Is China the new colonialist?
The world politely calls China a World Superpower. Critics would argue that its quest for world dominance has put the country on the path of the new colonialist. Its whirlwind of treacherous acts is a cause of much pain to global stability and the threat of earning a title befitting an international pariah if it weren't for its size and wealth.
India has become the latest state in conflict with the communist state. The two countries represent over one-third of the world's population. Any skirmish between the two nuclear-armed giants is a threat to world peace on a colossal scale.
The recent clash between Indian and Chinese troops in the Himalayan region of Ladakh is technically over a disputed border, but tension has been brewing for months for many reasons. The latest developments have been a cat and mouse game under treacherous weather conditions in the Himalayas, where fistfights and crude weapons were the weapons. The price was high as 20 Indian soldiers were killed. China refuses to release its casualties though the speculation is that it lost just as many if not more. The incident caused shockwaves around the world as no soldiers have died between the two since 1975.
India has further responded by banning numerous popular Chinese social media apps in India arguing that it was a threat to national security. This should not be a surprise, as China itself bans western controlled social media apps and browsers, pushing its own state-controlled IT framework. The one-party state dictates what the people of China and see and hear yet dares to argue against others banning any Chinese led products and labelling Indian nationalism as a danger to the region.
Of the 59 Chinese apps, India has banned, TikTok and WeChat are the most popular. TikTok's largest market is in India, representing 611 million downloads, nearly a third of its entire market. It is likely to hurt the Chinese market, though some of the Indian businesses dependent on the app will also be affected. But at least this is a sign that at least the international community is standing up to the communist state and perhaps that could help to deescalate tensions and slow down the new colonial-type mindset.
The world sees and complains about what is happening, but no one is brave enough to take China head-on as billions of dollars of business is at stake. Why are the EU and USA not acting against Chinese aggression? Moral choices should rise above economic profits. Otherwise, the long list of Chinese bullishness will continue.
There is the historical dispute over Tibet which led to its leader, the Dalai Lama taking refuge in India. Another example of the India China tension in the region.
In the current times, we have all experienced the location of the world's worst pandemic – COVID-19 which is already on its way to the largest number of fatalities since WW2.
In Hong Kong, it has passed security legislation that effectively prohibits any form of dissent, leading to a life in a mainland prison. Honk Kong is a former British colony which was returned to China in 1997 on the condition that Hong Kong's relative freedoms would not be interfered with by mainland China for 50 years. The Chinese authorities have decided to rip the agreements with less than half the time on the pretext of external interference.
By the way, this is the same Chinese Government who sided with Pakistan over India's decision to remove the special status in Kashmir to fight terrorism. It even wanted the issue discussed at the UN Security. Should not Hong Kong be also addressed in the Security Council? That would be difficult since China is one of the permanent members and can veto any such suggestion.
Over a million Uighur Muslims are being held in internment camps in the western Xinjiang region of China. UN reports further suggest that Muslim women are put on forced birth control. The Chinese authorities are calling it re-education camps. Critics are calling it a demographic genocide. The German-based, The World Uyghur Congress alleged that Chinese officials recently demanded Uighurs celebrate the Chinese Dragon Boat Festival by eating pork-filled 'zongzi'. The Uyghur do not celebrate the festival, not do they eat pork.
All this is merely under the backdrop of Beijing's Trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which is basically a plan for world dominance. The Chinese authorities are investing heavily to connect its economic corridors to over 71 countries which represent half the world's population and a quarter of global GDP.
Chinese firms are engaging in work across the world, often at the detriment of local contractors in partner countries. And when states cannot deliver, the price is high. In one well-known case, when the Sri Lankan government could not make repayments to Chinese loans, it had to forfeit its own port in Sri Lankan territory for 99 years. Isn't this colonialism through the backdoor?
According to economic forecasts (reported in the Guardian Newspaper), the countries of Djibouti, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, the Maldives, Mongolia, Montenegro, Pakistan and Tajikistan – are among the poorest in their respective regions and will owe more than half of all their foreign debt to China. China is utilising "debt-trap diplomacy" to extract strategic concessions – such as over territorial disputes in the South China Sea or silence on human rights violations. In 2011, China wrote off an undisclosed debt owed by Tajikistan in exchange for 1,158 sq. Km (447 sq. miles) of the disputed territory.
India is an open and democratic nation who has stood up against its neighbour. It should not be ashamed of forfeiting cheap Chinese goods for lesser Chinese made home comforts.
Chinese success or its wealth is based on the enormous profits from its exports. Its reserves are large enough to buy off most countries. If the world does take a moral stance against this, the Beijing narrative of world dominance is going to continue to spread like the pandemic. At least India rejected the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, which in hindsight was the correct move and now it is taking a further step forward. Will it make a difference, let us wait and see?