Also published in the Daily Guardian as a three part series
THIS IS A LONG READ BASED. IT IS IN THREE PARTS.
MORE FACTS ARE PRESENTED HERE THAN OPINIONS. THE PICTURE WHICH EMERGES IS THAT WE HAVE BEEN FIGHTING IMAGINARY DRAGONS AS AGAINST COUNTERING REAL CHINESE.
CHINESE REMAIN AS SHORT AS THEY WERE.
Part -1 MYTHS, REALITY AND CHOKERS
Myths and Reality
Xi’s Call. China is real. The dragon is mythical. However we will stick to the real China in this analysis. In May, Xi Jinping called on the PLA to be prepared for wars. He signalled what he was up to and conveyed it. We did not heed to his intent. How wrong were we? Similarly When Xi Jinping, spoke to scientists it was one such moment when a vista was revealed. Two significant aspects of that talk stuck a chord in me. He spoke of the ‘deep and complex’ changes that China faced in the domestic and international environment. He also spoke of the big problems that were ‘choking’ and ‘strangling’ China. These included lack of advanced agricultural technology and reliance on imported seed, critical component shortcoming in core manufacturing technology, dependence on overseas oil supplies, pollution, poor distribution of water resources and an ageing population which needed improvements in pharmaceuticals and medical equipment. These issues are underlying and permanent to China. They are largely pre virus. The chemistry of ‘deep’ complex’ with ‘chokers and stranglers’ needs better appreciation to get to realism.
The World According to Xi. China is modernising. Its economy, power and influence have grown. It is set to overtake USA shortly. However the Wuhan virus has changed things. Issues and events are panning out in a manner that forces a rethink. In the last six months China has alienated major powers of the Indo Pacific – India, Japan and Australia. All other countries of the region feel threatened. It has also managed to alienate USA, Canada and Europe. It has got into a military conflict with India and USA; when it was really not needed. It is shaking up the entire global order. It is trying to impose its vision on the whole world. When we see and read commentaries on China , they are one dimensional and often magnify China to proportions of a mythical dragon all set to conquer the world. It appears that China is unstoppable. The world according to Xi looks forbidding. However the reality is far different. There are logical opinions which suggest that China has peaked and will actually decline from hereon. The Wuhan Virus only hastens the process. There are many discordant issues in China which will inhibit and eventually cap China’s rise. That is what Xi Jinping had on his mind when he spoke what he did. In India, we need to get a handle on the entirety of China to deal with it squarely. This analysis presents the large canvas of China.
Jekyll and Hyde Cycle. Step back into history. Ever since the CCP came into the scene a century back, China has had periodic convulsions. Mao unleashed ‘The Great Leap Forward and The Cultural Revolution’. In four decades China was taking ‘The Great Leap Backwards’. China talks of a ‘Century of Humiliation’. However the CCP wreaked half of that humiliation through the greatest man made famine in which 35-45 million people died and were reduced to cannibalism. In the 70s, China adopted the ‘One Child Policy’. It appeared to be the greatest of social reforms of that era. Half a century later it is one of the greatest disasters in Chinese and human history. Mao spoke of ‘Conquest of Nature’ and Deng Xiao Ping felt that ‘To Become Rich is Glorious’ when he kickstarted the four modernizations. Their successors ‘Conquered Nature’ mercilessly and ‘Made China Rich’ through dizzy economic growth. Four decades later China seeks glory but is entering a decline, seeded at the start itself. The Jekyll and Hyde cycle of the CCP is discernible –revolutionary idea, electrifying start, great promise and seemingly impressive progress to disastrous ends due to unsustainability, unpredictability and unintended outcomes.
Freedom Vs Prosperity. CCP and Xi Jinping view national economic growth and power as commodities fungible with people. The transaction being – ‘you give up your freedoms and we will give you prosperity’. From an economic point of view, China is already a superpower. However growth has to be for the people. Their perspective tells a different story. Discrepancies have surfaced ever since the Wuhan Virus has struck the world. Some instability is discernible in the Chinese monolith. India needs to be cognisant of this. Whether China is a superpower or not, India has to live with it as a neighbour. Realism will enable us to deal with it better. Historically an unstable China has been troublesome – to India and the world at large.
Pre Virus Economic Growth. China has clocked stupendous economic growth. It was poised to overtake USA. Its future trajectory up to 2050 indicates that it will continue to rise. (see table). All set to achieve the ‘China Dream’ through prosperity, collective effort, socialism, and national glory. The great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation is imminent. The Chinese aim is to be a ‘moderately well-off society’ by 2021 and a ‘fully developed nation’ by 2050. Inherent in this is to be the sole superpower on earth. Herein lies the rub. The ‘chokers and stranglers’ of Xi Jinping are lying in ambush.
Aging Choker. An aging population is the main ‘Choker’. The one child policy reduced birth rates drastically. As against the standard replacement rate of 2.1, the birth rates fell to 1.18. Despite lifting the one child policy in 2015, the birth rates will not cross 1.7. People are not marrying or having a second child. Reasons include rising prosperity, opportunities for single women, young couples opting for single child and gender imbalance. As a result the population is expected to peak at 1.4 billion around 2030 and decline thereafter (see graph). The population will reduce to about 1 billion by 2100.
Child population (0-15) and dependency is expected to be around 20%. Simultaneously the share of the aged (65+) is set to steeply grow due to increasing lifespans (see graph). China is the fastest aging country in history. Overall, Child and Old-aged dependency will keep increasing. This has manifold implications. Some are highlighted. One. The working population will keep decreasing. A smaller number of workers will have to take care of an increasing number of old and young people. The overall standards of life will correspondingly decrease. Two. As population ages, additional resources are needed to meet the needs of the elderly – medical, energy, housing, food. China has a very weak social welfare system for the aged. An estimated 23 % of the old-aged cannot take care of themselves. The aged also represent a shrinking tax base. Overall, the government revenues will be strained. Three. The percentage of unmarried men in their late 30’s will quintuple by 2030. This will have adverse societal impacts. Four. When the work force declines, wages increase, productivity goes down and profits go down. Lesser workers means lesser consumption spending. China has no choice but to export. However most consuming countries are also aging. Their consumption will go down. The overall economy will dip. The key to Chinese prosperity lies in countries capable of consuming in the future like India, Indonesia and Nigeria. The prediction is that in the period 2020-30 the economy will start shrinking. Five. An aging society and increased urbanisation reduces availability of farmers. It brings up the issue of food security. Six. The one child condition, limited youth and urbanisation will have an adverse impact on the availability of the right material for armed forces (see graph). There are other unforeseeable issues which will vector themselves in as China goes along.
Food Problems. Currently China is facing a food crisis. It is likely to have domestic and geopolitical fallouts. This brings focus on to an issue which has been choking China historically. Chinese history is full of famines. However, ever since Mao’s policies induced the Great Famine, China has not really faced a food crisis. In fact China has carried out vast agriculture reforms. Today China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of agricultural products. Recent developments have however raised concerns about its food security. China has 19% of the global population but only 7% of arable land and freshwater resources. Both are diminishing. There are questions of sustainable development due to environmental degradation, pollution, climate change, disease, urbanisation, industrial growth and demography. More than 40% of China’s arable land is degraded seriously. Food production is reducing. Demand for agricultural products has grown due to a burgeoning population, growing industrial economy, and expanding consumerism. Believe it or not, China has the maximum obese people in the world. China became a net food importer in 2004. Its import dependence is irreversible. It will face a domestic grain supply gap of about 130 million tonnes by the end of 2025. It continues to import seeds due to lack of technology. Wheat, corn and rice are the main ingredients of the Chinese food basket. These crops have been threatened by floods, typhoons and draughts – all in one season. Climate change might also be playing its part. Pork is the main meat. However availability of pork has been affected badly due to the African Swine Flu for the past three years. Corruption/inefficiency in logistics and storage as also insect infestation threaten its inventory. About one-sixth of the total grain produced in China is wasted annually in the production, processing and transportation cycle. China might not run out of food but prices are rising and there are creases of economic worry.
Unprecedented Chokers. China has faced unprecedented rainfall, floods, typhoons and droughts this year. Diseases specific to this year include the Wuhan Virus and Brucellosis (an infectious disease caused by bacteria from livestock which can also infect humans and leave men infertile). African Swine Flu, Plague, Yellow Fever, Polio, Avian Influenza, SARs are recurring diseases in the recent past. It raises a lot of issues. Is it due to pollution, environmental degradation, climate change or all? In any case the effect of this continued disease and pestilence is only going to get more serious as China ages. This budding superpower is unhealthy.
PART -2 STRANGLERS
Stranglers – Pollution and Environmental Degradation
Overview. Environmental degradation and pollution are serial stranglers. Environmental degradation began with Mao’s ‘conquest of nature’ idea. The Chinese economy and severe environmental degradation took off together five decades back. China embraced industrialisation and economic progress unhesitatingly. Quick time centralised decision making without due checks and balances was the norm. Polluting industry was, in fact, enabled. Environmental regulation was blindsided. As China’s economy and geopolitical power grew, the negative consequences were on food, water and health securities. China has faced three-fold environmental degradation. One. Developing an overpopulated and underdeveloped society, at frenetic pace has induced ecological stresses of land and water shortage, deforestation, and desertification. Two. Its gigantic industrialisation and rapidly increasing urbanisation in a globalised economy has resulted in huge pollution including generation of marine and toxic wastes. Three. Climate change has started to make its presence felt . At some stage the economy will be impacted, slow down and start shrinking.
Dammed Degradation. Since the 1950s, the Chinese have built around 22000 dams which are more than 15 meters tall. It is roughly half the world’s total. More than 16 million Chinese have been relocated to make way for these hydro projects. They have over 125 mega dams with heights more than 100m. These mega-dams, block the flow of rivers, create floods, affect agriculture and fisheries, increase the chances of earthquakes, and destroy environments. To quote a view ‘rather than benefiting populations with non-polluting power, China’s dam builders are making a Faustian bargain with nature, selling their country’s soul in their drive for economic growth’. Extreme view? It was recently borne out by the massive flooding of the Yangtze basin in the course of which it was feared that the Three Gorges Dam, the biggest dam in the world, would collapse. It is so massive that it has the capacity to slow the earth’s rotation, It is now internationally recognised that the entire exercise has been a huge environmental disaster. The sheer number of dams has created so many water bodies that it has induced local climate change whose effect is being felt within China. The larger issue of global climate change will wreak greater disasters. To illustrate the argument, the analysed complexity of issues surrounding the Three Gorges Dam is reproduced ‘Factors are color-coded whereby green factors signify ecological issues and blue ones signify sociological issues. Beginning with the left, the Three Gorges Dam project has causing forced migration of many people both directly due to Chinese government policy as well as indirectly through landslides and erosion. Furthermore, forced migrants put pressure on urban centers insofar as they need housing and jobs that may not necessarily be available. This in turn affected the standard of living by contributing to poverty, among other things. All of this acted to erode social stability, which is itself a form of latent conflict and which is requisite for violent of overt conflict. On the right hand side we see that the dam disturbs fault lines and causes watershed erosion, both of which negatively affect ecological stability. Furthermore, the dam is believed to be connected to earthquakes in the area due to its massive size. All of these disruptions signal the potential for grave ecological problems such as ecological collapse, biodiversity loss, erosion, etc.’
Kingdom of Rare Earths. China is the ‘Kingdom of Rare Earths’ with a market share of 80-90% in the past two decades. Rare earths are used in semiconductors and energy saving devices (see graphic). China’s rare earth map is shown below.
Rare earth mining has a parallel and thriving huge black market. It is extremely polluting and contaminating to the extent that ‘cancer villages’ have sprung/springing up near mines. Rare earth mining is a contamination time bomb for the Yellow River in the North. In the South, China’s mega-cities like Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong may have already been affected by the radioactive toxicity related to uranium. It is no more a matter of ‘if’, but ‘when’. Water for agriculture and drinking in all rare earth mining areas and in downstream areas is heavily contaminated by excessive amounts of ammonia, nitrogen, cadmium, lead and its compounds. Remuneration from rare earths is inadequate to offset costs in health and environmental cleaning. Take another case of Titanium. China is the dominant player in the international market. Titanium mines destroy nature and habitat. The extracted ore is refined with Chlorine which is a huge environmental hazard. It is another saga of pollution and contamination. Sichuan, Hubei, Yunnan, Hainan, Guangxi and Guangdong have Titanium deposits. Sichuan has the largest deposits. Incidentally, India has huge reserves of Titanium. However its extraction will defoliate the Deccan. Not an option and that is why we have not gone for it. A similar pollution / degradation story repeats with every form of resource extraction in China. The ‘Cancer Village’ map , which is result of all such pollution, can be seen below.
Presently, more than 50% of China’s surface water is not fit for human consumption. 60% of the groundwater under Chinese cities is considered to be ‘severely polluted’. The World Bank (2007) estimated that the health cost of cancers and diarrhoea associated with water pollution reached approximately US$8 billion in 2003 in rural areas of China. Today it must be many times more. Resource extraction will extract more from China than imaginable. The damage has already been done and that too in its prosperous coastal belt.
Other Stranglers. There are other environmental degradation, pollution and contamination examples. Approximately 70% of the electronic waste generated worldwide used to be processed in China. It poses substantial risk to health and the environment (Ni and Zeng 2009). Small-scale rural factories known as ‘township and village enterprises’ contribute significantly to China’s growing rural pollution problems. China is world’s largest manufacturer, trader and fossil fuel consumer. It is responsible for 47% of the world’s coal burning, which is more than all other countries in the world combined. The list is endless.
Energy. China’s energy demand is likely to peak between 2035 and 2040 (see graphs). Its oil demand is expected to peak in 2030. However its petrochemical and gas demand will increase till 2050. China’s import dependence on oil and gas will continue to be around 50%. Coal is set to lose ground to renewables. However it is still expected to account for 40% of power generation in 2035. The share of coal in China’s primary energy mix is expected to fall as shown in the graph. Renewables, oil and gas combined will overtake coal’s share of primary energy consumption by 2050. Having said all that coal will still remain the single largest supply sourcethrough to 2050. If one analyses this data , a few things stand out. China will continue to be energy dependant and vulnerable. It will never attain energy security. Coal based energy will not vanish. Its effect on pollution will endure. Overall CO2 emissions are expected to fall only after 2035. China has committed to Carbon neutrality by 2060. By then it might be too late. Per capita requirement and consumption of energy will continue to increase as China modernises. China will continue to extract rare earths. Rare earths are extensively used in magnets for wind generation. Hence reduction in pollution due to renewables will be offset by pollution due to rare earths. Pollution will not decrease. China, in all likelihood, will enter into a state of energy entropy.
PART – 3 DEEP AND COMPLEX PROBLEMS AND ANALYSIS
‘Deep And Complex’ Problems
Deep Isolation. China is facing ‘deep’ isolation in the international environment. It started with the cover up of the Wuhan Virus and its aggressive and assertive expansionism. The expansionism found military expression in the China Seas and Eastern Ladakh. Political expansionism spread to Hong Kong when the National Security Law was imposed in contravention to international agreements. The idea of gobbling up Taiwan is an eternal Chinese and CCP obsession. Future expansionist plans include parts of Bhutan, Nepal, CARs and Russia. After the initial gains, there has been a military push back notably by USA and India. Both of them have stopped the Chinese juggernaut in its tracks. The physical isolation imposed by the virus has been followed by geopolitical , diplomatic, technological, and isolation. It is now heading into trade and economic trimming. The real test of character is how an individual or a system behaves under stress. When put under stress by the Wuhan Virus, the true ‘Chinese Character’ revealed itself. A ‘what is mine is mine and what is yours is also mine’ kind of a greedy China emerged. China’s callousness in allowing the Virus to spread and then taking advantage of it at the cost of people at large has not been accepted. What the world saw was China displaying a sense of being ordained to rule the world; whose time had come with the Virus. They also witnessed total Chinese disregard for the international rules based order, attempt to gain control over governments through debt traps, influence operations, social media surveillance, intelligence collection and plain coercion. Chinese characteristics which came through were IPR theft, wolf warrior diplomacy and weaponization of the virus through health and mask diplomacy. Key motives which have emerged are unbridled profits and geopolitical control. It emerged that China also weaponizes public opinion by manipulation, misinformation, sowing dissent, and discord in democratic societies. The legal loopholes of democracies are exploited. It shapes domestic and international public opinion blatantly through media, military experts, and political parties portraying itself as a victim. It provides legal justification, through mythical history. Target countries are left with no choice with but to accept the Chinese fait accompli. Chinese narratives were being built through pliant politicians, media, officials, international institutions, think tanks, academic institutions, workers unions, industry, and even foreign governments to influence thought and decision. The intrusive and pervasive extent of Chinese seepage into the international environment and respective domestic environments has been exposed. It needs to be stopped. That is what all countries are doing.
Military Incapability. The effectiveness of a global power lies in its ability to win wars. The USA, USSR, and the United Kingdom proved that a superpower must shed blood – own and that of your enemy’s. Unless China is prepared to fight and win or seen to be winning it is simply not a superpower. One can talk endlessly of unrestricted warfare or multi domain warfare or all other kinds of warfare but wars have to be ultimately won on ground. After all we are humans. We are not birds, fish, space creatures or electronic chips. Currently China is outmanoeuvred by India in Ladakh and boxed in by USA in the China Seas. The PLA has turned up severely short on this score. Personally, I feel that all domains of war still remain subservient to the age old principle of ‘Blood , Guts and Glory’. One cannot win wars and battles without violence and close contact. China’s strategy of ‘Belligerent War Avoidance’ has not worked. That is a major military lesson of this entire exercise. If PLA cannot militarily enforce and achieve the CCPs political aims, China will not succeed. Very importantly, the military state of affairs indicates that China is not yet capable of protecting its overseas economic interests. In fact it is vulnerable on this count. Another way of looking at it is that China initiated conflict in the South China Sea and Ladakh. While doing so it painstakingly kept the nuclear card out of the equation and opened up space in the conventional domain. It gambled on the national capacity to wage an unrestricted war and the capability of PLA to deliver the goods. However both have come short. To get back to flaunting the nuclear card will itself be an admittance of defeat. The Chinese stress has been on development of Comprehensive National Power which might get you a seat on the UN Security Council but not a military victory. The drawbacks of PLA are evident in China’s White Paper on Defence. It is an overtly political paper. The focus is on organisation, mechanization, informationization and of all things micro-corruption! If a nation has to talk of rooting out micro-corruption from its armed forces in an international document, then it is admittance of incompetence. When there is no mention of improving combat effectiveness at cutting edge levels in such a paper, then it is some sort of an expectation that your enemy will roll over due to sheer bluster. The PLA might bully small nations with weak forces. When arraigned against professional and strong-armed forces it is being found out. PLA is an inexperienced force under transition. Neither fit for continental nor overseas engagements. Am I making big pronouncements? No. The PLA is repeatedly proving it. When the transition is complete and IF it gains experience , it might be different. That is a big IF. In the current situation ‘IF’ it cannot prevail over India it will be a total loss of face. The military future of China is not very rosy – politicized leadership, unproven manpower, unproven weaponry, unproven capabilities.
Minority Fracture. China is a diverse nation composed of 56 ethnic groups. Han Chinese account for 91.59% and the other 55 make up the remaining 8.41% . Among the non-Han ethnic groups , 44 ethnicities occupy their own autonomous regions, or counties. The largest ethnic minority groups in China are the Zhuang (16 million), Manchu (10 million), Hui (9 million), Miao ( 8 million), Uyghurs ( 7 million), Yi (7 million), Tujia (5.75 million), Mongols (5 million), Tibetan (5 million), Buyei (3 million), and Koreans (2 million). The degree of integration of ethnic minorities varies. Uyghurs and Tibetans are not integrated with the Han or CCP or China. Off late, this is spreading to Mongols also. The Government does dot trust theses minorities. They are under strict state regulation. Religious autonomy is restricted. At various points of time these minorities have had major problems. Any signs of resistance from these ethnic minorities, is interpreted as separatism and draws severe repression. These minorities occupy around 50% of the total area. They are not well off as compared to the Han. Han migration is encouraged into these areas through development and construction projects. Chinese government sees economic development as the main solution for ethnic dissent. However these areas are being kept less developed inexplicably. The CCP wants to integrate them forcefully into the mainstream through side-lining ethnic languages, religion and customs. Tibetan and Uygur minority language schools are closed since 2017 and replaced by Mandarin Chinese instruction. The same is being done now in Mongol areas. They are discriminated in the job market. Their populations are not being allowed to expand through forced sterilisation. 1.3 million Uyghurs on average per year have been put through ‘vocational training’ internment camps from 2014 to 2019. They have now put 500,000 Tibetans into forced-labour camps for militarized vocational training aimed to reform ‘backward thinking’ and improve ‘work discipline’. Forced integration of Tibetans into the system is a recent phenomenon. There is clear fracture with Tibetans, Uyghurs and Mongols which is enlarging. The Hong Kong democracy undercurrent will not vanish. Chinese preoccupation with Taiwan will not evaporate. Reports are now emerging that other Muslim minorities are being targeted. If things deteriorate other ethnicities/minorities might also raise a flag. The implication is impending social turmoil. The ‘Westwards Development’ agenda and the ‘Dual Circulation’ strategy which are to rescue the Chinese economy are put at further risk. China will have to constantly invest considerable political, economic and military effort to keep these rimland areas under control and survive as a single entity. It will have to keep looking inwards. The international environment will also not respond favourably to China till such time it discriminates with its own people. This will inhibit their superpower drive.
Post Virus Economy. The high flying Chinese economy has been brought down to earth by the virus. There is no doubt that it is recovering. Notwithstanding propaganda, the economic recovery has been found to be patchy and overhyped. In the short term things will look normal. In fact Xi Jinping has reiterated that the Marxist political economic model will be the bedrock for China’s growth. Further he was only partially right when he said that the situation was ‘deep and complex’. It is actually beyond that. With Germany joining the Indo Pacific Club, most of the big economies and rich nations are now ranged against China . That is going to be a big blow to China. What does it mean? The Made in China 2025 plan is facing stiff problems due to lack of ‘Core Technology’ as mentioned by Xi Jinping himself. Its Military Civil Fusion methodologies have been found out and exposed. They are being culled. China is being placed in a technology denial system. China does not have the technological ability to overcome all those barriers which Xi Jinping spoke of. As much as China has progressed in some fields, it has stagnated in others. Hence its economy will have a limiting factor at some stage. The BRI and its flag ship CPEC have run into economic, political, and strategic rough weather. The BRI model is no longer sustainable. China has not managed macroeconomic risk well. It has not given adequate attention to building political capital. Its choice of weak nations and debt trap diplomacy has led to a BRI backlash. BRI is being now subjected to a higher level of audit. Renegotiation is on the cards in many cases. There is also a reluctance on the part of countries to commence new projects. China will have to settle for far less geopolitical/economic dividends than it had set out to reap. Most importantly, the decoupling initiative of all the big economies will hit China hard. Economic shrinkage is a matter of time and that will be permanent. On that there is no doubt. The Dual Circulation model has not got much traction. It is contingent on the success of three things. One. Internal consumption has to go up. In the short term, Chinese are simply refusing to consume. In the long term an aging China cannot consume. Two. The Go West Policy can only succeed if Tibet, Xinjiang, Mongolia and Western regions prosper. That looks unlikely due to political and ethnic factors. Three. Exports must increase but are going to reduce. The current enhanced expenditure on the Military situation will take its economic toll. The overall outlook for the Chinese economy does not bode well. Some one sensible has to do the maths.
All the issues highlighted and analysed are issues common to any country. What is special here? The difference is that China has an overbalanced and rigid polity which is driving the country to an unrealistic destiny. There is this typically budding Xitler who wants to run the world. Xi’s China is fixated with overtaking USA. Its thinking is that others including India are hand maidens in that journey. The White Paper on Defence 2019 and other documents actually spell that without saying so. On the other hand the Chinese people and nation are imbalanced at this point of time – economically, militarily, diplomatically, environmentally and ethnically. The Nation and the Government are at odds with each other. At the same time, Indian resistance is something new and totally unexpected. Currently, China is flummoxed as to how to contend that. Hence it will gather itself and come back at us with vengeance.
So how do we deal with China? We deal with facts and how they are presented to us. There are too many amongst us who predict that China will come breathing fury and fire of a mythical dragon. It won’t happen because it can’t happen. Sun Tsu’s maxim of ‘winning wars without’ fighting has been liberally dosed out. However, I wonder if Sun Tsu had a contra maxim of how to ‘lose wars without fighting’. Very clearly the facts show that China is not the behemoth it is being made to be. In any case till such time the CCP is in power, India has to deal with an inimical China. It will do us well to remember that after USA, India is enemy Number 2 hereafter. Their strategists, analysts and ‘Global Times’ will attribute their failures to us. Also, China has become habituated to the fact of blaming others for its own faults and deficiencies. Its leaders will externalise failure and the needle will swing to India. Hence, the lesser of China in our society the better it will be. The importance of Atma Nirbhar Bharat lies in the fact that we should consume to make our economy thrive and not consume to make the China Dream happen!
When soldiers march in step on a bridge it tends to collapse. Why? Resonance! If even some issues facing China resonate then there will be a major change. To recap, the issues are – diseases, aging, ethnic disparity, pollution, agriculture, degradation, climate change, diplomatic isolation, military limitation and economic trimming. China is a society without a check. It will continue on its improbable path at breakneck speed. Many of these factors are resonating and if the cadence is strong enough, we will see political change without fail. The Chernobyl factor is at work. Make no mistake about that. We should be prepared for a fallout of that change. From a long term perspective, it will be prudent to catalyse the change. The catalysis has to be done incrementally through a combination of asymmetric and symmetric options. Asymmetry has to be nuanced through Chins’a rimlands of Tibet, Xinjiang, Mongolia, HongKong and Taiwan. When China does not recognise the UT of Ladakh, is interfering through Nepal and Pakistan blatantly and is busy with its string of pearls, Indian polity should not be Dhritarasthra’s. The concept that Tibet is a redline needs a revisit. A public revisit of the policy should drive some sense into China. There is also a need to start some focused diplomatic options. Economic options enforced so far need to be enhanced. More on that in the next article.
The next standard question is will it lead to a China collapse? The simple answer is it will not. Will China become a superpower? The chances are no. What will happen? The economy was all set to shrink in the forthcoming decade anyway. It will get accelerated. Currently the world will consume what China produces and it will appear that the Chinese economy is still booming. However in a couple of years when Chinese mega projects bottom out, organised decoupling takes effect, pollution takes effect, and aging progresses, the shrink will be visible. We will then see the Chinese economy right sizing. Accordingly the polity will change.
This analysis is a ‘man without a dog’ effort. There could be short comings and it is probably full of holes. I concede. However it is based on facts. It is not an exercise in wish listing. The facts reveal a vulnerable China. We need to do a holistic fusion analysis based on multiple inputs from institutional experts. It will enable us to then handle China in a realistic manner. From the analysis, writings and commentaries in public, it is evident that we are obsessed with Pakistan which is such a waste of time. For long, India has let the Ministry of External Affairs and some traders handle China exclusively. An unrealistic image of China has emerged and it has seeped into our society. It is time that we study China and handle it with better understanding rather than the illiterate manner we have so far adopted. That is why we see a dragon instead of a eeny weenie Chinaman who is sitting on a nuclear reactor about to go critical.
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