US President Donald Trump called the COVID-19 a “Chinese virus,” much to China’s dislike. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has alleged that the virus might have come from a Chinese lab. There are murmurs in other countries as well and most countries barring China’s client states want China to come clean on the virus. Meanwhile, the virus has helped divert world attention towards the growing threat from China. Let’s discuss this in perspective.
China is a reasonably prosperous country with strong defense capabilities. It has territorial ambitions and is involved in frequent brawls with its neighbors including Vietnam, Philippines, and India. Being a communist country does not help and the country’s leadership has little accountability. This is unlike democracies where people ask questions from their government. In China, that can even lead to a forced disappearance!
China is expanding its reach way beyond its borders through its belt and road initiative of the BRI. The BRI was a smart project by the country. On the one hand, it helped it utilize its excess industrial capacity to build infrastructure in other countries, many of which they did not need. It also helped create employment for Chinese labor. Once ready, the BRI would help China gain access to more markets. There aren’t a lot of gains for other participating countries other than the huge debt that the projects bestow. Unable to repay Chinese loans, Sri Lanka surrendered a strategic port to China. Other countries might follow soon. Does anyone remember landlords and pawnbrokers in ancient times?
China is a permanent member of the UN Security Council and wields veto power. The country has used its clout to prevent dreaded terrorist Azhar Masood from getting designated as a global terrorist. In case you are not familiar, Masood was released by India after an Indian plane was hijacked by terrorists. Masood’s organization is behind several attacks on Indian security personals and civilians.
While the country took years to recognize Masood as a terrorist, it sees Dalai Lama (who the rest of the world sees a messiah of peace) as a terrorist. The US could not pursue a case against China over the COVID-19in the UN due to China’s clout. The US and West have had a lot of clout previously and all their actions haven’t been kosher either. But with democratic setup and free press, they owe accountability. This is what makes the authoritarian Chinese regime even dangerous
China is the best pal for Pakistan and North Korea. Both countries have nuclear weapons and are seen as a threat to global and regional security. China uses its relationship with its client states as a bargaining chip. In case you miss, a Pakistani scientist leaked nuclear technology to North Korea. Allegedly, Pakistan received help in its nuclear program from China only. The client states would back China in the Cold War. As would countries that are economically more dependent on China as compared to the US.
In the age where data is the new oil, China is the new Saudi Arabia. Through its companies in 5G technology, centrality, and global mobile phone supply chains, and apps like TikTok, China has enough data to worry the world Data could be a weapon for China in the Cold War
As the US is retreating from its role as the global policeman, China is slowly stepping into the shoes. While it is always better to have a multipolar world, the fact that the emerging superpower is an authoritarian regime with territorial ambitions makes things complicated.
China’s track record with countries that went against its will hasn’t been clean either. It blocked the border with landlocked Mongolia after Dalai Lama visited the country. Chinese tourists shun regions that have a diplomatic brawl with China or recognize Taiwan as a separate country. China retaliated against South Korea after the country allowed the US THAAD missile system to be installed in the country.
Through its allegedly subsidized exports, China has hampered industries in many emerging as well as developed countries. Chinese companies trying to acquire strategic companies in other countries. Unsurprisingly, many countries are vetting Chinese investments so that it does not take advantage of the pandemic that originated from its land. And we’re not sure whether it was a lab or a wet market US President Donald Trump took China head-on in the trade war. Other countries can’t replicate what Trump did fearing a consequence from China.
After the pandemic, the world should brace for a new cold war. Like the last cold war, it is again communism versus democracies.
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