IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis

Isolating China, as proposition and the reality  

11th August, 2020 Editorial

Context: Rising Chinese expansionism and its stature in global order


China-U.S. ties:

  • After years of cooperating with one another, the U.S. and China are currently at the stage of confrontation, with both seeking allies to join their camps.
  • The rhetoric has begun to resemble the Cold War era and both sides are even willing to display their military muscle.
  • While the U.S. may not necessarily be the first choice for many countries of Asia and the Asia-Pacific region, in the case of China it is clearly more feared than loved.
  • No one in Asia (Pakistan an exception) nurses any doubts about China’s ‘imperialist ambitions’, or about Chinese President Xi Jinping’s authoritarian world view.
  • Beijing’s virtual takeover of Hong Kong, paying scant regard to the concept of ‘one country two systems’, has only confirmed what had long been known about China’s intentions under Mr. Xi.


Aggressive and expansionist

  • While the rest of the world was wrestling with the COVID-19 pandemic, China further stepped up its aggressive actions, renaming almost 80 geographical features in the region as an index of Chinese sovereignty.
  • China’s favorite approach has been unilateralism rather than compromise, when dealing with its smaller neighbors.
  • Implicitly also, it reflects the unwritten code of the Belt and Road Initiative and the Maritime Silk Road.
  • Many countries, especially those in East Asia, are unwilling to be seen taking sides at this juncture, their explanation for this being that China was always known to be over-protective of the South China Sea, considering it a natural shield against possible hostile intervention by outside forces inimical to it.


In a strong grip

  • China seems confident that its stranglehold on the global economy ensures that it does not face any real challenge. It would be wise for India to recognise this.
  • It is equally necessary to realise how fickle some of these countries can be when it comes to economic issues.
    • Australia is a prime example. At a recent meeting in Washington, Australia made it clear that China is important for Australia that it would not do anything contrary to its interests, and a strong economic engagement was an essential link in the Australia-China relationship.
    • Likewise, the U.K. wants a positive relationship with China, would work with China, and that there was enormous scope for positive constructive engagement.
    • Even in Asia, while a majority of ASEAN countries has grave concerns about China’s predatory tactics, with the ASEAN having become one of China’s biggest trading partners, it adopts a default position. viz., “not to take sides”.


India and the neighbourhood

  • At this time, when the dice should actually have been loaded against China, it is India that is finding many of its traditional friends being less than helpful.
  • India’s present standoff with China has provided Pakistan with yet another opportunity to fish in troubled waters, including the production of a “fake map” of Pakistan, which includes parts of Indian territory such as Siachen, Jammu and Kashmir and Gujarat.
  • Relations have soured in recent months and Nepal has gone to the extent of publishing new maps, which show the ‘Kalapani area’ as a part of Nepal.
  • In Sri Lanka, the return of the Rajapaksas to power after the recent elections does not augur too well for India-Sri Lanka relations.
  • It is, however, the strain in India-Bangladesh relations that is a real cause for concern, since it can provide a beachhead against Chinese activities in the region.


Beijing moves ahead

  • In July, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi organised a virtual meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Nepal, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
  • Here, he proposed taking forward an economic corridor plan with Nepal, styled as the Trans-Himalayan Multi-Dimensional Connectivity Network, and expanding the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to Afghanistan.
  • Iran and China are reported to be currently pursuing an economic and security partnership that would involve massive Chinese investments in energy and other sectors in Iran, in exchange for China receiving regular supplies of Iranian oil for the next 25 years.


Geo-balancing is not happening to China’s disadvantage. This lesson must be well understood, when countries like India plan their future strategy.