Making Sense of China: Lessons from Pax Sinica
Amidst the brewing tensions between the two Himalayan giants, Indo-China relations have entered a new paradigm with concerns for regional security growing due to unprovoked Chinese aggression. Rise of a dominant China under the leadership of Xi Jinping is perhaps reflective of the dream to establish ‘Pax Sinica’ and change the world order by guiding it by Beijing’s interests.
Pax Sinica: Implications for the Indian Dawn by Samir Saran and Akhil Deo provides an insight to the rise of Xi’s China and outlines Beijing’s interests to establish a new world order and its impact on New Delhi’s position to compete with it in the region. The authors write on how Xi rose through the ranks of the Communist Party to be the leader of the masses, often referred to as the most powerful leader in the country after Mao Zedong. The optimism of Xi to achieve his ‘China Dream’ is crafted in his economic and political structural reforms which brought a massive change in how Beijing perceives itself in the international political scenario.
One of the major highlights of Xi’s dreams and the one with a chapter dedicated to is the Belt and Road Initiative. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) formerly known as One Belt One Road is a ‘revolutionary change’ towards global infrastructure development with more than seventy countries and organizations involved since its inception in 2013. The chapter (IV) critically analyses the megatrends which Xi undertook to bind the world together and the changes it caused in the dynamic geopolitics of today. India from the outset opposed BRI as it has been critical of China’s ‘debt-trap diplomacy’ and predatory economic practices which are fostering Beijing’s political gains as seen in the case of Sri Lanka when Colombo had to hand over the Hambantota Port to China for 99 years on a lease due to non-payment of Chinese borrowings. BRI is a blueprint of China’s emergence as a ‘true superpower’, thoughtfully crafted for its hegemonic gain. BRI, as the authors consider, is China’s way of announcing that its time has come.
They also take note of the Doklam standoff and consider it a “beginning of a great new game in Asia, with potentially fatal consequences” and rightly so; the deadly Galwan Clash on June 15 showed the tensions and the complexities veiled in Sino-India relations. While both countries venture on to establish the Asian century, continental harmony must be maintained along the way. South Block has already initiated a change in its policy posture towards Beijing and other major and middle global powers are also apprehensive of China’s dominance and assertiveness.
At a time when the world is in the midst of an immediate crisis, China’s unprovoked aggression on the borders, reflective of their confrontational ‘wolf warrior diplomacy’—named after a popular Chinese movie—is a new approach which reinforces a transition of Chinese diplomacy from conservative, passive, and low-key to assertive, proactive, and high-profile. While Doklam was considered as the advent of a Himalayan cold war, perhaps Galwan is the beginning of the fall.
In 2014, Xi Jinping wrote for The Hindu "...the ‘Chinese Dragon’ and the ‘Indian Elephant’ both cherish peace, equity and justice. We need to work together to carry forward the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence (the Panchsheel), make the international order more fair and reasonable". With Beijing testing its relations with its immediate neighbour, one would wonder if this indeed is the “China Dream” Xi preaches.
In the end, it is noted that the coming decades will witness the emergence of ‘Pax Indica’ or the ‘Idea of India’. However, the book does not provide much insight on how India could define itself or how middle powers and regional organisations could play an important role in posing a challenge to the dragon. Overall, the book is an easy read to understand powerful China, it’s interests, goals and ambitions to challenge the prevailing status quo, and provides a critical assessment of the same to the readers.
By Akshita Ramola
Akshita Ramola is an undergraduate student of Political Science at Hindu College. Between being an international relations wonk and a pro 'air guitarist', you may find her busy making fan-arts. She can be reached on Twitter: @RamolaAkshita.