This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Raunaq Singh Bawa. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Rethinking Containment: China Against The World

As global tensions rise between the People’s Republic of China and its US-led adversaries, the moment seems appropriate for reminiscing America’s Cold War strategy of “containment” against the Soviet Union.

In 1947, an anonymous article was published in Foreign Policy, a pre-eminent American journal. The “X Article“, as it came to be known, was later discovered to have been authored by George Kennan, one of the U.S.A.’s foremost diplomats, and the then-US Ambassador to the U.S.S.R.

Article X, or the “Long Telegram”, was a revolutionary piece, in that it completely changed U.S. foreign policy towards the U.S.S.R. for the coming 2 decades of the Cold War, only to be replaced in the late 1960s by the Nixon-Kissinger model of détente (relaxation of strained relations).

Article X described Soviet society as being paralysed, with no social institutions allowed to exist, except for that of the Communist Party. It elaborated on how a neurotic expansionist ideology drove the Communist Party:

“…we are going to for a long time find the Russians difficult to deal with. It does not mean that they should be considered as embarked upon a do-or-die program to overthrow our society by a given date. The theory of the inevitability of the eventual fall of capitalism has the fortunate connotation that there is no hurry about it. The forces of progress can take their time in preparing the final coup de grace. Meanwhile what is vital is that the “Socialist fatherland” — that oasis of power which has been already won for Socialism in the person of the Soviet Union — should be cherished and defended by all good Communists at home and abroad…”

George Kennan
Kennan observed there was no flexibility in the U.S.S.R.’s domestic policies, which left the Russians and all others in the Union trapped in a restrictive, totalitarian society.

Kennan uses this understanding of Soviet ideology and his experience with Soviet diplomacy to highlight how the Soviets could still be induced to compromise — the “inevitability” of the capitalist collapse meant that the Communists could afford to be flexible in their foreign policies.

However, as Kennan observes, there was no flexibility in the U.S.S.R.’s domestic policies, which left the Russians and all others in the Union trapped in a restrictive, totalitarian society. While the Communist Party allowed for no dynamism in Soviet society itself, nobody could control the volatility in the Party during transitions of power — i.e., the internal tussles for power after a leader dies or steps down. According to Kennan, it was this volatility which had the power to bring about a radical change in Soviet society.

Therefore, Kennan argues, the West could play the waiting game as well for regime change to take place within the framework of the Soviet Union while doing its utmost to affect the same using its limited influence in the country. This analysis turned out to be prophetic — as seen in the 1991 collapse of the U.S.S.R. But until then, the U.S. and the West had a duty to contain Soviet power and prevent the spread of Soviet-communism to other countries as well.

And, thus, with this ground-breaking piece, U.S. foreign policy was transformed. Containment had its share of successes and failures — notable failures being Vietnam and Korea. But containment served its purpose to a great extent, until being replaced by the Nixon-Kissinger style détente, where the goal of effecting regime change in the U.S.S.R. was abandoned.

Which brings me to the question — how relevant is this analogy in the context of modern-day China? A good place to start would be examining similarities between the U.S.S.R. and the P.R.C.

Fundamentally, both regimes can be classified as totalitarian and communist. While the latter may appear dubious in the case of liberalised China, one must keep in mind that the state and state-owned enterprises still exercise significant influence in the market, especially with the tightening of state control over all spheres of life in China under Xi Jinping.

Further, both regimes — nuclear-armed and with some of the most powerful conventional armed forces of their times — are inherently expansionist in their agenda and ideology. China is far more nefarious in this regard, considering it is far more powerful than the U.S.S.R. was in terms of economic influence and unconventional capabilities, such as in the case of cyber warfare.

While the U.S.S.R. was expansionist in envisioning a Soviet-led Communist world order, China is (relatively) more subtle and more pragmatic in its approach — rather than trying to bring about a global revolution, it seeks to establish inroads into weaker nations through intricate combinations of political and economic coercion.

And perhaps most importantly — both regimes have historically proven an apathy towards international law and human rights norms, flouting both however they have seen fit, and that too in an explicitly overt manner.

Thus, both regimes have been serious threats to the peace and aspiring totalitarian hegemons. And, therefore, just like the U.S.S.R., the influence of contemporary P.R.C. too must be contained. But will Cold War thinking suffice, or do new times call for new measures?

Measures like direct military intervention must be substituted by more subtle economic and political tools.

A holistic approach to dealing with the China problem would be most prudent today. While China and the U.S.S.R. are both expansionist regimes, China has different practical approaches towards achieving this aim. Therefore, in keeping with this understanding of Chinese objectives, the fundamental logic of containment must apply, but should be backed up with modern means. Therefore, measures like direct military intervention must be substituted by more subtle economic and political tools.

Containment of China would therefore mean:

  • Containing its naval presence in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • Containing its land expansion into Central and West Asia through the BRI.
  • Containing its acquisition of naval bases and ports in African and Indian Ocean States.
  • Containing its belligerent expansion of maritime borders in the South China Sea.
  • Containing its belligerent expansion of land borders in the Himalayas.
  • Containing its expansion into international institutions and bureaucracies.

The military aspect of this strategy must be carried out by like-minded nations threatened by the rise of Chinese power. NATO countries led by the U.S., along with the South East Asian democracies, India and Australia must coordinate common strategies to contain the Chinese and nip in the bud any military aggression on the part of the PLA or the PLA-N (People’s Liberation Army Navy). This is exemplified in dialogues like the QUAD, which includes India, Japan, Australia and the U.S., whose joint naval cooperation may serve as a deterrent against Chinese expansion.

The economic dimension must be handled through soft and hard gestures. While soft gestures include liberal investment into target nations to induce them away from China, while bailing them out of Chinese debt traps, hard gestures would take the form of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS).

While weakening the Chinese grip over the global economy may prove to be a difficult, protracted and costly process, the difficulties borne by nations will be relatively short-term — and certainly worth it, given the far harder alternative of spending the long-term under Chinese hegemonic control over the global economy.

Thus, the case for countries like Japan and Australia, who are greatly dependent on Chinese trade, to move away would be to gain self-reliance and maintain economic independence in the long-run by bearing some costs in the short-term.

Finally, the political aspect. While the U.S.-led world order is not without its flaws, the status quo is no doubt preferable to a unipolar order led by the totalitarian Chinese Communist Party. The U.S., under Donald Trump, for all its bellicose rhetoric against China, is a classic example of a failure of global leadership.

The U.S. cannot withdraw itself behind an “America First” policy, alienate itself from NATO, WHO and the H.R.C., and then claim to be a global leader against the P.R.C.’s excesses. A change in U.S. leadership is wanting, and a consequent return to the status quo ante, with a more responsible U.S., one more committed to internationalism and institutionalism is needed in order to protect these institutions from falling prey to the Chinese “Wolf Warrior” diplomats and to restore some legitimacy of a liberal, democratic world order.

A failure of U.S. leadership and a consequent failure of mobilisation of the free nations of the world will lead to the Chinese succeeding in their aims of global domination; with all free nations and their people playing second-fiddle to the Han people and their Communist Party, under the thumb of Big Brother in Beijing.

You must be to comment.
  1. Arindam Chaudhuri

    The vital threads of the Chinese strategy that the Chinese political hierarchy are employing to dethrone the US from the status of a super power and perch onto it have been brought out with clarity in this post.
    Leaves nothing to imagination and brings out the areas of focus for all affected by this Chinese belligerence. In the short term there will be pain, but a blind eye to these evident indicators will lead to deep regret in the near future for all those who feel threatened by the rise.

More from Raunaq Singh Bawa

Similar Posts

By Rajlakshmi Ghosh

By Diversity Dialogue

By Ehaab

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below