The world suddenly appears to be taking note of the dragon’s deceit. At the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, the potentially serious implications of Chinese deception in the guise of soothing words like “development”, “connectivity”, “commerce”, “cash”, “shared prosperity”, “communication” became evident to one and all — underneath which lies the aggression for territory grabbing, building up a trade monopoly, carrying out espionage through telecommunications, the theft of foreign technology and the ultimate threat of gunboat diplomacy!
No wonder then that China faced the most undiplomatic, yet direct and unprecedented, personal attack on no less a personality than its “lifelong” President Xi Jinping in January 2019. Billionaire financier George Soros declared at the WEF that President Xi was the “most dangerous enemy” of open societies everywhere and urged US President Donald Trump’s administration to “focus” on the Chinese Communists instead of waging a trade war with the rest of the world, Mr Soros definitely deserves a closer look.
First, is Mr Soros right or wrong? Whatever may be his past record or background, Mr Soros’ words uttered in Davos cannot be faulted. He is right. That China is “the most dangerous enemy of the open societies”, like that of India, is a reality of our times. Second, Mr Soros’ suggestion that Mr Trump would do better by “focus” on China than fight a multi-front war too is real and stark, something that cannot be ignored. In fact, China itself constitutes a “dangerous”, “multi-front” issue to/for the world; and no country, besides India, can vouch better, being at the receiving end of China’s ceaseless hostile, aggressive, insensitive posture even today; despite the changed guise of “shared prosperity” owing to China’s own interests, not India’s.
The best, or worst, possible consequence of Mr Soros’ statement is that the official Chinese reaction appeared to be numb. Shell-shocked, speechless! It could neither deny, nor dispute or refute, nor confirm. It was a classic Catch-22 situation where any answer — “Yes” or “No” — would look as if one is confessing one’s alleged guilt. When Hua Chunying, spokeswoman of China’s foreign ministry, was asked about Mr Soros, she replied that the “remarks by some individuals that ‘invert right or wrong’ were meaningless, and not worth refuting”, and that “we hope the relevant American can correct his attitude”, it speaks volumes on how not to react to complicate a matter that already stands too complex owing to the toxic truthfulness of Mr Soros’ statement, despite its lack of diplomatic finesse at an international platform. Mr Soros appeared real.
When the billionaire financier spoke at length about China, and criticised Xi Jinping’s “One Belt, One Road” infrastructure project as “self-serving”, it was clear that India’s long-standing position on the issue stood vindicated. Despite the huge diplomatic and political pressure mounted on India, New Delhi’s principled and well-thought out decision to stay away from the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative imperial project for “land, sovereign territory violation (and) resources-capturing” was clear to all. In fact, the majority of officials of the external affairs ministry in New Delhi who stood up to pressure from within the country itself to join China’s BRI/OBOR deserve to be complimented today.
As is increasingly clear to most South and Southeast Asian nations now, Beijing’s “self-serving” project is being falsely claimed by the ruling Communist Party to be a “win-win” and offering “mutual benefit” for the subservient non-Chinese states. The world knows that like the generals of the Pakistani Army and its ISI, the Communist Party of China doesn’t believe in equality. When Beijing doesn’t treat its own citizens fairly and judiciously, how can the world outside expect treatment in any other way? Are not the CPC’s bosses used only to rule by the whip and the rod?
Coincidentally, on the very day Mr Soros was exposing Chinese President Xi’s agenda from an international platform; in Beijing Mr Xi’s close aide and Communist Party ideologue Wang Huning was warning party cadres to prepare for the worst, ahead of the China-US “make or break” talks to end the trade war between the two giant economies. Mr Wang, one of the seven members of the CPC standing committee, its highest-ranking body, told senior officials to safeguard President Xi’s leadership and to toe the party line.
Mark the words “make or break” and “trade war”! Have the tariffs imposed by the US on Chinese goods really affected China adversely? (Of course, it would have had affected the US too). The words do signal desperation, fear, turmoil and the possibility of revolt. Is it because China has overstretched herself? Has Mr Xi undertaken something more than what can he and his country can really digest?
One thing seems quite clear. The Chinese, possibly due to their over-eagerness, possibly moved too fast, leading to a deficit in the trade balance for virtually all countries of the world vis a vis Beijing’s surplus. This single most important factor led to Mr Trump seeking a correction even before he became US President.
From whichever angle one looks at China’s economic, commercial, military or diplomatic posturing, the possibility of Beijing incurring the wrath and fury of many countries facing a rising deficit in the trade balance was only a matter of time. From Huawei to ZTE; Alibaba to Beijing’s foreign direct investment in the US and Malaysia, China faces rising heat.
This emerging scenario was very aptly, though somewhat angrily, put across by Joe Tsai, e-commerce giant Alibaba’s executive vice-chairman: “Trump may have started... focusing on (the) trade deficit... but over the course of the last nine months it was blown into a bigger anti-China problem”. He added that trade war had evolved into “anti-China sentiment”. Mr Tsai is spot on. And Mr Soros’ words say it all.
China needs to remember that the current trade war is only one of the wars which could potentially turn hydra-headed as shown by history. Just turn the pages of 20th century wars in the European theatre in 1914 and 1939. We have seen civil war, corporate war, ethnic war, tribal war, guerrilla war, independence war, terror war, proxy war, preventive war, pre-emptive war, religious war, tariff war, succession war, cold war, colonial war, people’s war and perpetual war — but, thankfully, not yet the Third World War. The world can only hope that someone in Beijing is heeding the lessons of history!
The writer is an alumnus of the National Defence College and the author of the recently published book China in India. The views expressed here are personal....