In 2004, the idea of “China’s peaceful rise” came into the mainstream with the then Chinese premier Hu Jintao – who embraced the idea and presented it- which sought to assure the international community that China’s growing political, economic, and military power would not pose a threat to international peace and security.
The continuous economic growth of China, a country that fought poverty with sheer determination and came out victorious by becoming the second-largest economy of the world, has served as a model to look upon with envy by countries around the world. With the continuous economic rise, Chinese aspirations for the military might have accentuated further.
Today when we look at Beijing we can sense desperation and a craving for what they have never got, to remove the stain of “Century of Humiliation”, and to again stand as the “Middle Kingdom” of the World. The recent actions of China in the South China Sea, Hong Kong and along the LAC, has forged an ideological bandwagon around the world to see China’s rise, not peaceful anymore.
The major takeaways from the current situation are: First, China’s reluctance to care about her external image globally, or to put it in another way, her mindset of getting more than giving away in the current situation. The current situation is an indication of China getting relieved from a fear of Global image, or it can be a situation amidst the pandemic in which China is considering more gains than losses from her current course of actions.
“China’s reluctance to care about her external image globally, or to put it in another way, her mindset of getting more than giving away in the current situation.”
Second, China’s thinking of sufficient power differential to handle multiple fronts at the same time. The way the current situation is being construed is a perfect example of the perception of taking on the US and other countries at the same time, whilst others are engaged in a fight against the Pandemic.
“China’s thinking of sufficient power differential to handle multiple fronts at the same time.”
Third, China’s ability to manipulate and her unpredictability of actions. The turn in the actions of China from Wolf-warrior Diplomacy to social media campaign for changing the narrative of COVID’ origin, is in itself a show of unpredictability which was never seen before in such a vociferous way from Beijing’s side.
“China’s ability to manipulate and her unpredictability of actions.”
The Statement of the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, ” We are making it clear: Beijing’s claim of offshore resources across most of the South China sea is completely unlawful, as is its campaign of bullying and controlling them”, has drawn a red line for Beijing against her pursuit in the South China sea.
Recently India and the United States have conducted a Passage Exercise (PASSEX) between the American aircraft carrier group USS Nimitz and Indian Navy battleships around the archipelago of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, a few hundred kilometers from the mouth of the Malacca Strait and within the actionable distance of major trade sea routes that service China. The hints from India to include Australia into Malabar Naval exercise being conducted between India, the US, and Japan, could clearly be marked as the resurgence of the Quad as a counter to the Chinese rise, and with that, an open and free Indo-pacific has become much more relevant than ever. This, indeed, is direct finger-pointing onto China and her actions in the South China Sea and elsewhere.
This marks a major shift into India’s Indo-pacific policy, which until now was a manifestation of an inclusive model of all the countries in the Indo-pacific region, as emphasized by Indian PM Narendra Modi during Shangri-La dialogue of 2018, to an Indo-pacific which is more of a theme to counter Beijing by forging alliances, a clear indication of unity due to Chinese actions.
This policy shift is music to the ears for the Policymakers in the Whitehouse, but it is equally soothing for the countries of ASEAN who were bearing out the brunt of Chinese belligerence in their backyards. China not surprisingly has accused Washington of “interfering in the region’s issues and on unnecessarily escalating the situation and sowing discord between China and the Southeast Asian countries.”
The ASEAN countries, for their part, might appreciate the external players, and especially the US finally circumventing its attention to this region, statements showing all-out support for the US’ new policy from the side of the ASEAN countries appears difficult at the moment. As noted by Collin Koh, a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, “many of the rival claimants are also heavily reliant on China for trade and investment and wary of angering the dominant power in the neighborhood. Their silence on the U.S. statement suggests they don’t want to get ensnared in U.S.-China tensions. For some of them at least, making an official statement in support of Pompeo’s statement could potentially put them in a spot.”
With the news of Iran and China’s strengthening ties, a new angle has been added to this already ambivalent situation. Adding to that, the fall of the US as a world leader has created a void which China desperately wants to fill. The animosity of the US and Iran is not new, and India’s intricate position in between is equally known to everyone. The increasing bonhomie between China and Iran has added a new chapter to already existing woes due to high stakes of India in the Chabahar port and Afghanistan.
All these actions which are transpiring in the realm of this world point out to a more contested and hot Geopolitical climate in the time to come. The change in the Chinese attitude and her becoming a world’s bully, has become a major inflection point for the World-order. But will this situation turn into a major contestation between China and the US or will it result in backing-off by Beijing, is still a matter of great mystery. But one thing which is clearly emerging from the Current discourse is China’s transition from a peaceful Panda State to a belligerent Dragon State. Thus, one thing is undeniably true now,
“China’s Peaceful rise is not peaceful anymore”
The views and opinions expressed in this opinion article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Eastern Herald.