How India instead of the West could be potential challenge to China

Image source: The Hindu

Let China sleep, for when she wakes, she will shake the world’

-Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon is one of the initial figures who issued a warning roughly some 200 years ago about a possible Pax Sinica in future but unfortunately, it went unnoticed by the colonial powers of the West. Many experts on China including Martin Jacques pointed out that even in the modern era, when the concept of nation-states is at its peak, China sees herself as a civilization state that faced countless incidents of embarrassments in the last 200 years.

It is not the Communist Party of China (CCP) who wants to be the next epicentre of global power, but the hegemonic mindset of so-called Han supremacy who wants to take revenge for being defamed in the hands of the western colonies in the past.

The time they choose now because the dynamics, equations and the shape of the global order are on the verge of a sudden change due to the unprecedented outbreak of a pandemic, merely by the mishandling of human beings.

Instead of being transparent, the Communist leadership is showing its assertive nature and taking on its neighbours on multiple fronts. Today Communist China has become so powerful that it can bully a number of countries at the same time. As Thucydides shaped the relevance of emerging powers in his famous book The History of the Peloponnesian War, PRC is carefully making that book relevant in the present-day context.

File photo of Xinhua shows then US President Richard Nixon arrives in Beijing, China and is received by then Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai on Feb 21, 1972. [Photo/Xinhua]

How West lost the last 40 years to China

‘Observe calmly; secure our position; cope with affairs calmly; hide our capacities and bide our time; be good at maintaining a low profile, and never claim leadership’

– Deng Xiaoping

Nobody in the western hemisphere could have ever thought of a Communist regime right after WWII, but it did happen on 1st October 1949 when Mao Zedong declared himself as the Chairman of the new government.

The United Kingdom, France and the United States were betting for Nationalists (Kuomintang) actually without any ground assessment which eventually turned to be the first blunder of the Global North. Though the mainland has been snatched by the Communists, the Nationalists kept holding the title of ‘real China’ and were enjoying the recognition of the rest of the world. It was also given a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council. On the other hand, Beijing led the People’s Republic of China was struggling to keep Communist nature alive within the country.

In that period Mao was being involved in the internal affairs of the country while the external affairs were being managed by the then Premier Zhou Enlai, the opera star of Chinese diplomacy. Under pressure initially, Zhou was just busy convincing the world to change the attitude towards Beijing. When he failed to retain the status quo, he shifted the gears and adopted a unique foreign policy approach known as the ‘United Front Approach’ which focused on avoiding isolation, building solidarity with non aligned countries and dividing the Global North.

Zhou and later on Deng always advocated for ‘keeping a low profile’ which helped China escape the Cold War by not taking any side so as to focus solely on its rising, in contrast to what Soviet Russia did to establish the reign of Communism in mainland China way back in 1949. Zhou was indeed successful in deciphering the intent of the Western countries that all set to embarrass China for its alleged role in the Korean War at the 1954 Geneva Conference.

He tried hard to draw a rift among the developed nations, played his cards well (persuasion and compromise) and personally afforded a visit to France, a defeated nation in the First Indochina War to meet the then Prime Minister Pierre Mendes to ensure peace. In his first test at the global stage, Zhou had indeed proved his charm. He stood by his own ‘keeping a low profile’ tag in later summits and bilateral dialogues as well such as in the Afro Asian Conference in Bandung, 1955 and particularly establishing a stable relationship with India.

Though many differences, he persuaded Prime Minister Nehru to sign the Panchsheel Treaty (Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence) in 1954, another diplomatic victory for Zhou though PRC had violated the treaty on multiple stages. The biggest success of Enlai’s career was that watershed moment in 1972 when the Nixon Administration abandoned the Republic of China (Taiwan) and formally recognized the People’s Republic of China under ‘One China Policy’(Shanghai Communiqué) and of course for the West that was the biggest blunder so far that placed Beijing in buoyant mood.

After the deaths of Mao and Zhou, the Chinese foreign policy was shaped by Deng Xiaoping’s “24 Character Strategy” which were more or less the same of Zhou’s own principles but Deng emphasized upon the crumbling economy of the country which was on the verge of collapse. Deng wanted a world friendly China, just because he was desperate to make the country a manufacturing hub, the only way to feed the billions amid starvation. He successfully put forward his economic model, such as the Shenzhen Model and attracted thousands of companies by creating ‘Special Economic Zones’ and promising cheap labours. He was also the architect of ‘One Country Two Systems’, on the basis of this principle, Hong Kong was given back to China in 1997.

That was the time when the Global Supply Chain started shifting from the western hemisphere to the east and both the United States and Europe were sleeping, leading to the addition of blunders committed by the West. Deng’s “hide your capacities and bide your time” allowed the economic reforms to continue in full speed and most importantly it all went drastically unnoticed. Only one incident that made Deng Xiaoping unpopular was the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 when the pro-democracy student’s movement was brutally crushed.

Sanctions imposed by the West but all lifted within a short period of time and Beijing handled the situation with absolute maturity. According to the report released by the CIA World Factbook in 2017, Chinese merchandise exports surpassed $ 2.1 trillion, accounting for 19.6 % of its GDP which is undoubtedly a miracle. Eventually, industry’s share to the country’s GDP was 39.0% in 2019 in comparison to 7.1% of the agricultural sector, based on a report of The most shocking thing is that the entire western countries suddenly woke up to address all these worries just because of the havoc wrecked by the pandemic but unfortunately it is too late.

File photo: Modi and Xi during BRICS 2018/VOA

India – The only country China fear?

Amid the skirmishes along with the Line of Actual Control as well as in the Indian Ocean Region, Beijing always keeps its diplomatic doors open for India by sending its demarches to New Delhi, not only India is a nuclear state and China can’t afford a full-fledged war, but for its huge market access. China knows the strength of Indian demography and its massive contribution in the field of Information and Technology which the western countries lack. When it comes to giving a tough contest to the Chinese cheap labour dominance, India will be the frontrunner due to its huge population. Government’s new labour reforms due to the crisis tend to be the game-changer in the field of industrial output if everything goes accordingly.

All the financial reports indicate that there is a tremendous trade surplus in favour of China when business counts which means otherwise if trades are called off, China will be badly affected. In the post-Covid 19 era, when China would probably lose its market both in America and Europe, their dependency on India would increase. Though there is an ongoing standoff in the border, New Delhi is indeed in a good position to take on a globally cornered country.


India’s role in the new global order prompted by the Coronavirus will be huge as the aspiring superpower doesn’t believe in democracy and transparency and rarely recognizes accountability. Rest of the world, particularly the West, declining fast, is seeing India as the potential challenger to the Chinese avarices across the planet. India’s role, a country seeking a permanent seat at the UNSC, will be interesting to see in the near future.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Kootneeti Team

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Uddipta Singha Lahkar

Uddipta Singha Lahkar holds a Master degree in Social Work. He closely monitors the issues related to World Politics and Diplomacy

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