The Chinese Communist government appears to carry a curious gene which has put it in a permanent state of paranoid hallucination. Nothing else can explain its behaviour of seeing fault all around but can never see itself of having done anything wrong. Given this state of political mind, the Communist Party of China (CCP), which is the sole power in the country, is unable to go beyond the traditional tactics of “denial and deception”, and the communism with Chinese characteristics habit of lecturing others. This situation is not only sad but dangerous.
In another example of lecturing, the CCP mouthpiece, the People’s Daily (December 23, 2009) carried a commentary on how the Indian free media should behave so as not to disturb the growing India-China relations. Titled “Indian media agencies harm themselves in playing up strife between China and India”, the commentary chastises the Indian media, especially the mainstream media, of promoting the “China threat” theory with malicious intent, while Indian leaders including Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh do not accept that China is a threat to India. It concludes that the anti-China writings in the Indian media are for both economic interest and political advantage. Thereafter, the CCP and government controlled Chinese mouthpiece lays down guide lines on how a free media in a democratic country should conduct itself. A closer reading of the People’s Daily commentary suggests it is not a press council guideline, but a far deeper strategic statement with a subsumed warning. China has reached a new level in the global scale, with the United States offering it a G-2 (US-China) status. China is enticed with the US offer, but suspects pitfalls. There are reasons for their suspicion. China is not yet ready for such a role. There are other countries and issues to be tackled first.
Like its recent 350 km per hour fastest train in the world, the Chinese authorities are in a supersonic hurry to consolidate their politico-economic-military development to take the country to the top. And they want a free run and expect their transgressions to be ignored by others. Generally, the rest of the world is exuberant about the Chinese economic behemoth. Statistics point to this fact. But do the Chinese leaders see a truth which is different? Reading these statements, suggests there are serious concerns.
For one, China’s demographic profile is going to change for the negative from around 2025 when the retired population will surpass the working age population. An energy starved country, its energy dependence abroad is going to grow and become captive to global political and strategic shifts. So is the case with its natural resources like iron, copper and other strategic materials. Its food dependence and employment is also going to acquire overseas oases.
Therefore, time is of essence for the Chinese leaders. At the moment, China is on a high with political, economic and military power. It has succeeded in subsuming most of its neighbours in South East and East Asia with both economic allurement and military stick.
At this phase, China requires to emphasise its arrogance, assertiveness and supremacy to take a quantum jump to a high orbit. Any opposition to its above characteristics, or an interlocutor’s determination to hold its own, is perceived by Beijing as a challenge to its ambition. This encompasses many of its territorial claims in the South China Sea with other independent claimants, and an accelerated naval and air force development to impose its sovereign status over international shipping routes.
Over the years and decades, China used anti-westernism and its own ethnic Chinese Trojans in South East Asia to muzzle the free media of these countries. Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad, in his battle against the west, joined the China camp. Ethnic Chinese in the region control about 80 per cent of the financial resources. The umbilical cord between these ethnic Chinese financial power brokers and Beijing, is very strong.
Successive Indian governments over the decades have been prone to brush under the carpet Chinese incursions across the disputed borders and China’s increasing claims on Indian territory. New Delhi did not want to open up another large confrontation with Beijing along the borders after 1962. But in two face offs in 1967 and 1987, China understood that 1962 was history. This was discussed in a book by two Chinese army Colonels in 1993.
The Indian media has been reticent for decades in writing on China. One was the inexplicable reason of not knowing China. India, generally, was fixated on Pakistan, and for a brief while on Bangladesh from 1971. In the Indian bureaucracy, Pakistan was bread, butter and jam. This translated to the media.
Perceptions and reality have changed both in the Indian government and media. The Chinese authorities are shocked that the Indian media is not willing to follow the government line and is determined not to pull punches. In a democracy, the government has its own job to do, and the media its own. This does not mean irresponsibility. The Indian media’s role in exposing Chinese machinations is responsible, and a national obligation.
Taking a look at China’s India policy over a short period of the last three years, the Indian media exposed the gulf between Chinese proclamations of friendship and their nefarious deeds. For example, in trying to obstruct India’s clearance as a legal recipient of civilian nuclear technology at the Nuclear Supplies Group (NSG) Beijing was kicking at the belly of India’s strategic civilian development. It opposed the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) tranche for development projects in Arunachal Pradesh. It started issuing paper visas to Kashmiris holding Indian passports to encourage Kashmiri separatists. It also opposed putting Pakistani anti-India terrorist leaders in the UN blacklist.
The People’s Daily will not answer these questions. What the Indian media is doing is exposing China’s duplicity. This is making it difficult for the authorities in Beijing to deceive other countries. As a recent report in the CCP Weekly Liaowang (Issue No.50/2009) admits, no one trusts China, and China trusts no one.
(The writer, Mr Bhaskar Roy, is an eminent China analyst with many years of experience. Email: email@example.com)