Party Congress over, understanding the China puzzle

Source– The post is based on the article “Party Congress over, understanding the China puzzle” published in The Hindu on 1st December 2022.

Syllabus: GS2- Effect of Policies and Politics of Developed and Developing Countries on India’s interests

Relevance– India and China relationship in global context

News– The article explains China strategy in context of the recently held 20th Party Congress of Communist Party of China.

What is the current global situation?

Chinese President Xi Jinping has told the Central Military Commission, “to enhance troop training and combat preparedness”. He also warned of “dangerous storms ahead” and about external interference in Taiwan. All this seemed to convince the West that China is preparing to go to war over Taiwan.

Japan is understood to have already decided to double its defence budget to 2% of its GDP.

Statements like “it was essential to uphold international law and the multilateral system, as today’s era must not be of war” by western leaders  have only increased such concerns. Stalemates in the recent Biden-Xi talks have added to existing concerns. Mr. Xi reiterated that Taiwan “was the first red line” that must not be crossed. Biden told Xi that the U.S. would enhance its security position in Asia.

What can be inferred by careful reading of the 20th Party Congress of Communist Party of China?

Under Mr. Xi, ideology drives policy most of the time. Also, It reinforces Mr. Xi’s Marxist inspired belief that ‘history is irreversibly on China’s side’.

There is a shift to Marxist orthodoxy in the political realm. It does mark a retreat from the Deng era of ‘caution and risk aversion’. References made to changes in the ‘international balance of forces’ and that China has entered the ‘leading ranks of the world’.

China watns to prevent the ideological decay of the CCP by avoiding the kind of situation that led to the collapse of Soviet Communism and ensure that the West did not succeed in fomenting ‘ideological divisions within China’.

The priority for Mr. Xi and the CCP at present is not embarking on new conflicts but on protecting the ideological purity and integrity of the Party. China has certain clear red lines which cannot be breached. If this happens, it would lead to a major conflict.

China is asserting that today it is more powerful than ever. There is nowhere any clear evidence that China is about to use this power to change the course of history. China may want to assess the situation and the circumstances before embarking on a conflict against strategic entities such as the Quad and AUKUS.

What does it mean for India?

There is a need for better understanding of China’s real intentions. It includes avoiding past mistakes, such as those in the 1950s when the West seems to have overestimated China’s capabilities. India also failed in the 1950s.

The deliberations in the Party Congress do not appear directed at India. Repeated claims by western sources about China’s designs on countries in the Indo-Pacific should not provoke India into taking any hard steps.

Both situations and events tend to change rapidly. For instance, after a constant barrage of charges against China, Mr. Biden has implied that the situation has not changed for the worse, and that there is no ‘new Cold War in the offing’, involving the U.S. and China.

For India, border incursions are a continuing cause for concern. But, they should not be mistaken as precursors to war. A careful study of the border hotspots indicates that China’s concerns are largely regarding Aksai Chin. Its importance for China lies in its proximity to China’s Tibet and Xinjiang.

This does not mean that relations between China and India will remain smooth. Their conflict is more civilisational than territorial in nature. India’s growing closeness to the U.S. and the West annoys China. It sees the U.S.-led West as its principal antagonist. Hence, China has excessive concerns about strategic entities such as the Quad.

Notwithstanding its claims about being stronger than ever before, China continues to nurse serious concerns about its strategic vulnerabilities.


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