Can Quad stop China’s rise?

China forcibly entered Tibet, then an independent country, a few decades back and violently suppressed the protest by the Tibetans

N S Venkataraman Apr 10, 2021
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China forcibly entered Tibet, then an independent country, a few decades back and violently suppressed the protest by the Tibetans.  Now, it exercises a vice-like grip over Tibet and is putting down the voice of freedom in Tibet with the ruthlessness that it is known for. The world is staying silent about China’s aggression in Tibet, making one suspect that the world is largely self-centered and do not want to fight for the cause.

The next attempt to satisfy the expansionist greed of China was made with regard to North Korea and Pakistan, where too it has succeeded.

While there is an elected government in Pakistan, by entering into an agreement with China with regard to One Belt One Road project and giving a free run to China, Pakistan is now deeply debt-ridden to China, which is now holding critical control over several mines and projects in China, apart from the critical Gwadar port.

North Korea is now under the control of a ruthless leader who is not much different from that of China’s leadership. The leadership of North Korea desperately needs China’s support to survive in the face of the boycott by the rest of the world.

North Korea and Pakistan have exposed themselves to such conditions that they can never get rid of China’s control for several decades to come.

Nepal, Sri Lanka on China's radar 

In the case of Nepal, China has now suffered a temporary setback, as the Communist party in Nepal has split and the judiciary in the country has asserted itself. However, China is likely to continue the efforts to browbeat Nepal and may bounce back to gain greater control over Nepal in the not distant future by fair or foul means, particularly due to the weak economy of Nepal and its locational vulnerability to China.

Sri Lanka is another country, which has unwittingly driven itself to become a debt-ridden country to China and the forced sacrifice of Sri Lanka to hand over the control of Hambantota port to China is too glaring to be ignored. However, it appears that Sri Lankan government is yet to learn about the need to save itself from China’s control. The slow intrusion of China into Sri Lanka continues unabated.

Support for Myanmar junta

The military in Myanmar which has overthrown the democratically elected government and is suppressing the protest movements in Myanmar with heavy force, is obviously enjoying the blessings of China for its misdemeanor.  While UN and a number of countries have condemned the Myanmar military which has taken over the government, it is obvious that China has not done so and gives an impression that it is tacitly supporting the military junta.

Myanmar is a poor developing country, though it has rich resources. At present, Myanmar is heavily dependent on China for trade and there is a natural gas pipeline from Myanmar to China.

Earlier, the democratically ruled Myanmar under the guidance of a 1991 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was earnestly trying to resume relationships with other countries by encouraging overseas investments and collaboration which is not to China’s liking. Some people suspect that China could have encouraged the military in Myanmar to take over the government, to retain China’s control over Myanmar. 

China’s control over Sri Lanka is evident from the fact that the Sri Lankan government has invited the Myanmar Junta’s minister, which clearly indicates that the Sri Lankan government is acting at the behest of China, as China wants to give a sort of legitimacy to the military takeover of Myanmar.

India’s concern

India is one country that is facing direct threat from China, which is already occupying thousands of km of Indian territory. It is claiming that the state of Arunachal Pradesh in India as its own.  China has decided to build a huge hydroelectric project in the Brahmaputra river in Tibet, which would seriously affect the flow of water to northeastern India that can upset the agricultural economy of the region.

In the earlier years of his prime ministership Narendra Modi underestimated China’s greed or overestimated its strength just like his predecessors Jawaharlal Nehru and Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Like them, Modi also tried to buy peace with China, which has been proved to be a futile attempt.

Now, Prime Minister Modi has no alternative other than facing the might of China with all the force at India’s command.

Why QUAD is needed?

In such circumstances, with China’s threat of taking over Taiwan at any time and cruelly putting down the protest in Hong Kong, the situation clearly points out the need to build a counter force against China to protect the stability of the Asia Pacific region. In view of such developments, the recent meeting of the Quad by four countries namely the USA, Japan, Australia, and India have assumed significance and importance. Though the speeches made at the QUAD have been more focused on such mundane matter as equitable access to vaccine etc., no one can miss the point that QUAD is essentially aimed at forcing a halt to China’s aggression and expansionist greed and ambition.

Of course, China has clearly understood this and has said that exclusive blocs should not target third parties.  Here, the third-party refers to China.

There is underlying fear all over the world that a day may come sooner or later when the world would feel the heat from China’s aggressive postures.

There is already clear evidence for this. Apart from territorial aggression and attempts to dominate over the neighbouring countries, China is also slowly cornering the valuable wealth of the world, particularly in weak countries.

The immediate example is how China is getting a stranglehold over the cobalt deposits of Democratic Republic of Congo, which possesses more than 50 percent of the world’s cobalt reserves. Cobalt is an essential input material for production of lithium on battery, which is a necessary component of electric vehicles.

At one time, the world felt the heat of Adolf Hitler’s aggressive tactics and World War II happened.

The question is whether history will repeat itself with China now replacing Hitler, and whether the QUAD association will be able to face the likely onslaught of China in economic and military terms.

Obviously, QUAD is the most significant development in the present context.

QUAD would serve its purpose only if it would be able to create fear amongst the leadership of the dictatorial government in China that it cannot have its way in carrying out political, economic and military aggression.

Considering China’s present economic and military strength and the greed to become the superpower of the world at any cost, the economic, military, and political strength of the four QUAD partners are vitally needed. Modi has clearly said that QUAD will become closer than ever before to ensure stability in the Asia Pacific region.

Obviously, the success of QUAD would be judged by the ability of the QUAD partners to ensure the safety of Taiwan from China’s onslaught, protection of freedom of citizens of Hong Kong and liberation of Tibet from China’s occupation.

(The writer is a Trustee, NGO Nandini Voice for the Deprived, Chennai. The views are personal. He can be contacted at nsvenkatchennai@gmail.com)

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