“The Chinese charm you when they want to charm you and squeeze you when they want to squeeze you; and they do it quite systematically.”
– ‘The Revenge of Geography’, Robert D Kaplan
?It has been a century of glory, a century of turmoil, a century of single-party leadership, a century of suppression of dissent and human rights, and a century of disdainful pursuit of Mao’s Chinese dream. On one hand there has been the pressure to create a magnanimous image in front of the suppressed Chinese populace, and on the other lies the consequences of lofty ambitions of expansionism, colonisation of nearby islands, economic take-over of poorer nations in Asia and Africa, and military arm-twisting in the region. There are thousands of stagnated overseas projects, incomplete military R&D accompanied by struggling military equipment sold to other countries, and the notoriety brought in by spreadingCOVID-19 and bringing the world to a standstill for almost two years. Is Xi Jinping caught between the devil and the deep sea?
?Having enjoyed an absolute monopoly of power, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has authoritatively ruled China for a hundred years now. Motivated by the Bolsheviks, and sold to the innocent people as a party for peasants, workers and students in 1921, the past 100 years of CCP have been stained with brutal massacre of student protestors at Tiananmen Square in 1989, unceasing Human Rights violation and harsh repression of Uyghurs and other Muslims in the Xinjiang region, and the sudden disappearances of media activists who have voiced their opinions against the party or its members. It has been reported that the detainees in the re-education camps of Xinjiang province are forced to pledge loyalty to the CCP, forego religious (Islamic) practices and patronise Mandarin.
?The CCP in pursuit of Xi’s Chinese dream of becoming a global leader in 2049 has initiated manyambitious but crafty projects like the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) and has pumped many irrecoverable loans into smaller Asian and African countries. In addition, millions of dollars’ worth money has been invested in building military infrastructure and progress territorial/ seaward expansion to assert China’s illegal claims on bothland and sea. However, of late, the world has woken up to the Chinese deceit.
?The genesis and spread of COVID-19 from China has fuelled anger, suspicion and reluctance for the world to engage with China. The post-COVID world order, with horrific examples of economic and financial meltdown of client states like Pakistan and Sri Lanka, has further marred China’s reputation. China is being called out more and more for its illegal military aggression in the South China Sea, debt-trap diplomacy, IUU (Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated) Fishing, unauthorised spying usingcivilian research vessels, and ultimately the COVID-19 pandemic. Even its traditional clients in Asia and Africa are getting wary. The world at large neither finds China as an honest investor to expand trade and commerce nor do the bigger multi-national brands prefer to invest in China for their manufacturing/ production hubs and businesses.
?The years ahead look even more bleak. The humungous amount of money lent by China in most developing countries either as part of BRI or Debt-trap diplomacy are unlikely to credit their balance sheets in the years to come. While this certainly affects the Chinese banks, but it also hampers contribution of that money into their own GDP/ national economic efforts including businesses and domestic investments. As Xi Jinping is headed for an unprecedented third term in power, the country is likely to dive into rougher waters. China’s failed ‘Zero-COVID’ policy and re-emergence of widespread infection has brought the nation and the Chinese economy to a standstill. Failure of Beijing Olympics has reinforced the already shaking global confidence in a tightly choreographed China.
The so-called unity within the CCP is dwindling and is likely to intensify in the days to come. Crackdown on opposition and disappearance of lawyers and human rights activists is causing massive chaos in the Chinese hinterland. Thanks to brutal control over media, China has managed to mute news reports about hundreds of protests in provinces like Hong Kong, Tibet, Xinjiang etc which may trigger the beginning of a major revolution against the present order. Only time can predict tomorrow’s China, but today’s China is a grim story of political turmoil, military mis-adventures, slow economic growth, shaky reputation and an authoritative government.