Organised by: Centre for Public Policy Research, Kochi

Date & Time: October 21, 2021 at 5:00 PM

Proceedings Report:

Speakers:

  • Gaurie Dwivedi, Columnist and Author of the Book ‘Blinkers Off, How Will The World Counter China’ published by Pentagon Press, 2021
  • Sandip Ghose, Former COO of Birla Corporation. Business leader with three decades of experience in senior leadership roles across industries.

Event at a glance:

  1. The complex and multilayered literature pertaining to the exponential expansion of China is almost as eye catching as the question – how they did it ? Gaurie Dwivedi’s “Blinkers Off: How will the world counter China?” uniquely captures the bird eye view of this phenomenon. It answers certain very fundamental questions – What is the China threat ? Why is it something we should talk about ? and how should it be contained and who will play a role in doing so ?
  2. The elements touched in this literature are not limited to the Sino-Indian relations nor does it limit itself to the military domain but it touches upon the growth trajectory of the Chinese expansion with respect to trade, technology, commerce, and geography.
  3. The Webinar began with welcome remarks delivered by Ms. Purvaja Modak, Research Fellow (International Relations) at CPPR, who welcomed the panelists and introduced the Gaurie Dwivedi’s book to the crew on board.
  4. Ms. Modak emphasized  the existing literature by giving a brief on aspects touched in the book where the author has identified the biggest strategic challenges faced by the world today and how the book provides a road map to address the complexities of the Chinese competition. The literature aims to bridge the gap between the present arguments  focused on military dimensions to issues of non-military dimension.
  5. This was followed by the formal discussion led by the author Gaurie Dwivedi, talking about how the world had refused to pay attention to the warning signs that were afloat with respect to China’s rise and why its rise matters as it has important stake in possibly every corner of the world, having its shadow in all significant agendas like technology, trade, space, research, etc.
  6. The first order question posed by the author is why the rise of China is not seen as a peaceful attempt and what are the ambitions of Xi Jinping with its Chinese Communist Party leaders. She emphasized the fact that the rise is not limited in the area of technology, trade or in the geopolitical aspect but also towards changing world order by forming an alliance of countries which collectively aims for the same objectives. This is evident from China’s vested interest in like-minded countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Russia as well.
  7. Similarly the author highlighted that now the blinkers are off, post the Covid-19 pandemic. India and the world must not limit their focus to South China Sea and to the frigates and submarines in it or to the tanks on the Ladakh border. Rather countering the Chinese and viewing the bigger picture is crucial.
  8. An important finding that has emerged is regarding countering optical fibre networks laid by China in 70 countries with an aim to conquer deep sea surveillance. China’s quest for dominance can be witnessed in the outer space technology and in its desire to be a dialogue starter when it comes to the Arctic Region, where it is not yet a stakeholder. Despite not having a strong  locus standi, it seems to be dominating all major discussion pertaining to the Region.
  9. The author raises very intriguing arguments for complex issues like – who shall stop this storm, and who should take the lead? She emphasizes the need for countries to be independent decision makers and not look up to the USA every time. It has to be through legitimate alliances with partner countries being powerful enough to address these issues and play an equal part in addressing them.
  10. The panel discussion was then taken over by Professor Sandip Ghose who expressed his views on how he feels the blinkers came off, near to the Covid-19 pandemic and post the Afghanistan crisis. He outlined how the China factor has rapidly moved forward and has taken a toll on global production and manufacturing hubs by disrupting the global supply chain.
  11. As per the author, a decade ago, China was playing a waiting game. It projected itself as a nation seeking only trade opportunities. Although this idea was aided and guided by the West during the tenure of Hu Jintao along with Xi Jinping.
  12. The author also reflected that China grew the fastest during Hu Jintao’s tenure and its exponential growth was a result of its short-term promises kept to the world, projecting an open-door policy. It was assumed that China would unwind its subsidy mechanism and its managed exchange policies as a fair-trading mechanism to the world.
  13. It was only in this decade that the silent military expansion by China went unnoticed or was not challenged enough, whether it was with respect to China’s activities in the Spratly Islands or its violation of international maritime law or the convincing of European nations to web strong ties with it.
  14. Western powers played an active role in allowing China to own deep enroutes into Europe, Africa and allowing them to own a disproportionate amount of natural resources and minerals, taking ownerships up to 67% in cobalt mines or 80% in magnesium
  15. The session proceeded with discussion on the November EU-China summit, due in November 2021 focussing on how much China owns resources in Europe. For this, the book presents its evidence. Chinese companies gained ownership of at least four airports including the Frankfurt-Hahn Airport, six ports and roughly a dozen of  professional soccer clubs. Europe started screening Chinese investments at a time when Beijing’s clout and influence was so pronounced that it could dictate whether or not Europe could condemn its gross human rights violation publically or not.
  16. The discussion proceeded to underscore need for Afghanistan- China ties. Dwivedi says China doesn’t want to be the first to recognise Taliban and is moving slow in Afghanistan, since they are ledging  Russia to identify the same, although the bigger and the only worry for China is that Taliban at some point will increase the funding in  the Xinjiang region and in East Turkmenistan. The main objective left for China is, therefore, to undermine the West and reduce Indian influence in Afghanistan. This explains the reason why China cannot be looked upon as a peaceful nation.
  17. Afghanistan is subject to service same utilities as Pakistan, which is to keep New Delhi on its toes, by continuing unrest on the Indian border with an assumption to create internal unrest in India.
  18. The author also suggested that the latest data indicates that the highest number of cyber threats to India are loosely linked to Chinese entities and individuals.
  19. The discussion ended on a strong note calling attention to India’s need to diversify and continue to engage the focus to the new age economic and techno-political warfare. At the same time India must aim to build multilateral alliances to counter the Chinese.
  20. The session was concluded with a Q&A session, and a vote of thanks to the esteemed members of the panel.

This event report was prepared by Shrushti, Research Intern at CPPR.

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