The world has been deceived by China for too long

It should have come as no surprise to anyone that China blocked the proposal moved in the United Nations Security Council Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee to designate Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar as a “global terrorist”. The Indian government released a statement expressing its disappointment. What may have come as a surprise to many is that the statement did not name China. Why this restraint? Is our foreign policy establishment so deluded as to believe that China will be our friend one day? I believe not. I believe India did the right thing by showing restraint and let the global community speak for it.

Other countries, members of the committee, named China and expressed much more than disappointment. A US diplomat went so far as to say: “If China continues to block this designation, responsible member-states may be forced to pursue other actions at the Security Council.” France froze all of Masood Azhar’s assets in the country. Germany has initiated a move in the European Union (EU) to designate Azhar as a global terrorist.

What India has successfully managed to do is to show China as the villain before the world and get most of the world’s powerful nations on our side. The world has already taken too long to realize that China, with its disregard for international laws and naked imperialistic ambitions, is a danger to the global order.

Chinese strategies are based on learnings gleaned from thousands of years of history. The most celebrated victories in Chinese history are not based on valour, but on deception. These successful battle strategies are rigorously taught in Chinese academies and are an integral part of the Chinese leadership’s worldview.

A 1970 RAND Corporation report, Nuances In Chinese Political Culture, says: “Chinese literature on strategy from Sun Tzu through Mao Tse-tung has emphasised deception more than many military doctrines…(T)he prevalent payoff of deception for the Chinese is that one does not have to use one’s own forces.” For example, use Pakistan to keep India distracted.

In the early 1970s, China began pretending to be friends with the United States. In the 1980s, it opened up to foreign investment (but with rules that actually helped grow Chinese enterprises). The West thought that freer markets would lead to a flowering of democracy, but the Chinese did not believe either in free markets or democracy. In addition to investments, the US provided China technology, military know-how, intelligence, and expert advice.

Writes US defence analyst and China expert Michael Pillsbury in his book The Hundred-Year Marathon: “In a classic example of…turning the energy and momentum of others to your advantage, China would borrow the techniques from the West to develop (its financial sector and industry)—all with the active tutoring from institutions such as the World Bank and private firms such as Goldman Sachs. Meanwhile, the government, when it wasn’t looking the other way, actively sanctioned and encouraged audacious covert programmes to steal technology and Western intellectual property. Counterfeiting became the basis for as much as 8% of China’s GDP” (2005 figure). In 2018, The Counterfeit Report, US consumer advocate and industry watchdog, assessed that 80% of the world’s counterfeits—estimated to be a $1.8 trillion industry—are produced in China.

The good news is that many countries have begun to see through China’s deception. In fact, some of its actions, such as flouting a 2016 UN tribunal ruling against it over its claims over the South China Sea, seem to indicate that it does not care for camouflage any more.

In a paper released on 12 March, the European Commission and the European Union’s (EU) diplomatic unit warns that China is a “systemic rival”. The document accuses China of preserving “its domestic markets for its champions” by restricting foreign companies’ access to its market, subsidising local competitors and failing to protect intellectual property rights. Chinese investments overseas often seize control of strategic assets, undermine the rule of law and benefit from Beijing-backed financing that puts foreign rivals at a disadvantage. The paper recommends that the EU should build a new arsenal to fight aggressive Chinese business and trade tactics.

The EU plans to push for a common approach to 5G security risks (an obvious reference to Huawei). An EU-China summit is scheduled early in April.

Meanwhile, Italy has become the first G7 country to endorse Belt and Road Initiative. And the EU-China summit is followed immediately by a meeting in Croatia of the 16+1 grouping, a collection of 16 Central and East European countries (11 of which are EU members) and China, and which is widely seen as a Chinese attempt to sow discord in the EU.

There is enough proof now that China is untrustworthy, dishonest, contemptuous of human values and hungry for a global hegemony. India, as its neighbour, has very high stakes in playing its diplomatic cards right and aligning itself with every reasonable attempt to curb Chinese ambitions. Here, it should show much less restraint.

Sandipan Deb is a former editor of ‘Financial Express’ and founder-editor of ‘Open’ and ‘Swarajya ‘ magazines.

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