Responding to China



Listening to Asia-Pacific leaders and geopoliticians these days is to largely hear long musings about China and what to do about this superpower in the making. Like that song from Sound of Music, “What Do You Do About a Problem Like Maria?” the refrain of these musings is basically what does the international system do about a country the size of China.

My most recent musing experience, and a very long one, was with an Asia-Pacific foreign minister with a particularly long and involved experience of China. Drawing from what he and others have said, I draw the falling conclusions.

One, much of what Beijing does today in its foreign policy has its origins in its opaque domestic politics. Thus much of its recent assertiveness can be connected to the faction battling that went on inside the Chinese leadership in the runup to the part congress. So Hu Jintao needed something to firm up his standing with the army, so he took on India over Arunachal. On the other hand, because Hu and Li Kejiang were seen as Japanophiles, other members racked up the tension with Japan to expose Hu and company.

Two, no one who knows where the Chinese economy is going in the next decade or so. But doom and gloom sayers are almost certainly wrong. China is slowing down but it just needs some reforms to get its engine room purring again. This Asian statesman had no doubts that the new standing committee were in consensus on the economic change needed but not on how to do it. But Beijing has a formidable rep of getting what it wants done. Therefore, assume the growth story moves down a gear but continues to move forward.

Three, the Chinese political system remains fragile. It won’t fall, but it remains fearful of dissidence and organised protest in ways that seem almost comical. It continues to have a legitimacy bug in its system whose main consequence is to make Beijing just a bit high strung in a way that is at odds with its power.

In effect, far from having a foreign policy that is becoming internationalised, China’s external relationship with the world is becoming increasingly tied up with its domestic condition.

Which all sounds a bit scary. But what is more unnerving is that most geopoliticians I meet don’t have any real solution to China and its inner demons. Keep talking, keep trading and keep your gunpowder dry is the standard response — which is more or less common sense. And band together. China vs the rest of the world would be slightly more evenly matched.

So what do we about Maria, remains somewhat undefined.

“Many a thing you know you’d like to tell her Many a thing she ought to understand. But how do you make her stay. And listen to all you say. How do you keep a wave upon the sand.”

Maria’s problem was flightiness; China’s is an overdose of power. The former was tamed by being part of a family. And, in a way, that is also what most prescribes for the Middle Kingdom as well. It is just that one needs a very large family.

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  • Vivek Agarwal

    It is normal for peers to be part of a committee I believe, but in a creative sector – the inclusion of peers might be very tricky because it is tough to have an objective opinion, especially if one is deciding the fate of competitors!

    Senior fashion designers like Meera Muzzafar Ali not being accepted must mean that something is fishy !

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  • Abu Ahmed

    Akbaruddin is playing the voter-grabbing game, ably supported by the BJP. The BJP wants him to be treated harshly by the law, so do the MIM itself – the losers would be the Congress, while Jagan Reddy+MIM+BJP would gain the voters. And effective policing, very fast-tracked legal procedures are the only answer to the illiterate and semi-literate populace of our country.

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    Anonymous Reply:

    Want disintigration again?….Vote for Saffrons….pretenders

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  • Sukhdev

    This guy would next be taking up SRK’’s cause of : They call me khan!
    Just because they are both Muslims! Time he took on anti-Hindu agenda of some of his communities leaders and their supporters!

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    Anonymous Reply:

    Read about Deity Sita….
    Ravan kinapped her…she was brought back safely but society pinpointed and she had to ask Earth to give her shelter from….whom?

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    Faulitics Reply:

    Huh?

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  • Anonymous

    wll, he did not have any Islamism in this…where is your complaint coming from

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  • pankaj#1

    Zia;
    After a long time, you have written a secular blog, and good one to boot it.
    It hits the nail on head.
    Congratulations.

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  • Swapna Sinha

    very well written…..

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  • Faulitics

    Hmmm. I thought Zia was a Muslim affairs writer for TOI. Hopefully he will write an article about muslim perspective on akbarrudin Owaisi’s rousing speech calling for genocide of fellow Indians based on religion. But I doubt Zia will take that one up.

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  • Faulitics

    By the way, Sia has written a tame article this time. No juice in it.

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