China’s worldview, its postulates and a reality check

Syllabus: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting  India’s interests.

Context

China might need to come up with an alternative theory of modernity if it hopes to beat the West’s free market concepts and beliefs, but the odds are stacked

Changes unseen in a Century

  • Chinese leaders, especially current paramount leader, constantly refer to ‘changes unseen in a Century’, implying that the decline of the West-promoted ‘rules-based order’ is inevitable, and that a new Chinese-promoted world order is set to prevail.
  • Implicit also is that a Chinese-driven world is better suited to a world defined by disorder, asymmetry and fragmentation.
  • ‘Changes unseen in a Century’ is one of the underlying principles of ‘Xi Jinping Thought’.
  • This presupposes that the struggle for future dominance revolves around not merely military security but also technological, cultural, as also biological aspects, and that given China’s rise, accelerated by technology and shaped by its economic strength and demographic potential, its success is inevitable.

U.S. as threat

  • The current crop of Chinese leaders believes that ongoing threats to China, however, remain and that the main threat comes from the United States.
  • They hew to the view that growing polarisation within S. society and loss of power across the globe were impacting U.S. attitudes, causing tensions between the U.S. and China.
  • In turn, it had led to a marked shift in U.S. attitudes; from an earlier policy of ‘engagement and partial containment’ to one of all-out competition with China, for global influence.
  • The war in Ukraine, talk of an increasing divide between democracies and autocracies, the forging of new security partnerships such as the AUKUS (Australia, the United Kingdom and the U.S.) and the Quad ( Australia, India, Japan and the U.S.) were all symptoms of this malaise.
  • China also had increased concerns that the Ukraine war could lead the U.S. to be more assertive on Taiwan.
  • Beijing’s riposte has been to enlarge its Global Security Initiative (GDI) and further expand the China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

‘Polycentric Competition and Cooperation’.

  • According to China, the U.S. was unprepared, however, for a shift of this nature, and already the consequences could be seen, as for instance, in West Asia.
  • As in many areas of U.S. dominance previously, China was displacing the U.S.
  • The Iran-Saudi Arabia truce brought about at China’s initiative was an indication that U.S. influence here was on the wane and that China was gaining in strength in the regional and global sweepstakes.

China’s influence

  • In the meantime, had grown, according to Chinese sources, in quite a few international organisations such as the World Health Organization.
  • It had also succeeded in binding as many countries as possible to Chinese systems, norms and standards.
  • Another set of claims is that China had succeeded in having a decisive voice in various international standards setting bodies.
  • Consequently, Chinese standards had become the staple for many countries and, together with its model of subsidised state capital, China was set to emerge triumphant.

Prescriptions and reverses

  • Leaving aside for the moment China’s worldview, and its theoretical postulates as formulated by Deng Xiaoping such as the ‘Four Modernizations’ (which paved the way for China’s emergence as an economic superstar), the reality that China confronts today appears somewhat different.
  • The issue before China is not one of the declines of the U.S., as much as how China can possibly reproduce the mind-boggling growth of the first two decades of the current century — an over 800% increase in overall trade volume, an unimaginable increase in GDP, and the lifting of nearly 800 million Chinese people out of poverty.
  • Policy prescriptions needed to maintain this kind of impetus and tempo of growth, are nowhere in evidence today.

On Taiwan

  • The issue of Taiwan, like Banquo’s ghost, also hovers over the scene.
  • Notwithstanding current tensions and despite sabre-rattling by both sides, it would seem that a major conflict on the lines of the Ukraine conflict — one that could impact both the fortunes of China and much of the world in the Asia-Pacific region — is not yet on the anvil.
  • Any such conflict would have a severe and deleterious impact on the global economy.
  • Notwithstanding this, neither the U.S. nor China can possibly step back from the issue of Taiwan.
  • One possible scenario is that it might induce more realistic efforts to define objectives of which Taiwan is merely a symbol.
  • Strategic commentators believe that Taiwan is only one of several areas where China and the U.S. will find themselves in conflict in the coming period.
  • Finding common ground at this time would be important to ensure that matters do not go out of control.

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