The China Conundrum


While South East Asia (overall) is grappling with the aggressive posture of China with regard to its “9 Dashes” claim of almost all of the South China Sea, and swimming in deep dilemma between vastly differing positions of the ASEAN countries, there is another China related problem unfolding in South Asia.

China should find that its lack of friendship with an increasingly assertive India is not a productive option as things move forward in this hugely challenging environment. China also needs good and large friends, rather than just some dictators here and there. Unfortunately, China does not realize who its true friends are, or can be. It is easily slighted at the drop of a hat on perceived positions or slights by other important countries. No country believes that China can get away with its 9 Dashes claim uncontested. There may be countries like the Philippines who have publicly contested China in an international arbitration and won its case, but now unwilling to implement its own hard-won rights against China. Everyone is (and was) afraid of China’s trade clout, and everyone is now getting afraid of China’s huge military power.

While all the South East Asian countries (save Indonesia) are small in size and military power, India is a different case. China and India are the two biggest nations in the world in terms of population (being the first and the second) and economic size (China being the second largest) and growth (India being the fastest growing large economy in the world). India is rather peeved at China’s positions on a few areas of critical importance to it – the designation of an established Pakistani terrorist to be banned for example has been rejected by China in the UN Security Council as Pakistan is its “all-weather” friend. China has not agreed to admit India into the all-important Nuclear Suppliers Group on the pretext of some flimsy rationale. China is physically intruding by sending its soldiers into Arunachal Pradesh, an Indian State and integral part of India, despite lack of any kind of provocation from the Indian side. And so on and so forth………

Can China be trusted? The answer to this question will be rather similar between South Asia and South East Asia. People around the world are now thinking that China may not be a reliable partner if it does not honour the results of international arbitration. It is a responsible UN Security Council Member, and should accord due respect to the regulations and treaties which have benchmarked international diplomatic behaviour for many decades. How can China be so unique as not to respect such behaviour ?

In a nutshell, it is going to be rather difficult for the nations of this world to see eye to eye with China on a number of important and critical matters. China needs to be more gracious, more responsible, more equitable, and more conscious of the results of its actions and inactions. If China needs to truly climb the ladder as the most important nation in this world (not the second most important), then it needs to demonstrate it can do all those things that the first ranked country has done all these years. Right ?

That is the only way to gain respect in the comity of nations. Otherwise, people will always be double-guessing China, no one will trust. Trust lies in gaining respect from one and all, and implementing global laws. Threatening tactics will only detract from China’s all important position as the rising superpower of this world.

Time for Politburo of China to take stock and think through and then execute the right actions going forward,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

02 October 2016

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