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Thursday, August 13, 2020

ExplainSpeaking: Truculent China, and the drama in Rajasthan

Whether the BJP manages to provide cover to the Congress rebels or Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot is able to corner them should be clear this week.

Written by Ravish Tiwari | New Delhi | Updated: July 28, 2020 7:29:22 am
India China conflict, India China talks, Huawei, Rajasthan crisis, Rajasthan latest news, coronavirus latest updates, Unlock 3.0 guidelines, china US news, express explained, explainspeaking, indian express Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot with Congress MLAs in Jaipur. (Express photo: Rohit Jain Paras)

Hi there,

While we in India have agitated over the military stand-off with China in Ladakh, Beijing has been busy with Hong Kong and Huawei these past few weeks.

China’s public messages to its key economic partners — ASEAN, EU, UK and the US — reveal the ‘wolf warrior’ act of China’s diplomatic corps. Their barbs have been unlike usual diplomatspeak – there has been no sugarcoating bitter messages, and they have been mincing no words.

You could read these remarks either as the arrogance of a global power that has arrived or as the agitation of an insecure power that feels unfairly besieged. For Indians, these remarks are important because they serve as the backdrop against which India has been attempting to negotiate status quo ante along the LAC through diplomatic and military talks.

“Some UK politicians regard China as a threat. The truth is China wants to be UK’s friend and partner. But if you treat China as a hostile country, you would have to bear the consequences. To quote Zbigniew Brzezinski: If we treat China like an enemy, they will become an enemy,” Liu Xiaoming, China’s ambassador to the UK, posted on Twitter on July 8.

At a press conference a couple of days previously, he had suggested that a change of policy on Huawei would reflect the “UK has succumbed to foreign pressure”. It was a virtual demand that the UK make a choice – and an allegation that it was acting under US pressure. This was before the UK announced its Huawei decision.

Likewise in the US. Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai wrote on Twitter on July 19: “Glad to talk with @FareedZakaria on a range of issues. Will the US be willing to live in peace with another country with different culture, political & economic systems, cooperate on growing global challenges? That’s a fundamental question to be answered.”

The remarks by Chinese foreign ministry spokespersons in their daily briefings in Beijing were even more acerbic.

Also Read | ExplainSpeaking: Why everyone expects NPAs to rise in India

To ASEAN, the Chinese envoy did not hesitate to run down the US’s handling of the pandemic. “As regional countries are focusing on controlling #COVID19Pandemic & economic recovery, @SecPompeo is making troubles in the region while neglecting the mess at home. More & more countries get to know his attempts, which will definitely doom to failure,” Deng Xijun, Chinese Ambassador to ASEAN, tweeted on July 22 in response to Pompeo’s message to ASEAN the previous day.

“What the CCP does to the Chinese people is bad enough, but the free world shouldn’t tolerate Beijing’s abuses, too,” the US Secretary of State had said on July 21.

At a webinar, Ambassador Liu Xiaoming had a message for the EU: “Those who see China as a “systemic rival” or a “potentially hostile state” have chosen the wrong target and they are heading in the wrong direction. It is important that China and Europe facilitate each other’s success in a positive cycle.

“Win-win cooperation is main theme of China-EU relations. Yet some see China as a “systemic rival” or a “potentially hostile state”. What kind of relationship do China & Europe want post-pandemic? What should they do to preserve the overall interests of their relations?” Liu said on July 15.

On July 23, Liu lectured the UK: “After Brexit and Covid-19, there is no way to bypass or exclude China if the UK wants to build a “global Britain”. “Decoupling” from China means decoupling from opportunities, decoupling from growth and decoupling from the future.”

With India, the Chinese have used mellower language, even though they have stressed the need to look at the big picture, and cautioned against economic decoupling.

“We hope India can work with China to guide public opinion in the right direction, keep and advance bilateral exchanges and cooperation, and avoid amplifying the differences and complicating matters so as to jointly uphold the big picture of China-India relations,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said after special representative-level talks on July 4.

“Some people have been trumpeting the so-called “decoupling” of China-India economic and trade relations, with an attempt to completely exclude “Made in China”. One basic fact they ignore is that the current global industrial and supply chains are formed in a process of natural selection by market optimization over the past decades,” Chinese ambassador to India Sun Weidong said on July 10.

How long this remains China’s tone will be apparent in the coming days as India continues to mirror the Chinese military build-up and demand status quo ante. The dialogue seems to be floundering, but another set of meetings is planned for this week.

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Elsewhere, the petitions of Rajasthan’s rebel Congress MLAs in the High Court, and Assembly Speaker’s petition in the Supreme Court have created a legal logjam. The power tussle in Jaipur, consequently, is going to go back to the political arena of the Governor’s office, and the floor of Assembly. Whether the BJP manages to provide cover to the Congress rebels or Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot is able to corner them should be clear this week.

On the Covid front, the trend of every week adding more cases than the previous week continues, with the country detecting more than 3 lakh positive cases last week. As per the Health Ministry’s data on Sunday, seven states – Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, UP, Bihar, and West Bengal – had detected more than 2,000 cases over the preceding 24 hours. These are a new set of hotspot states, which will guide the pandemic curve this week.

Meanwhile, all eyes will be on Unlock 3.0 guidelines that will kick in on August 1. Though a lot has already been opened, the restarting of schools, Metros and cinema halls would interest every household. Wait till the end of the week for more clarity on these fronts.Cheers,

Ravish

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