India Today - - NEWS - (Aroon Purie)

One of China’s found­ing fa­thers, Sun Yat-sen, pre­dicted that the era of China’s promi­nence would not be one of Yel­low Peril (as the coun­try was pop­u­larly de­scribed in the West) but of Yel­low Favour. The Chi­nese era would not be one in which China threat­ens the world, but en­riches it. The China Dream, as Liu Mingfu, then a colonel in the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army, noted in his 2010 book of the same name, had three dis­tinct phases: catch­ing up with Amer­ica, com­pet­ing with Amer­ica, and be­com­ing the world’s lead­ing na­tion. In many ways, China is now in the sec­ond phase of this process of global dom­i­na­tion, and the world is wor­ried. On May 14, China’s leader, Xi Jin­ping, in the pres­ence of 29 for­eign lead­ers in Bei­jing, un­veiled a “project for the cen­tury’’, One Belt, One Road (OBOR), which hopes to make Bei­jing the cen­tre of the global econ­omy through a se­ries of in­fra­struc­ture projects. In­dia boy­cotted it over po­lit­i­cal con­cerns on China’s projects in PoK. The au­dac­ity of this $1 tril­lion project, now in­volv­ing 60-plus coun­tries, is mind-bog­gling and re­flects the vault­ing global am­bi­tion of China to be­come a su­per­power. It makes me won­der about our long-term strate­gic plan for a place in the world. Is hav­ing a seat on the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil our only am­bi­tion?

The tim­ing for China seems per­fect. Amer­ica un­der Don­ald Trump is dis­tracted by a surge of pro­tec­tion­ist sen­ti­ment, and en­gage­ment with the world is not top of the agenda for Brexit-af­fected Europe. The Chi­nese plan in­volves both eco­nomic hege­mony as well as mil­i­tary supremacy and fol­lows three decades of se­ri­ous in­ter­nal re­form. Its global mission is quite clear—se­cure re­sources to fuel China’s rise, which it did through its “re­sources for in­fra­struc­ture” model, build OBOR to con­sol­i­date its sway over coun­tries al­ready in its eco­nomic or­bit, and pro­tect its as­sets over­seas with an in­ter­na­tional role for its mil­i­tary. Be­tween 1996 and 2005, China’s over­seas in­vest­ments rose from $3 bil­lion to $100 bil­lion. Its share of global trade recorded a sim­i­larly spec­tac­u­lar in­crease. In 2001, when China en­tered the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion, it ac­counted for less than 5 per cent of global ex­ports. To­day, it is the world’s largest ex­porter, with a 14 per cent share. It is the largest or sec­ond largest trad­ing part­ner for more than 100 coun­tries and has emerged as the big­gest source of for­eign in­vest­ment for na­tions rang­ing from Venezuela and An­gola to Nepal and Sri Lanka. In ad­di­tion, China’s state-owned en­ter­prises are build­ing in­fra­struc­ture all over the world—from rail­ways in Africa to mines in Latin Amer­ica, dams in Myan­mar, and ports across the In­dian Ocean. China is also build­ing a blue-water navy to pro­tect its over­seas in­ter­ests. Last year, it opened its first naval base in Africa. More are on the way.

China’s new am­bi­tions will fun­da­men­tally change the na­ture of its re­la­tions with the rest of the world. For the past three decades, re­ports in­dia to­day’s Bei­jing-based As­so­ciate Editor Ananth Kr­ish­nan, China’s diplo­macy has fol­lowed Deng Xiaop­ing’s cau­tious maxim, “tao guang yang hui”, which means “hide your bright­ness and seek ob­scu­rity”. The new phrase of choice in Bei­jing, he says, is “fen fa you wei”, which means to forge ahead, un­der­lin­ing Bei­jing’s de­sire “to proac­tively shape” its ex­ter­nal en­vi­ron­ment. The im­pli­ca­tions for In­dia are enor­mous, es­pe­cially given the in­creas­ing close­ness be­tween China and Pak­istan. Should In­dia bide its time like China did and take up a non-con­fronta­tional ap­proach till it be­comes a much stronger na­tion or should it ag­gres­sively counter China in which­ever spheres it feels threat­ened and build a counter-nar­ra­tive? I, for one, am a strong votary of In­dia be­com­ing the best ver­sion of it­self be­fore it tries to be bet­ter than China. Or as the Chi­nese would say, dig the well be­fore you are thirsty.

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