The Middle Kingdom frays on its borderlands
Hong Kong’s gleaming towers are burning while Xinjiang is a province turned graveyard. Recently leaked documents show that Beijing believes mass indoctrination and coercion can eradicate the Muslim Uighur culture in Xinjiang, leading to one of the gravest violations of human rights in modern times. The recently ended police siege of Hong Kong Polytechnic University is a sign that the urban strife there is simply moving from one theatre to another. China remains the superpower-in-the-making, but the darkness in its periphery is unmistakable.
To put it another way, China’s global strength is evident in the manner that almost no one, including in the Islamic world, has dared to say anything critical of what it is doing in Xinjiang. Its weakness is apparent in its handling of Hong Kong. The mainland’s offshore financial centre and ethnically Chinese, this city-state should have been adroitly managed and handled. Combined with Beijing’s inability to arrest its deteriorating relationship with the United States and its slowing economy, the sense is of a Middle Kingdom fraying on its borderlands.
Under other circumstances, India would have been able to capitalise on this. However, it is beset by its own challenges, including a slowing economy, the situation in Kashmir, and a growing negative narrative about the country in the West. But the fact remains India is a system that is better than its parts. China scores better only in terms of raw economic power. India remains a constitutional democracy, its minorities are less unhappy than students in Hong Kong, and democracy will be restored in Jammu and Kashmir sooner rather than later. All of this should become evident to the rest of the world within a few years, when the clouds over the Valley and the plains of Xinjiang clear, and the true difference between the two countries becomes evident.