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Fixing the Ruthless Dragon

China’s journey over the past three decades has been marked by extraordinary growth and an overtly assertive approach, seeking to expand its sphere of influence with little concern for others. As global worries about China’s waywardness magnify, realistic countermeasures are warranted to maintain global balance and uphold international norms.

By Ravi Srivastava

SPECIAL FEATURE

Over the last thirty years, China has undergone an incredible transformation. For most of this period, the country adopted a relatively quiet and relaxed stance on the global stage. This approach allowed China to focus on its internal development and growth without drawing too much attention or causing conflicts. However, things changed significantly in the last decade. Under the leadership of Xi Jinping, China has become more assertive and ambitious, seeking to expand its influence around the world, often without much regard for how other countries might feel about it. This shift in attitude has raised concerns globally, and there is a growing belief that other nations need to take realistic measures to ensure that international relations remain balanced and respectful.

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Remarkable Achievements

China’s rise has captured the world’s attention in ways that were unimaginable at the start of the 21st century. The country has enjoyed sustained economic growth and relative peace, all while maintaining strict control over its domestic affairs through the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). China’s progress has been driven by its vast land, abundant natural resources, and a large, youthful workforce. With the world’s largest population, China has benefited from a massive pool of workers.

Today, China boasts the world’s second-largest economy and the second-strongest military power. It is also a major player in space exploration, trailing only the United States. In 2023, China invested a staggering $458.5 billion in research and development (R&D), reflecting a year-on-year increase of over 9 percent, according to a Xinhua report.

China’s rapid economic growth and technological advancements have made it a global leader. However, its increasingly assertive foreign policy and disregard for international norms have created new challenges for countries worldwide

China’s impressive growth has attracted global investments, further fuelling its economy. With an average annual GDP growth rate of nearly nine percent over the past three decades, China has risen to become one of the world’s wealthiest nations. Despite this, China prefers not to be classified as a “developed nation.” This strategic choice allows China to continue enjoying the benefits reserved for developing countries under World Trade Organization (WTO) rules while positioning itself as a leader and advocate for the developing world.

Economic and Military Expansion

China’s economic success has significantly bolstered its military capabilities. The country now spends $292 billion annually on its military, second only to the United States. Chinese companies have become adept at reverse engineering, producing a wide range of products initially developed by global R&D leaders, often ignoring copyright and patent laws. This “produce in-house” mentality has become deeply ingrained in China’s culture, leading to a widespread disregard for intellectual property rights. As a result, China often pushes ahead to achieve its goals, even if it means encroaching on the sovereignty of neighbouring countries.

big bang

The Chinese Communist Party’s strategic expansion aims to solidify China’s influence, but this ambition often comes at the expense of neighbouring nations’ sovereignty. Understanding these dynamics is crucial for maintaining regional and global stability

A New Global Dynamic

China’s evolution from a soft-spoken nation to an assertive global power has created a new dynamic in international relations. While its economic and technological advancements are impressive, the country’s aggressive approach to expanding its influence has caused unease among other nations. To maintain global stability and ensure that international interactions adhere to acceptable norms, it is crucial for the global community to implement appropriate countermeasures. These measures should aim to balance China’s ambitions with the need for respectful and cooperative international relationships.

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Global Headache

The world has only recently woken up to the reality of China’s rise, almost a quarter-century into the new millennium. Many are now recognizing the extent of China’s global ambitions and the challenges it poses. Some may blame themselves for not noticing earlier, while others might commend China for staying under the radar. However, the CCP in Beijing remains unfazed by these opinions. China has crafted a complex and often awkward relationship with both its neighbours and distant countries. Whether dealing with so-called friends, who often find themselves indebted to China, or with competitors who face China’s refusal to see reason, it’s clear that China’s approach is far from normal. Adherence to international law and respect for the sovereignty of others seem to be of little concern to China.

As China continues to bolster its military and technological capabilities, it presents both opportunities and threats to the international community. Effective countermeasures and strategic alliances are essential to balance China’s rising power

Contradictory Conduct

Even without malicious intent, China’s behaviour in international relations reveals some startling facts. China seeks friendships but only on its terms; it claims to avoid hostilities but continues to violate the sovereignty of its neighbours; it wants to trade but remains unpredictable in its commitments; it aspires to be a global leader but insists on negotiating even with the smallest countries on equal terms; it demands respect for its unique political system but interferes in democratic elections abroad. This contradictory conduct makes China a difficult nation to engage with, creating a global headache.

 

Failed Motives

India is one of the many nations sharing a border with China and faces significant challenges due to China’s aggressive territorial claims. Xi Jinping’s politburo has clear orders to expand China’s global influence, expecting everything else to fall into place. Whether this global influence includes territorial expansion is something Xi’s politburo would best explain. However, China’s dealings are straightforward: one must agree with China or face consequences. While China claims to deal on equal terms, it considers no one its equal, creating a gap in perception that cannot be filled by any romanticised notion of partnership.

India, facing challenges on its northern borders, has clear choices. Political or diplomatic management of China has proven ineffective. However, raw military power has shown results. China has avoided classic military confrontations and has even backed off at times. Examples from Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Japan show that China’s aggressive motives often fail when faced with strong resistance. The surprising pushback from Indian soldiers in Galwan forced China to reassess its capabilities, highlighting a disconnect between media rhetoric and on-ground military actions, and exposing a gap between Xi’s politburo and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) hierarchy.

Change of Stance

While China continues its unpredictable and often problematic behaviour, the Western approach to controlling China is seen as over-ambitious. China does not need to be controlled but rather disciplined in respecting global norms. China’s geography and geopolitical realities will remain unchanged, but its approach can be restrained. An anti-China agenda is counterproductive; instead, a collective military response is needed to prevent conflicts in the region. This requires joint action by leading powers and regional heavyweights, including India. Ensuring numerical superiority in the region is essential to maintaining an upper hand.

India, facing significant border disputes with China, exemplifies the complex relationship many nations have with the rising superpower. Military preparedness and diplomatic strategies are key to managing these tensions and ensuring long-term peace

This approach will incur financial costs but is ultimately the most effective way to counter China’s antics. Existing global alliances need better commitments from participants like India. Achieving man-for-man or ship-for-ship parity is impractical for any single nation, especially given other global conflicts requiring attention. The world cannot afford to be excessively burdened by China’s ambitions.

India has wisely acknowledged the numerical and technological gaps with China and has taken numerous steps to enhance its capabilities. Policymakers and the security establishment have adopted measures to demonstrate a tit-for-tat capacity, while also improving domestic capabilities discreetly. India must avoid falling into a regional arms race trap and should consider practical policy adjustments. One such adjustment could be indicating a willingness to host foreign military forces if necessary, pending government approval. This would be a subtle but impactful change, signalling to Beijing that India is prepared to take significant steps if required. This, of course, only after taking its Eurasian friend into confidence. It will be a subtle change of stance, but its impact will surely be heard in Beijing very loud and clear.

 -The writer has varied experience in the security paradigm and is a keen follower of global geopolitics. His work has been regularly featured in national publications. Visit newsanalytics.in to access more articles from the author. The views expressed are of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Raksha Anirveda