China in Afghanistan: Not Ready for the Burden

An August 29 interview of China’s Special Envoy on the Afghanistan Yue Xiaoyong offers a useful overview of China’s views and concerns about the situation in the aftermath of the United States withdrawal from Afghanistan. 

The Chinese envoy’s reference to “The irresponsible and hasty withdrawal of the troops of the United States as well as the NATO” indicates that the Chinese too have been caught in a situation where they are not prepared with options. The fact that the interview was conducted in English suggests among other things that they are not shy of letting the world know this.

China has at least two challenges before it with implications for its security. One, in managing the Taliban itself, and the other in terms of impact on its other neighbours. 

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Xi Jinping in Tibet: What India Needs to Look Out For

It is noteworthy that Communist Party of China (CPC) General Secretary and Chinese President Xi Jinping started his visit to the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) last week by flying into Nyingchi. This is because on Chinese maps, the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh is shown as part of the Nyingchi and Lhoka prefectures in TAR.

It should not be surprising that Beijing keeps a close eye on what it considers sensitive territorial issues. However, it would be incorrect to assume that the only kind of Chinese transgression into Indian territory is of the military sort. China’s civilian infrastructure build-up in TAR or Xinjiang is almost always seen in India as being also of military use, as indeed they could be. But their other uses must not be ignored. Nor should pronouncements from the Chinese leadership on matters of culture or the environment be dismissed merely as propaganda aimed at Tibetan and other minorities in TAR. They also have value as propaganda aimed across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) at India’s border populations.

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Xi Jinping Visits the Tibet Autonomous Region

Communist Party of China (CPC) General Secretary and Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) last week. The visit is significant for what it says about how the Chinese Party-State views its control over the Tibetan region.

It is noteworthy that Xi’s last visit to the TAR — one of the provinces carved out of the old Tibet — was in 2011, and so this is the first time he has visited since taking over as China’s top leader. The delay is particularly striking, given that Xi visited China’s other large and troubled ethnic minority province, Xinjiang, in April 2014.

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The Chinese Communist Party Turns 100

1. The Beginning: What was the historical context, in China and in the world, of the birth of the Chinese Communist Party?

The CCP was formed in the crucible of a China beset by domestic upheaval, economic backwardness and a floundering experiment with a democratic republic that followed the fall of the Qing Empire. It was obvious to Chinese intellectuals that their country’s imperial greatness was a thing of the past and the search for national revival saw multiple ideologies contend during this period. The newly minted Soviet Union was keen to have more support in the east and sent cadre – including at one point, the Indian revolutionary, MN Roy – to support the growth of Chinese communism. The CCP also views the 1919 May 4th student movement as a seminal influence on many of its founders. The students were protesting the Chinese government’s inability at the Treaty of Versailles following the end of World War I, to get Western imperial powers and Japan to give up their territories and privileges in China. With the students also seeking a complete cultural and political overhaul calling for the adoption of science and democracy in place of traditional values, the May Fourth movement has continued to find its echo throughout Communist China’s history down to the present.

2. Early Decades: What political and ideological imperatives guided Mao Zedong in the decades of the 50s and 60s? What did the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution achieve for Mao and the CCP?

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From Akshayapatra to Begging Bowl

The second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic has forced India to accept foreign aid – including from the Chinese Red Cross[1] – for the first time in 16 years. For Indians of a certain persuasion, there is a particular shame in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Indian government having to seek foreign aid. For their worldview comprises a mix of various resentments against the perceived outsider – Muslims, Westerners/Christian missionaries, Chinese/atheists. Indeed, the strength of articulation of the vishwaguru trope lies precisely in this reality and the need to have something that is apparently of India’s ‘own’ to offer. 

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Chinese Behaviour Both Target and Model for Indian Foreign Policy

Even as India targets China in its alignment with the other democracies in the Quad, it is worth reflecting on how closely the temper and, to an extent the practice, of Indian foreign policy appears to be aligning with those of Chinese foreign policy. China’s assertiveness beyond its boundaries derives in large measure from the nature of the Communist Party of China (CPC) as a political party that does not believe in sharing power at home, from its conflation of regime interest with the national interest. 

For Indians this should not be so hard to understand.

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China’s Vaccine Diplomacy and India

China recently made it mandatory for people coming from India and 19 other nations to received Chinese-manufactured COVID-19 vaccines if they wanted to enter the country.[1] The problem is, of course, that there are no Chinese vaccines available in India and nor are they likely to be given that India is a major producer of vaccines itself. It is tempting to call the Chinese decision a thoughtless act and one of wanton malice towards the thousands of Indians – students, professionals, family members – waiting to return to China, over a year after many left the country to visit their homes for the long Chinese New Year holidays.

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China’s Possible Approaches to the US under Joe Biden

With a new administration taking over in the US, how will China deal with the legacy of hard-line China policies left behind by Donald Trump?

For one, expect Beijing to try deflection. It will talk about being misunderstood and of overriding “common interests” as Foreign Minister Wang Yi did in December 2020,[1] and his deputy Le Yucheng[2] as well as Chinese Vice-President Wang Qishan[3] did at the end of January 2021 or to spout vague inanities as “cooperative competition” as former Chinese diplomat Fu Ying did earlier in November in The New York Times.[4] The objective is to sound conciliatory even as China puts forward its interests clearly. For instance, the People’s Daily’s Zhong Sheng column, which during the Trump years did not mince words in attacking the US and its actions, welcomed the Biden administration with a toning down of language and offers of cooperation.[5]

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Chinese Transgressions on the LAC Deserve a Punitive Response

Reports have emerged that China has increased its troop strength along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh breaking its agreement made at the sixth round of talks on 21 September 2020.[1] Earlier in December, videos emerged of Chinese civilian vehicles transgressing into the Demchok area also in Ladakh.[2] Meanwhile, the Indian Army referred to a confrontation last week between Indian and Chinese troops in the wake of a transgression by the latter at Naku La in northern Sikkim, as a “minor face-off”.[3]

Essentially, what we are seeing since the Galwan clash in June 2020, is the steady normalization of confrontations and tensions along the LAC as well as of fruitless bilateral talks. This was predicted.[4]

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