The Faltering Age Of Ambition of the Dragon

China’s geopolitical ambitions seem to have drastically changed since the Coronavirus has hit the world.

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Pic courtesy – Bhavanajagat.com

It’s been three months since the Wuhan virus has ravaged the world. In a situation described as the Second World War , if not worse by most leaders , it is going to change the world in terms of international politics and might not weight kindly to globalization as well. The oil prices are crashing and that’s just the start. If experts on economic growth didn’t warn you about this before, we are warning you right now. Even as countries like the US and it’s citizens desperately want to open themselves from the lockdown, it realizes the risk that could undo everything they have managed to get done to battle covid in this situation. Even now, USA has the highest number of cases and deaths as we speak. 

But that has not stopped the Trump administration as well as the G7 to question the Chinese and its role in this pandemic. The US has repeatedly upped the ante of their anti- China bashing brick by brick and now accuse the dragon to have artificially altered this virus for their own research or biological program. Experts by far remain divided over the origin as well on the role of the Wuhan Lab but find common ground over the attempts of the Chinese Communist Party to hide this information. Infact, the US is now joined by Germany, France , UK, Japan, Australia etc on this particular issue. The G7 virtual conference brought out the inner fault-lines as well as the brief unity over one specific target, that is the dragon. If China was their object of unity, W.H.O became the reason for the G7 fault line. Except the United States, no other country has openly expressed any sense of disapproval towards the W.H.O. While the US guns for the W.H.O as well as their chief who has been slammed for being too lax and slow to tackle the virus, other nations have highlighted the need of the W.H.O in this situation as it has the necessary resources that can help fight this virus. While all of this is true, it is also necessary to have able leaders to use those resources effectively. So far, Dr Tedros has had a splitting reception regarding his capabilities. 

The Chinese are not wasting much time in order to handle the situation that has engulfed them. With, optical tactics to show their supposed victory over the virus to preparing a response towards the situation , China has been making use of its capital and try gradually buying shares into businesses and banks that are in the red and gradually increase its position in the global economy. Not to mention that it still sends its kits despite its substandard quality that has not stopped the dragon to show its support for Countries battling Covid. China , as some Asian commentators feel, doesn’t care about the international response or to the antagonistic stance taken by its rivals. The Chinese are more concerned about their economy as well as their own casualties that have seen a change since the last time they updated their number. More cases, which is dubbed as ‘ foreign cases, are on the rise in the mainland. The economy has shrunk and experts warn of more economic consequences that might follow.

Be that it may, it’s not entirely true that the dragon is not concerned about the international community’s attention over its role. Their diplomats are on an overdrive in trying to contain the situation in their respective host countries. The recent racist attacks on Africans in China has sparked a row with African nations with a few political leaders in Kenya aggressively demanding the removal of Chinese nationals from the country. The only thing that the Chinese is concerned about is the medical system that is treating their sick on a daily basis and to re-open their economy to kickback from this period of weakness. 

But let’s look at something more. The Chinese have in the past risen because of their ambition to bring about economic changed and liberalize their economic activity and system. It used the best way to open themselves and became the largest manufacturer of goods in the world. Not only because they could provide labour but the vast, untapped inland became a hub for their success story. Countries trusted them and gradually encouraged investments by Chinese billionaires in their businesses. But since a last few years and especially during the Covid pandemic, many countries, including allies have decided to rethink and check fault lines that could be exposed and exploited by the Chinese capitalists. Considered as ‘ predatory ‘ , the Chinese inflow of investment has now been under scanner in countries like Italy, Germany, France, Australia, Vietnam, South Korea and even India. Their fear lies in the fact that the Chinese are looking for investment in enterprises that are at loss and can be bought gradually. Last week, the Chinese’s national bank brought shares in HDFC and that set the alarm bells in India, who immediately altered their FDI norms and made it more stringent for foreign investment to be accepted. Call it a response to the predatory nature of the Chinese, the dragon was not happy and immediately made note and called it ‘discriminatory’ and against globalization. It’s not difficult to realize that this move by India followed the decision of Japanese and Korean firms to move out of China and set their manufacturing basis elsewhere means that the world is now preparing to have less dependence over the dragon. Thanks to whatever role the Chinese has in this pandemic, it’s age of ambition is now being detrimental to its own economic as well as geopolitical role. 

Evan Osnos in his book, “Age Of Ambition “, mentioned the curiosity of the new China under Deng Xiaopeng and in the ideas China had started appropriated to attract more investment and the country’s willingness to setup cheaper alternatives for industrial and other purposes. Even experts like Shyam Saran had highlighted the flight of the Chinese state under Xi Jinping and the rise of it economic power. However, in 2020, the ambition of the dragon and its era is starting to show a deep mistrust of decline from their role of being the host country of the virus, to their role in handling and sharing the information regarding this situation. It’s influence over the W.H.O chief and it’s mind boggling response in diplomacy over racist attacks as well as on other issues has made it less trustworthy and more compromised in this situation. The EU, for all of it’s disunity even remarked the need to reduce the dependency over China drastically. This spells a lot of problems  for China and for its ambitious projects like BRI and others. It’s important to note that while China uses the tactic of facing discrimination because of this virus, it doesn’t seem too bothered about it when it makes repeated incursions in the South China Sea and close to Taiwan’s coast. 

China’s repeated attempts to make some money or build economic and geopolitical  growth during such testing times shows a twisted turn in the Chinese ambition model. And it’s only natural that the world would have to make a choice between an investment opportunity and the dragon’s Neo-colonial nature.

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