Take a guess.
What is this blog post about?
For a long time, I had wanted to write about this topic.
But then, what is this topic about?
Is it a philosophical post? Is it about trust in human relations, and the big role it plays in cementing relationships and partnerships? Is it about wanting to do things for your partner?
Or, is this about all of the above?
This post is about CHINA.
China has always suffered from a trust deficit, especially when it comes to its neighbours. Even in trade matters, global buyers have had a trust issue with China and its manufacturers.
Now, it has come to centre stage.
In a short 10 to 15 years (may be faster), China will overtake the U.S. as the country with #1 GDP in the world. It is likely to be of the order of USD 25T or more in size by around 2032, growing at an average of 7% per annum. Of course, the U.S. will still continue to have a much higher GDP per Capita compared to China for the foreseeable future, given that the population of China is more than 4 times that of the U.S. The U.S. will also continue to have the strongest military and a far better technological prowess.
But then, China cannot be treated as anything less than a powerful global superpower, and the U.S. will not just have to contend with Russia in terms of military strength, but it has to cope with the economic and military might of China as well. So, the U.S. gets two powerful adversaries (they both already are), and just two allies who will get weaker as time goes on (the U.K. and France). Germany and other European powers will try to take a neutral stance. Japan will continue to remain as a close ally of the U.S., but it has a fast declining population, and a pacifist constitution put in place after its disastrous role in the Second World War.
INDIA will never fully trust CHINA, given that both have gone to war in 1962, and both continue to have serious border skirmishes on an ongoing basis along their shared border that is 3,000 miles long. Further, China does not support India’s aspirations to be a U.N. Security Council Member, and generally tries to side with India’s arch enemy, Pakistan, on most defence and border matters. China mistakenly believes that Pakistan can be trusted. China continues to treat India as its geopolitical rival and a threat to be contained.
India rightfully rejected China’s overtures about its “One Belt One Road” initiative. I think this initiative will eventually succeed for China, given the number of countries which have signed up. India will try to set up a parallel initiative, and for China, that will be a loss as India is the biggest country in South Asia that it desires to have as its partner for this initiative.
But then, China cannot be trusted. China has a habit of stirring up old controversies, assailing the Dalai Lama and India’s positive treatment of him, needling and testing India’s border defences, and strongly pushing for its own interests in all matters.
South East Asian countries have seen such behaviour as well. However, except Vietnam, all the rest of ASEAN countries have acquiesced meekly to China, and have tentatively accepted it as the next superpower at their doorsteps, and have come to the conclusion that they cannot afford to mess with it. This has created a docile community of nations, which will dare not contest China, and is even afraid to mention any dissonance factor in joint communiqes after their collective gatherings.
And, even the U.S., under a rather challenging President Trump, is finding it difficult to deal with China. While President Trump did make several noises about China on his campaign trail and as President, he has been seen to be conciliatory over the past few months. His position is not clear vis-a-vis China on many matters, including North Korea, trade, currency manipulation, South China aggression, and so on and so forth.
In a nutshell, the world is witnessing the emergence of a new superpower, which bristles with centuries-old pride and arrogance, with an economic and military might that would be difficult to ignore any longer. And, it is going to be a trouble-maker, not a trouble-solver, around the world, as it snaps up entire countries and their economies. It will be hard to challenge its cheque-book diplomacy, as Sri Lanka discovered, and several African countries are finding out. We continue to learn about China’s intransigency and obstinacy. We continue to learn about China’s bellicosity and aggression. We continue to learn about many other things about China and its behaviour as we navigate the turbulent waters around China.
It is going to be rather tough for India, that is for sure. And, the trust deficit will only swell after the recently concluded Peoples’ Congress in China when President Xi Jinping asserted about the supremacy of China and its vision for a world to be subjected to its influence. The 21st Century domination by China will not be like that of the U.S. domination of the 20th Century.
It is going to be rougher. Belt yourself up for a shaky ride.
28th October 2017