Lessons for India from Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan visit

Originally published at Moneycontrol, 4 August 2022.

How is United States’ House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan relevant to Indian citizens?

One, it should teach Indians a thing or two about the value of separation of powers and the options it creates for conducting smart foreign policy. At a joint press conference with the Japanese Prime Minister in Tokyo in May, US President Joe Biden was quick to respond with a simple “Yes” to a question by a reporter if the US was “willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan”. But in mid-July, Biden was quoted as saying the US military was against Pelosi’s visit.

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Two Years After Border Clashes, India Still Lacks a Coherent China Policy

Originally published at World Politics Review, 13 July 2022.

It has been over two years since Chinese incursions in the summer of 2020 along the disputed India-China boundary in eastern Ladakh led to a series of skirmishes that left dozens of soldiers dead on both sides. Yet unlike a February 2019 confrontation with Pakistan, which resulted in an Indian airstrike on Pakistani territory and a tense standoff between the two nuclear-armed neighbors, the government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi appears content to relegate the tensions with China over Ladakh to the margins of national consciousness.

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In the new cold war China is not Russia

The Ukraine invasion might not quite be Russia’s last hurrah, but the frailties of a declining power are becoming ever more apparent. The failure of the Russians to achieve a swift victory only confirms a trend for superpowers: even with determination and military superiority, victory, if at all, is a hard slog. Meanwhile, economic sanctions have cut Russia out of the international financial system and it has little back-up, including from China. Even long-standing friends such as India have been unable to offer fuller political support to Russia given its obviously illegal action. 

The United States, freshly chastened from its failure in Afghanistan, has resisted the temptation to take a more active military role in its support for Ukraine while simultaneously encouraging the Europeans to be more involved both diplomatically and militarily. Russian threats to use nuclear weapons do not change this reality, unless, of course, they actually use them, in which case, every other certainty of global politics, indeed of life, itself will change. 

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China exploits Wang Yi’s India visit to its advantage

Following Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s brief visit to India, the Chinese have so far put out two statements on Wang’s meetings, one with India’s National Security Adviser and Special Representative on the boundary issue Ajit Doval, and one on the meeting with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.

In the first statement on the meeting with Doval, Wang appears to be engaged in a monologue and there is no reference at all to what the NSA said, while in the second, Doval is cited as “appreciate[ing] China’s profound thinking and constructive opinions on India-China relations” and saying “India and China… should not let the boundary issue affect the overall bilateral relations”.

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Wang Yi in India: Whither India’s muscular foreign policy?

Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi is in India for a two-day visit from 24 to 25 March—the first by a high-ranking Chinese official since the outbreak of the conflict between India and China along the LAC in the summer of 2020. The MEA has made no mention of the visit on its social media and Indian newspapers appear to have received confirmation of the visit from Chinese diplomatic sources.

Clearly, the optics are not good but why did New Delhi go forward with the visit in the first place if it wishes to keep it under wraps or low-key?

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Sino-Russia Ties: Intimacy can breed complications

The Russian invasion of Ukraine creates both a crisis of confidence in the West and an impression of vitality and strength about the Sino-Russian relationship. However, the impression might be just that — there are several existing and potential wrinkles in the ties that can be hard to smoothen.

First, there is the question of costs to China directly from Russia’s actions. The latter’s support of independence for the breakaway Donetsk and Luhansk regions considerably complicates China’s own position vis-à-vis its minority areas such as say, Inner Mongolia whose Mongol majority have ethnic brethren across the border in Mongolia. On the other hand, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s support for the 2014 referendums held by separatists in eastern Ukraine has also raised concerns in China that Taiwan’s pro-independence forces could also a similar tactic — referendums are a common enough feature in Taiwan’s political system, and have been used before for issues skirting dangerously close to what the Chinese might have considered an assertion of independence.

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How Russia-Ukraine crisis works in China’s favour

Russia’s recognition of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine as independent entities and its decision to send ‘peacekeepers’ into these areas — termed an ‘invasion’ by Western powers — should engender a deeper consideration of the nature of the Sino-Russian relationship.

For a while now it has been argued in the West that Russia is the junior partner in its ties with China, and that there is an element of transactionalism in Sino-Russian ties, because of which is unlikely to last long. While there are elements of truth to these arguments, the fact is that both Russia’s sense of self and the care with which Beijing has so far handled the Russian relationship have meant that China’s economic might and growing regional political footprint have not yet led to the expected falling out.

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100 Years of the Communist Party of China, Special Issue 1

China Report Vol. 58, No. 1, February 2022

100 Years of the Communist Party of China, Special Issue 1

Guest Editors: Jabin T. Jacob & Bhim B. Subba


Introduction: Towards Exceptionalism: The Communist Party of China and its Uses of History

Jabin T. Jacob & Bhim B. Subba


‘Yelling at the Masses’: Making Propaganda Audible in the Communist Revolution

He Bixiao


Party Literature Work, Ideology, and the Central Party Literature Office of the Communist Party of China

Ngeow Chow Bing


A Hundred Years of Entanglement: The Chinese Party-State and Ethnic Minorities

Debasish Chaudhuri


Vanguard to Periphery: The CPC’s Changing Narrative on the Labour Question

Anand P. Krishnan


From ‘Sticks’ to ‘Carrots’ and ‘Nets’, then to ‘Needles’: The Evolution of CPC’s Policy towards Taiwan

Roger C. Liu


Twitter thread

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India must beware of Chinese reassurances

As China enters the new year — the year of the tiger according Chinese zodiac — what are some of the prominent themes that mark Beijing’s approach to India since the beginning of the crisis in eastern Ladakh in 2020? Official statements apart, it might be useful to look closely at some Track-1.5 and Track-2 interactions that have taken place in the interregnum.

Five Signposts

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