By Ruchika Thakur:
As Indians we are always more worried about China than Pakistan, because we can never figure out what China is actually up to, and every time we hold a ‘Made in China‘ item, we are awed as to how deep they have penetrated our markets. China is rising at an unprecedented speed, at the economic front as well as the military front. So, what is the underlying strategy with which China operates?
As pointed out by the first Prime Minister of Singapore, late Lee Kuan Yew, in this article, “Come grow with me” is the philosophy with which China functions. The infrastructure investment that China has made in its own state, linking all major cities and other countries to foster ties and strengthen trade links with them are proof of that. Be it Germany and Russia, or closer home with Kazakhstan, Pakistan and Myanmar. It has even extended its rail lines to connect with Laos in Southeast Asia. Lee further went to connect the dots and said that with 1.3 billion consumers and an ever expanding base, it will dominate the entire East Asian market. It is important to listen to Lee because few people know China better than him. “But close economic interdependence does not necessarily mean political cooperation or more peaceful geopolitics, contrary to what liberal International Relations suggests,” says Dibyesh Anand, head of department in International Relations at the University of Westminster.
Recently, China announced that it would soon complete building of an artificial island in the disputed South China Sea which it refers to as Nansha Island. China has built a runaway which is capable of handling military aircrafts. What could be the reason for it? The Chinese Foreign Minister, Lu Kang, says that military defence needs, as well as civilian demands including maritime search and rescue efforts, disaster prevention, scientific research, meteorological observation, navigation safety measures and fishery services are the reasons for building these artificial islands.
The United States is clearly not pleased with these “civilian demands” and is uncomfortable with China developing 2,000 acres of lands on the outcroppings in the last 18 months and of creating a runaway at Fiery Cross Reef long enough to accommodate fighter jets, and has urged China to ensure freedom of navigation and flight as permitted by International law. But China maintains that it is committed to the path of “peaceful development”. Lee points out that this “peaceful development” was not adopted by the Chinese leadership accidentally, but is a well thought out mantra as the Chinese want to update themselves to a great civilisation and recover their ancient glory.
On the military front, the rise of the Chinese has always worried the United States, Japan and India. And the recent incident has left them even more anxious. On this Dr Anand says, “The recent tensions in South China Sea is not because of disagreement alone, for the disagreement has been there for the last century; the tensions are because China has adopted a pro-active and belligerent stance which combined with its rise as a major global power is making the neighbours nervous.”
The other more plausible reason for the militarization which the analysts have pointed out could be the Chinese insecurity; since the USA has been collaborating with the Japanese and the Philippines in joint patrols.
The United States is not yet ready to accept the emergence of China, especially the threat that it could challenge US’s hegemony. Dr Anand states that “The USA is no longer the hegemonic power in the region, but it remains the single most important global power. USA’s presence and resistance to China is less about some Sino phobic kneejerk reaction but more to do with American credibility. If the USA does not caution or balance China, it loses credibility as guarantor of security to its major allies including Japan and Philippines who see the rising China as a bully.” But the Chinese, by building military base in the South China and Arabian Sea, are strategizing to impair the U.S. military containment and as Lee said, “the U.S. cannot stop the rise of China, but it has to live with a bigger China.” Here, Dr. Anand makes an interesting point when he says that a tense Asia Pacific region provides opportunities to military industrial complex of the USA in terms of continuing arms sales to competitors of China.
It will be interesting to see how India responds to this growth of China. India knows that it is perhaps not too wise to pick disputes with China and has adopted a balanced foreign policy till now, taking a stand when required as in the case of Arunachal Pradesh, while balancing it with trade talks and mutual growth.