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Arrogance of China

Arrogance of China

Author: G Parthasarathy
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: December 7, 2011
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/columnists/item/50633-arrogance-of-china.html?tmpl=component&print=1

India is not a vassal state which will kowtow to the Middle Kingdom and do its bidding. China must realise and accept this truth.

China's new generation of leaders, led by Vice-President Xi Jinping, and popularly known as 'Princelings', will take charge within a year. They will inherit the mantle of ruling a country that has astounded the world by its path-breaking economic transformation. But they will also face challenges of having to deal with reconciling the contradictions between an open economy on the one hand, and an authoritarian and opaque political system on the other.

This in an era when people are increasingly yearning for democratic freedoms. The Hu Jintao era has been marked by a distinct effort to subsume democratic aspirations by increasing resort to jingoism, reflecting what the Soviet Union once described as "Great Han Chauvinism." Military muscle was flexed and territorial claims on its neighbours, ranging from Japan and Vietnam to the Philippines and India, asserted. Will the new leadership follow this line? Or will it seek to address democratic aspirations by greater openness and transparency? These questions are exercising the minds of Governments worldwide.

Just prior to the East Asia Summit on November 19, the Communist Party of China mouthpiece, the <i>People's Daily</i>, launched a broadside against India's plans to bolster its defences on its eastern border, warning that China had "precision guided weapons" to "easily" eliminate any new forces India deploys. The article was critical of India's expanding defence ties with China's neighbours like Japan and Vietnam. China was, in effect, telling India that while it had the right to assist Pakistan to develop a new generation of plutonium-based nuclear weapons and guided missiles, India should not dare to develop defence ties with its neighbours like Japan and Vietnam.

The Chinese diatribe against India continued even after the East Asia Summit. The official Chinese news agency, <i>Xinhua</i>, circulated an article on November 24 which commenced with a reference to "India's jitters at the sight of China gaining prestige in Asia". The article alluded to the 1962 border conflict when India "was beaten by the Chinese Army". It gratuitously mentioned: "Jealousy can sometimes be put in the same breath as inferiority".

Such Chinese rhetoric is not confined to India. All China's neighbours that contest its irredentist claims of the entire South China Sea being an area of its "core interest" have experienced similar behaviour and rhetoric. Incidents in the East China Sea across disputed maritime boundaries with Japan have led to Japanese vessels being rammed by Chinese ships, followed by a ban on export of rare earth materials by China to Japan. The Philippines has witnessed the Chinese using force to enforce maritime boundary claims and Vietnam has periodically been subject to Chinese military force over disputed boundaries. China adopts a similar approach to issues of maritime boundaries in relations with South Korea and Taiwan. The Chinese now openly boast about possessing missile power to target aircraft carriers of America's Pacific Fleet.

While China insisted that it would handle differences on its maritime boundaries with countries like Vietnam, Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia bilaterally, India made the point at the East Asia Summit in Bali that issues involving maritime boundaries and freedom of navigation have to be settled in conformity with the provisions of the UN Convention on the Laws of the Seas. Roughly 40 per cent of India's trade with the United States traverses through the South China Sea. Moreover, its entire trade with Japan and South Korea traverses through waters claimed by China to be areas of its "core interest". In these circumstances, undefined and contested maritime boundaries, where one party appears ever ready to use force, are seen as an impediment and inhibiting factor in the freedom of navigation.

The East Asia Summit also saw another significant development. Despite Chinese reservations, five ASEAN member-states -Singapore, Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam and Thailand - together with India, Australia and the US raised the issue of maritime boundaries and freedom of navigation at Bali. Russia, Indonesia and five other members talked in general terms about maritime security. Only Myanmar and Cambodia avoided any reference to the issue. An embarrassed Premier Wen Jiabao, who was described by American participants as being "a little bit grouchy at first," sounded conciliatory, but did not give up Chinese insistence on dealing with each neighbour separately and bilaterally. But, with the Americans deciding to participate actively in the East Asia Summit and reinforcing their security commitment in the Asia-Pacific, by agreeing to the deployment of forces at Darwin in Australia, the ASEAN states now appear satisfied that Chinese "assertiveness" will not go on unchallenged.

China would also have not failed to notice that the Australian decision to review and change its policies regarding the sale of uranium to India was announced during US President Barack Obama's visit to Australia. This, after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton coined the new term "Indo-Pacific" to describe the Asia-Pacific Region during formal bilateral discussions with Australia. To add to China's concerns, which have been reflected in the Chinese media, Mr Obama announced that Ms Clinton would soon visit Myanmar, which the Chinese regard as their backyard. This, at a time when Myanmar's new dispensation is showing signs of wanting to get free of China's suffocating embrace.

India's answer to Chinese diplomatic bluster was effectively given on November 22 when its candidate for a place in the UN's Joint Inspection Unit, Mr A Gopinathan, trounced his Chinese rival, Mr Zhang Yan by 106 votes to 77. Mr Zhang Yan, currently China's Ambassador to India is best known for his arrogance. He recently told a Indian journalist who had asked him a question about Chinese maps depicting the whole of Jammu & Kashmir as Pakistani territory to "shut up". A Mandarin speaking friend of mine who met Zhang Yan just after he had arrived in India was shocked when the envoy arrogantly remarked: "The Indian media must understand that they cannot treat China in this manner." India is not a Chinese vassal state, forever ready to kowtow to the whims of the Middle Kingdom's envoy, Mr Ambassador.

The decision to invite the Dalai Lama to address a Global Buddhist Conference in Delhi was laudable. Timing this conference to coincide with a visit to Delhi by State Councillor Dai Bingguo for talks on the border issue smacked of diplomatic ineptitude. Worse still, succumbing to Chinese pressure and cancelling the participation of the President and the Prime Minister in the conference was craven and demeaning.

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