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Foreign Policy

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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Borders Comparative Politics Foreign Policy War and Conflict

India, China and their Accelerating Cold Wars

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.

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Comparative Politics Political Parties

Wang Huning: Xi Jinping’s Ideological Alter Ego

In practical terms, Wang Huning is to Xi Jinping what Amit Shah is to Narendra Modi. That comparison should help situate for Indian audiences Wang Huning’s importance in the Chinese political firmament somewhat. If Shah’s job is to help Modi do the electoral math and draw up strategies to win elections, it is Wang’s job to help create the narrative that legitimizes Xi Jinping in power in an authoritarian system.

If Modi and Shah have together turned a political party otherwise identified with religious extremism and vested business interests into one that appears to espouse a new work ethic in government and a vision of modernity based on new technologies – digital India, smart cities and the like – there has been a similar makeover underway in of the Communist Party of China (CPC) under Xi and Wang for much longer. Only in the Chinese case, it has been of trying to convey the image the CPC as not only the best thing to have ever happened to China but also as an exemplar for the rest of the world.

Ideologue

Wang has been speechwriter and ideologue to three successive General Secretaries of the CPC

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Foreign Policy Political Parties

19th CPC Congress in China: Ideology Dominant

China is the world’s second-largest economy and one its major political powers. While it has not been tested in battle for some 40 years, it has the largest military in the world and the second-largest military budget. For nearly 70 years, the world’s most populous country has been ruled by a single political party – the Communist Party of China (CPC) – and so when it holds its once-in-five-years national congress, it is an important event that the rest of the world and especially neighbouring India would do well to watch closely and understand.

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Comparative Politics Foreign Policy Political Parties

Chen Guangcheng: One Blind Man in a Tale of Two Governments

In late April, 40-year old blind Chinese civil rights activist, Chen Guangcheng dramatically escaped house arrest and turned up at the US embassy in Beijing seeking refuge. After several twists and turns, it seems that a deal has been struck between Beijing and Washington that will allow the activist to leave China together with his family on the pretext of pursing higher studies. While the incident has probably not yet reached its denouement, it nevertheless provides a useful opportunity to reflect on the evolving Sino-US relationship.