Unipolar World Still

Much to the dismay of Chinese President Xi Jinping, America's democrat President Joe Biden continues to strengthen Trump's 'China Containment' policy with a multi-dimensional approach to international events. The collapse of Soviet power tempted America to declare itself as the sole super power, albeit the Chinese refused to subscribe to Washington's Unipolar World theory as they propelled their own idea of multi-polar reality. After celebrating customary 100 days in office and leading the much talked about and yet less effective climate summit, Biden looks more assertive than before, to bash China. America's renewed attempt to unilaterally decide global order was strongly criticised by China. While addressing the Boao Forum for Asia recently, Xi once again reiterated his oft-repeated remark that ' the destiny and future of the world should be decided by all nations and rules set up by just one or several countries should not be imposed on others", adding that the whole world should not be led by unilateralism of individual states. But America is not listening. In recent weeks both America and Japan have vigorously opposed any exercise by China to change the status quo by force in the East and the South China seas. On the question of Taiwan and human rights abuses in Xinjiang they are equally vocal about China's authoritarianism. The continuing frictions in the Indo-Pacific where both America and Japan face challenges posed by China may lead to a limited war. Not for nothing America is closing its ranks in the region by clubbing together Malayasia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia. In truth these countries see China as a threat to their sovereignty and national interests. As a part of 'China Containment' policy the US, the European Union, Britain and Canada have imposed coordinated sanctions on China over alleged genocide of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang. Close on the heels of Canada, Australia too ended China Deals, somewhat abruptly on National Interest Grounds.

The fact is that the recent conflict between America and China in the Indo-Pacific is likely to escalate in a bigger theatre of confrontation in the Indian Ocean. For one thing China's turn to the sea is a consequence of its on-going economic activities. Having relied on export-led growth to build its own manufacturing sector China's future industrial march requires continued access by sea to the world's energy, essential raw materials, food, markets, technology and capital. Also, China's ambitious imperial project as reflected in Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) cannot succeed without domination in the Indian ocean. The ports and other infrastructures that it has built or is buying in the Indian littorals and the Mediterrean are useful to the Chinese military establishment. With acquiring a base at Djibouti and securing logistic facilities at Gwadar and Karachi, the socialist myth of China vanished long ago. For all practical purposes China's increasing presence into Pakistani economy points toward neo-colonial relationship. The recent attack on the Chinese officials in a posh hotel, allegedly by the Pakistani Taliban speaks volumes about the shape of things to come. The initial euphoria over ‘Chinese benevolence’ is gone. The character of Shylock is same everywhere. It doesn’t matter whether it is Biden or Xi Jinping.

As the bone of contention is the South China Sea, the mandarins in Beijing think it is strategically important to ease tensions in eastern Ladakh. China is said to have stated at different forums in recent months that it is committed to maintain peace and stability along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and urges India to put the boundary issue at an 'appropriate position ' and meet it half-way for the long term development of the bilateral ties.

But Indian ambassador to China Vikram Misri in a virtual address to the ICWA (Indian Council of World Affairs) and CPIFA (Chinese People's Institute of Foreign affairs) on April 15, questioned the Chinese officials ignoring the' significant consensus' reached by the leaders of the two sides about the importance of maintaining tranquility along LAC.

Given the shift in geo-strategic equation in the Indo-Pacific China can no longer bypass India's involvement in Quad and Biden held his first quadrilateral summit recently in an apparent bid to integrate India more and more in the US defence plan of encircling China. And Beijing's attempt, rather half-hearted attempt, to dissociate India from Quad, is at worst a futile exercise. India is unlikely to leave Quad despite Moscow's covert pressure because India's defence programme now depends more and more on America, not Russia. What matters most in the end game is whether China maintains status quo along LAC or not.

Meanwhile, a powerful US Senate Committee has recently overwhelmingly approved the China strategic competition bill which among other things supports the QUAD grouping and enhances security partnership with India. The Bill urges the US administration to identify areas where it can provide diplomatic and other support as appropriate for India's efforts to address economic and security challenges posed by China in the region.

Despite the 11th round of talks on April 9 between the top commanders of the two sides total disengagement is unlikely to happen, particularly in the western sector in the Himalayas, anytime soon. The regime under Xi increasingly relies for its legitimacy on nationalism, verging on ultra-nationalism, and on Xi's charisma and personality cult. Whether they like it or not Biden's policy of engaging China from a position of strength is gaining momentum. The Bidens are determined to get back what they have lost--the unquestioned unipolar hegemonic status—because of the rising Dragon. ooo


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Vol. 53, No. 45, May 9 - 15, 2021