Why a post-COVID-19 global order led by China is only a distant threat

Given China’s seemingly quick recovery from Covid-19 and given how the developed West has been shown up in its response to the pandemic, the possibility of a China-led post-Covid world order is not quite idle chatter. Nevertheless, such talk both exaggerates the weaknesses of the West and overstates China’s capabilities.

The world order might require changing but such change is not about to happen soon for political and economic reasons.Continue reading “Why a post-COVID-19 global order led by China is only a distant threat”

A China-led Post-Covid World? What to Expect

An idea seems to be going around that somehow, the Covid-19 pandemic is a turning point for the international order – that Pax Sinica will soon replace Pax Americana.

Such belief is premature to say the least, but it provides an occasion, nevertheless, to consider exactly what the world can expect under Chinese leadership.

Even before the pandemic, the rise of China had provided despots around the world with the confidence to seek centralization of power and to retain power by whatever means possible. The pandemic now provides an opportunity for such leaders as well as others potentially, to fast forward their agendas.Continue reading “A China-led Post-Covid World? What to Expect”

The Coronavirus Epidemic: Some Economic Considerations for India

There are several ways in which the coronavirus outbreak in China has consequences for the Indian economy, directly and indirectly.

One, the lockdowns in Chinese cities – many of which are economic hubs with populations and GDPs equivalent to small countries – affects production and supply worldwide given how integrated China is into the global economy. India is likely to suffer, too – more than half of India’s imports in 19 categories come from China according to a State Bank of India report[1] and 14% of its overall imports.[2] One of India’s top export sectors, pharmaceuticals, for example, depends heavily for key starting material, intermediates and active pharma ingredients from China.[3]

Both the pharma sector and the Indian economy in general have faced a tough year and were only just beginning to show signs of recovery which are now likely to be delayed due to the outbreak in China.[4] The spread of the coronavirus is pushing the world economy toward its worst performance since the 2008 financial crisis. And while the Indian government has declared itself ready with steps to ameliorate the effects on domestic industry,[5] its record so far is not encouraging.Continue reading “The Coronavirus Epidemic: Some Economic Considerations for India”

Incompetence, Insecurity and an Epidemic

The Chinese city of Wuhan saw the emergence of a novel coronavirus – officially designated “2019-nCoV” – in December last year. Information about the virus was communicated to the World Health Organisation at the end of the month but it was only towards mid-January that the Chinese leadership found it necessary to reveal the information to its own people.

Wuhan had come to the attention to the average Indian because of the eponymous ‘informal summit’ between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in April 2018 that followed the Doklam standoff the previous year and was supposed to have mended bilateral ties. It might be more relevant, however, for Indians to think about Wuhan as a sign of the failure of China’s vaunted efficiency and of the selection system of its supposedly meritocratic leaders.Continue reading “Incompetence, Insecurity and an Epidemic”

Of Elections, Fake News and China

The island nation of Taiwan, claimed by China as a ‘renegade province’, has just held its presidential elections.

If Unites States politics has been riven in recent years by questions of Russian involvement and interference, the Chinese have been at this for a very long time in Taiwanese politics, trying to push Taiwan’s unification with China and conducting disinformation campaigns in both traditional and social media on the island.

To counter Chinese-sponsored fake news and disinformation on its platform, Facebook had to launch a ‘war room’ in Taiwan on the eve of the presidential elections working closely with the country’s election commission, law enforcement agencies, political parties, and the presidential candidates themselves.[1]

In India, entities as AltNews and Boom, for example, do their best to counter the massive volume of misinformation that floats through WhatsApp groups and other forms of social media in India, but the brazenness with which politicians spout blatant lies or contradict themselves suggests that these efforts need to be widespread and more thorough. Continue reading “Of Elections, Fake News and China”

Another Rajapaksa at the Helm in Sri Lanka: The China Factor

The victory of Gotabaya Rajapaksa in the presidential elections in Sri Lanka in November and the subsequent appointment of his older brother and former president Mahinda Rajapaksa as prime minister have created some concerns in India that the island nation might be returning to a more pro-China foreign policy.

It is important to look into these concerns more carefully.

One, it is not as if the Sri Lankans under former president Maithripala Sirisena, and successor to the older Rajapaksa, was able to pull his country completely out of the Chinese embrace. As is well-known it was during Sirisena’s tenure that the country had to sign over Hambantota to China in 2018 for a 99-year lease.[1] And other major Chinese investments such as the Colombo Port City and the Norochcholai power station continued unhindered.Continue reading “Another Rajapaksa at the Helm in Sri Lanka: The China Factor”

Foreign Minister Jaishankar’s Ramnath Goenka Lecture: Countering Dogma with Still More Dogma

Indian Minister for External Affairs S. Jaishankar’s Ramnath Goenka lecture earlier this month[1] has been hailed widely as something of a master class in the directions and principles of India’s foreign policy in the Modi era. It could well be that. But it is equally a masterful papering over the shortcomings of Indian foreign policymaking that neither the country’s political class nor its bureaucracy has managed to fix so far.

It is noteworthy that of the “five baskets of issues” which Jaishankar referred to as offering lessons about India’s past performance, there is no reference to the problems of lack of capacity within the government. It is something of a paradox that for the second-most populous country in the world, India has one of the smallest civil services anywhere and that it prefers to keep it that way alongside a general lack of interest in taking on ideas from outside the four walls of the government.Continue reading “Foreign Minister Jaishankar’s Ramnath Goenka Lecture: Countering Dogma with Still More Dogma”

China Worries in India’s RCEP Decision

India’s refusal to sign up for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement in Bangkok earlier this month says as much about the state of India’s relations with China as it does about its place in the global trading regime.

There is no doubt that India is in many way not ready for the additional challenges and pain its domestic industry and agriculture will face with accession to RCEP especially since the economy is still recovering from the self-inflicted damage of demonetisation in 2016 and a poorly-executed roll-out of the GST less than a year later.

But there is not an insubstantial argument to be made about the consequences of opening up under RCEP to a Chinese economy that still is far from being an open market economy. Continue reading “China Worries in India’s RCEP Decision”

Vacuous Summitry

Following the Doklam stand-off between India and China in mid-2017, the Wuhan ‘informal summit’ between Narendra Modi and Xi Jinping the following April was seen as some sort of a tension-busting exercise and hosannas were sung to a new kind of diplomacy with talk of a ‘reset’ in the relationship. In the run-up to the second informal summit to be held at Chennai tomorrow[1], however, the shallowness of the exercise is now evident especially in the security and political realms.

Even if one were to ignore the fact that it was not until yesterday that the Indian Ministry of External Affairs finally confirmed that the summit was even on, the level of mutual suspicion today appears to be no less than was the case following Doklam.Continue reading “Vacuous Summitry”