Politics in Command in the Chinese Economy

At the heart of any communist political system is the Marxist emphasis on class struggle with the apparent objective of achieving the utopia of a society of perfect equality and free from want. But the class struggle itself and attempts to either promote it or to deal with it are the result of or depend on the economic conditions obtaining in the polity. It is, therefore, not without reason that Marxists and leaders of communist nations have a constant focus on the economy or on economic conditions, never mind the effectiveness of their prescriptions. 

China’s leaders have since the end of the Maoist era at least, not only been rather more careful than their counterparts in the former Soviet bloc countries in giving economic growth its due place, but also succeeded in shaping a successful economic model that has delivered decades of high rates of growth. They have understood the consequences of economic conditions for a country’s domestic politics and its international prospects better than most. 

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Xi Jinping Visits the Tibet Autonomous Region

Communist Party of China (CPC) General Secretary and Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) last week. The visit is significant for what it says about how the Chinese Party-State views its control over the Tibetan region.

It is noteworthy that Xi’s last visit to the TAR — one of the provinces carved out of the old Tibet — was in 2011, and so this is the first time he has visited since taking over as China’s top leader. The delay is particularly striking, given that Xi visited China’s other large and troubled ethnic minority province, Xinjiang, in April 2014.

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The Chinese Communist Party Turns 100

1. The Beginning: What was the historical context, in China and in the world, of the birth of the Chinese Communist Party?

The CCP was formed in the crucible of a China beset by domestic upheaval, economic backwardness and a floundering experiment with a democratic republic that followed the fall of the Qing Empire. It was obvious to Chinese intellectuals that their country’s imperial greatness was a thing of the past and the search for national revival saw multiple ideologies contend during this period. The newly minted Soviet Union was keen to have more support in the east and sent cadre – including at one point, the Indian revolutionary, MN Roy – to support the growth of Chinese communism. The CCP also views the 1919 May 4th student movement as a seminal influence on many of its founders. The students were protesting the Chinese government’s inability at the Treaty of Versailles following the end of World War I, to get Western imperial powers and Japan to give up their territories and privileges in China. With the students also seeking a complete cultural and political overhaul calling for the adoption of science and democracy in place of traditional values, the May Fourth movement has continued to find its echo throughout Communist China’s history down to the present.

2. Early Decades: What political and ideological imperatives guided Mao Zedong in the decades of the 50s and 60s? What did the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution achieve for Mao and the CCP?

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Chinese Behaviour Both Target and Model for Indian Foreign Policy

Even as India targets China in its alignment with the other democracies in the Quad, it is worth reflecting on how closely the temper and, to an extent the practice, of Indian foreign policy appears to be aligning with those of Chinese foreign policy. China’s assertiveness beyond its boundaries derives in large measure from the nature of the Communist Party of China (CPC) as a political party that does not believe in sharing power at home, from its conflation of regime interest with the national interest. 

For Indians this should not be so hard to understand.

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The Great Chinese Anxiety

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

Covid-19 Introduces New Tensions in India-China Relations

The year 2020 marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and China. While the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic provides a new backdrop to this milestone in bilateral ties, it does not substantially change the direction in which relations were heading, only the pace.

Bilateral ties have seldom been smooth, even if the default position of the leaderships on both sides has been to portray them as being normal and in reasonable fettle. After the low of the Doklam stand-off in mid-2017, ‘informal’ summits between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping were promoted as a way to put the relationship back on the rails. The Indian government has certainly expended much effort domestically to make it look like the informal summits were some sort of diplomatic breakthrough. Except that problems have cropped up so regularly in the relationship that it fools no one. Continue reading Covid-19 Introduces New Tensions in India-China Relations

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] Continue reading The Many Instruments of Chinese Foreign Policy

India-China Boundary Dispute: LAC Transgressions Will Continue

The next ‘informal summit’ between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping will be held in Varanasi on 12 October. The announcement of the date has been accompanied in recent days by a series of reports on the state of affairs on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between the two countries.

In recent years, some transgressions on the LAC have developed into serious confrontations between the two armies as in the case of Depsang in 2013, Chumur the following year and in Pangong Tso in 2017[1] in the midst of the Doklam standoff in Bhutan.

While reports of LAC transgressions by the Chinese have reduced in number since the Modi government came to power, this might simply be because leaks to the press were plugged. Certainly, it would not be in character for the Chinese to stop their activities along the LAC just because they have made promises to this effect. Continue reading India-China Boundary Dispute: LAC Transgressions Will Continue

Modi-Xi ‘Informal Summit’: Domestic Priorities Uppermost

US President Richard Nixon’s path-breaking visit to China in February 1972 could arguably be called the mother of all ‘resets’ of a major bilateral relationship. In his own words, it was ‘the week that… changed the world’ and there can be little disagreement on this score.

The ‘informal summit’ scheduled later this week between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in the Chinese city of Wuhan in Hubei province too, is being advertised as a key moment in the relationship.

What explains the timing of the summit and its motivations?

Two Steps Forward, Three Steps Back

Continue reading Modi-Xi ‘Informal Summit’: Domestic Priorities Uppermost