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Home / Columns / How China, under Xi, lost the world’s goodwill | Opinion

How China, under Xi, lost the world’s goodwill | Opinion

Its internal repression, aggressive nationalism, and belligerent foreign policy have alienated many countries

columns Updated: Jul 05, 2020 22:09 IST
Shashi Shekhar
Shashi Shekhar
The world has become suspicious of Beijing after the repression of Hong Kong and Xinjiang, the lack of transparency on the Covid-19 outbreak and its predator maritime policy
The world has become suspicious of Beijing after the repression of Hong Kong and Xinjiang, the lack of transparency on the Covid-19 outbreak and its predator maritime policy(AP)

On Friday morning, before many of us were awake, Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi was on his way to the India-China border posts. He inspected the preparations at Nimu, Ladkah. He met Indian Army and Indian Air Force soldiers as well as personnel from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police to ascertain the situation on the ground. He went on the Leh Sainik hospital where he met injured soldiers.

The visit by the PM in these fraught times sends out a message to the soldiers, the nation and the world — India will not give in to pressure from any quarter. This effort on the part of the PM was important in view of the grief and anger in the country after what happened in the Galwan Valley.

While it boosted the morale of the soldiers and offered some reassurance to the country, it was not lost on the Chinese as well. While the PM was still in Leh, a spokesperson for the foreign ministry in Beijing made a statement that negotiations were going on to resolve the border issue and that in this situation, no one should act in a manner that will worsen it. Was China going on the defensive or giving us some advice?

Whatever China’s motive was in making the statement, PM’s visit achieved its objective. This may further prove to be a roadblock to China’s ambitions. China, already in conflict with all the major powers of the world, is now confronting the elephant in its backyard, something which can hurt the dragon’s ambitions.

Here we should also note the steps taken by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. He recently increased defence spending for the next decade by 40%, with a statement that the world is moving towards the situation which existed in 1930.

What happened in 1930? Those were the days of the Great Recession in the United States (US). Within a few years, World War II broke out. I am not suggesting that we are moving towards World War III. But China’s aggression and ambition have triggered a reset in global diplomacy. China has always had a bitter-sweet relationship with India, Taiwan, Vietnam and Japan. Australia, however, had been ambivalent and was not in this mix; yet, it seems to apprehend China’s trajectory.

The policy of aggressive nationalism, adopted by China’s hyper-ambitious leader President Xi Jinping, will probably not work out well for his country in the long-run. Until a few weeks ago, many countries including Canada, England, New Zealand, and Germany were interested in strengthening ties with China. But the situation has changed rapidly.

The world has become suspicious of Beijing after the repression of Hong Kong and Xinjiang, the lack of transparency on the Covid-19 outbreak and its predator maritime policy. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently made a statement in his parliament against China and expressed solidarity with the agitating citizens of Hong Kong. He even proposed giving British citizenship to the three million people of Hong Kong. The US House of Representatives unanimously passed the Hong Kong Autonomy Act to impose heavy fines and sanctions on banks and individuals involved in the suppression of democracy supporters in Hong Kong. German Chancellor Angela Merkel had already warned Beijing, whereas France and Japan have also expressed support for India after the Galwan incident. Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is considered a supporter of Beijing, but public sentiment in his country has turned against this. In one survey, there has been a decrease of more than 20% in China’s popularity in Canada.

It would be erroneous to think that Huawei and other Chinese companies will always function with the help of the government in the 5G tech business. Huawei is already considered a problem in the US and Europe. In today’s world, where data is important, there are suspicions about what Chinese corporations are using our data for after offering tempting discounts on their technology. India has banned 59 Chinese apps based on this logic. Chinese companies have also lost many contracts. If this trend catches on in other countries, Beijing will be forced to rethink its policies.

US President Donald Trump wants to continue with this policy of shutting China out as much as possible. Joe Biden, who is most likely to challenge him in the next election, is also of the same view. We are approaching a situation where powerful western countries and larger Asian countries will be suspicious of China but where Latin American, African, East European and smaller Asian countries may still be locked into a relationship of dependence with China.

Irrespective of how things pan out, one thing is certain. China, with its belligerent attitude, has put a spoke in the works of the possibility of rewriting a magnificent chapter of human history going forward. It is a well-known fact that from the first century AD to 1820, India and China generated almost half the world’s Gross Domestic Product. If the two countries work together, they could recreate some of the glory of the past and be a beacon to the world. But China, with its territorial ambitions and disregard for international law, has put paid to that for now.

Shashi Shekhar is the editor-in-chief, Hindustan

The views expressed are personal

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