https://www.firstpost.com/india/chinas- ... 10401.html
China’s tactical retreat too little, too late; From India to US, global hardening of posture evident, Xi Jinping may pay for overreach
Under Xi Jinping, China now shows a greater amount of risk-taking ability and goes against the grain of its established foreign policy principles.
Last week we witnessed what seemed like a tactical retreat from China. During a video conference Wednesday on Sino-US relations co-organised by a Chinese and an American think tank, China’s vice foreign minister Le Yucheng extended an olive branch towards the US, calling for dialogue and cooperation, warned against economic decoupling, cited past history of close engagement and urged both nations to “accommodate each other’s core interests and concerns.”
A day later, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi, at another video conference, read from the same script. Setting aside the familiar ‘wolf warrior’ rhetoric, a conciliatory Wang repeated the call for a dialogue “putting all issues on table”. He admitted that bilateral relation is “facing the most severe challenge since establishment of diplomatic ties”, urged the US to set aside its “paranoia” and “suspicion” about China and sort issues of cooperation and competition into separate boxes so that overall ties remain stable.
Coordinated messaging from China’s top two diplomats in the space of a day isn’t a coincidence, rather an attempt to pare down the temperature and stop the ball rolling towards an all-out confrontation. It is obvious that China is worried about the trajectory of Sino-US relationship. Beijing wants to lessen the degree of hostility and increase engagement with Washington.
Chinese ambassador’s “outreach towards India” is unconvincing. It is little else apart from a justification of Chinese aggression in Ladakh and a bit of dishonest and insincere semantical jugglery. For instance, Sun correctly assumes that both countries share “long-term strategic interests” but puts the onus of “disrupting the bilateral relationship” and mutual “suspicion and friction” on India. Sun even manages to blame Indians for the dip in ties, for making “false assumptions about China’s intentions, exaggerating conflicts and provoking confrontations.”
“I have noticed some emerging opinions in recent days which repudiate the essence of China-India friendship due to the border-related incidents, make false assumptions about China’s intentions, exaggerate conflicts and provoke confrontations, and regard a close neighbor over thousands of years as “enemies” and “strategic threats”. It is not the fact. It is harmful indeed and not helpful,” reads his address.
Perhaps it was the Indian Army and not the PLA, that crossed over to the Chinese side of the LAC at several points in Ladakh, started raising constructions and triggered the conflict? No one can blame the Chinese Communist Party for lacking an effort to build a post-truth narrative.
Sun needs to be reminded that it is China that has repeatedly broken India’s trust by raiding its sovereign territory, flouted all norms, agreements and principles of peaceful coexistence several times through its predation, territorial aggrandizement and salami-slicing tactics, and caused the current crisis by going back on its words and killing Indian soldiers. For China to now preach the very values that it trampled on is amusing. But we need not press a point that’s obvious.
The larger issue is China’s ham-handed attempt at reconciliation. While the disengagement process is underway at the LAC — recent reports suggest that China is dragging its feet on pulling back from Pangong Tso and Depsang plains despite recent military commander-level talks that went on for 15 hours — Sun’s address to India betrays a sense of urgency that bilateral ties must not be allowed to go more astray than it already has.
No one is talking about an economic decoupling, but it is well within India’s ability to inflict considerable pain on China (while accepting some self-harm) and deter Beijing’s attempts at gaining global technological leadership. As has been previously argued by this commentator, New Delhi’s decision to ban 59 Chinese apps including the wildly popular TikTok on grounds of national security is a serious setback for China and it may interminably damage the ability of Chinese startups to dominate the tech landscape by denying access to the largest overseas market.
India’s move may be even more damaging for China in terms of setting a precedent, and the buzz of Australia or the US following India’s footsteps in banning the popular video-sharing app is growing louder. US secretary of state Mike Pompeo has already given such signals and latest report indicate 25 US Congressional leaders have urged President Donald Trump to “take decisive action to protect the American people’s privacy and safety” by banning TikTok that has been accused of data theft and acting as a CCP surveillance tool.
“Banishment from India, which has more than 500 million smartphone users, hobbles China’s effort to compete with US firms like Facebook, Google and Amazon for ‘the next billion users,’ people turning to the internet for the first time to shop, search for information or make digital payments,” observes AEI fellow Sadanand Dhume in Wall Street Journal.
Nor is the impact restricted only to apps. State-owned telecom firms BSNL and MTNL have been asked not to use Huawei or ZTE equipment in its infrastructure. The government is apparently leaning on private players to follow suit, and it seems increasingly likely that Huawei may be kept away from India’s 5G rollout — a market that the Chinese tech giant desperately needs to access after suffering reverses in the West.
The fact that India’s telecom giant Jio claims to have developed an indigenous, cost-effective “complete 5G solution from scratch that can be field deployed next year” queers the pitch further for Huawei.
Chinese interest in keeping bilateral trade untroubled from geopolitical squabbles is intense, and the reason is evident. In 1999-2000, India’s bilateral trade deficit with China stood at $743.85 million. In just about two decades, that gap has widened to $48.66 billion. The trade stood at $53.56 billion in 2018-19 and $63 billion in 2017-18. Conducting business with India has been profitable for China.
While this may explain Chinese outreach towards India, what lies behind Beijing’s tactical retreat and lowering of rhetoric vis-à-vis the US? China’s role in mishandling the coronavirus outbreak and suppressing data leading to the spread of the global pandemic has already prompted a global backlash. Beijing made it worse through its ‘wolf warrior’ diplomacy and weaponisation of medical aid and supplies. Consequently, a majority of the public in western democracies view China as a malign force.
China is not just pissing off the western public. Beijing’s post-pandemic aggression — raising tension in the South China Sea by harassing littoral nations, violating India’s sovereignty through unilateral action, murdering 20 Indian soldiers during another border flare-up, bullying Australia through economic coercion for Canberra’s probe demand into origin of the Wuhan virus and finally, taking away Hong Kong’s semi-autonomous status through a draconian law whose jurisdiction covers practically the entire planet — is reshaping attitudes in Asia and toughening American policy approach towards Beijing across the political spectrum.
A series of high-ranking officials in the Donald Trump administration has, in recent past, identified China as America’s biggest military, ideological and geopolitical threat that seeks to supplant the US as the global superpower while making the global ground fertile for the decline of democracy and rise of authoritarianism.