Jabin T. Jacob, ‘“To Tell China’s Story Well”: China’s International Messaging during the COVID-19 Pandemic’, China Report, Vol. 56, No. 3 August 2020. 374-392.
The Covid-19 pandemic has dented China’s image as an efficient Party-state given how an effort to cover up the outbreak and the resulting delays in reporting led to the virus spreading beyond its origins in Wuhan in Hubei province to the rest of the country as well as rapidly across the world. This article examines China’s massive external propaganda effort launched as part of the effort to repair the damage to its global image and interests. It notes how China has not let the situation stop it from pursuing its traditional foreign policy and security interests, including, of competition with the United States. The article also argues that it is the ruling Communist Party of China’s concerns about its legitimacy at home that has determined the nature and scale of Chinese responses to the pandemic outside its borders.
Read the full article here.
Iran’s relations with both India and China are of long standing and significant in different ways to Tehran. Under pressure from US economic sanctions while also being locked in conflicts of varying intensity with its Arab neighbours as well as with Israel, Iran has had few countries it could bank on for political and economic succour. India and China have fitted this bill occasionally and the difference really has been in terms of who has been able to do it for longer stretches and to greater effect.
Continue reading Winning and Losing in Iran
Jabin T. Jacob, ‘China, India, and Asian Connectivity: India’s View’, in Kanti Bajpai, Selina Ho and Manjari Chatterjee Miller (eds). Routledge Handbook of China-India Relations (London and New York: Routledge, 2020). 315-332.
Connectivity when it occurs across borders is usually understood in terms of physical connectivity in the form of road and railway routes primarily for the purposes of trade. The governments of India and China have long used physical connectivity and infrastructure development projects as part of their overseas development initiatives in the belief that this was necessary to develop capacity in sovereign states as well as exchanges between them but also for the purposes of diplomatic advantage. With its launch of the Belt and Road Initiative, however, China has begun to scale up its objectives from physical connectivity projects abroad adding substantially more forms of connectivity including the spread of ideological views, access to digital data as well as people-to-people contacts. The chapter also looks at the domestic views and consequences of connectivity projects abroad before ending with a look at how India has responded to Chinese connectivity projects.
Continue reading Book Chapter : China, India and Asian Connectivity
It might seem strange at a time such as this to talk of Chinese anxiety.
China has handled the Covid-19 outbreak better than most countries. What is more, it is also quickly cranked up its industries and global public diplomacy to offer testing kits and protective gear to countries across the world, including to its arch-rival United States as well as to India, a country that it has trouble describing as a rival at all.
At the same time, Chinese territorial assertiveness continues without letup in the East and South China Seas and, of course, along the LAC with India. It is almost as if even a disruption like Covid-19 that has the rest of the world scrambling to manage public health, economic growth and political fallout, is insufficient to knock China off its stride.
And yet, the Chinese people are anxious. The Communist Party of China (CPC) that governs them even more so.
Continue reading The Great Chinese Anxiety
There are three ‘cold wars’ that have been underway for some time, which involve India and China. Each shows both how much the world has changed since the ‘original’ Cold War between the US and the USSR and how distinct in their worldviews and approaches India and China are from the superpowers of an earlier era. These cold wars are also now picking up pace.
The first cold war is a direct one. Mutual trust has never been a strong suit of the India-China relationship but the ongoing Chinese transgressions along the LAC indicate a significant breakdown of long-standing bilateral agreements and can be considered a tipping point. For the foreseeable future, LAC face-offs involving violent physical altercations and possibly casualties will be the norm. And yet, these are unlikely to escalate into full-fledged conflict even as both sides criticise each other more openly in bilateral and multilateral conversations.
What also separates the India-China cold war from its predecessor between the superpowers is the deep and growing economic linkages between the two sides. Another feature is the distinct asymmetry in both the military and economic equations in China’s favour. But while calls in India for selectively boycotting Chinese goods are unlikely to work, the Indian government can still prevent any further Chinese ingress in the form of capital and technologies. Given its own political economy, this might be more of a concern for China, than the LAC itself. Asymmetry, thus, does not necessarily mean lack of leverage for India and avenues for negotiations and compromises will exist in the relationship.
Continue reading India, China and their Accelerating Cold Wars
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. 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
The change in status of the state of Jammu & Kashmir effected by the Indian central government has led to considerable international attention, including from China.
On 6 August, the Chinese Foreign Ministry offered two separate comments: one “on the Current Situation in Jammu Kashmir” and another more specifically “on the Indian Government’s Announcement of the Establishment of the Ladakh Union Territory Which Involves Chinese Territory”.
In the first statement, while China declares that it is “seriously concerned” it asks “both India and Pakistan to peacefully resolve the relevant disputes through dialogue and consultation” (emphasis mine). One should read this as the Chinese indicating they do not see it only as an Indian responsibility to “safeguard peace and stability in the region”, that Pakistan should not imagine it has sanction from Beijing to stoke military tensions in the wake of India’s actions. Continue reading Chinese Reactions to India’s Reorganization of Jammu & Kashmir
Chinese analysts saw Narendra Modi’s reelection as Prime Minister as a foregone conclusion. What came as a surprise to them – as it did to many in India – was the scale of Modi’s victory. Many assumed – going by Indian press reports and conversations with Indian visitors – that Modi would return with a reduced mandate and be forced into a coalition government. The implication here was that Modi would not have as free a hand in governance and foreign policy as he did in his first term.
What then do the Chinese expect from the second Modi administration? Continue reading Chinese Expectations from Modi 2.0
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.