Thanks to the emergence of an unabashed President of the United States who has no qualms about political and diplomatic niceties, Donald Trump, China is being questioned, threatened and acted against on different fronts: commerce, strategy and even its domestic issues like the extent to which it offers religious freedom to its citizens and the colony of Tibet. While annual reports of the US State Department have been a routine affair, poking different countries, the fact that the POTUS is Trump adds a new meaning to the otherwise staid American interference in matters of sovereign states. The US-China trade wars are now the talk of the world, triggered off by the former American businessman’s impatience with the huge deficit the US suffers in its commercial transactions with the country that is, by 2050, going to become the largest economy in the world according to some estimates. China, with 20% of its exports going to the US, will be the bigger loser if the trade war really begins. Politically, however, Trump, an elected president of a democracy, has more to lose if the ‘war’ is protracted, with American consumers complaining of product scarcity in the market. More urgently, the industries in the lobby-driven US will pressure their government to let them renew their manufacturing facilities outsourced to China. Getting these commodities made anywhere else simply does not leave these companies with enough profits, given the unrealistically low cost of manufacturing in China. It would be a challenge for the entire world when the global supply and distribution chains are affected, as the US and China escalate the situation by going beyond imposing tariffs on the imports from each other. Xi Jinping, for all the capitalistic measures China has taken since Deng Xiaoping’s leadership, is safe as the head of a communist country for life. In the medium term though, Xi’s ‘Made in China 2025 Plan’ will suffer a setback in the absence of American expertise in artificial intelligence and automation. In diplomacy, a squeezed China would stop playing the role of the virtual mediator to facilitate US-North Korea talks.
An unrelenting US has long launched its strategic offensive, too, challenging the claim of China over the South China Sea. This comes as a reprieve not only to India but also to countries such as Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. And these countries are extending a helping hand to even India that has forever been too circumspect to fight for its interests beyond its international land and maritime borders. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pro-active ‘Act East’ policy takes his predecessors’ ‘Look East’ version to the logical conclusion, Indonesia has offered India a peep into the movement of cargo across the literally troubled waters. Whereas it may be inadvisable for India to give in to the US demand of being America’s partner in the role of the latter as an international policeman in the region between Afghanistan and West Asia, Modi must shed his inhibition to embrace the possibility of a US-India-Japan axis in India’s interest. Tentatively, Modi’s India is already challenging China in the entire stretch along the coasts of the Indian Ocean where China seeks to cast its ‘string of pearls’ by entering easier trade agreements.
In the last aspect, the US must be snubbed. First, American liberalism smacks of double standards when it lets off countries that witness atrocities perpetrated by Christians. Second, wherever religion has been allowed a free run, it has worsened the lives of citizens and also proved a threat to the unity and integrity of both theocratic and soft states. The manner in which China suppressed the Uyghur rebellion in its Xinjiang province is how religious extremists must be dealt with. If Beijing has been inhuman to Tibetans, it’s rather late for the world to wake up to China’s brazen occupation of the plateau. India, where the Dalai Lama got refuge, has been utmost servile. Beyond subjecting the monk to the precondition for asylum that he will not indulge in political activism against China on Indian soil, it bends over backward to apprehend Tibetan youth demonstrators as and when a Chinese delegation visits the country miles away from the venue where the Chinese politicians and diplomats arrive. If there were more assertive countries in the world, they should have prevailed on China in the 1950s. Chinese prohibitions on editing, translation, publication, printing, reproduction, production, distribution, sale, and dissemination of religious publications and audiovisual products without authorisation are certainly examples of a state’s excesses, but that is an internal matter of sovereign China. If the Chinese people are terribly upset about the proscriptions, let them rise in revolt against the communist rule.