New Delhi: Where did it all begin? How has the US been caught napping?
One argument, to begin with, is that the United States of America and even its allies have been complacent about the potential threats from China.
Now, on the other hand, Beijing has set priority to ‘annexe’ Taiwan – the world largest manufacturer of semiconductor chips. This was stated by a top US military officer Admiral John Aquilino before a Congress panel. But in the process, the Chinese leadership was able to push a neo-nationalism in the backyards guided by the Communist ideology.
Accordingly, even the Galwan conflict with India in June 2020 was part of a plan.
China has opened troubles with India at the borders and also dragged itself into a permanent and long-lasting bitter diplomatic rivalry with the US. By all these, the nationalistic feeling has been aroused among its own people; and the Xi Jinping dispensation has able to keep the citizens on the side of the Communist Party of China (CCP).
Observers say, China’s economic liberalism policy too was guided by a well-orchestrated plan. It knew the powers of economy and hence worked over the years for a productive economy. In the process, multinationals from the western world and especially the US were lured into making investments in China.
In fact, a section of US leadership was also virtually lulled into a belief that if liberalism is allowed, it would bring in economic prosperity and these could subsequently open the scope for democracy in China.
From the time of Ronald Regan, it has been a policy of the US administration to encourage China to find a toehold and do well in the global trading system.
The Americans were tempted to have China as their ally in the “increasingly democratic world order”. But democracy is something far off the Chinese radar. It may not be erroneous to argue that China has helped make the world safe for autocracies. And to a large extent, freedom has been on a sustained decline around the world at least during the past fifteen years. Of course, Donald Trump and Barack Obama must share the blame.
It was also argued that a democratic China with such large-scale prosperity, image of a robust manufacturing hub and sizable population would be an asset as an ally of the US. The entire calculation seems to have gone wrong.
China used its neo-found economic prowess for abundant military modernization. It also moved with abundant aid for smaller and needy countries in Asia to Africa and have ‘trapped’ most to be their subordinate allies and friends in times of need.
Slowly, it is now in competition with the US and hence there is the talk of Cold War 2.0.
In retrospect, the role of communist ideology was ‘underestimated’. China watchers in western countries – the likes of former deputy NSA US, Matthew Pottinger – say the issue is the combination of fear and aspirations. Communist Party of China (CPC) is ‘afraid’ of its own people. They have seen the collapse of the Soviet Union – also a previous communist powerhouse.
And thus Beijing was unwilling to allow liberalism to the level where the ‘aspirations’ could turn people, the common citizenry, rebellious. It is therefore extra ordinarily careful not to allow economic prosperity to make way for the ‘luxury’ of democracy.
At the same time, the apprehensions of Chinese designs vis-a-vis Taiwan cannot be ruled out.
Of course dominating Taiwan will be a tall order for Beijing. The people of Taiwan do not want to be dominated and this sentiment has only increased. Even geographical terrain in and around Taiwan would only pose serious challenges to China if they desire any adventurism.
But the problem has been that the US ‘commitment’ to Taiwan has only grown verbally stronger but crucially weaker militarily. Losing Taiwan’ by the American leadership would be seen as the beginning of an end of the US-predominance strategically in the entire Asia.
Hong Kong is another area where the American leadership apparently has already failed. This signals one crucial initial gain for China. Could the US under both the Trump administration and its successor under Joe Biden do and act differently in Hong Kong?
Hong Kong’s legislature has lately approved the biggest overhaul of its political system. The changes will reduce the proportion of seats in the legislature that are filled by direct elections. Moreover, a new body will now vet candidates and bar those deemed insufficiently patriotic towards China.
In all these come the greater significance of India-US ties. Joe Biden has himself promised that his administration would “build on the great progress” made in the tie up with India during the Obama years.
He also asserted that India and the US can and should be “natural allies”. Just to put things in right perspective, Atal Bihari Vajpayee had also described the India-US relationship as being that between two natural allies.
The Trump presidency had pushed an anti-China policy line and this would expectedly continue because of the continuous combative stance of Beijing.