Time to tame the dragon

by April 30, 2020 0 comments

Beijing has been pushed to the wall and should not be allowed to bounce back without paying for its deliberate mischief. India needs to support global efforts to contain China

While the world struggles to combat the deadly pandemic spread by Covid-19, the dragon nation believed to be the originator and spreader of the deadly virus is busy working out its options to combat the international pressure and campaign launched against it. The nation, which was dreaming of becoming the world leader, is today finding itself pushed to the wall, with most nations joining together and demanding an international inquiry into how the virus emerged out of the Wuhan laboratory and the deliberate delay in sharing information about its existence? The global community holds China responsible for the loss of health and human lives, the damage to the world economy and for the hardships humanity will have to face in a post-COVID world. Beijing is also being questioned over the disappearance of virus whistle-blowers in China and strict censoring of any information pertaining to the outbreak. As expected, China has denied all the allegations and continues to do so amid growing international demands of monetary compensation from it against the Coronavirus damages to the global economy.

Wuhan, which is the epicentre of the Coronavirus crisis, has been on the radar of the global community since long as it was dubbed to be the location of the largest virology laboratory in the world, housing about 1,500 kinds of viruses. It was also rumoured that the US and China were jointly developing the biological agent. The virus is believed to have hit the city in October but by the time the disease became global and Wuhan was locked down in the third week of January, maximum damage had already been done. Two weeks prior to the lockdown, almost five lakh people had left Wuhan for their homes in central China and 18 international destinations. Many of them were carriers of the deadly Coronavirus. The question now being asked as a subject of international inquiry is, “Was it intentional or accidental?”

Why does China find itself in a quagmire today? Despite its counter-offensive and rubbishing of allegations against it, the dragon nation finds itself isolated globally. A peep into recent events in China is essential to understand the same. The connection between the phenomenal rise of Xi Jinping and his autocratic style of functioning by capturing complete power within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and his ambition to make China the number one power in the world and the Wuhan episode is a matter of study. Xi is the most powerful man in China donning three hats of the general secretary of the CCP, president of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) among many other top Governmental posts. In order to make China great again, Xi has enunciated a grand strategy.

At the 19th CCP National Congress in October 2017, Xi announced his ambition of realising the “Chinese dream” of national rejuvenation. He said, “The Chinese nation has stood up, grown rich and is becoming a strong nation. To fulfil our dream, I have set up a timeline with three major target dates. By the party centenary in 2021, China should finish building a moderately prosperous society in all respects. By 2035, China should be much stronger economically and technologically, have become a global leader in innovation, and have completed its military modernisation. By the PRC centenary in 2049, China should have resolved the Taiwan question and be a strong country with world-class forces.” Was the Wuhan experiment part of the grand strategy of Xi? Was it planned as a centenary gift on the occasion of his first timeline of the celebration of the centenary of CCP?

“Winning without fighting” is an old Chinese strategy. It goes to the credit of modern Chinese leadership, including Xi, that they have not ignored the ancient Chinese wisdom but instead imbibed it in their modern thinking and strategies. Ancient Chinese General, strategist and philosopher Sun Tzu liked to win before the other side even knew they had lost. Was Xi trying to emulate the legendary Chinese strategist? China has also mastered the art of “grey zone warfare.” Xi’s grey zone tool kit is expansive and includes “global economic domination” through political and economic coercion. Was the virus intended as a masterstroke to cripple the competing world economies? If it was, Xi has definitely succeeded in his game plan for the time being. While India has always considered the threat from China as a reason to grow, Beijing has always envisaged us as an impediment and existential threat to the fulfilment of the “Chinese dream” and thus an intended target.

To its credit, the US was the first nation to call the Chinese bluff by blaming China and terming the pandemic as the “China virus.” It also questioned the role of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and put it under the scanner, ultimately withdrawing the financial assistance to the global health watchdog. Beijing lost no time in counter-attacking and blaming the US for bringing the virus to China during the World Military Games held in Wuhan in October 2019. It blamed the US for bringing infected soldiers as part of the 300-strong contingent. However, the Chinese argument was not convincing because had it been so, why did the virus not affect other athletes in the American contingent and from other contingents, including the Chinese, and why did it remain confined to Wuhan only?

In view of the prevailing geo-political situation, Iran was the only nation that supported the Chinese charge. Thus, the “conspiracy theory” sold by China as a counter-narrative to the assault by the US and other European nations failed to hold ground. The global community also took notice of the fact that by mid-March, when the rest of the world economies were on the verge of collapse and economists were predicting a worse crisis than 2008-09 or the “Great depression”, Chinese factories had commenced production.

China had begun to re-build its supply lines whereas a lockdown in major parts of the world had brought the global economy to a standstill. Worse than that was the aggressive buying overseas of the majority shares in their companies. It smacked of the real conspiracy since companies in China are also the properties of the CPC. Xi’s dirty ambition was exposed before the world.

India, during this entire crisis, has behaved like an independent, matured nation with paramountcy to its national interests. Many wanted India to join the US in withdrawing financial support to the WHO and echo the global outcry of an international enquiry against China. India did not want to be recognised as a cheerleader of the US or other west European countries but preferred to chart its independent course. India did not openly blame China because the situation demanded no disturbance on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) that may interfere in the nation’s fight against Covid-19. But India lost no time to nip in the bud the evil designs of Chinese companies by making Government nod mandatory for Foreign Direct Investments from neighbouring countries, a move aimed primarily at Chinese firms. Beijing did make a noise, calling it violation of World Trade Organisation norms but India stood firm.

The Indian intelligentsia also played its role in naming and shaming China. Brahma Chellany, a famous China-watcher, minced no words in stating, “The Covid-19 pandemic should be a wake- up call for a world that has accepted China’s lengthening shadow over global supply chains for far too long. It is only by reducing its global economic influence that the world can be kept safe from Chinese political pathologies.”

This outbreak is a golden opportunity for India to realise its ‘Make in India’ ambition and become a global manufacturing hub. India must also remember that power begets respect and compliance and  so it must keep its long-term vision in mind and strengthen its armed forces.

As a prelude to revival of the economy, India needs to ensure that its huge workforce stranded in various parts of the country is gainfully employed, thus generating jobs. The Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana package should not turn into a free dole but used to generate employment. Randhir Singh, a Chandigarh-based senior advocate, in a letter addressed to the PM has suggested effective measures to generate employment for migrant labour, which include: Organising them into a manageable workforce based on their skills and experience under retired personnel from uniformed forces as supervisors; employing them in time-bound projects under the local administration to include cleanliness and sanitisation of public places, cooking food in community kitchens, tree plantations, water harvesting, desilting, construction of water tanks and restoration of traditional check dams,  loading/unloading of essential supplies, supplementing farm labour and couriers/delivery boys.

The dragon has been pushed to the wall and should not be allowed to bounce back without paying for its deliberate mischief. India needs to complement the global effort and also chart a strategy to contain China in the post-Corona world.  India should also bat for a new global treaty to deal with the risks to the future of humanity. There is growing dissent in China. It is the right time to strike when the iron is hot by launching a psy-war campaign against the CPC and Xi.

(Writer: Anil Gupta; Courtesy: The Pioneer)

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