The West Beat the Tom-Tom and Heralded Victory in the Cold War but They Hadn't Countenanced a Rising Dragon in the East
During the days I was in school the world was dominated by the Cold War and there were two superpowers the USA and the USSR. That was the time the West was mortally scared of the spread of communism. Fate took a hand and the USSR concentrated so much on the military that their economic model collapsed. This was the reason for the disintegration of the Soviet state. This also marks the end of the Cold War with the Russians. At that time the West beat the Tom- Tom of victory. This was symbolized by the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 and generally it was felt that communism was finished.
Perhaps this beating the drum about the victory in Cold War maybe one of the great mistakes of world history. The West refused to look beyond their nose at a monolith communist state in the East- China, where also history was being made when the Chinese soldiers assaulted agitating students in the Tiananmen Square with tanks and guns and killed 3000-5000 students.
The massacre took place when student protesters gathered in Tiananmen Square and erected a statue dedicated to the ‘Goddess of Democracy'. Sadly at that time Eurocentrism was so strongly entrenched that this momentous event was practically ignored and the west went back to cultivating China.
China was astutely led at that time by Deng Xiaoping. He noted the weakness of the Soviet economy (and their own), and decided radical economic reforms were needed. He put China on a course to his version of perestroika. But he essentially ignored the glasnost of Gorbachev. Deng coined the slogan “hide your strength, bide your time”. This was the Chinese proverb taken from the Middle Ages to make China the number one power in the world both militarily and economically. His thinking was simple and in a meeting of the Central Committee he put forward the idea that in case the West thinks that it won the Cold War, then pamper them on this account. He brought forward the idea to indulge the West into a false sense of superiority and security till China becomes the equal militarily and economically. At that time Deng planned China to become the biggest power in the world and preserve the primacy of the Chinese Communist Party as the Numero Uno in the world.
China Rises like the Phoenix
China's rise can only be seen in perspective. When the Communist regime came to power in 1949 by defeating the American puppet General Chiang Kai-Shek it began a systematic plan to make China a great power. At the same time to create an element of fear and shock in the minds of the West particularly the United States. That was the time when not even a bicycle was manufactured in China and there were no steel plants or large manufacturing units. China was just an agrarian country where 90% of the people depended on agriculture and generally hunger stalked the land.
To create an image of shock and awe the Chinese entered the Korean War on the side of the communist North and denied victory to the United States. Finally after three years of fighting a tired and weary America agreed for the status quo, the division of the country along the 38th parallel.
Just before the entry of the People's Liberation Army in Korea, Mao Tse Tung brought his strategic vision to the fore by invading Tibet. It was a very shrewd move as the United States and Europe were just concerned about communism as represented by Russia and completely ignored the invasion of Tibet. To top it the Indian leader Jawaharlal Nehru was a man with no strategic sense and lived in a make-believe world of his own and allowed China a free hand in Tibet.
At the same time at home, Mao Tse Tung for all his faults ensured that China went nuclear and began to beef up the Chinese military and industry. China tested an atomic bomb in 1964 and for reasons which have never been made public the United States and President Johnson failed to react and became observers. Perhaps the failure to win the Korean war against China give the Americans cold feet to move against China.
The West and the Americans however considered Russia as the enemy and their entire strategy was to contain the Soviet Union. What happened next is indeed laughable. It is so laughable that one can almost die laughing on a bed of nails.
What happened next? Instead of opposing China the United States and the West occupied with their obsession with Russia reached a strategic consensus among them to engage with China. One of the biggest architects of this was Henry Kissinger and President Nixon. Little these worthies realize the true nature of China which had been aptly summed by Jawaharlal Nehru in his 'Discovery of India' that a strong China is always an expansionist China.
President Nixon assumed in hindsight foolishly that his 1972 Nixon-Mao reapproachment agreement would help the United States continue as the world's number one power. The US was happy it had split the Communist bloc and ‘won’ the Cold War. The Chinese allowed the Americans to bask in their sunshine and at the same time crafted a stunning rise which has turned the country into a technological and military superpower.
President Nixon visited China in 1972 and paid his homage to the Chinese emperor like in the old days when China was a great power. Mao Tse tung never visited America. However he led Nixon up the garden path and Nixon came back convinced that China would be on the American side because at that time the American fixation was Russia. This state of affair continues for at least three decades and then 9/11 also took place. During these decades America embroiled itself in wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and several places. Built massive aircraft carriers and bases all around the globe at a cost of trillions of dollars. America was smug that it had the money and could spend whatever it wanted to do.
The Chinese kept sitting quietly watching America do harakiri. Sadly despite spending trillions of dollars the American military nowhere won a decisive victory and even a fruitless war on terror has not seen terror being obliterated.
All through this period president Xi Jinping kept quiet and spread its tentacles into Europe, Australia, and America. Their policy was clear; to make the West dependent on China for its well-being. They followed one of the famous quotes from Bollywood films where the hero says, “Apna time Aaya”.meaning " our time will come." China has played the waiting game wonderfully well and they have now cornered America and the West, something which they had planned for over four decades. To the chagrin of America and the Western powers the Chinese have not only allied with Russia but even solved the border problem with them.
However, I will add here that this so-called alliance between Russia and China is also suspect and it will crack at the first sign of stress for the simple reason that the Chinese economy is too big and its population the biggest in the world, while the Russian economy compared to China, is too puny and its population one 10th of China yet having the biggest landmass in the world – likely to give thoughts and ideas for Chinese to expand.
The Final Joust
After almost 5 decades the realization has sunk into the American think tank that perhaps they were wrong in thinking that China would be their partner. One fails to understand how this thinking came in the American mind and they allowed China so much of leeway like occupying Tibet, threatening countries around China, instigating North Korea to go nuclear, claiming the entire South China Sea, and setting up artificial Islands and military bases.
The new Chinese assertiveness can be seen by the way they tackled Australia. Australia sought an independent investigation of how Covid-19 originated. China did not like this and reacted in a way that has put Australia on the mat. China has suspended beef imports from Australia and is threatening to cut off student and tourist flows (both major sources of revenue).
The message is clear. If you do not toe the Chinese CPC's line then expect no goodies or mercy.
The West would have been happy in case the COVID-19 had not emerged. The gloves are off now as the USA has realized that COVID-19 did have origins may be from China but at the same time the Chinese concealed it and allowed the West to go to seed. There has been massive all-around suffering and almost 90,000 Americans have died. This is more than all the dead in World War I and the Vietnam war which lasted years. American deaths took place in four months.
Shi Yinhong, professor of international relations at Renmin University who is an advisor to China’s State Council, has said, the cold war between the US and the Soviet Union had some clear-cut lines of demarcation but the new cold war between US and China is rapid and fast-moving and one cannot know what will happen in the future. He opines that Western Europe will be destroyed in case it takes an aggressive stand against China and the USA also will suffer but China will come out unscathed.
Another country in Asia that has not quite realized its potential mainly because of a negative leadership of Pandit Nehru is India. Under Narendra Modi India is revisiting itself and in the post-COVID world is the one country that China fears.
It is for the western powers to realize this. China is aware that the rise of India which matches Chinese capacities in its immediate neighborhood is not something that China will like and hence it has already started an aggressive posture against India on the border. It is instigating Nepal which is ruled by a Communist party to make extravagant claims of land against India. The Indians have been restrained on Nepal mainly because of long historical ties lasting over 3000 years.
It is for the West to realize whether they wish to go back to China or confront China with all available economic powers like India and Japan. Japan is the third-largest economy in the world and the Chinese have suffered badly at their hands for a hundred years. It is the key to stability in East Asia.
As far as China is concerned the Communist Party of China believes in Pax Sinica. This is like Pax Romana, where all roads led to Rome. The CPC would like all roads to lead to Beijing.
The United States has to make hard choices. History will record the rise of China as a superpower basically because of the facilitation by the United States and Europe. The clock cannot be put back but in case the United States shows some mettle, some good may happen but as it stands China is on the ascendant and it is going to be very difficult to stop the Dragon