The predictable global reaction has started happening. China is being cornered by the world as it exposes itself with attempts at opportunistic takeover of distressed assets around the World. A host of big and medium powers are recognising and resisting Chinese game plan to dominate the world economy. The United Sates has been urging the world to ‘decouple’ Chinese economy. The big-economies have at last come to realise it and are taking remedial steps to fend off the Chinese aggressive moves in the wake of the Corona pandemic. India decided finally to bite the Chinese bullet and jumped into the contain-China bandwagon.
Arguably, India should have been wary of Chinese malicious moves quite some time ago. However, New Delhi, more because of its prevarication on China, or its foreign policy on it being a throwback to Non-Alignment days, than the rational dictates of trade and economy, kept dithering on China. Let us recall the maxim on dynamic of history, which is, “history repeats itself”. During India’s Non-Aligned days, New Delhi tried to maintain equidistance from both the Super Powers, but tilted towards the Soviet Union. Of late, New Delhi sought to do the same between USA and the new Super Power China with a bias towards the United States. Evidently, this was not working well.
New Delhi is now confronting the dragon as the rest of the world. The immediate provocation came from China raising its stakes from 0.8 per cent to 1.01 per cent in HDFC. This sent an ominous signal to the mandarins in South Block to change the FDI rules to avoid Indian companies being gobbled up by Chinese. The change in FDI says, any investment from the countries such as China having land border with India will need a nod from the Government of India. In addition, any transfer of ownership of any Indian entity will require approval from GoI as per the guidelines issues by the Department of Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade.
Beijing has reacted through its embassy in Delhi that the new rules issued by Government of India are discriminatory violating the WTO principle of non-discrimination, liberalisation and facilitation of trade and investment. New Delhi maintains that it is not so, India is entitled to protect its industries and economy form the predatory and manipulative investors.
One need be clairvoyant to say that New Delhi should have taken such steps much earlier. For some inexplicit reason, New Delhi wished to build strong economic relations with China with the imbecile hope that it (economic ties) will normalise the bilateral relations. In fact, many observers thought that India would replace China as the world manufacturing hub at the back of US-China intense trade rivalry. India failed to do so, apparently as economy hardly drives this government despite its rhetoric on $5 trillion etc. It is preoccupied with citizenship law and such other non-economic issues. Beijing was shrewder to divert its trade to India in order to restructure the global supply chain, and later to weaponise the same trade.
With regard to other big counties trying to tame China, United States is the front-runner as it strives to sustain its supremacy in the world politics. President Donald Trump blowing hot and cold on China in his utterances is doing everything in his capacity to cow China down. The latest is, he has asked his lawyers to file suits for compensation from China for the loss to the US economy due to Covdi-19. One hears on the grapevine that the compensation to be asked is to the tune $50 billion. In a related development, the US warships have entered the South China Sea.
From Europe, two biggies, France and Germany have launched the offensive; France through its foreign ministry and Germany with its media. The French Foreign Ministry has pulled up the Chinese embassy in Paris for publishing an objectionable article on their website that France is giving up on its old people and letting them die in the pandemic. The Ministry said tartly in a statement that such statements do not conform to good bilateral relations.
In Germany, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper, Bild, strongly criticised the Chinese leader Xi Jinping for his regime’s failure to come clean on COVID-19. He accused the Chinese government of not sharing the state of infection in Wuhan when other governments and agencies in the world had asked for it. Moreover, the Chinese authorities and scientists knew that the virus was highly infectious, ‘yet you kept the world in dark’. The editor wrote to Xi, “You were too proud and nationalistic to tell the truth”. He asked in a letter to Xi Jinping, “Will you pay for the massive losses inflicted by the virus.”
The third European country to come out against China is the Netherlands. Its leading newspaper Volkskrant has incurred strong reactions from the Chinese ambassador in Amsterdam for accusing China on the spread of the virus. The European Union is wary of Chinese takeover of companies under duress. The Competition Commissioner Margarethe Vestager has suggested that the EU governments buy stakes in companies to prevent their acquisition by Chinese.
Similarly, countries like Australia, Singapore, Iran and others have been cautious of the Chinese moves during the corona crisis. Australia has imposed restrictions on trade from China. The Brazilian Education Minister went a step further and said that China “spread the virus deliberately to dominate the world economy”, quite a strong statement that one. In our neighborhood, Sri Lanka had suspended the tweeter handle of Chinese Embassy in Colombo for putting out inflammatory tweets.
One wished New Delhi had partly led this counter-attack on China. Until the Communist empire fells China, the world cannot stop surveilling Beijing. As the truth from Wuhan gradually surfaces, the world might know to its horror that China either invented the virus or used it for its pernicious trade agenda.
At any rate, New Delhi should grab this opportunity with both hands to put China on the defensive in the India-Pacific region. New Delhi can no longer be oblivious of the history of Chinese animosity towards India, and its current subterfuges with Pakistan to destabilise India. Great leaders are those who can seize an opportunity as its presents itself. The world regards Narendra Modi to be one such big leader. Will he or will he not prove the world right?