The world order might require changing but China is not going to be able to take leadership for political and economic reasons
China seems to believe that it will over the next couple of decades have the economic and military capacity to preempt competition or opposition to its will and that this will itself lead to global order and on its terms. But such a world order is actually likely to be an unstable one based as it is on the principle of ‘might is right’.
Freedom of speech and the diversity of opinion that it engenders are not a reflection of seditious tendencies endangering state security even if they might threaten the regime in power.
Indian citizens could perhaps learn much from the Taiwanese election campaign, where various civic groups actively fact-checked each candidate’s speech and confronted them in real time over inconsistencies and inaccuracies.
India will need to match China with a capable and expanded foreign service working in coordination with political parties, business communities, intellectual elites and its diaspora but also display adherence to values that are genuinely attractive to the peoples of other nations to push an ‘Indian model’ of politics and development that can challenge the Chinese one.
The political, social and security implications do not look pretty for countries participating in the BRI. New Delhi might, however, consider if absolute opposition to the BRI is ultimately doing either its relationship with China or its own global image any long-term good.
India’s democracy and its largely free and fair elections and the uncertainties they throw up, strongly challenge the ideas China’s communists have about order and stability, of ‘harmony’ in society and politics as represented by one-party rule.
There is a connection between the clampdown on freedoms and increasing emphasis on the centrality of the CPC on one hand and China’s foreign policy assertiveness and willingness to undermine current international order on the other.
Does India have it in itself to become an economic and political alternative to China?