Sunday, June 21, 2015

Dragon's Rise: Could it be Caged?

For the past few decades, China is developing rapidly both in terms of economy and military prowess. However, China's rise is studied with caution by many countries while looked-upon in fear by the others. China's attempt to allay those fear is the propaganda of "China's peaceful rise" by Mr. Hu, the president of China from 2003 to 2013. Unfortunately, I believe many of the countries in China's periphery might buy that. In my previous post, I argued that the lack of leadership is aiding China's hegemony in the region. However, what are the cards China hold? What could be the possible implications of China's rise to the region? Could it be contained? - Let us See...

China's Tactics

Benevolence or Bait

China is now a member of many important international organizations and financial institutions. In its global aspirations it has extended credit lines to many nations. However, these financial assistance seem to come at a great cost to the debtor. These financial benevolence seems to become a debt trap forcing countries to work of Chinese interests instead of their own. Usually, China and Chinese companies benefit from these relations more than the debtor itself.

As case in point is Sri Lanka. When Sri Lanka was reprimanded by entire world for its excess and war crimes during the last phase of the Elam War, China became highly benevolent to Sri Lanka. Mr. Rajapaska trying to play the China card against India when India didn't support Sri Lanka in UNHRC resolution, neglecting the warnings of his opposition.  It seems part of the nation has been mortgaged to China. The new president, Mr. Sirisena, was not shy when he said "foreigners are stealing his nation" in his election manifesto. After his successful election as the president of Sri Lanka, he announced that he'd be reviewing the terms of Chinese loans to Sri Lanka. However, when he was visiting China after coming to power, it seems that he was forced by China to look away. Unfortunately, Sri Lanka didn't have much room to maneuver. 

Another case in point is Africa, where China has committed billions in aid. However, what is not well publicized is that in the same period (in the last 10 years) more than a million Chinese have settled in these regions, capturing every employment opportunities. 

Currently many countries are receiving financial assistance from China and are getting caught in its trap...!  

"Old Rum in New Bottle"

Another diplomatic route that China pursues is the "One Road One  Belt" project, which is a revival of the ancient (206 BC - 220 BC) "Silk Road". However, unlike the ancient silk road, the proposed project has security, strategic and political implications, though China is trying hard to sell its economic credentials. India for one seeing this project as a part of "String of Pearl" strategy to encircle it. China isn't helping either, by setting up suspicious listening towers in Sri Lanka.  Similarly, the Gwadar Port and the Karakoram Highway development by Chinese are watched with caution in India. US and Russia who should be concerned with the project. The revived silk route also will diversify China's supply routes thereby reduce its dependence on Malacca Strait, a possible choke point.

From the military perspective, it has a tremendous potential for China to mobilize its troops. Most of China's ICBMs and nuclear stockpile are mobile. In a case of confrontation, the road increases the probability of survival of China's stockpile for retaliatory action. If China is the offender, as could be the case in South Asia, it would ensure the destruction of China's opponents. No wonder countries with history of nuclear proliferation are the most interested in the project.  

Spoilers: Pakistan and North Korea

Source: IMF
Cultivating and harnessing these two spoilers of the regions is vital to the China's aspirations. While China commits a lot of financial aid to Pakistan, most of it are loans that could inevitably draw Pakistan into a debt-trap. Further, the benevolence of China is mostly in handing over its old war machinery such as submarines, missiles and nuclear technology, while Pakistan is suffering from militancy and poor economy. If I'm to guess, China wants Pakistan to be poor so that it can control and use it to counter India. Pakistan is stupid and arrogant, as is India,  for failing to look into the Chinese schemes. Pakistan is more than happy to give a piece of land to China that would ensure its unending sufferings than settle it with India, which is only looked up on as a soft-power.

Similarly in the Pacific, China is cultivating North Korea by arming it with nuclear and missile technologies (through Pakistan). It also has a similarity. Like Pakistan, North Korea is cultivated against Japan and US forces in the region. Having obtained reputation for being unpredictable and for having the least concern to the well being of its citizens, North Korea is full open to China to be prodded to attack on any US or Japanese installations, which would give China an edge in the region.

Interestingly, these two nations are reeling in poverty and both need not be actually asked to attack any of the countries in the region. For example, if Pakistan feels necessary or think it has an edge, it would attack India on its own volition and with the Chinese nuclear submarines the risk of nuclear clash has just gone up. Similarly, North Korea, would have no apprehensions to attack South Korea. That is the reason, I called these countries as "Spoilers" of the region. Further, US is more happy to engage with Pakistan, a spoiler state that survives with US aids but consider itself closer to China, than to help India or other countries for that matter, which have had no aggression or proliferation history. As a matter of fact, the only two choices US may have in the region are India and Japan...neither of them are capable of taking on China by themselves.


I have argued in my previous post that China wants to keep the border issue unsettled with India so as to extract financial gains that would inevitably finds its way to China's strategy for world dominance. But such pressure points has some strategic elements too. For example, any attempt of India to help Tibetan refugees could be chastised by China and India scarred by its humiliation in 1962 would try to "consider" China's sensitivities. 

Another incident that comes to mind is China's coercion of Vietnam against internationalizing the South China sea issue. In fact, though many countries are not happy with China constructing artificial islands in the South China Sea, most remains mute spectators even when their own domain is encroached fearing China's military and economic clout.

Philippines is no stranger to China's coercion either. 

Even the Asian quadrilateral to be formed between US, India, Japan and Australia fizzled away as the countries didn't want to be seen as block against China - yielding to Chinese sentiments. 

US: From China's perspective

Source: IMF
US is undoubtedly the most powerful country in the world in both economy and military terms. However, since 2008 US's economy and the economy of many of the Western countries have slowed down considerably. On the other hand, China's economy didn't suffer much due to recession and is strong even after that. Many of the US industries are dependent on China's exports of raw materials. US companies like Wal-Mart are also great importer of China's cheaper goods. This scenario could be seen as two economies entangled, though the countries themselves have diverging visions.

US' commitments in the Middle East, had emboldened China's regional and global brinkmanship and coercion. Much of the woes of US in the Middle East are its own doing. By destroying Libya and destabilizing Syria US has only succeeded in creating ISIS, much worse than Al-Qaeda itself. Hence, China is confident that US would give a free reign to its ambitions in South Asia. In fact, the US policy was ambiguous for a very long time. Even after the announcement of Asia pivot, there many lobbies that try to pull US back from Asia.

Chinese thinking do hold some credence as a confrontation with China is likely to send US economy in a nose drive, and currently US may not be in a position to absorb the economic fall-outs, having spent a lot in the Middle East. The best US could do is "optics", pretend it is serious in stopping China and provide some reassurance but nothing more than that. That's exactly, what the much hyped US' Asia re-balancing strategy is all about.

The Chinese are aware of this... the US is aware of this... but, for those this matters, is nothing but oblivious!

Possible impacts of China's uncontrolled rise

China's rise has serious socio, economic and strategic ramifications. Some of the possible impacts that could happen are:

  • Most likely it would start with the withering away of US influence in the region, if not the entire world. 
  • Japan which has a serious history with China would likely suffer the most - loss of territories, destruction of economy, etc. 
  • Given Japan-China history and China's apathy to human right abuses, I wouldn't be surprised if the resulting poverty and mafia lead to increase in human trafficking and slave trade. The same result with other countries such as Vietnam, Philippines, etc as it is now happening... 
  • Could likely spell a doom for South Korea as well. Given the close relationship between N. Korea and China, especially if China considers S. Korea a challenge to its communist ideologies and a competitor in economy. 
  • India will lose its entire North Eastern region to China and secessionist forces and J&K to Pakistan. 
  • India would also economically suffer, given China's penchant to dictate terms in any negotiations.
  • Other countries may lose their economic well-beings and Communists ideologies will find a renewal.
Of course, the impact of the China's rise would not be felt immediately. As the proverbial frog, the countries would only realize when it is already too late. Think about the state of Tibetans in China now, that is pretty much the state the countries in the region would be after China's ascent. This may seem like a pretty pessimistic attitude towards China, but I don't have proof that convince me otherwise...!

Containing China

The Asia Pivot strategy of US is to deploy forward forces in the region to contain China. This is based on the assumption, that lack of US entrenchment in the region is what causing China's brinkmanship in the region and China is dependent on US for its growth. However, it is not entirely true. So, if China is to be contained:

  • US, Japan, and other trading partners of China need to untangle their economies from China. Though this may not completely stop China, it would at least make China to rethink its conduct in the region and the world
  • India is behind China by decades. Given the amount of nepotism, and corruption (I know some would disagree but many from South and East in the Hindi belt would agree...!) in India combined with red-tape, myopic attitude and racism, it is extremely difficult for India to increase its capabilities in any near future. The best India could do at the moment is to reinstate its covert operational capabilities.
  • India should try and break the Chinese "String of Pearl" strategy while US should concentrate on the "One Road One Belt" strategy.
  • International trade laws and understanding may prevent the nations from making anti-dumping duties. However, since the Govts. are vested in the interest and well-being of its citizens, they could try and ensure that the interest of their citizens are met. A simple rule India that all products imported should be biodegradable, and free of PBA or lead would greatly reduce the import of China goods. Further, India could make the importer pay for those tests and hold the importer accountable for any violations. This is would greatly increase the cost of import and could encourage the local industries to prime up their supplies. 
  • Formation of  "SATO" or sort of: None of the countries in the region could counter China by itself. US, given its commitments in middle East may not be able to completely devote his muscles or money in the region. Hence, the need to form a block such as NATO or EU for the region, in the region and without China (and of course its proxies) is a need of the hour. Such a block would have benefits beyond the region.
  • Most importantly, the countries together should find a way to counter Chinese espionage.

In simple words, some one should take the brave step or everyone is sure to perish...!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Enter your comments here...