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Comparative Politics

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.

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Comparative Politics Political Parties

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.

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Comparative Politics Political Parties

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.

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Comparative Politics Foreign Policy

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.

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Comparative Politics Foreign Policy Political Parties

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.

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Comparative Politics Foreign Policy Political Parties

The Many Instruments of Chinese Foreign Policy

In late September this year, the Communist Party of China (CPC) scored a propaganda coup by conducting a two-day training programme in Kathmandu for top leaders and cadre of the ruling Nepal Communist Party.[1] To think that this has happened in their near neighbourhood should worry Indian policymakers but it is also important to understand Chinese motivations and the tools at their disposal for these have implications for political systems everywhere, and especially for democracies.

In mid-December 2018, at a speech commemorating the 40th anniversary of the beginning of economic reforms and opening up in China, CPC General Secretary and Chinese President Xi Jinping pointed out that as a result of its economic reforms and growth, China had ‘significantly raised its cultural soft power and the international influence of Chinese culture’.[2]

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Comparative Politics Foreign Policy

Reading between Chinese Lines

China’s new ambassador to India, Sun Weidong has been busy in the op-ed pages of major Indian newspapers since his arrival. The first of these articles came even before he had formally presented his credentials at Rashtrapati Bhavan.[1] This piece in The Hindu[2] talked about the long historical connections between the two countries represented by the ancient Buddhist site of Dunhuang in China’s Gansu province, the ‘pearl on the Silk Road’. While ostensibly about promoting people-to-people ties, the essay also regularly repeated such concepts and phrases as the ‘Silk Road spirit’, ‘harmony’ and ‘win-win cooperation’ seen as Chinese contributions to the lexicon of international relations, never mind that they remain poorly or vaguely defined. There is also, of course, the not so small matter of the rhetoric seldom matching the reality as both India’s own experiences and those of any number of China’s other neighbours show.

Spouting vague generalities of civilizational ties are however only a warm-up to the practical needs of ensuring the rest of the world accepts and backs Beijing’s positions on both the ongoing Hong Kong protests and the US-China trade war.

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Borders Comparative Politics Foreign Policy

India-China Relations: Running on Empty

China’s decision to take India’s reorganization of Jammu & Kashmir to the UN Security Council raises several questions about its interest in durable good relations with India.

Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar’s visit to Beijing was clearly not enough to prevent China from issuing yet another statement declaring China’s ‘Clear Position on the Kashmir Issue’ on 12 August. This statement, which followed the meeting between Chinese Foreign Minster Wang Yi and Jaishankar,[1] was essentially a combination of the two statements issued previously by the Chinese on 6 August on India’s decision in J&K[2] as a more specific one on Ladakh.[3]

Even if held behind closed doors, the UNSC meeting on 16 August was significant because it was for the first time since 1965 that it had convened exclusively to discuss the Kashmir dispute.

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Comparative Politics Foreign Policy

China in the Middle East: Expanding Political Clout and Maritime Space

Despite being a relatively new entrant in the Middle East, China, with its ambitious leadership and ever-expanding range of interests, (not least amongst which remains the security of its energy supplies from the region), has now begun to pay consistent attention to this transcontinental area.

This attention is currently being represented through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and is being sold heavily as a mutually beneficial arrangement under which China supports infrastructure development in the Middle East and contributes to anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, while sourcing a large volume of its energy supplies from the region in return. However, China’s involvement in this part of the world is considerably more complex than the numbers from such economic engagements let on.

This essay focuses on two key aspects of Chinese activity in the Middle East — the political, and the maritime, and also occasionally touches upon the intersection between these two domains. From a political point of view, China’s objective is to undermine or dilute the US influence by offering itself as an alternative fulcrum around which the regimes of the region can gather. At the same time, China has enough resources and diplomatic skill to ensure that the countries of the region toe the line on a number of issues that Beijing deems sensitive. Meanwhile, it also appears that many of China’s political and economic investments in the Middle East are strongly correlated to its maritime objectives of extended access and control.

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This article was originally published as Jabin T. Jacob, ‘China in the Middle East: Expanding Political Clout and Maritime Space’, National Maritime Foundation, 10 May 2019.