South China Sea to test Biden’s diplomatic skills

The belligerence of China in dealing with other countries appears to be an un-ending unilateral worldwide affair. Its foreign office may invoke “angles” to end the “unnecessary confrontation” with USA, but the harsh reality is that irrespective of which party rules America, the Chinese will not dilute their aggressive approach; whether it South China Sea or confrontation with India in the Galwan Valley of Ladakh.

Maybe, being spokesperson of a Communist country Hua Chunying, she could not pray God for peace during regular press-briefing in Beijing. She invokes angels to sooth the high-temperature communication between USA and China. While she was optimistic about the cessation of the on-going confrontation with USA, as many as 15 Chinese aircraft, including 12 fighter jets, violated the Taiwanese air space sending alarm signals in the region. They had flown over the Pratas Islands frightening not only Taiwan, but each country of the region, including Japan, Philippines and South Korea. It happed within four days of the inauguration of the new US president, Joe Biden, on January 20.

Amidst the festivities at the White House, the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command quietly deployed a formidable U.S. Navy strike group in the South China Sea. It had happened within a few hours of a large incursion of Chinese bombers and fighter jets near the Pratas Islands. Amidst these prompt deployments of the US forces, a telephonic conversation between the new defense secretary, General (retired) Lloyd Austin, and his Japanese counterpart Nobuo Kishi took place. He reportedly reassured Japan that his government would protect Senkaku (Chinese call it Diaoyu) against any unilateral act of aggression.

Biden’s assurance that if voted to power, his administration would restore normalcy suffered setback within a week of assuming power in Washington. It increasingly appears to the world that China is religiously following the “colonial text of divide and rule”. The new US administration took corrective steps by forming a plural all-inclusive cabinet, a multi-racial approach for unity of the country was promptly implemented, thus defeating the Chinese proxies mischief of promoting the Lack Life Matters (BLM) movement across USA and Eruope. Biden took a bold step by appointing a Black as the secretary of defense.

It has foiled the Chinese hope of promoting racial divide in USA with the resilience of an established democracy. The US defense secretary is a Black and its formidable air force is being headed by yet another Black, General Charles “CQ” Brown. He was elevated during the outgoing Donald Trump’s regime, and the Senate had unanimously approved his candidature. It may also be noted that during the twilight months of the outgoing regime, when the world had witnessed the movement, Black Life Matters (BLM), a Black woman, Madeline Swegle, had recently made history by becoming the U.S. Navy›s tactical fighter pilot. She is being congratulated across America with the message, Bravo Zulu (well done).

It appears that the Chinese president, Xi Jinping’s dream to obtain maximum benefits of a “free society”, while retaining the state power in the hands of the new ruling elite may not survive for ever. The elite comprises off-springs of the leaders of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and its armed wing, People’s Liberation Army (PLA). This new ruling class is now manning the key institutions of the country as well as prospering under the repressive umbrella of the CPC.

China was admitted to the World Trade Organization (WTO) during the presidency of Bill Clinton, who had hoped that China would open its institutions with the end of its isolation; however, Jinping’s strategy ahs been different. He is keen to keep the country under the repressive Communist regime, while accessing the wealth of the free world. 

Beijing could have welcomed Trump’s second term, because Biden is much more mature politician and he might take much more effective steps to contain China. Therefore, the Chinese criticism of the Trump administration for the confrontation need not be taken seriously.

While welcoming the new US president, China has criticized  the previous administration, especially Pompeo, its spokesperson blames that Pompeo, has buried “too many mines in US-China relations that need to be eliminated, burned too many bridges that need to be built, and destroyed too many roads that need to be repaired.”

Fre will impress these words, because the world is now aware of the Chinese ambition to become world power. Its march to this end appears to be “irrepressible”. The on-going clandestine “biological war”, the Covid-19, pandemic reportedly unleashed from a Chinese facility, has made the world more cautious about the Chinese intentions, both immediate and long-term.

The Chinese twin strategy of engaging the free world for gaining a competitive advantage over the United States in the economic affairs, and at the same time in gaining control over regional Asia-Pacific trends and developments may finally be challenged.

Xi Jinping’s belated decision of his formal congratulatory message to Biden must have led to the decision to  formally invite Taiwan’s representative, Hsiao Bi-khim, at the inaugural ceremony on January 20. Later, she posted a video of herself with a note that being felt “honoured to represent the people and government of Taiwan at the inauguration of President Biden and Vice President Harris”. It was for the first time since 1979, that Taiwan received formal invitation to attend the oath-taking ceremony.

In retaliation, may be, the Chinese have expressed their “displeasure”, in the violation of the Taiwanese air space, but it has receded an early restoration of the “warmth” between China and USA. In spite of the symbolic efforts of Biden and Austin, when they had reverted to the older term ‘Asia Pacific’ instead of the more recent formulation, ‘Indo-Pacific’. However, the sonic boom deafening of the people of the Pratas Islands, scattered in the region, gave a clear message that China is an assertive mood and the US-China relations depend more on China than the US now.

China knows that the balance of power in the region has tilted in its favour, especially after the end of the democracy in Hong Kong. Amidst these developments, Dragon is keen to “subdue” India, because she is an “impediment” in her assertions in the fields of culture or civilization. Xi Jinping’s vision of China includes a strategic-cultural element that China is an advanced civilization. He believes that the smaller neighbours are like dolls to be played by China. Therefore, they must kowtow, and he wants to be remembered like Mao or Sanyat Sen in China’s history.

It cannot be stated that the conflict between the US and China would end with the change of regime in Washington. It is now becoming clearer that irrespective of who is the US Defense Secretary, or indeed, who the US President is, the initiative for peace is in the hands of China. Even if Biden is so keen or inclined, which he had indicated during his poll campaign, the ball is in the hands of Xi Jinping. 

Beijing will decide whether there will be a deepening conflict between the US and China or peace will be given priority. China has been the driver of the increasingly tense international condition, with its harsh ‘wolf-warrior diplomacy’. The growing Chinese assertion for attaining the super power status may cause more conflicts in the coming years.

However, if the new ruling elite, mostly comprising the third generation of the revolutionaries of the yesteryears allow democracy and free expression within the country, the world may have a spell of peace.

letters@tehelka.com

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