Pointing out how expansionism had done the greatest harm to humanity, Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not need to mention China in his address to the troops in Leh, as he stated that the ‘era of expansionism was over’.
China’s obsession with expansionism became an official State-funded drive in 2013, when it unleashed the ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that aimed to physically connect China with the rest of the world. Harking back to its imperial tributary system, the BRI saw Beijing use its economic power to drive massive investments in over 70 countries.
It’s not like the Communist Party of China’s (CCP) authoritarian agenda under BRI – to place China as the centre of the world in more ways than one – was hidden. For nearly half a decade, most nations of the world either chose to ignore or look the other way due to some inexplicable reason. The chickens however, have now come home to roost.
How Australia Warned The World About Chinese Aggression & Ambition
In June 2017, the then Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull became one of the first global leaders to warn the world of the Chinese aggression. In a speech at that year’s Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Turnbull asked China to respect the ‘sovereignty of others’.
Turnbull had more than enough reason to call out China’s interference in the political landscape of other countries.
A few months earlier, in September 2016, an Australian Labor Party member, Sam Dastyari, had to resign after reports emerged that he had asked a donor with links to the CCP to pay a travel bill. The episode was the tip of the proverbial iceberg that hinted at CCP’s efforts to collect information from around the world through business and political relationships – to build long-term support for China and its policies in other countries.
Turnbull had to introduce new legislation to counter the threat of foreign states exerting improper influence over Australia’s government system.
Australia was not the only country where the CCP had made in-roads into colleges, universities, local as well as state-level politicians, and other spaces in public life. In 2014, The Telegraph reported that an anonymous donation of £3.7 million was given to Cambridge University to fund a professor for Chinese development studies. The report also said that the money came from a charity controlled by the daughter of China’s former prime minister. In August 2016, a Chinese-born naturalised US citizen, Kun Shan ‘Joey’ Chun – who worked as a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) electronics technician – was caught passing on sensitive information on surveillance technologies used by the FBI – amongst other things – to China.
- In June 2017, the then Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull became one of the first global leaders to warn the world of the Chinese aggression.
- With time, the Chinese Communist Party’s cloak and dagger game became more apparent, and most countries began to talk more and more about China’s subterfuge.
- In 2015, the Chinese government initiated the ‘Digital Silk Road’ (DSR) as a component of Beijing’s BRI, to shape the future of the global internet, and also to reinforce the Chinese Communist Party’s leadership at home.
- Are we witnessing history in the making, where democracies are allying with the singular purpose of countering an aggressive and expansionist China?
A More Powerful Digital Aspect to China’s Communist Party’s Expansionist Designs
With time, the CCP’s cloak and dagger game became more apparent, and most countries began to talk more and more about China’s subterfuge and expansionist ambitions.
But there is a far more powerful and potent digital aspect to CCP’s designs that is still not spoken about as much.
In 2015, the Chinese government initiated the ‘Digital Silk Road’ (DSR) as a component of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative to shape the future of the global internet, and also to reinforce the Chinese Communist Party’s leadership at home for decades to come. The fact that China had tightened control over its domestic internet was an open secret, and with the DSR, it sought to push its policy of authoritarian cyber control across the world.
The Digital Silk Road achieved this by increasing China’s overall capacity to participate in international technology standards setting and governance norms bodies.
Chinese companies sprang to promote the development of the digital service sector, and they built more and more pieces of financial information and telecommunications networks globally across e-commerce, smart cities, telemedicine, and internet finance. It emphasised on computing, big data, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, blockchain, and quantum computing – and ensured that data collected by critical infrastructure operators was stored within China’s borders. Such data localisation was governed by the Chinese law, which, in other words, meant that only government-approved encryption technologies were allowed, and companies had to reveal source code for IT products sold to critical infrastructure operators.
Condolences That Poured In For India Post-Galwan Were Silent On China
The attack by the Chinese border troops on Indian soldiers in Galwan Valley on the intervening night of 15/16 June has become a watershed moment for Sino-Indian relations. At the same time, the incident where our troops were ambushed has also come as an eye-opener for the world. Additionally, the response of the Indian soldiers has burst the bubble of the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) prowess.
While some observers might say that there is little connection, this event also led to the United States increasing its presence in the South China Sea. In fact, the US Navy also responded to the Chinese mouthpiece, Global Times, that the USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan operating in the international waters of the South China Sea were ‘not intimidated’ by Chinese forces.
China seems to be turning into the world’s designated Enemy No 1.
As of 2020, China has border disputes with 18 countries including Japan, Vietnam, Taiwan, Nepal, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, amongst others. In the past few months, it is also been thought of as ‘responsible’ for bringing the world to a screeching halt with the coronavirus pandemic. The global pandemic has reportedly originated from Wuhan, China, and there has been much criticism directed towards China from global quarters for non-timely disclosure of the coronavirus outbreak. Whether this was wilful suppression or plain oversight, China has a lot to answer.
Unlike India, China Barely Acknowledged The Loss Of Its Men At Galwan
Unlike China, India doesn’t harbour any expansionist agenda. Prime Minister Modi has often said on global platforms that India has always been guided by the values of integration and unity or ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ which means the entire world is one family. A recent illustration of this sentiment of uniting humanity was visible in how – despite challenges – India made life-saving drugs like hydroxychloroquine and paracetamol available to over 90 countries to help combat the coronavirus pandemic.
Adversity, they say, reveals true character.
While India has honoured the sacrifice made by 20 of its soldiers who were killed in Galwan Valley clash, China has not quite acknowledged the loss of its personnel.
Unlike China, where conscription has made military service mandatory for all citizens, joining the Indian Army is purely voluntary and does not discriminate on any grounds. When seen in this light, the CCP’s disregard of its fallen speaks volumes. Prime Minister Narendra Modi met the frontline troops in an unscheduled visit and hailed their bravery. Modi lauded them for making India’s resolve to be self-reliant stronger, and underscored how the presence of women soldiers on the battlefield was inspirational.
Are Democracies Uniting With Singular Purpose Of Countering China?
These are times that are trying India’s soul unlike ever before, but as PM Modi underscored in his address to the troops in Leh, the weak can never bring peace. When it comes to Indo-China military fights, most historians forget how India refused to back down in Doklam, how it also gave a bloody nose to China in two sectors in 1967, and also achieved tactical advantage.
Whether it be on the border with India or industrial espionage, theft of intellectual property and debt-trap diplomacy, or by exerting influence and interference in activities of democracies, Beijing has emerged as the most strategic threat to free enterprise and democracies of the world. Like the world came together in the face of the threat to humanity from Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany in the 1930s, there seems to be a movement amongst the democracies of the world to counter the emerging existential danger from Communist China.
History In the Making?
Are we witnessing history in the making, where democracies – be they the oldest and the largest namely, the United States and India, and others such as France, Japan, the UK, Australia, South Korea, and Taiwan – are allying with the singular purpose of countering an aggressive and expansionist China?
France has already offered the support of its armed forces to India, amid the growing tensions on the China border.
India and Australia have signed a deal to use each other's military bases as part of security cooperation. The US sent two warships to the South China Sea and called on China to stop its ‘bullying behaviour’. The US State Department said China was taking advantage of the region's focus on the coronavirus pandemic to ‘coerce its neighbours’.
It’ll be interesting to see whether China’s military aggression against India will be the beginning of the end of the Chinese Communist Party.
(Amrita Bhinder is a lawyer and columnist. She tweets @amritabhinder. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
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