Has a Chinese newspaper ever published an article by an Indian external affairs minister on New Delhi’s views or policy perspectives? No. Never. So when the reverse happens, one is forced to take notice. Recently, on the very day that he set foot on Indian soil, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi’s article articulating his country’s viewpoints on bilateral and multilateral ties and other matters was published in this newspaper — that not only shows the seminal success of the Chinese diplomatic corps but points to the gravity of existing realities. The credit for this “visibly-effective foreign coup” must go to the Chinese ambassador as well as officials of its foreign ministry. It’s an act of exemplary public diplomacy, meticulously planned and efficiently implemented; an act worth emulating by the mandarins of Hindustan, dealing with the Hans. Let’s now analyse what Mr Wang wrote on diplomacy. His piece was cleverly formulated to hurl an invincible psychological weapon, to prepare and visualise the situation for diplomatic leverage and favourable public opinion in the host country. Beijing stands tall. Its forte is “surprise, deception, mobility”; especially for the present regime in China. Vitamin M (money) speaks, and reigns, far beyond and above all,,, Regretfully, Mr Wang’s words read and sound more like an extravagant eulogy by a flutist — poetic, self-demeaning, self-effacing and fearful panegyrist in an imperial durbar of an Oriental emperor of a bygone era, who is eternally nervous at the prospect of losing his job. Hence, he sings and parrots praise like an artificial poet with the help of some sort of an imitated national anthem composed by the emperor himself to be sung round the clock for him, across the globe. The only difference is that the (national) anthem here implies the (national) leader, supremo of the party and government; China’s two-in-one supreme ruler!
Thus, the court poet sings song for his “king-emperor-employer” in five of the 12 paragraphs of his article. However, if one reads carefully between the lines, the theme really emerges loud and clear at the fag end of the article. It is solely the “national interest” of the Chinese “state”. Why not? Why shouldn’t a sovereign state try to look after, propagate and programme its national interest? “We will step up efforts to serve China’s domestic development and overseas interests in line with our national conditions and the needs of our people”. How profoundly authentic! It is brazen and blunt; a clear warning, but honest too. It says that China will do what it proposes to and will do it only on the basis of “domestic development” because the country has to cater to the “national conditions” and address “the needs of our people”. The fact is that it is a case of China’s “domestic development” versus “overseas interests”. Clearly, China is less interested in overseas development and more interested in pursuing its “overseas interests”. Hence, no foreigner or overseas actor should suffer from any delusion of grandeur that Beijing would come forward to “develop” it. Far from overseas development, China would go for “domestic development” linked with its “overseas interests” — the twin pillars of China’s BRI/OBOR/CPEC. Any questioning and/or doubting Thomases would only betray his/her poor understanding and assessment of the Chinese psyche. A big thank you, Mr Wang, for your clearly spelt out thoughts!
The point to note, of course, was that long before this article, the writing was on the wall. The things that are now being professed were already being scrupulously practised. China’s “overseas interests” had led Beijing to take over Sri Lanka’s deep water port, Hambantota, for 99 years for its to failure to clear a gigantic debt of $8 billion. All for China’s “domestic development”! The list doesn’t end here, it just begins. The litmus test of China’s “domestic developments versus overseas interests” ratio comes from Caracas too; one of its biggest state-owned oil companies (Sinopec) is suing its Venezuelan counterpart in an American court over “unpaid debts”. The amount of dispute is comparatively “small” — just $23.7 million punitive damages, over a 2012 supply-contract of $43.5 million. Nevertheless, what is important is that it was part of China’s investments and loans that added up to more than $62 billion in oil-rich Venezuela between 2007 and 2016. Today, Caracas defaulted in its debt payment and Beijing is suing the case in the United States. Is Venezuela tomorrow’s Sri Lanka’s Hambantota? One also sees Chinese capability pertaining to Russia and Brazil (two of the five nations that comprise Brics). In the first decade of the 21st century, both Russia and Brazil were struggling to execute projects funded by Chinese currency (renminbi/yuan) loans. Russia’s Rosneft and Transeft took a combined loan of $25 billion in 2009 from the government-owned China Development Bank (CDB) for supplying oil to Beijing. However, on completion of the pipeline work, China renegotiated the deal and compelled Moscow to reduce the price of the oil it supplies to Beijing.
Almost similarly, Brazilian iron ore giant Vale took a $1.23 billion Chinese loan to construct 12 “Chinamax” shipping vessels to supply iron ore to Beijing. However, China blocked the Brazilians from supplying iron ore as soon as the delivery of ships was completed. Both Moscow and Brasilia incurred huge losses owing to their loan adventure with Beijing. Profit for China implies loss for the non-Chinese. This is business, China-style. Coming back to India, the China Development Bank filed an insolvency petition on November 24, 2017 in an Indian court against a high-profile Indian private sector giant to recover its loan of $1.78 billion, that reportedly accounts for over 30 per cent of the Indian company’s secured debt. This single act of a Chinese government bank against a top Indian company is likely to hurt or halt any (or all) out-of-court settlement initiatives that affect Indian banks and financial institutions too. Seen in this light, the “warm” words in Mr Wang’s article to persuade India over “shared strategic interest” look astoundingly hollow and meaningless — to China it implies Vitamin MCM (market-cash-money) for Beijing and Vitamin DBS (debt-bankruptcy-submission) for New Delhi. It should be noted Mr Wang showed a lot of warmth on his arrival and gave a warning on his departure. The choice for India is at one level simple, and yet complex. Which one is real — the warmth or the warning?