China Rises; Point is to Keep It Peaceful
China’s war games with the Russian navy in the Baltic Sea come on the heels of China opening an extraterritorial base in Djibouti, its test run of an indigenous aircraft carrier and its deployment of world-class destroyers. Western powers acknowledge China’s rise as a world power and seek its integration into stability-inducing sharing of responsibility such as providing maritime security along the major sea lanes. This is no cause for alarm for India or other countries in the Asia-Pacific. Nor is it a cause for cheer. India simply has to find ways to keep China’s rise peaceful. For a while, the US and China shared an idyll some dubbed the G2. This new great-power relationship made countries in the Asia-Pacific uncomfortable. As with his Russian counterpart, Xi Jinping’s vision for his country includes the restoration of past glory. That and the more mundane need to deploy unutilised industrial capacity and excess savings underlie President Xi’s signature One Belt, One Road initiative. Past US administrations sought to check and balance China’s runaway ambitions — by diverse means such as removing western curbs on India’s strategic capacity, via the nuclear deal, and the Trans Pacific Partnership that sought to set the rules of new economic engagement without China’s participation. But President Donald Trump’s America-First bluster has left the field open for China and pushed Europe, the UK and Turkey towards it.
China has good relations with Russia, on the surface, but tensions ripple below. India must rebuild its once-close ties with Russia and put new vigour in relations with Iran and Europe, instead of getting lost in the exertions of Acting East. Countering China will require India to build up its own strategic capacity, leveraging its huge market to the hilt.