/communism? What are the changes he has implemented to improve the country’s economic might and his own power ? Iam sure you will deal with these in the next two parts. Superb effort and am looking forward for the next part.

  3. Fourth largest- not-forth latest,
    Also is not the population growth rate of china lower than that of Africa,middle east and India. How does it contracted we also add emigrated Chinese to the total

  4. Really insightful. Is the Chinese populace a happy nation despite all the economic and political gains? A nation’s prosperity is not always measured against the success its rulers achieve. How do they keep the junta motivated. China has its own share of social issues. I am sure you are going to touch upon these factors in your upcoming issues. Always good to be educated. Highly appreciate.

  5. Congratulations on a great beginning to a very interesting topic. There is an old adage “Flag follows the trade”, this is what is becoming more visual thanks to the aggressive pursuit of BRI by China. The rise of China as compared to India has been faster, but this has to be seen in the light of the fact that they have always been supported since independence, initially by USSR and then by USA. The single party system has pros and cons, however, the western academia which is more popular and pervasive has been able to colour the views of majority of the world that follows English writings. The alleviation of such a large population out of poverty is a point that you may reflect upon in your next part. As far as leadership goes, it is an era of autocrats – Trump, Putin, Mohammad Bin Salman, Kim Jong Un, Xi Jinping, Duterte and most of African leaders. Looking forward to Part 2 & 3 of ‘Taming of China’

  6. Very insightful….let’s see how things pan out,next 5 years are going to dictate a new world perspective.

  7. Very well articulated. Since China is still a closed society, very little about it (political, economic,religious and ethnic issues etc)can be independently verified or corroborated. Most of the reports are an analysis of their actions and reactive at best. The world needs to be collective in its action ( pro-active) to contain their spreading influence. Rumblings are being reported ( Pakistan, Sri Lanka and some African nations) against the Chinese invasion(!) and it is possible that their colonial ambitions would meet the same fate as the erstwhile powers. Await the forthcoming parts.

  8. There is a Chinese saying , a man’s strength is his weakness. Xi ‘s authoritarian grip will be his downfall. The Chinese version of life is that everything can be evaluated and traded for money. The western fools and experts talk about loss of freedom. What they don’t understand is a Chinese joe on the street will trade a bit of his freedom in return for prosperity . There will be no revolt if Xi delivers money . If the economic roller coaster stops only then there will be a revolt . That is why Xi is nervous about the trade war

  9. Dear Sandy,
    A very well written insight into Chinese power .I want to bring out few points for your consideration and inclusion .
    1. No study is complete without bringing out the genesis which is normally there in the history of a nation esp those which want to learn from history .Why has China been behaving in such a manner ? This we can know by knowing a bit of its Ancient , Medievel and the modern History prior to 1949. Specially the role of its philosophers like Confucius Sun Tzu etc.
    2. The inner contradictions within its own society like Uyghurs , Tibetans , people of inner Mongolia and even the Hans who have not been able to be a part of its progress story . Wherein , the migration from rural areas to urban areas is controlled , the local party cadres do run amock in these areas .
    Actually , the Chinese society is sitting on powder keg . If the CPC don’t give ij to democracy for long then the break up of Chins will be a reality in the next millennium .
    China can be tamed if these inner contradictions are exploited and it’s history is well analysed .
    Thx and regards .
    Raghu Vir Gauba

  10. There is a Chinese saying , ‘ a man’s strength is his weakness’ . Xi’s Authoritarian control will be his undoing . Many westerner ‘ experts’ have this foolish notion that their values are other people’s values . Freedom is their great preaching . What they don’t understand is that to a Chinese everything is valued as a commodity . Including freedom . They have a unwritten contract and understanding with their government . I will give you some of my freedom in exchange for prosperity . As long as China promises prosperity , there will be no revolt . But if the economy flounders , there is a danger. Perhaps why China is scared of a trade war .

  11. Dear Sandy a very informative blog. While it is true that China rode on the free trade policy of the US to achieve double digit growth figures it also had some inherent advantage in terms of cheap labour and ready availability of cheap raw material. With the increase in the per capita GDP you would have noticed that the manufacturing, except for key products, have moved out as labour prices in China rises. Accordingly China has shifted focus to manufacturing high end products to retain the title of global manufacturing hub. Further for the future China has invested heavily in tech like AI, machine learning, quantum tech and robotics. It is estimated that China will overtake the US in the tech which will eventually enable them to take over the No. 1 spot in the world.
    However, certain cracks are appearing. The policies and structures put in place by Deng which had served China well have been undone by Xi. Further, the crack down on the political opponents and bureaucracy in the guise of eradicating corruption is turning the polity and governance into a body of yes men which is a recipe for disaster. Thisncoupled with the slow down in the economy and the concentration of power in one man has the potential to unhinge the rapid growth of China leading to internal turmoil and unrest.

  12. Nice insight
    One small suggestion if you can include the nearly 5 trillion dollar debt and the stranglehold that the Chinese have over the dollar
    Also the death of US MSME industrial base
    Well written Sandeep

  13. Thank you so much Sir … can’t tell you how much I am benefitting by your blog. I really didn’t know anything about all this . So keep going . Enjoying this . And I can’t share anything about this topic 😀

  14. Well articulated Sandeep. Modern day’ China’s aspiration is to be as large as the old Qing Dynasty; therefore it’s annexation of Tibet, and economic hegemony of Mongolia and North Korea.

    Looking forward to your thoughts on China’s economic and military policies and plans.

    1. Thanks, Shailenda. Doing justice to such a complex and vast subject within the boundaries of an article is a tough challenge. Hope the next two parts create some excitement.

  15. A well researched article.. Congrats partner….. Now my views… Think Xi is doing well.. Better than Indian Democracy…. He rules like a king… As long as he is reasonably fair… Weeds corruption time to time with exemplary punishments.. Ensures state money used systematically to increase military power and economic growth…. Unlike our country…. Maintains a show of strength with countries like ours which helps china’s image with other smaller countries allowing it to bulldoze through their policies to benefit its agenda… Takes arguments to just short of breaking point… Keeps fingerling USA diplomatically…. Stays neutral with short tempered Russia…. Think they will sustain and emerge powerful as long as Xi is alive….

  16. Very well crafted article with real useful information, which has been presented in an interesting but simple way.
    Never knew about your this hidden talent.
    Look forward to remaining 2 parts.

    Cheers

  17. Very well researched and articulated first part sir! A very contemporary topic and am looking forward to the next two parts!

  18. Congratulations. Interesting to read on the Chinese influence and look forward to reading the next two chapters. A point of view to consider little focus at the neighbourhood of China and I am sure that you would highlight how this Chinese growth has influenced the Asian countries as the 21st Century is predicted as Asia’s Century, with particular reference to India. Understanding the historical connection on trade via the old silk route in India is paramount to decipher its significance. Even though both China and India had started the race of growth in the early 1960s, it was the solid political power centre in China that paved the way for accelerated development and superseding the competitor India. No doubt that the authoritative political power centre followed by China was a compulsion to take those critical progressive decisions when masses of the nation, unlike the West, were unripe to suit themselves for democracy. China had raced through the right route and overcome many upheavals & successfully trekked all obstacles thus far in the race. However, the sprint of mighty elephant India may witness acceleration with right leadership to achieve the desired growth in future. I am eagerly looking forward to the next two posts.

  19. Sandy, a well articulated resrech and composition.

    I am excited to see your inferences in next two episodes.

    In my opinion China believes in economic might and hence regional dominance. We have seen that behaviour across the board. They have enhanced their military might after they have achieved economic superiority in the area.

    Wish you very best in your next endeavours

  20. Great beginning!!! Extremely well researched n articulated piece that provides insight to a contemporary topic.
    I am a novice in this field. But can relate as I have personally seen the growing influence of China in the IOR during visits to the island nations n the east coast of Africa. May be u can touch upon, “as to where we went wrong” in your forthcoming writings. Looking forward.

  21. Wonderfully written with an in-depth analysis of the past and current situation in China that has and will actually affect the entire world eventually.
    In the next issue, as you have mentioned that you will be touching up on military and economic issues, probably you could highlight on the BELT & Road initiative by which China plans to control the trade in the whole region consequently giving them control of over 40% of the world’s GDP .. this has also resulted in India losing its influence in the region like what happened in the case of a Srilanka or Maldives, and how we can regain ground in these places as well !

  22. A very well brought out facts. Though scary but helpful for the many nations to evaluate and take timely action. Best of luck Sandy. Great job.

  23. Very little is known about China or its military power since it’s a closed society.There is no denying the fact that they are fast approaching the super power nation status and has stated flexing its military muscle. Many nations incl Pakistan has realised that they are increasingly getting trapped in the vicious grip of the dragon and voices of dissent has started rising in these debt trapped nations.What remains to be seen is as to how these nations will react orcwill they be ever free,again or will be forced to toe Chinese line.A very interesting read,eagerly awaiting the next part.

  24. Dissenting opinion here. Look at the world from China’s perspective. It is surrounded by enemies on all sides. The US can deny the Pacific, even the South China Sea if it so wishes. India can deny the Indian Ocean. Taiwan, Philippines, Vietnam, South Korea, and Japan would all be willing to help.

    It would be possible to shut down all outside sources of material and aid. China could do nothing to prevent it. If the rest of the world lost China we could see a bad recession but we’d eventually adjust. There any many countries more than willing to spool up to fill the gap. China produces nothing that can’t be gotten elsewhere and if there is anything capitalism is good at it is identifying and filling empty niches. Higher cost and lower quantities for a while.

    OTOH, without foreign trade, China is dead in the water. Even just a bad crop year would send China into a crisis. Expect a few of these with climate change coming on. China has borrowed a few of the trappings of capitalism but they are far from capitalism that we know in the west.

    The one-child policy has shewed the population heavily to the elderly, non-productive and ailing. It has even caused a shortage of women. Change the policy right now and the problem will persist for decades.

    To the north, the Russian bear holds massive nuclear superiority and nobody really wants Siberia anyhow. To the east so does the US. India has a significant nuclear deterrent to the south. To the west there is Islamic extremism and jihad, even affecting China’s Xingchang province. Nuclear weapons in Pakistan and even Israel. Not to mention a potentially hostile Europe.

    Their land army is riddled with vast amounts of corruption, their pay is low and their morale is poor. While China can field a small number of technologically sophisticated weapons, they can’t possibly afford to build the thousand fifth-generation fighters it would take to challenge the US in the air or a deep water navy to protect their shipping lanes. We may have a similar economy but we only have a quarter the population. That means we are free to pour massive amounts of resources into defense and hardly notice it. They can stretch their dollars by paying far less to employees and troops, scrimping on training and stealing tech instead of developing it. OTOH, we already have a navy as powerful as all the rest of the navies in the world combined and well as the number one army. Costs a lot less to stay on top once you are there than to climb the mountain.

    The last shooting war China got into was almost 40 years ago with Vietnam and they got their tail kicked. We seem to be running a major war every decade or two and we win our wars overwhelmingly. (In a military sense. We have a more difficult time creating peace but if the US has anything it is sticking power.) That means trained and battle-tested troops, systems, and doctrine.

    China has produced prosperity for a couple hundred million on the industrial and technological east coast. Every penny spent on defense is a penny they can’t use to expand the economy. The rest of the country will get restive if they cannot share in the wealth. The most important job of China’s military is keeping the less well off (and the occupied territories) from rising up. The leadership remembers Tienaman Square.

    I believe the current leadership in China is every bit as paranoid as the old Soviet Union. This is what they see when they look out from Beijing. It may be onesided but it is not completely untrue. The waters ahead will be extremely difficult for a dictatorship to navigate.

  25. To my “cyber-friends/pals” around the world….

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    Men…Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em!

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    Obsessive or WHAT! Am really pleased you are enjoying my writings, as the reason I write is to share.

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