The die has been cast. The World is getting divided. There are enough signs of a no-holds barred economic war between nations wedded to democracy on one side and expansionist China with countries inextricably tied to it due to the economic stranglehold on the other. After the Indian Army pushed back China in the Galwan Valley and banned its money spinning apps, and challenged both its military might and sway in digital technologies, trade and commerce, we now have a scenario where China is against the wall due to so many factors. And this, despite its position as world’s leading economic power. China is now hyper active on the world stage to counter the Quad.
At the Quad meeting between the US, India, Japan and Australia, earlier this month, US President Joe Biden renewed commitment to ensure that the Indo-Pacific region is governed by international law, committed to upholding universal values, free from coercion and also announced the launch of an “ambitious new joint partnership” to boost vaccine manufacturing, for the global benefit and strengthen vaccinations to benefit the entire Indo-Pacific region. He also underscored the Quad is going to be a vital arena for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi stamped the moment by reiterating that the Quad will now remain an important pillar of stability in the region.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison joined the discussion by asserting that together the Quad nations will create a different future. It is the Indo-Pacific that will now shape the destiny of our world in the 21st century, he asserted.
The Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga echoed the same sentiment by stating that Japan-Australia-India-U.S. leaders working together will help in realizing a free and open Indo-Pacific.
Days later, addressing his first press conference after his swearing-in, the US president had underscored “a stiff competition with China, while pointing to China’s overall goal to become the leading country in the world, the wealthiest country in the world, and the most powerful country in the world. Biden also used this important interaction with the media to categorically drive home the message that it is not going to happen during his presidency and the United States are going to continue to grow and expand.
Picking China in no uncertain terms, Biden also informed media-persons at this press meet that he has already told Jinping in straight terms: “as long as you and your country continues to so blatantly violate human rights, we’re going to continue, in an unrelenting way, to call to the attention of the world and make it clear what’s happening to the Uighurs, what’s happening in Hong Kong”.
Besides the message delivered through the Quad, China also has been facing the heat on the issue of forced labour in China’s Xinjiang region and the call for boycott of goods produced through blatant violation of human rights.
Expansionist China, which has a long standing territorial dispute with India and Japan, is also locked in South China Sea disputes over maritime and island claims with Taiwan, Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia. The strategic importance of South China Sea can be gauged from the fact that a third of the global maritime trade and close to 40 per cent of China’s total trade passes through the South China Sea shipping lanes.
To ensure strategic balance in the South China Sea, U.S. warships and aircraft have frequently been moving into that area in a “show of force” and carrying out exercises in the disputed waters.
Then there is the Belt and Road Initiative, a global infrastructure development strategy, a brainchild of Chinese President Xi Jinping adopted in 2013 to invest in close to 70 countries to build economic land and rail transportation routes through Central Asia. China describes the Belt and Road Initiative, which has 2049 as the deadline for completion, as “a bid to enhance regional connectivity and embrace a brighter future.”
Significantly, India, a major regional power, has refused to join China’s Belt and Road project. India has point blank declined to join the BRI because the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is integral to the BRI, passes through Pak occupied Kashmir (PoK).
Notwithstanding the fact that China is Australia’s largest trading partner and also their interdependence economically – China needs raw matrial from Australia, while Australia ships almost a quarter of its exports to China – the situation has reached such a pass that Australia is now thinking in terms of diverting much of its shipment to other countries.
China-Iran: Comprehensive Partnership
During Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s six-nation tour to Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Oman, Bahrain and the UAE, China and Iran on Saturday 27 March 2021 signed what has been described by a section of the media as a 25-year “Political Strategic and Economic Treaty”.
The treaty was signed by Wang Yi and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. From China’s point of view, the pact with Iran is significant especially due to the Belt and Road Initiative in the region.
During his meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhan, who has hailed the Iran-China strategic partnership as ‘major step’, the Chinese Foreign Minister reiterated that China’s willingness to develop the China-Iran relations will not change.
In Riyadh Wang batted for a five-point initiative to achieve security and stability in the Middle East. The fine-tuning of the objectives of Wang’s West Asia tour obviously points to an attempt by China to counter the takeaway and the deep message conveyed to the entire world by Biden, Modi, Morrison and Suga when they went on a virtual platform for the Quad Summit.
Wang spoke of mutual respect, upholding equity and justice, achieving non-proliferation, collective security, and accelerating development cooperation in Riyadh.
China also is in an overdrive mode to counter sanctions over the “Xinjiang forced labour” narrative. In a latest move, the Chinese Foreign Ministry has responded to unilateral sanctions on Chinese officials over Xinjiang by announcing sanctions against two US individuals, one Canadian politician and entity on Saturday. China has also sanctioned nine UK individuals and four entities following what it has decried as “their provocative statements”.
The Chinese mouthpiece Global Times said in a report Sunday that the “West has forced companies including H&M, Nike to politicize the Xinjiang cotton supply chain issue and pushed them to offend Chinese consumers and the market. It is inevitable that they will be punished by the market”.
The Global Times report goes on add “Foreign brands may see their total enterprise value, in perspective of growth prospects, reduced by about 50 percent in five years, due to their groundless vilification over cotton…”
Chinese Minister of Defense Wei Fenghe, on Friday during a visit to the site of Chinese Embassy in former Yugoslavia, said: “The Chinese military will never allow history to repeat itself as China is capable and determined to defend its national interests,” Wei Fenghe was there to pay tribute to martyrs in Belgrade, where the Chinese Embassy in former Yugoslavia was bombed by NATO in 1999.
Chinese Foreign Ministry also said on Friday that the US-led NATO, owes a debt to the Chinese people, in the backdrop of the condemnation of NATO by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and the Serbia’s nation-wide commemoration of the deaths of thousands of innocent people by NATO.
On March 25, China and Turkey kept the Quad Summit in perspective when they agreed to oppose what they described as “attempt by some countries to politicize the COVID-19 vaccine cooperation” and pledged to continue their cooperation in fighting the pandemic.
A day earlier, Hungarian President Janos Ader had also said that Hungary and China will continue to strengthen cooperation on anti-pandemic, economy, trade, tourism and military affairs, and would promote in-depth development of the Hungary-China comprehensive strategic partnership.
These are not merely utterances. In fact, the die has been cast. The world is getting divided and there are enough signs of a no-holds barred economic war between nations wedded to democracy on one side and expansionist China with countries inextricably tied to it due to the economic stranglehold on the other. After the Indian Army pushed back China in the Galwan Valley and banned its money spinning apps, and thereby challenged both its military prowess and sway in digital technologies, trade and commerce, we now have a scenario where China is against the wall due to so many factors. And this, despite its position as world’s leading economic power. China is now hyper active on the world stage to counter the Quad by embracing allies or by trying to build new alliances in West Asia, and with countries of Central and Eastern Europe to retain its stranglehold on national economies.