Need for a multi-polar solidarity and holistic strategy to counter China

India's ability and potential to act as a geopolitical and geo-economic pivot to China, both in Asia and the world, has been well highlighted, both of which require greater focus on building economic heft

Col Anil Bhat (retd) Aug 20, 2021
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Blinkers Off, How Will The World Counter China; Author Gaurie Dwivedi

There is no comparison between how extensively the Communist Party of China (CPC) has been researching on multi- aspects of India, which it has used to make innumerable territorial claims, and what India has been doing or not doing to protect its territorial integrity.

At long last, it is welcome that in the last few years, there has been a remarkable increase in the literature focused on China, particularly on India-China ties. One such book in this genre is Blinkers Off, How Will The World Counter China, authored by senior journalist Gaurie Dwivedi. Lucidly written and well researched, the book takes a bird's eye view of the challenges that a rising and basically belligerent China presents to the world. Taking the reader through China's growth story and the geo-political realignments that it has created, this book is unapologetic in its assessment that Beijing's continued rise poses security threats to the liberal world in many ways.
 
The Cold War officially got over on 26 December 1991, ending a tumultuous period in geo-politics when two superpowers came close to a war-like situation more than once. Thirty years later, is the world now facing another Cold War? And is America powerful enough to take on a rival on its own? Since 2018, as economic ties between the US and China soured, these questions have been debated on both sides of the Pacific.

The Coronavirus pandemic exacerbated some of the underlying tensions that were a result of and also a cause for China’s revisionist tendencies to continue. It was clear even before the pandemic and more so after it, that the challenges posed by the CPC are much more than what the world witnessed even at the peak of the Cold War.  
 
China’s acts to undermine the world order pose a greater threat due to its economic might, military capabilities, and vast influence spanning across Asia, Europe, and Africa because of its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) - a global infrastructure development strategy adopted by Beijing. Its hurry to alter global governance by acquiring sweeping powers to formulate norms is driven by an ambition to dictate rules on issues like food security that affect entire humanity.

Beijing’s expansive strategy is not just limited to planting its proxies but it wants its own version of human rights to be normalized by international agencies. China’s hunger for mineral resources is another key driver for its ambition to be a modern-day colonial power, though this has left small, resource-rich, and strategically located nations with mountains of debt.

US’ limitations, multi-polar solidarity

With China expected to eclipse America as the world’s largest economy in 2028, the latter is not as powerful as it was in the 1950s and 1960s to address the present geo-political tensions. It is only the collective response of the liberal world, America and its allies and partners, which will together decide the future and shape of the post-pandemic world order.

After allowing China to successfully subvert the rules-based world order for three decades, the world is now in a precarious phase. The geo-political headwinds have manifested in all aspects of the globalized world, namely, trade, military, cyberspace, and new-age technology like outer space.

This has also altered the view of warfare, which has moved beyond the conventional forms of conflict. New age warfare is now likely to focus on cyber warfare where targeting core infrastructure or crippling vital aspects of the economy are likely to play a vital role.

Of late, both India and Australia have witnessed sophisticated and difficult to track cyber-attacks. As China continues to grow, it will intensify its economic warfare efforts to cause a substantial and disproportionate impact.
 
Two months after he took over in January, US President Jo Biden’s administration held a much-publicized meeting with top Chinese leaders in Alaska, which saw tough posturing. But to carry through with this confrontational approach and combative stance, America’s economic and geo-political stature is not sufficient. What is needed is multi-polar solidarity to counter the challenge that China poses - economically, politically, militarily, and in emerging domains like information and bio-warfare.

India and Japan, along with America, will play a vital role in checking Chinese President Xi Jinping’s propensity to change the status quo. India’s geo-strategic location, which allows it to be a possible counter to China in the Indo Pacific, and its geo-economic clout, will be a major factor in countering China.
 
Wishing China away is neither possible nor desirable. A roadmap that is in sync with the 21st-century challenges to defeat the Communist Party of China’s imperialistic efforts is the need of the hour. It will not suffice to match frigates and submarines, but the world must defeat China’s plans to weaponize trade, information, and its global clout, which has turned even the UN Secretary-General António Guterres into its cheerleader.

Joe Biden does not have the luxury of Barack Obama to respond to China’s island-building activity with few public statements and a ‘pivot’ that yielded little by way of deterrence. Instead, the US President will have to act fast and in tandem with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Premier Yoshihide Suga.

Multi-dimensional approach

The book makes a case for an all-round approach towards understanding the China challenge and a commensurate multi-dimensional response to tackle the same. The author has identified technology and economy as two clear areas where Chinese desire for supremacy could play out, requiring proactive response by world powers.

To ensure the world is able to counter the China challenge, Blinkers Off suggests creating powerful deterrence across traditional and new age mediums of warfare like cyber and trade. For any such effort to be successful, a multilateral platform needs to be created, where besides America, India and Japan could play key roles.

The author has cogently pointed out that unlike the Cold war, where America was able to take on erstwhile USSR on its own, Washington will now require partners to address the challenge of an autocratic China. India's ability and potential to act as a geopolitical and geoeconomics pivot to China, both in Asia and the world, has been well highlighted, both of which require greater focus on building economic heft.

The recommendations in the book, which encompass all aspects of engagement with China, also include focus on checking the disproportionate clout Beijing now holds over global governance. To respond effectively to this threat would need a holistic strategy, which Blinkers Off presents.
 
Provocatively titled, the book is a refreshing change to a largely one-sided narrative of path-breaking reform-led growth story of China, whitewashing its efforts to create its power axis by relying on other authoritarian countries like Iran and Russia. Instead, the author presents a compelling argument for the world to view China through the prism of its ancient military and strategic thought woven into CPC's desire for hegemony and upending the present world order.

(Blinkers Off, How Will The World Counter China; Author Gaurie Dwivedi: Publishers Pentagon Press; Pages 239; Price Rs 795)

(The reviewer is a strategic analyst. He can be contacted at wordsword02@gmail.com)