China’s postCOVID aggression is reshaping Asia
#GS2 #International Relations
- China's moves are spurring support for coordination between other IndoPacific partners, with their desire for U.S. leadership.
- China’s coronavirus “mask diplomacy” has lead to not just the Galwan valley conflict but also includes tense geopolitical confrontations with a growing array of its neighbors like Vietnam and Malaysia in the South China Sea and Australia in a different manner with boycotts of wine, beef, barley, and Chinese students.
- The increasingly aggressive Chinese foreign policy is chiefly driven by two factors: A build-up of nationalistic fervor in domestic politics and the Chinese economy’s hunger for new markets.
- China’s assertiveness is based on its judgment that the US, which it considers its chief rival and adversary, is power in relative decline.
- China is steadily reducing the gap in economic, technological, and military capabilities vis-a-vis the US.
- This is particularly so after the 2008 global financial and economic crisis.
- China emerged from that crisis a more powerful country and believes that the current pandemic is only reinforcing that trend.
- The pandemic erupted in China but it is the first major economy to witness recovery. This period is seen by China’s current leadership as a window of opportunity to entrench Chinese dominance in Asia and contest US influence globally.
- Aggression in the South China Sea, on the India-China border and in the neighbourhood is unmistakably part of a larger pattern.
- Chinese think of power in hierarchical terms and conflate this with peace and harmony.
- China believes that it has earned the right to expect deference from lesser powers. It wants a veto over economic and security decisions taken by its partners.
- Beijing’s blatant aggressiveness is accelerating longstanding debates about the underlying costs of reliance on China and spurring support for closer coordination between other Indo-Pacific partners.
- The Indian, Japanese, Malaysian, and Australian governments have all taken concrete steps to reduce their economic exposure to Beijing, spanning investment, manufacturing, and technology.
- India and Australia recently inked a new military logistics agreement. A similar agreement between Delhi and Tokyo may follow.
- The Quadrilateral Dialogue between Australia, India, Japan, and the United States is growing stronger and even expanding.
- Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Foreign Ministers issued one of their strongest statements to date on the South China Sea, insisting that maritime disputes must be resolved in accordance with the UN Law of the Sea treaty.
Solidarity from masses:
- Chinese cyberbullying of a Thai film star spawned a new “Milk Tea Alliance”, thus named after the popular beverage, to forge solidarity between Taiwanese, Hong Kongers, and Southeast Asians online. Overtly rejecting China’s attempts to play up support for the “One China” principle, online supporters quickly propelled a hashtag to nearly one million tweets in a matter of days.
- The praise of Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong was also garnered.
- U.S policy needs to start supporting, rather than attempting to commandeer, regional efforts to build a less Chinacentric future for the IndoPacific.
- U.S. leadership would be far more effective if it worked with Indo-Pacific partners on the issues that they prioritize and provided them significant space for independent action.
- Washington should avoid repeating Beijing’s mistakes and offer a clear alternative in word and deed to China’s “Wolf Warrior” diplomacy.
- India must significantly expand deterrent capabilities, accelerate the building of border infrastructure, and deploy enough forces to make any future Chinese ingress a risky and costly affair.
- Engagement with China must go hand in hand with consolidating a countervailing coalition of like-minded countries. The bottom line is getting our act together and embarking on a sustained and high-growth trajectory.