India’s China Policy:
Calling for Cooperation, Not Confrontation
The October 1 celebration of the sixtieth anniversary of the foundation of the People’s Republic of China has attracted worldwide attention. Considering the historical baggage of backwardness with which modern China had begun its journey and the size of China’s billion-plus population, China has indeed come a long way in these six decades. With “made in China” products virtually swamping the global market, the whole world obviously recognizes China’s economic prowess. Compared to China’s economic strength, its voice in the strategic domain of international relations has of course been rather soft and subdued, but of late China seems to have begun stepping up its role in this arena too.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, for a few years the world looked quite unipolar with unchallenged US domination in every sphere. But over the last one decade, the aura of American power has started fading. With every passing month, the burden of the economic, human and political cost of the US-led military misadventure in Afghanistan and Iraq is becoming increasingly heavy and unaffordable. The US has also had to bear the brunt of the global financial crisis and the recession that has revived memories of the Great Depression of the 1930s. The steady rise of China marks a striking contrast to this unmistakable decline of an overstretched superpower.
China of course does not seem to be in any hurry to assert its status as a rising global power. The keyword in Chinese foreign policy parlance is not superpower but multipolarity as opposed to a unipolar world. In its quest for a multipolar world, China is seeking closer strategic cooperation with Russia and the Central Asian republics within the framework of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, and closer bilateral and multilateral economic cooperation with major developing countries like India and Brazil (the combination of Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) can indeed be a powerful bargaining bloc). Apart from pressing for restructuring of the IMF, China has also come up with the idea of ending the US dollar’s prolonged reign as the universal currency of international exchange. China has suggested that as a medium of international transaction, dollar should be replaced by a supranational currency basket like the Special Drawing Rights (SDR) used by the IMF.
While China’s record in terms of domestic economic advance is quite extraordinary and its growing role as a balancing force against unipolar imperialist domination is undoubtedly significant, a lot is however left to be desired when one judges China by the yardstick of socialism. Much of the initial post-revolution gains achieved by the toiling masses towards genuine liberation and social progress have been lost in the wake of post-1978 modernization. Disparity, social as well as regional, is assuming critical proportions, even as the working people in both rural and urban areas are faced with growing unemployment and insecurity. No wonder popular anger is also exploding in different parts of China at regular intervals, with the state often unleashing repressive measures to handle such protests.
For communistas and anti-imperialists the world over the sixtieth anniversary of the victory of the Chinese revolution is an occasion to gather inspiration and strength from the historical transformation of a backward country into a powerful modern nation even as the problems facing China demand close scrutiny and critical introspection. At the same time it is imperative that we must boldly denounce and resist the American design to encircle China. In India the pro-US lobby has been working overtime to project China as a big imminent threat. The US military-industrial complex wants to capture India’s lucrative defence market by promising to enhance India’s military capacity vis-à-vis China. Such a course will not only make India ever more dependent on the US but also cripple whatever democracy we have by subordinating the country’s economic and political agenda to the disastrous logic of war and militarization. We must learn from our past history and save the country from this US-prescribed road to disaster. Avoiding the path of confrontation, India must move towards comprehensive cooperation with China.