As the world is realizing, China’s words and actions are deeply destabilizing. There is bound to emerge a scenario where protests by people in different countries and territories that are sought to be occupied by China will become too hot for Beijing to handle
Signals from China clearly indicate that the Chinese government has evolved a strategy and action plan, to be partly implemented in the medium term and the rest in the long term to emerge as the most dominant country in the world. Obviously, its aim is to emerge as a single superpower in the world, effectively dislodging the US from its present status and significantly reducing the influence of Russia and the European Union in the world.
One cannot but miss the fact that China’s methodology for implementing its strategies has two approaches.
One approach is to economically bring several underdeveloped and developing countries under its heels. The additional approach is to use its military force to invade the territories in the nearby regions to expand its territorial base.
China occupied Tibet using its military force several decades back. China’s aggression was not challenged effectively by any country. The Tibet aggression gave confidence to China that there will not be any strong opposition to China’s aggressive military acts so long as China remains economically strong with a strong industrial and agricultural base.
When the United Kingdom meekly gave away Hong Kong to China, much against the wishes of the Hong Kong citizens, China’s confidence about achieving its territorial ambition increased multifold.
After the 1962 war with India, China has occupied thousands of kilometres of Indian territory and also claims Arunachal Pradesh as its own. That India is not talking anymore about recovering Indian territory occupied by China has emboldened Beijing in implementing its territorial adventures.
Apart from China’s claim on Senkaku islands and South China Sea where China has already established military bases without being challenged, its immediate target is to occupy Taiwan.
China is now ramping up its military, diplomatic and economic coercion of Taiwan. The Chinese military has staged air and sea exercises in the Taiwan Strait, without being challenged. China may soon occupying Taiwan and in all likelihood the US and West European countries may react only verbally and not wanting to risk war with China. This is what China really expects to happen.
Since the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI ) in 2013, China’s total engagement in different countries is around $932 billion in construction contracts and the rest in other investments.
This year, China has signed BRI documents with 149 countries with an investment volume of over 1 trillion yuan ($147 billion), flagging the China–Laos railway, a bridge in Serbia and Gwadar port as landmark projects that have been well implemented.
In the first half of 2022, China’s engagement through financial investments and contracts in 147 countries amounted to $ 28.3 billion, up by 47 percent from the previous year. Of this, $ 11.8 billion was through investments and $16.5 billion through project contracts.
China’s short and medium assistance to countries that are underdeveloped with weak economies and some of which are reeling with rising debt levels is increasing.
The aim of BRI is clearly to bring down the large number of under developed countries in China’s economic control. The BRI's aim is to ensure a growing role for Chinese state-owned enterprises and control the industrial and economic base of these countries.
Debts to China
In the past five years, China gave nearly $26 billion in short and medium term loans to Pakistan and Sri Lanka. With the economic corridor project and with huge debts, Pakistan is now clearly under China’s control. In the same way, by handing over the Hambantota port to China on a 99-year lease by debt-ridden Sri Lanka, China is now firmly present in the island nation.
China seems to be under the impression that by economic domination and making the weak countries debt ridden to it, Beijing will emerge as an economic superpower, with no other country to match it.
Further, by occupying territory of nearby countries and regions using military force, China will bring large regions under its control. The ongoing Russian aggression against Ukraine and the unwillingness of the US and NATO countries to engage in a war with Russia reassure China that its aggressive stance will not be met by an equally aggressive stance by the US and European Union.
Will China’s strategies work the way it expects?
Neo-colonialism will not work
A few centuries back, countries like Britain, Belgium, France and Portugal brought several countries in the world under their control by initially entering them as traders and in course of time becoming their rulers. Such strategies worked well at that time since most occupied regions were poor with little literacy and education.
However, in the present time, such conditions in many underdeveloped countries do not exist due to spread of communication and people becoming aware of their rights.
While China can economically and militarily control the targeted countries, it cannot manage the protests from the local people who would not relish dominance by another country. China is already seeing such conditions in Pakistan and a few African countries. It is said that China is now considering proposals to send its military to these countries to protect the interests of Chinese people and investment.
Massive protests from the local people in countries occupied by China economically or with military force against Beijing's control will force it to take several steps backwards.
Today, China has a number of countries which are totally opposed to it or deeply suspicious about its objectives and aims.
Claim of territories
China is now claiming territories of Taiwan and India. China is also challenging the claims of Japan in the Senkaku islands and of the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and a few other countries in South China Sea.
China is increasingly creating an impression around the world that it believes in force and coercion to achieve its ends and often uses crude methods.
As the world is realizing, China’s words and actions are deeply destabilizing. There is bound to emerge a scenario where protests by people in different countries and territories that are sought to be occupied by China will become too hot for Beijing to handle.
With a totalitarian government in power in China and with people’s protests opposing its domination, and with its military stretched out in defending territories, it is likely that China will pay big price for its miscalculation in the coming years.
(The writer is a Trustee, NGO Nandini Voice for the Deprived, Chennai. Views are personal. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)