Monday, 19 June 2017

China's Soft Power: Myth or Reality?

           The concept of using soft power to promote China’s comprehensive national power both at abroad and at home is of recent origin. China may not subscribe entirely to the definition of soft power as propounded by Nye, the well known US Sinologist who first used the term, yet China’s main effort began in 2007 under President Hu Jintao. This has further intensified under President Xi Jinping. While the 17th Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party [CCP] in a plenary wished to build China as “ a Socialist Cultural Super-power”; it was Xi who enunciated in 2014 the principle that “we should increase China’s soft power [wenhua ruan shili], give a Chinese narrative and better communicate China’s message to the world”. Based on the parameters set by the Chinese leaders themselves, how far have they been successful? And what are the main elements of Chinese soft power?
      Although China’s economic prowess has impressed much of the world, yet we cannot overlook the fact that China’s repressive political system and sometimes its mercantilist approach to trade has tarnished its image. To overcome this obvious handicap, Chinese leaders, conscious of the strength of their economic achievements, have tried to cover this aspect by enhancing their economic profile with many new initiatives; some of which have been truly been breath-taking. Take for example, the concept of OBOR, the establishment of new financial institutions such as the AIIB and the BRICS Bank or the attempt at new style peripheral diplomacy—all have been backed with huge funding. Capitalisation of the AIIB is at US$50b, BRICS Bank at US$40b and US$40b for OBOR. If we total all of Beijing’s funding plans, they would equal to about US$ 1.25T by 2025. Thus the sheer scale of Beijing’s effort is unprecedented and easily dwarfs the US initiated Marshall Plan, even if we translate its figures to today’s spending dollar calculations. There is no doubt that these proposals have at their very core China’s own self- interest. As China’s economy slows down there is considerable over capacity in the steel an cement manufacturing industries. Therefore if China undertakes infrastructure projects as a part of OBOR, it is in a way utilising this over capacity.The idea is to inter-link the economies of peripheral countries with that of China to create inter-dependence.
      Nevertheless, these proposals as a part of the Chinese effort to stimulate world economic and infrastructure development and to impress the world. Success is often the best demonstrator of soft power. Whenever Chinese leaders travel abroad, they sign large trade and investment deals, extend generous loans and dole out hefty aid packages. All major powers do it and China is no exception. Here then is an example where China asserts its soft power by leading by example and obtaining what it desires without coercion or the use of force.  
    The nerve centre for Chinese efforts is the State Council Information office [SCIO]. This office co-ordinates all efforts and has a large staff, a giant budget and a great deal of bureaucratic clout within the Chinese system. Every December it convenes a conference in which the SCIO outlines guide-lines for internal and external propaganda work. Its principal responsibilities are to generate “ideas” that can be propagated. Most of these can be accessed at the China Media Year Book. It should be noted that in China the term “propaganda” does not carry any negative connotations, but is considered a positive aspect of governmental work. China spends US$ 10b annually on external “propaganda” as opposed to the US, which has a budget of only US$ 666m for “public diplomacy” in fiscal 2014.
   The SCIO often holds press conferences, publishes magazines, books and produces films. Recently both Stephen Spielburg and the Chinese entrepreneur Jack Ma have decided to produce films jointly for the lucrative Chinese market. It has overseas publishing houses, such as the Foreign Languages press and newspapers such as the China Daily and the Global Times. It controls the internet content, including issuing licenses for web-sites. 
   Clearly the aim is to build a global media empire that can compete head to head with CNN, BBC, News Corp, Viacom etc. How is this being achieved?
[a] Xinhua
      Xinhua is one of the premier agencies in the dissemination of information. It employs about  3000 journalists, 400 of whom are posted abroad in 170 bureaus. Those posted abroad are fluent in English. Its radio and video content is constantly reviewed and updated. It has 80,000 institutional paying subscribers.       
  [b]  CCTV has gone global with broadcasts in 6 languages. It has a 24 hour English news channel, with production facilities in Washington and Nairobi. CCTV is slated to become a global hub with some of the highest paid foreign anchors on its staff.   
 [c] China Radio International, formerly Radio Peking broadcasts 392 hours/day in 38 languages and maintains 27 overseas bureaus.       
[d] Chinese Embassies abroad regularly issue press statements, take out full page ads, and Chinese Ambassadors now contribute Op-eds, articles to selected press outlets on important Chinese official statements.
[e] Close monitoring of what the foreign press is writing about China and Chinese policies is regularly undertaken. Recently NYT and  Bloomberg suffered for writing about Chinese leaders and their business activities. 
    There is no doubt that the Chinese authorities have undertaken a major effort to push China's case by utilising all means that constitute soft power. Nevertheless, the major handicap that remains is that most foreign recipients do not consider the Chinese as having a "free" press, nor do they consider that the Chinese effort is anything but a governmental effort. Therefore the tag that this is mostly "propaganda" is hard to shake off; despite the huge funding and the stupendous effort that the Chinese have put in. 


Thursday, 8 June 2017

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor--Impact on India

       On 7June 2017, I delivered an address at the National Police Academy at Hyderabad on the subject of "China-Pakistan Economic Corridor-Implications for India". Main text is as below:


 To understand the raison d’ĂȘtre of the China-Pak Economic Corridor, it is essential to first have an idea of the Sino-Pak relationship and where it stands today. We know quite well what Pakistan wishes from this relationship, but I will trace the evolution of Chinese interest in Pakistan to indicate what Pakistan means for China. The popular conception is that the basis of this relationship, indeed the fulcrum, is the mutual desire to keep India under duress and strategically unbalanced. While this might be the correct prognosis, yet it would be a fallacy to assume that this is the sum total of the Sino-Pak relationship. There is much more and much that is often not discussed or spoken about in public debate. Perhaps we wish to reduce this relationship to simplistic terms for convenience.
     Soon after the Second World War two very cataclysmic and important events took place in Asia. The first was the independence of India from Britain in August 1947 and the second was the formation of the People’s Republic of China in October 1949. In the first case while independence of India was indeed very welcome and a joyous occasion, yet it was accompanied by the tragedy of partition. In place of British India that stretched from the Khyber to the Bay of Bengal, arose the two newly independent states of India and Pakistan on the sub-continent. The real tragedy of partition was not only that the formidable power of the Indian Army was reduced; with nearly 2/5ths of it going to Pakistan, but very soon the two states were at each others throat; with a raging conflict in Kashmir. 
    On the other hand for the first time in nearly a century, a united China emerged under a strong central government that was determined not only to unite all former Chinese ruled territories under the control of the People’s Republic, but were conscious of the role of China as great power in the power matrix of Asia. Tibet that had been enjoying quasi independence was soon to bear the brunt of a Chinese invasion as they incorporated Tibet in the larger family of the Chinese nation. The magnificent barrier of the Himalayas that separated the Indian sub-continent from Central and East Asia, would now be in contention and would no longer keep India safe and immune, as a strong, vigorous and a reunited China projected its power all along the northern frontiers of India. The fact that the two new states of India and Pakistan were at logger heads, with visceral hatred towards each other was not lost on the sharp political mind of the new rulers of China. They knew that that the South Asian power calculus had turned inward and against itself; thus making it easy for any potential rival to play the two states against each other.
     The main Chinese concern has always been to negate and neutralise any pressure on their position in Tibet. The Chinese realised that there was only one state that could make their position in Tibet untenable and that was India. The links between Tibet and India were far more than those that existed between China and Tibet. Not only was access to Tibet much easier from India, but Tibet had trade, cultural and religious links with India that China could never match. Therefore it was in Chinese national interest to see that warm relations were maintained between China and India and if that could not be done for various reasons then alternatives had to be found. That alternative in the Chinese mind was Pakistan. Thus you see through out the period of warm friendly relations between India and China that lasted from 1950 to the late 1950s, the Chinese never lost sight of the fact that they might need Pakistan one day to keep India in check. Through out this period although the relations between China and Pakistan were cool because of Pakistan’s links with the western inspired military pacts, the Chinese never criticised or caused any problems for Pakistan. Even as far as Kashmir was concerned, the Chinese very careful never to back India’s position in writing, lest this annoy the Pakistanis. As China’s relations with India worsened, Sino-Pak bon homie increased.
      We all know what happened in 1962, the Indo-Pak conflict of 1965 and 1971; so I will not spend time on that, but move to present times and to assess where the Sino-Pak relations stand at this point in time. 
        A Chinese diplomat once famously described Pakistan as ‘China’s Israel’. Superlatives have been used in the past and are still used with great frequency and often by both Pakistan and China to describe the depth and range of their relationship; the latest one being used by the Chinese President Xi Jinping to state that China and Pakistan are ‘all weather strategic partners’. Further that relations were based not [emphasis added] on ‘common values and systems’ but on ‘same or similar strategic and security concerns’.  There is no doubt that the bilateral relations are firm and that the cement that has held the relationship on a firm footing over the years; the anti- India syndrome, still retains lustre as the main motivating factor. However the concept of common security concerns has been given the added connotation that they encompass global terrorism, maritime security and Pakistan’s support to China’s role in the Indian Ocean region. This collaboration means that both China and Pakistan, as President Xi Jinping put it, are countries with a ‘shared destiny’. 
      In present times, three issues dominate the Sino-Pak political and geo-strategic landscape. These are the situation in Xinjiang leading to unrest and Chinese strong arm methods to control it. The second is the nuclear nexus between China and Pakistan and  the continuing large scale arming and the military supply relationship between China and Pakistan and the third is the CPEC. All the three issues, as they pan out, will have a major and decisive impact in the future. For India these are issues that directly impact its national security and therefore India cannot but take serious cognisance of the developments taking place.
[a] The Xinjiang issue.
      That China is facing increasing dissidence in recent times in its minority areas is a statement of fact that the Chinese themselves readily admit. In recent times Chinese official media has consistently reported continuing violence. For example, that more than 10 members of the Xinjiang ‘separatist forces’ knifed to death more than 29 civilians at Kunming Railway station; seriously injuring another 130. This occurrence was labelled as a ‘terrorist’ action and the Chinese also admitted that such violent attacks have been increasing in Xinjiang since 2009. The Regional Public Security Bureau reported that about 190 such attacks have taken place in 2012, admitting to an increase over 2011 by a ‘significant margin.’ It has also been admitted that Uyghur ‘separatists’ have changed tactics and have started attacking civilians as well as the ‘symbols’ of governmental authority such as police stations, police vehicles, railway stations and regional party and government offices.
    To keep Xinjiang, which is about 1/6th of the Chinese landmass, under tight control is an absolute strategic necessity for China. It brooks for no laxity. Strategically located Xinjiang is the home of China’s nuclear testing facilities [Lop Nor]. It is also China’s largest gas-producing and second largest oil-producing region, with one of the largest networks of pipelines in the country and if China is to access the vast Central Asian oil and gas reserves, a network of pipelines would have to traverse through this region to reach the markets of eastern China.
     In the main the fulcrum of Chinese policies towards Xinjiang has rested on two pivots. Firstly they have flooded Xinjiang with Han Chinese migrants from mainland China in a bid to change the demographic profile of the province. From barely constituting 6 per cent of the population at the time of the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949, the Han Chinese are now about 44 percent of the population.    Secondly, the Chinese have tried to assimilate the Uyghurs into the mainstream; but this has only led to complaints of discrimination, restrictive religious practices and the suppression of Uyghur language education. Many madrassas continue to be hubs of radical ideology. Similarly in their bid to ‘modernise’ the ancient city of Kashgar, the Chinese have destroyed large parts of the city in order to develop modern shopping malls and housing complexes with running water and electricity; much to the chagrin of some Uyghurs who see this as yet another attempt on the part of the Chinese to destroy their cultural heritage and identity.    
        Xinjiang has international borders with India’s Ladakh, Pakistan Occupied Kashmir [POK], Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan. In 2002, Pakistani forces captured 22 Uighurs crossing the border, suspecting them of preparing to carry out a terrorist attack in China. This was followed by the assassination by Pakistani forces of Hasan Mahsum, head of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which China has classified as a terrorist organisation for its activities in Xinjiang and is based in Waziristan [Pakistan]. China has aimed at maintaining a positive image in the Muslim world to avoid attacks on its soil and its interests abroad, and it has sought more support from Pakistan on its policies towards Xinjiang after 9/11.  
   For China the support provided by Pakistan is vital, for not only does Pakistan a major Muslim state, wipe out Chinese high handed ness in Xinjiang, but provides cover in the Muslim world against any criticism of China.
[b] The Nuclear Issue
         Chinese analysts insist that it was not China that initiated nuclear co-operation between the two countries. They maintain that:
           Fundamentally speaking, Pakistan developing its nuclear program is to safeguard its own national security, as its conventional military power is much weaker than India and India has been secretly developing nuclear weapons much earlier. Seeking cooperation with the outside power is an important way to develop its nuclear weapons. Due to the increasingly close China-Pakistan political relations, Pakistan opens the door of the China-Pakistan nuclear cooperation at the beginning of the start of its nuclear program, and China is also willing to carry out cooperation with Pakistan in the nuclear area.
 As to when this nuclear co-operation began, Chinese analysts maintain that:
 It is a difficult thing to confirm the specific starting nuclear cooperation time between China and Pakistan, but the last will and testament of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto reveals that the China-Pakistan nuclear cooperation began in 1976 and he has made 11 years of efforts to work it out prior to this.
       However Chinese analysts insist that China-Pakistan nuclear cooperation was mainly focused on the nuclear reprocessing technology rather than on uranium enrichment technology. The key factor is the official China-Pakistan nuclear cooperation agreement signed in 1986; it is the agreement that underlines the basic relationship of nuclear technology transfer between China and Pakistan. 
     The Chinese do not buy the thesis that nuclear co-operation cannot be extended to Pakistan on the same basis as India because ‘India and Pakistan are different countries with different histories and different needs.’ China has criticized the ‘discriminatory’ nature of the NSG waiver given to India and has demanded the same treatment for Pakistan. China stands for equivalence between India and Pakistan and stresses that cooperation between the United States and India has become an important motivation to strengthen nuclear relations between China and Pakistan. The evolution of US-India civil nuclear agreement and the United States positively helping India look for special NSG waiver to permit nuclear trade with India has led to the ‘discrimination’ of international nuclear regime towards Pakistan. As a key friend of Pakistan, China cannot fail to take into account Pakistan’s nuclear cooperation requirements [emphasis added].
       As far as civilian nuclear co-operation is concerned, the Chinese openly admit that they supplied the first nuclear power station in 1992 that was built at Chashma and became operational in 2001. The contract for the second nuclear power plant was signed on 5 May 1004 [Chashma-2] on the eve of China joining the Nuclear Suppliers Group [NSG]. As the contract per-existed China’s date of joining the NSG, it was exempted from NSG requirements of full scope safeguards. In October 2008 China contracted to build two more nuclear power plants [Chashma-3 and Chashma-4]. In February 2010 China also agreed to finance these two nuclear power plants by providing a loan to Pakistan, but also acknowledged that these plants would be under IAEA safeguards. China, in what was seen as significant back-tracking, however claimed in September 2010 that these two plants were based on the ‘contracts of 2003’ and therefore not subject to full scope safe-guards that NSG membership mandated. Further press reports indicated that China is expected to build two more nuclear power plants at Karachi for which it is expected to extend a loan of US $6.4 billion to Pakistan. Similarly other reports indicated that China and Pakistan are discussing building three new nuclear power plants at Muzaffargarh estimated to cost US $ 13 billion. In the future also China will continue to play a key role in the efforts of Pakistan to increase its nuclear energy output from 770 megawatts to 8000 megawatts by 2030. 
       As for the future, the Chinese are working assiduously towards helping Pakistan gain a special NSG waiver on the same basis as was granted to India [emphasis added]. It follows therefore that corresponding to the Indo-US nuclear deal, a similar civilian Sino-Pak nuclear deal is perhaps on the anvil with China waiting for an opportune moment. The Chinese feel that this would considerably reduce ‘anxiety’ of the international community about the present nature of Sino-Pak nuclear co-operation. There is no doubt that the Chinese would like to restore the equivalence between India and Pakistan in the nuclear field and to ensure that Indian nuclear ambitions remain confined within the ambit of South Asia. 
[c] The Sino-Pak Military Supply Relationship
       The military supply relationship between China and Pakistan had modest beginnings. From a base of US $ 250 m arms supplied in 1966, it rose to about US $ 7 billion for the period 1978-2008.  However in the five year period 2008-12, Chinese arms exports world-wide rose by an unprecedented 162 per cent, with China’s share of global arms exports rising from 2 per cent to 6 per cent. Thus China has overtaken Britain to become the world’s fifth largest exporter of arms. Of China’s world- wide exports nearly 55 per cent goes to Pakistan. Thus China today is the most important source of arms supplies to Pakistan and according to Pakistan its most reliable partner.
       Apart from being Pakistan’s principal supplier of arms, China has also helped Pakistan with joint projects that produce armaments ranging from fighter jets, to Al-Khalid tanks that China granted license production and tailor made to modifications based on the initial Chinese Type 90 and/or MBT-2000 tanks; to guided missile frigates, such as the F-22P frigate. Negotiations are reportedly taking place for the supply of 6 new Chinese submarines to Pakistan. China is supplying its most advanced homemade combat aircraft, the third-generation CAC J-10 fighter jet, to Pakistan in a deal involving the supply of 36 fighter jets worth around US$6 billion. Pakistan received 42 JF-17 fighter aircraft and has since started co-production of the JF-17 Thunder jets in Pakistan that can be used for delivering nuclear weapons. China supplied 4 Air- borne early warning [AWACS] 2DK-03 aircraft and allied control systems. In 2011 China launched a communications satellite [PAKSAT-IR] for the Pakistani Army. Pakistan is also reportedly hosting at Karachi a Chinese space communication facility. 
     However it is in the field of missiles that China’s help has been most potent. China has helped Pakistan to manufacture solid propellant medium range ballistic missiles [MRBMs]. The Pakistani Shaheen series of missiles, both mark-1 with a range of 750 kilometers and the mark-II version with a range of 1,500-2,000 kilometers manufactured at Fatehjung are nothing but complete replicas of the Chinese M-9, M-11 and the M-18 missiles. These missiles can be used for delivery of nuclear warheads and are capable of hitting population centers in India. Reportedly the Pakistani built Babur cruise missile has dimensions that exactly match the Chinese built Hong Niao cruise missile. 
            It is nevertheless clear that as for the future China’s continued support for Pakistan is based on its long-term strategic perspectives. These would primarily be in three broad areas: [a] to continue to augment Pakistan’s military capabilities and prowess by persistently playing a pivotal role in the military supply relationship, since this enhances Pakistan’s value to be able to contain India’s power and influence. Indeed, over the past five decades China has regarded Pakistan as a useful counterweight to India in South Asia. The relationship with Pakistan has enabled China to pursue an India strategy without any major military investment, thus enabling it to pay attention to other areas of more immediate interest. Little empirical evidence exists to suggest that China might abandon this approach anytime soon, but there is some reason to believe that the strategic relationship with Pakistan might actually be tightening. [b] Pakistan’s strategic location remains vital for China as it serves the purpose of being a ‘gateway’ to the Middle-East and a link to that region’s fossil fuel resources.[c] China also realizes that to contain unrest in Xinjiang and to prevent ‘terrorism,’ from spreading to other parts of China the co-operation of Pakistan is necessary. It would indeed be a major strategic default for China if the Pakistani state were to collapse or be incapable of taking military action against Uyghur jihadi elements. Chinese strategic analysts often reiterate that China has always ‘respected’ Pakistan’s security concerns and supported Pakistan to the maximum extent, consistent with its own resources. They aver that as far as China is concerned Pakistan will always play an important role in China’s neighbourhood policy due to its strategic position.  
    For Pakistan, the support and friendship with China will remain an absolute necessity for the fulfilment of its foreign policy objectives. China’s continued support is also necessary for the promotion of Pakistan’s vital national interests vis-a-vis India. China is today its largest benefactor in the economic, strategic and geo-political spheres that has effectively bolstered Pakistan’s regional strategic capabilities. Pakistan would continue to need Chinese support in counterbalancing India’s regional dominance in the near future. The need for continued Chinese support would become even more necessary as the US withdraws from Afghanistan and as its interest in this region wanes. As the prime source of jihadi terrorism, the Pakistani state is likely to become even more unwelcome within the western security establishments and thus likely to lose valuable funding for its armed forces.
   Now let me turn to the CPEC. At its very conception the CPEC is designed to stabilise Pakistan. China with its very deep and varied investments in Pakistan cannot afford for the Pakistani state to collapse for whatever reasons. It represents a consolidation of Sino-Pak political, economic and geo-strategic interests. As a project the CPEC links the Pakistani port city of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea with China’s Urumqi located in Xinjiang Province. Included in the CPEC are a series of projects valued at US$51 billion that would expand and upgrade Pakistan’s infrastructure as well as strengthen economic ties between China and Pakistan. It includes building railway lines, roads and pipelines to carry oil and gas. An unstated objective, but clearly an important one is an attempt to stabilise the Pakistani economy. The proposed project would be financed by the heavily subsidised loans that would be disbursed to the government of Pakistan by Chinese banking giants such as the Exim Bank of China, China Development Bank and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. About 90% of the total funding is by Chinese Banks and the rest by Pakistan. Reports in Pakistani press claim that this project will add about 7 lac new jobs between 2013 and 2030 as well as add about 2-2.5 percentage points to the Pakistani GDP.
     According to the Chinese President’s statements the CPEC would have four separate sections. These are: Energy, Gwadar, Infrastructure and Industrial Co-operation. Under CPEC energy projects will over 16GW capacity at a production cost of US$34b. About 75% of energy mix will be generated by coal which Pakistan would be contracted to buy from Chinese companies. These will be very profitable for Chinese companies for Pakistan has agreed to offer 34.5% annual profit on equity invested in these projects. Once the projects are completed Pakistan would become a surplus energy country.
     Although Gwadar as a commercial port is suspect because of its low depth, lack of rail connectivity and its considerable distance from commercial navigation routes; yet with its proximity to Hormuz it could accommodate naval warships and submarines and serve as a hub for weapons replenishments and logistics. With its airport it could become an ideal point for surveillance and as a interdiction point. Pakistan has ceded control of Gwadar for 40 years to China and this suggests that it may become a Chinese naval base much sooner than expected.
    All along the CPEC numerous SEZs are expected to be formed. Chinese companies will be granted long term leases at concessional rates along with a 20 year tax holiday. There are already 20,000 Chinese working on CPEC projects and this number could swell to thousands once the SEZs are setup.
      But there are economic implication for Pakistan too. Some financial estimates suggest an outflow of US$ 2-5.3b per year with Pakistan paying upto US$ 90b over a span of 30 years. Does Pakistan have this kind of financial viability? Pakistan may end up with swapping its for equity and thus compromising its sovereignty. The case of Sri Lanka is there before you.
      The Indian position has been that it has never been officially consulted on the OBOR. The assumption in India is that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor [CPEC], is an important component part of the OBOR. There is no doubt that the CPEC presents a geo-strategic challenge to India. It effects India’s security and presents a direct two front challenge. In December 2014, the Indian External Affairs Minister stated in Parliament that ‘the government was aware that China’s involvement in the construction of or assistance to infrastructure projects, including hydroelectric and nuclear projects, highways, motorways, export processing zones and economic corridors in Pakistan. Government has seen reports with regard to China and Pakistan being involved in infrastructure building activities in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir [POK] including construction of CPEC. Government has conveyed its concern to China about their activities and asked them to cease such activities’. While the External Affairs Minister was expressing her concern, a Press Trust of India [PTI] report quoted the Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan, as saying that ‘India has no worry over construction of the CPEC, as an economically strong Pakistan would bring stability to the region’.
      This dichotomy of approach still remains to be reconciled for it seems that it stems from the policy of strategic ambiguity. If the past is any guide then after the 1962 conflict with China, India at the instigation of US?/UK was pushed into talks with Pakistan to discuss the ultimate fate of Kashmir. Implicit in the Swaran Singh-Bhutto talks was the partition of Kashmir at approximately the CFL; with some more areas going to Pakistan. In 1965 at Tashkent, India agreed to restore the 1949 Cease Fire Line [CFL] and withdrew from areas it occupied across the CFL in the 1965 conflict. Similarly, the whole ethos of the Simla Agreement in 1972 was that Pakistan would accept and at an appropriate time convert the CFL [now called the Line of Control] into an international border. In 1999 as well, India maintained the sanctity of the Line of Control, never crossed the line militarily and used force to oust Pakistani troops and pushed them back and beyond the Line of Control. Thus it seems that India was quite prepared to give up its claims to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir [POK], if Pakistan accepted the Line of Control as an international border. India has been quite clear that it would give up its claims to POK, only in the event that Pakistan recognised the Indo-Pak international boundary at the LoC.  On the other hand, PM Modi recently reiterated in his 15th August Independence message that POK was indeed sovereign Indian Territory. The question is which of the two strategic modules would India prefer to pursue on long term basis?
    Thus if the CPEC is indeed a vital component of OBOR, then it violates Indian Territory and for India to accept CPEC is a matter of national territorial integrity. On the question of the CPEC traversing POK, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying prevaricated on the issue and stated that ‘with regard to whether the economic corridor passes through [Pak] Kashmir,….. but I can tell you that we hope the Kashmir issue can be resolved through consultations and negotiations between India and Pakistan’. Clearly the Chinese were hoping to obfuscate the issue of POK and the fact that the CPEC passed through this region. Recent Chinese press reports have also taken the same view, calling upon India and Pakistan to settle the matter amongst themselves. 
     Thus what policy should India follow with regards to the CPEC? At present the choices before India are but three. One it can continue to boycott any participation in CPEC. Secondly, it can actively “sabotage” it by encouraging dissidence in Balochistan or thirdly open discussions with the Chinese with a view to start thinking of some kind of participation. The first two options do not make much for foreign policy options, with the second option decidedly risky, for China in retaliation can easily activate the Ladakh front. 
       At present, India does not have sufficient economic resources or the political heft to put in place either a competitive or an alternative connectivity networks, on a scale that can offer an alternative option to the CPEC. India has chosen to join the Chinese sponsored Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank [AIIB] and the National Development Bank [NDB], but is presently not having any discussions with the Chinese having officially boycotted the BRF summit in Beijing. What if India were to suggest serious talks with the Chinese on the CPEC? 
     The first point for discussion would be the passage of the CPEC through sovereign Indian territory in Gilgit-Baltistan and how to resolve this issue. While diplomats are adept at obfuscating any issue, this would merit considerable discussions at length with the Chinese government. Secondly, the CPEC as presently envisioned would require considerable modifications; if India were to join. Firstly a suitable new name would have to be configured that did not upset any of the participants. And most important of all not only India, but Afghanistan should also be invited to join.
    If you look at the map of the CPEC at a point near Rawalpindi, a branch would have to turn eastwards towards Amritsar on the Indo-Pak border and similarly a branch would have to turn westwards towards Peshawar and the Afghan border. The key point would be can goods be exported from India to Xinjiang in China as also to Afghanistan by utilising the new corridors? If that were so it would open up for India not only a land link to Afghanistan, but also to Central Asia. Similarly Afghanistan could export its products not only to China, but also to India through this land link. Would China be interested? The question is moot. The only sure way to find out is if we open discussions with the Chinese government. What I have suggested is, at present, only speculation; but nevertheless we need to think of a out of box solutions.   

    In conclusion therefore the CPEC presents a direct challenge to Indian interests, it consolidates the Sino-Pak nexus with all its military and nuclear components and furthermore limits our options with regard to Pakistani intransigence and open meddling in Kashmir. Our military option also will be limited further, since in the CPEC area a large number of Chinese personnel would be present. An emboldened Pakistan with Chinese support will surely test our diplomatic skill and military prowess. 

Friday, 5 May 2017

First Authoritative View on North Korea Nuclear Issue by Senior Chinese Leader.

       Fu Ying Chairwoman of the NPC Foreign Affairs Committee in her paper published by the Brookings Institute on 30 April 2017 on the North Korean nuclear issue for the first time highlights Chinese policies and attitude at such a high level. Fu Ying is no ordinary person. She is not Han Chinese, but a Mongol and has held the prestigious positions of Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs and Chinese Ambassador to Australia and the UK. Earlier as the Head of the Asian Affairs Department in the Foreign Office, she is very familiar with the Korean issue, having dealt with it for many years. Her views therefore are authoritative, comprehensive and would bear the imprint of approval from the highest level of Chinese decision making authorities. A summary of her views is as published below:

    The Korean nuclear issue is the most complicated and uncertain factor for Northeast Asian security. It has now become the focus of attention in the Asia Pacific and even the world at large. Now, as the issue continues to heat up, one frequently raised question is: Why can’t China take greater responsibility and make North Korea stop its nuclear weapons program?
      China started to mediate on the Korean nuclear issue and host talks in 2003, at the United States’ sincere request. As a developing country, China upholds its five principles of peaceful coexistence. On the Korean nuclear issue, which has a direct bearing over regional security, China’s position is to strongly oppose nuclear proliferation. Upon taking up its role as a mediator, China firmly requested the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, commonly referred to as North Korea) to stop its nuclear weapons development while requesting other concerned parties, especially the U.S., to address the DPRK’s legitimate security concerns. But the deep mistrust between the U.S. and the DPRK made it very hard for any consensus or agreement made during the years of negotiations to be effectively implemented. China had been working hard to play its role both as a mediator and a party to U.N. sanctions, but it did not have the leverage to force either the U.S. or the DPRK to assume their respective responsibilities [emphasis added]. Without holding the key to the DPRK’s security concerns, China has no leverage to convince this foreign nation to stop its nuclear program. The U.S., which the DPRK sees as the source of threats to its security, has been neither interested nor willing to consider responding to the DPRK’s security concerns [emphasis added].As the two sides reached an impasse, the DPRK took the opportunity to move forward with its program and, since 2005, has carried out five nuclear tests and numerous missile tests. In the meantime, the U.N. Security Council has stepped up sanctions, and the U.S. and the Republic of Korea (ROK, commonly referred to as South Korea) have been carrying out heightened military exercises to exert greater military pressure on the DPRK. Consequently, tensions are now running high and the channel for talks is closed, and the situation is increasingly dangerous.
      On the international stage, the main players are nation states who enjoy sovereign rights endowed by the U.N. Charter and international law. Powerful states may have greater influence over the international situation, but they should also bear the consequences of what they say or do. Smaller or weaker states may counter or respond to pressure from powerful states, but there is a price to pay for doing so. The international situation often evolves as the result of actions and counteractions by states over specific issues, whereby tension between states can rise and even intensify, leading the situation in an unexpected direction.
       That is why China believes that peaceful negotiation is the “Pareto optimal” path. Although it may not meet the optimal demands of any party, it would bring maximal benefits to all parties with minimal cost. This would of course call for all parties, the U.S. included, to take their due responsibilities and make the necessary compromises. The reason that no results have been achieved to date is precisely because of the failure to implement negotiated agreements and the suspension of negotiations [emphasis added].
     China remains committed to a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. It has been and will continue to work to safeguard regional peace and stability. China stands for dialogue as the right route to address the Korean nuclear issue. North and South Korea are geographically connected and both are China’s close neighbors; North Korea, in particular, shares 1,300 kilometers (808 miles) of common border with China. Any military conflict or disturbance in this region will endanger peace and stability, inflict huge damage to innocent people, and may even escalate tensions beyond control. The international community has witnessed enough bitter outcomes caused by the unwise use of military action over the past decades [emphasis added].

    To PD on Line on 2 May 2017 

Separately to PD on Line Fu Ying added the following:

 In terms of possible outcomes, there are three possibilities. Firstly, the North Korean regime can collapse. Secondly, the vicious cycle of sanctions followed by nuclear and missile tests can continue till a tipping point is reached and thirdly talks and serious negotiations can be re-started. Only through dialogue can mutual security be achieved. In this way we may help wrestle the Korean Peninsula out of its current vicious cycle and prevent NE Asia from turning into a dark forest. 

Monday, 1 May 2017

Why the US Hesitates on Military Action Against N Korea.

        Speaking at the UN Security Council last week, the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the US was willing to open direct negotiations with North Korea aimed at removing nuclear weapons from that country. Tillerson was careful not to include "de-nuclearisation" of the Korean peninsular as an item for discussion, as that would have meant that the future of US nuclear weapons stored in South Korea would also become a part of the discussions. The Chinese have always maintained that it is "de-nuclearisation" of the peninsula that is the main question at stake. Tillerson also called on members of the UN to implement sanctions against North Korea or to downgrade their diplomatic representations at Pyongyang. Tillerson knows full well that the key is China and the attitude that its leaders adopt towards North Korea that would, in the ultimate analysis, be the determining factor.
     The US has tried to "hustle" the Chinese along by threatening as President Trump did that "if Beijing is not going to solve North Korea, we [the US] will". While there seems to be significant warming in Sino-US relations after the Trump-Xi meeting in Florida, at least as Trump puts it, yet the bilateral talks seem to have resolved little on North Korea. Just as Trump is learning today successive US administrations have also discovered, in the past, that there are no easy solutions to the security situation on the Korean Peninsula. Last year the Obama administration had talked tough about "multi-lateral" sanctions only to find that the Chinese were very reluctant. The key point is that the Chinese do not wish to push the North Korean government so hard that the regime itself becomes significantly destabilised. Therefore the Obama effort only resulted in some desultory additions to the already existing UN sanctions against North Korea. These new sanctions made hardly any difference to the policies being followed by the North Korean regime.  
      The Chinese are trying to defuse the issue as Foreign Minister Wang Yi put it "China's priority is to flash the red light and apply the break to both [the US and Korean] trains to avoid a collision". Chinese concerns are however not limited to avoiding a North Korean-US clash, but also to the removal of the THAAD deployment that the US is contemplating in South Korea. The Chinese fear that the THAAD deployment is as much for them as it is for the North Korean missiles. Therefore if any de-escalation takes place under Chinese auspices, then the US would have to re-think its THAAD deployment; as the Chinese are hardly likely to oblige without the promise of removal of THAAD from South Korea. This issue also had its comical side when Trump tweeted that South Korea would have to pay the "costs" of deployment, only to be contradicted by his NSA, McMaster who said that the US would pick up the tabs! 
     Given that their country too would be in the direct line of fire, the South Koreans are apprehensive and have called for restraint. In the forthcoming presidential elections due on 9th May 2017, the leading candidate Moon Jae-in has pledged to improve relations with Pyongyang, noting that diplomatic relations are the best bet for ensuring South Korean security. In 1994 the then President Clinton considered preemptive military action against North Korea, but the Pentagon concluded that even limited action would claim a million lives in the first 24 hours. Remember this assessment was made before the North Koreans possessed nuclear weapons. As David Sanger reported in the NYT any military action by Washington will undoubtedly trigger a counter reaction from Pyongyang that would instantly kill a third of the South Korean population.
     The US knows that North Korean artillery near the DMZ could flatten Seoul in a matter of hours should hostilities break out. Seoul is hardly 15-20 kilometres south of the DMZ and completely vulnerable to North Korean attacks. Much as the western press speculates about North Korean refugees streaming north to China or Russia, the greater worry is about what happens to the displaced South Koreans who would have had their homes and offices destroyed. Where would they go and who would look after them? It is time that everyone realises the gravity of the situation and instead of sabre rattling moves towards a negotiated settlement. There are no good military solutions available. Hopefully the US realises this inspite of the rhetorical bluster.  

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

The Politics of Reincarnation

          The vast extant of the spiritual power of His Holiness the Dalai Lama [HHDL] was recently on display for all to see, when he visited various monasteries in Arunachal Pradesh. People came in huge numbers not only from local areas, but as far away as Bhutan and the Himalayan sub-region. No doubt that the Chinese would have taken due note, for no matter however much the Chinese authorities may have tried, the messages contained in HHDL’s sermons would have resonated with most of the Tibetan population in Tibet. And this is where the crux of the matter lies. No matter how much the Chinese authorities try, political repression or economic development, they have just not been able to shake the abiding faith of the Tibetans in the persona of HHDL. The Tibetans give to HHDL, a faith and a belief and trust that is unparalleled anywhere else in the world.
     The Chinese authorities realise that as HHDL advances in years, it is only a matter of time before they would be faced with the awkward dilemma of his reincarnation as the 15th Dalai Lama. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in a written response just last week, said that the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama should follow religious rituals, history rules and national regulations. The reincarnation of the Dalai Lama should be conducted according to tradition of drawing of lots in front of the Golden Urn Shakyamuni in Dachau Temple, Lhasa [Jokhang Monastery]. The Chinese Foreign Ministry made it unmistakably clear in various forums that the next Dalai Lama can only assume his role after their approval [emphasis added]; a practice that was established in 1793. The problem is that no one believes them nor would the Tibetans ever accept that the next Dalai Lama be approved by Beijing. Therefore an awkward situation may arise, when there maybe two Dalai Lamas; with no one paying any reverence to the Beijing approved one. It would indeed be a scathing loss of face for the Beijing authorities. It would seem that the Chinese authorities have already identified Gyaltsen Norbu [the Chinese appointed Panchen Lama] as a key player in the pivotal role of helping the Chinese authorities to impose the next Dalai Lama on the hapless Tibetans. On 10 June 2015, the Chinese President Xi Jinping received Gyaltsen Norbu at the Zhongnanhai, at which point the latter swore ‘undying loyalty’ to the Chinese Communist Party [CCP] as also to Xi personally. The CCP also issued a White Paper on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Tibetan Autonomous Region [TAR], in which it hopes of ‘identifying and appointing the 15th Dalai Lama’.
     The present HHDL is very firm on the question of the next Dalai Lama. He described the Chinese view point as “quite nonsense”. In a March interview with John Oliver of HBO, HHDL said “ As far as my own birth is concerned, the final authority is my say, no one else’s”. Earlier HHDL had issued a public statement on the issue on 24 September 2011, in which he explained the issue as follows:

       When I am about ninety, I will consult the high Lamas of the Tibetan Buddhist traditions, the Tibetan public and other concerned people who follow Tibetan Buddhism and re-evaluate whether the institution of the Dalai Lama should continue or not. On that basis we will take a decision. If it is decided that reincarnation of the Dalai Lama should continue and there is a need for the 15th Dalai Lama to be recognised, responsibility for doing so will primarily rest on the concerned officers of the Dalai Lama’s Phodrang Trust. They should consult various heads of the Tibetan Buddhist traditions and the reliable oath bound Dharma protectors who are linked inseparably to the lineage of the Dalai Lama. They should seek advice and direction from these concerned beings and carry out the procedures of search and recognition in accordance with tradition. I shall leave clear written instructions about this. Bear in mind that, apart from the reincarnation recognised through such legitimate methods, no recognition or acceptance to a candidate chosen for political ends, including those in the PRC.

     The Chinese certainly see that the issue of the next Dalai Lama will resonate in Sino-Indian relations. Although over the years, India has officially accepted that Tibet is an autonomous region of China, yet doubts about India’s intentions continue to linger in the Chinese mind. Even the Chinese military action in 1962 was attributed not to the legality or otherwise of the McMahon Line, but as Mao Zedung told a Nepalese delegation in 1964; to the fact that ‘in the opinion of the Indian government, Tibet is theirs.’ Further, China justified military action in 1962 by observing that ‘the Indian ruling circles had taken the mantle of the British Imperialists’ and had begun to ‘regard China’s Tibet as an Indian sphere of influence’ [emphasis added]. This Chinese paranoia about India’s intentions towards Tibet continues till present times, for whenever a Sino-Indian joint statement is envisaged, the Chinese insist that a sentence be incorporated stating that Tibet is a part of the People’s Republic of China. 
      Despite enormous efforts put in over the years, China has still not been able to pacify Tibetan aspirations for complete autonomy or even independence. China has tried everything from brutal crackdowns to economic sops and yet the Tibetan yearning for independence just has not died down to China’s utter exasperation. China faces a crisis of credibility in Tibet even after a half century of so-called ‘democratic reforms.’ Sometimes even Chinese officials, in candid moments, admit that although their economic strategies have been a success, yet their political strategy for ensuring stability has been a dismal failure. The Chinese received a rude awakening just prior to the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008, when extensive disturbances erupted in Tibet. The Tibetan protests in 2008 were the largest and most widespread since the exile of the Dalai Lama in 1959. Since 2009 over 150 Tibetans have self- immolated in protest against Chinese rule. Sometimes Tibetan protests are subtle, such as displaying pictures of the Dalai Lama in prayer rooms, writing protests in poetry and music  or turning towards the south [Dharamsala where the Dalai Lama resides], in the presence of Chinese officials, and bowing their heads in silent prayer. Nothing irritates Chinese officials more!
        China realises that the Sino-Indian boundary is in actual fact largely the Tibet-India boundary; except for a short length that abuts Xinjiang. There are no old Tibetan maps that show the southern boundary of Tibet with India! However much China may obfuscate the issue today, but for the period 1911 to 1951, China was totally absent from the scene and Tibet was independent all but in name. There was not a single Chinese soldier or administrator present in Tibet and that there was no effective Chinese control anywhere near the Tibet-India boundary. China is aware that the majority of the Tibetans still yearn for such a period to return. 
         History shows that Inner Asia with Tibet located at its strategic epicentre has suffered from periodical political upheavals. In the past, Tibetan cultural and religious influence in Central Asia was significant. This was largely excised through the persona of the Dalai Lama. The stage is thus set for a clash of wills for the selection of the next Dalai Lama. It promises to be a high stakes issue, in which India is bound to be heavily involved as an interested party. Apart from the obvious religious angle, India is bound to be as deeply involved as the Chinese, for it is quite possible that the next Dalai Lama may be reincarnated within the Tibetan community in India. After all it was the great 5th Dalai Lama that founded an important Monastery in Tawang that is connected to the famous Drepung Monastery in Lhasa!

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

The Dalai Lama in Arunachal: Why Are the Chinese So Angry?

           The recent visit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama [HHDL] to Arunachal Pradesh has brought forth a torrent of protests from Beijing; each becoming shriller by the day. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswomen, Hua Chunying went so far as to say that HHDL’s visit had “severely damaged China’s interests and China-India relations” and further that “China expresses firm opposition to this visit and will lodge stern representations to the Indian side”. The Chinese press was no less virulent with the Global Times going so far as to say that “New Delhi may have under- estimated Beijing’s determination to safeguard core [emphasis added] interests…” The question is why is Beijing so deeply riled and its reaction so virulent and why has it taken such a hard line position? 
       There is no doubt that Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of the Indian Union and as such HHDL is free to visit any apart of India, particularly if his mission is concerned with religious affairs. No government in India in the past has ever relented on this aspect, although sometimes discretion has been exercised. It would, however, be worthwhile also to examine the issue from China’s perspective; so as gain understanding on what can be expected from India’s northern neighbour, with whom we share a long and an un-demarcated Line of Actual Control [LAC] on our northern borders.
     It is not the first time that the Chinese have expressed their ire at HHDL’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh and particularly to Tawang. This is HHDL’s seventh visit. In the past Chinese protests have died down once the visit was over and things have returned to normal. The sensitivity of the Chinese to this territory and happenings there is also not of recent origin.As far back as 8 September 1959, PM Zhou wrote to Nehru that “this piece of territory corresponds in size to Chekiang province of China and is as big as 90,000 square kilometres. Mr. Prime Minister, how could China agree to accept under coercion such an illegal line that would have it relinquish its rights and disgrace itself by selling out its territory —and such a large piece at that?” If Mao and Zhou in 1959, at the height of their power, could not contemplate abandoning claims to NEFA [as it was then known] in favour of India unilaterally; it becomes exceedingly difficult for the present Chinese rulers to act otherwise. But much has happened since then and circumstances change as do policies.
   The present rulers of China base their acceptability and legitimacy to rule on the promise of rejuvenating China, both economically and politically and by stressing that never again would the Chinese people have to face a century of humiliation as they did in the past. The century of humiliation is the period commonly referred to from 1840 to 1949; when the People’s Republic was founded. The key point being that China is now politically united under a strong government and in economic terms it is the second largest economy in the world. It aspires to a status of equality with the US and be recognised along with the US as the two great powers of the day. Recently Fu Ying, the Chairperson of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People's Congress [NPC], speaking in the US had this to say about China's present attitude on territorial disputes.
       “China stumbled into the 20th Century with its capital under occupation of Imperialist armies and for over a century China suffered the humiliation of repeated foreign aggression and bullying. That is why the Chinese people are very sensitive about anything that is related to the loss of territory and would never allow such recurrence even if it is an inch of land [emphasis added]. This is something that the outside world needs to keep in mind when trying to understand Chinese behaviour.”
      The present Chinese leadership under President Xi Jinping faces multiple domestic challenges at home, as well as an uncertain US attitude on its eastern seaboard. Domestic challenges range from a slowing economy, an ageing population, wide income disparities and environmental degradation. The Chinese are unsure on whether Trump might push them towards a trade war; particularly since he refuses to back down on alleged Chinese currency manipulation and unfair trade practices. The Chinese leadership is also heading towards the 19th Party Congress later this autumn, where the leadership for the next five years is nominated/selected. Although Xi Jinping’s leadership is by no means under challenge, yet he cannot have his way in the run up to the Party Congress, unless he is seen to be a “strong” leader.
       Thus when the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs takes a stern position and its protests are rather virulent in tone; these are not only meant for India to contemplate, but are also designed to show the Chinese government’s domestic audience on how “tough” its stand has been on the issue of Chinese territorial integrity. The Chinese see the visit of HHDL to Arunachal Pradesh and particularly Tawang as a challenge to their territorial integrity. It is for this reason HHDL is dubbed as a “splitist” and they know that his visit even for religious purposes has political overtones that resonates amongst the people of the sub-Himalayan region.The Chinese leadership cannot afford to be seen as “weak” on a matter considered by them to be a core issue. Strategically it makes no sense for the Chinese to open yet another front on its South-Western borders at this stage, when it is faced with far more pressing issues on the South China Sea and on the issue of Taiwan. But there are limits to Chinese patience. We have to keep in mind that China’s economy is five times larger than India’s and its military expenditure three times as large. China is capable of initiating action in all five formats; land, sea, air, space and cyber.
    It is well within our sovereign rights to invite HHDL to visit any part of India, including Arunachal Pradesh. What we should be careful about is not to give un-necessary provocations to the Chinese while asserting our rights. And pique over the Chinese attitude to our membership of the NSG or the Chinese behaviour over Masood Azar are much better dealt with in other forums. It is in our strategic interest to see that the Sino-Indian border remains peaceful, as it has over the last several decades. 

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Trump-Xi Summit:Chinese Grievances and Bargaining Chips

        On the eve of the meeting between President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping; the Chinese delegation are bound to carry a long list of grievances against the US, but none stands out more starkly than the alleged widespread belief within Chinese governmental and society at large that US intentions were perverse and that its objective was to abort China’s rise, so as to prevent it from becoming a rich and a powerful first class world power. This effort was entirely due to the US desire to maintain its hegemony and global dominance. Chinese cynicism about US intentions has not abated since the assumption of power by President Trump, but has only exacerbated due to Trump’s inconsistent pronouncements, his blistering Twitter handouts and some of his bizarre pronouncements during the election campaign that seem to accompany him to the White House.
     The Chinese belief is that the main  objective of the US was to overthrow the Chinese social system and the rule of the Chinese Communist Party [CCP], so that China would once again become faction ridden, its society divided and thereby would be unable to continue down the path of rapid development and thus present no challenge to the US. The main instrument that the US was using was the issue of Human Rights in China, so as to create disorder and chaos and malign China’s image before the world. The US strategy of subverting rivals and bringing states under its domination, in Chinese eyes, had a proven record of success. The Chinese often cite as examples the events that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the “colour” revolutions of post Soviet Central Asia and the Arab Spring. The Chinese authorities are extremely suspicious and sensitive of the activities of several western sponsored NGOs, who they feel are only to happy to promote western “values” that undermine the cohesiveness of Chinese society.
       This sinister and cynical view of US policies may not be entirely without foundation. While the US has sought co-operation from China in areas of common interests in order to build a long term, stable and an amicable relationship; yet the US has tried to nudge China towards political liberalisation and ultimately a basic political change. Of course, this was couched in language to make China a “responsible stakeholder” and that the US was not intending to “weaken” China, but to make its government more responsible and accountable to its people. The US also tied to sell the idea that “relationships built on shared interests and shared values [emphasis added] are far more long lasting than those built on a coincidence of interests. Nevertheless while the US leadership continues to say that it welcomes China as a “prosperous and a successful” power, yet they also continue to seek “strategic reassurance” from China. In other words, largely maintain the status quo.
    What has added to Chinese perceptions about the malign intentions of the US, is the insistent belief that exists within Chinese society that China is intrinsically a peaceful, defence oriented and ethically minded state. The US in particular and the western powers are seen as intrinsically aggressive, militaristic and commercially selfish. Therefore since China cannot by its very cultural self perception give offence; conflicts with the US must therefore arise only as a consequence of US aggressiveness. While these perceptions may be very Confucian in thought, yet lingering Marxist thought also leads to the conclusion that the US is trying for world domination and that only China stands in its way.               
     Most Chinese are convinced that liberal democracy would not work for them. They saw that even after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the western powers did not come to the assistance of the new Russia, but tried to curtail its power and damage its economy. Even where discontent exists in China, it does not get translated into a desire for a regime change. Take for example the year 2012. There were reportedly about 150,000 protests regarding state seizure of property, police brutality, environmental degradation, wage and pension disputes and official corruption, but the anger underlying these disputes did not translate into a demand for a regime change. Nonetheless, the CCP leaders seem transfixed that this might lead to a popular uprising against them. The CCP leadership is conscious that the ultimate arbiter of their fate remains the PLA and therefore nothing is done to undermine its credibility as a formidable fighting force. The PLA’s views are listened to as one of the determining factors when eventual policy formulations are made. Doubtless when Xi Jinping visits Trump, the PLA’s inputs would be decisive. The CCP leadership also knows that the only state capable of interfering in its internal affairs to cause significant disaffection is the US. The whole internal security apparatus in China seems designed to prevent such a happening.
      The main Chinese objective in the forthcoming talks would be to establish a kind of “parity” with the US, as also to seek “assurances” that the Trump Administration would not try to subvert their system, or to move away from the established policy of “One China”.  In order to achieve these goals the Chinese leadership had earlier conceptualised its ideas in an article entitled “Innovations in China’s Diplomatic Theory and Practice Under New Conditions” that was published as a signed article in Qiushi [Seeking Truth]. The main points were [a] A policy of non-conflict and non-confrontation. This policy requires the two sides to view each other’s strategic intentions in an objective and sensible way [b] Mutual respect. This requires the two sides to respect each other's choice of social system and development path, respect each other’s “core” interests and major concerns and [c] Win-Win cooperation.
     Of particular interest is the fact that Trump already seems to have conceded on Taiwan by reiterating the “One China” policy. The fact is that on Tibet the US clearly recognises Tibet as a part of the People’s Republic and ever since the Nixon visit in 1972 has shown no inclination to meddle in Tibet.The Chinese are aware and know this. It would be interesting to watch what the Chinese have in mind. By introducing Tibet as a “core” issue are the Chinese trying to extend the concept to mean a joint Sino-US co-operative effort for South Asia as also for the Af-Pak region? The US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley’s recent remark about the US playing a role to “de-escalate” Indo-Pak tensions, is a clear pointer that South Asia may also figure in the Trump-Xi Summit. The US too would have its own list of issues, not the least the North Korean nuclear issue which would probably be top of the agenda.
     The Chinese are also very wary of the demands that Trump might raise on economic issues. The huge US trade deficit, alleged Chinese currency manipulation, IPR and the bilateral Investment Treaty all are likely to be the focus of intense bargaining. No wonder this Summit has been dubbed as a transactional Summit. 
       As US press reports indicate the Chinese have been quick off their feet. The help received from Henry Kissinger has been invaluable. It was Kissinger who on a recent visit to Beijing help set-up the “special” Chinese link with the White House, by bye-passing all other departments of state. The fact that Trump chose his son-in -law, Jared Kushner to head the White House end of the link, shows the importance of the Sino-US relationship. There is no doubt that both sides are approaching the Summit with extreme care and by the indications available it promises to be a very transactional. Let us wait and see.