A former Lt Governor of India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands has said that China appears to have failed to secure its “expansionism” beyond Pakistan and North Korea, “neither of which has a viable alternative”.
“Yet today as the world stares at the inevitable and punishing price of Covid, the Chinese state has still not let go of its expansionist impulse, and there is renewed pushback even from its ‘beneficiaries’. Is the Dragon running out of tricks?” questioned Lt General Bhopinder Singh.
Singh said a ‘wolf warrior diplomacy’ – “an unashamedly expansionist, combative, and possessing hegemonic instincts”, is the new form of statecraft that has made China proactive, as opposed to reactive.
He asserted that Chinese President Xi Jinping’s advanced his hawkish expansionism through ensnaring projects like the Belt and Road Initiative, the Pearl String ports, and the tactical seizing of opportunities in the Pacific Island nations, in Nepal, the Maldives, Sri Lanka.
“Chinese President Xi Jinping’s urge to a “fighting spirit” explains this hawkish expansionism as necessary to fulfill the neologism of the “Chinese Century”. It has led China to unleash an unprecedented outreach through ensnaring projects like the Belt and Road Initiative, the Pearl String ports, and the tactical seizing of opportunities in the Pacific Island nations, in Nepal, the Maldives, Sri Lanka and wherever else domestic politics and financial desperation afforded an irresistible opening for Chinese largesse”, Singh said.
“It’s ostensibly no strings attached approach to making investments has roped in pariahed states like North Korea and Pakistan. But the Chinese approach is also undecipherable and asymmetric, as it advances an expansionist agenda by hook or crook, using coercion, intimidation, internal meddling and limited militaristic belligerence. It can charm, buy out, encircle, entrap in debt, and play the most unapologetic forms of realpolitik to further its cause,” he added.
“But has the Dragon bitten off more than it can chew?” Singh asked.
Today, Singh said, the world seeks answers and looks askance at China for its Covid chicanery, as the staggering human and economic costs mount – and the uninterrupted Chinese military belligerence even in these times, militates even more.
“It is not just the patent deceit at Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh, earlier, the Chinese had also sunk a Vietnamese fishing trawler in the Paracel Islands, claiming it falsely to be in Chinese waters. Adding to it, the People’s Republic claimed 80 islands, reefs, shoals and ridges in the restive South China Seas, for the first time since 1983, at a time when the world reeling under the Covid-19 crisis,” he said.
Australia too joined the chorus, accusing China of spreading misinformation that “contributes to a climate of fear and division” – just last week Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison complained of “malicious cyberwarfare” by “state actors”, the finger unmistakably pointed at China.
“While the ‘ways’ of the Chinese state are well known, sheer desperation and a lack of alternatives forces many nations to willingly or unwillingly succumb to the Dragon,” Singh emphasized.
In 2016, Pakistan’s Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Planning and Development warned of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor becoming “another East India Company” – today Pakistan is a completely beholden state, and the otherwise voluble Imran Khan is not allowed to talk about the Uighur Muslims incarcerated by China.
Sri Lanka too realised the cost of accepting Chinese “investments” as it ultimately had to cede control of its Hambantota port for a lease of 99 years to China.