Many countries are detecting over 25% of incoming Chinese travellers as infected. But the global pushback is muted.
China unleashed a heavy transit of the Chinese population after strict Zero Covid restrictions in early January 2023 and many countries like Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the United States are witnessing a fresh surge in coronavirus infections. Many countries are detecting over 25% of incoming Chinese travellers as infected. The global pushback is muted, allowing the Chinese to invade global health once again. China is known to entrap weaker economies through its debt trap, but the bigger threat is its strategy to entrap stronger economies like the US and other G7 countries, as well as India into its dependency trap, which indirectly mutes counter-actions against Chinese aggressive design, irrespective of its magnitude, dimension and implications.
HOW GRAVE IS THE CHINESE AGGRESSION?
China has launched multi-domain aggression on most countries of an unprecedented magnitude, which has not been acknowledged globally so as to avoid responding to it aggressively. The western world has been counting the casualties in the Russia-Ukraine War and collectively contesting against Russia, whereas the casualty figures caused by China through the direct invasion of the global health system by coronavirus remains unpunished. China lied, people died is a common slogan but the clamour to probe into the origin of the virus seems to be waning, once the US got dragged into the controversy of gain of function research. After two years of the pandemic, it appears that the world has to accept the bitter pill that Covid-19 originated from nowhere.
At 6.7 million people dead, casualty numbers caused by coronavirus exceed deaths in all wars of many decades put together.
China has once again unleashed the infection by suddenly opening up after draconian Zero Covid policy due to unprecedented domestic protests and has threatened countries like Japan and South Korea with visa stoppages if they test Chinese arrivals, thereby forcing them to accept the infected Chinese. Many countries like Thailand have succumbed to pressure by doing away with tests and thus putting their own people at risk. It emboldens China when the world is ready to adjust to its needs and forget its aggression. Its blatant refusal to share data which impacts global health hasn’t seen any sanctions by world community and organizations meant to take action. No-one has gone beyond expressing concerns and no resolution was sought to force China to share information to protect the lives of others.
As a token gesture, China reluctantly released its first official death toll of almost 60,000 Covid-related deaths in a month, with over 90% casualties of over 65 years as per its National Health Commission. This appears to be a case of gross under-reporting by referring to Covid as a fever and not reporting fever deaths as Covid related deaths. Is the CCP cleansing its older people using Covid, who were left the least vaccinated due to CCP’s awkward policy, to get the correct demographics for mass manufacturing?
In other domains too including Chinese incremental encroachment, the global response has been inadequate, be it grabbing features in South China Sea and converting them to military bases and junking all rulings of the PCA on the subject. Its aggression on the Himalayan borders is being responded to by India on a stand-alone mode. Its firepower demonstration targeting Taiwan has been not been responded by anything beyond posturing. Its fishing trawlers illegally fishing all over the globe have seen limited resistance by affected countries. It dares to operate secret police stations in the so-called powerful nations as part of its Three Warfare strategy; this hasn’t seen a worthwhile pushback. Its BRI projects have pushed many weak economies into an unending debt trap.
WHY IS GLOBAL RESPONSE MUTED?
By design as well as default China became the global factory due to US efforts to push China up to disintegrate the USSR. The investments as well as dependence of the West on China grew to an extent that during the coronavirus outbreak, New York had a sanitation problem when the supply chain of toilet rolls from China got disrupted. The world realised its helplessness due to its over-dependence on China during the Covid-19 pandemic but the magnitude of the dependency was such that despite strong desire/efforts to decouple, it is finding difficulty to do so till date.
Countries like Japan suffering from Chinese aggression may be criticising it, but their trade with China continues to grow. Chinese total goods trade touched a record high in 2022, reaching 42.07 trillion yuan ($6.3 trillion), a rise of 7.7% from 2021. Measured in US dollars, exports jumped 7% in 2022, while imports increased 1.1%. That translates into a trade surplus of $877.6 billion, surpassing 2021’s record of $676 billion.
Chinese exports to Japan in 2022 saw an increase of 3.87% over 2021. Similar is the story of most major economies including the US, which suffered the maximum deaths due to coronavirus. The allegation that coronavirus was a biological weapon unleashed to dislodge the US from its top position in global dominance cannot be ruled out. The nature of warfare has changed and so have the instruments of war. It’s certain that the commercial interests of countries have overshadowed/compromised security interests and the health of their people in the context of China. China has thus muted global response to its unchecked aggression, making full use of global commercial dependency on it. The trade figures indicated above prove that. That’s why China is again infecting the world with new variants of Covid-19 and no-one has stopped its flights.
THE CASE OF INDIA
While our troops endure freezing winters at the LAC, the Ministry of external Affairs says its relations with China can’t be normal till the border issue is resolved. However, the trade deficit has grown to $101 billion in 2022, out of a bilateral trade of $126 billion, marking a sharp rise of 46%, which tells a different story. More than 160 companies in India have Chinese CEOs. The API reliance is indirectly humbling Indian border efforts. China continues to cherish such “not normal relations”, which in financial terms are better than normal. Indian consumers too need to set it right, apart from expecting concrete measures by the Government of India.
WHAT should BE DONE?
It is necessary to pursue some initial steps taken by the Quad countries to synergize medical, scientific, financial, manufacturing, important emerging technology, and developmental capabilities in order to create an alternative supply chain, trade, technological, and health eco system that is independent of China. To send a proper signal that the intentions of a non-military grouping can alter overnight if there is interoperability between militaries of like-minded countries, Quad members must continue freedom of navigation and military drills in the Indo-Pacific.
To prevent vulnerable economies from falling into the debt trap set up by China through the BRI, an alternative infrastructure architecture in the form of the B3W, Blue Dot Network, and Friendship Highways is crucial. It is necessary to plan a collective reaction to threats from the cyberspace, space terrorism, biological agents, and Chinese nuclear expansion.
India needs to be self-reliant at unprecedented speed. India must increasingly create a negative import list of all products imported from China that have been or can be manufactured in India in response to economic and digital invasion and gradually forbid Chinese imports. To counter Chinese military activities near India, India is appropriately forming a variety of strategic alliances with the US and other China-wary nations.
In addition to the Quad, strategic alliances with like-minded democracies like France and the UK as well as collective naval posturing to create a multi-front situation for China in the Indo-Pacific are crucial for containing Chinese expansionism, the challenge to international law, and the threat to the global commons posed by unilaterally enforcing Coast Guard Law and Maritime Traffic Safety Laws that are China-centric.
The western world seems to be obsessed with the single agenda of weakening Russia, which is working out to China’s advantage of getting away with non-kinetic offensive measures like re-infecting its competitors, if it cannot resolve its own crisis. The Chinese aim is to let other economies also suffer, so that they do not any competitive edge over it. Overdependence on China as the global factory gives confidence of inaction against it by the world community; hence it is necessary for countries to decouple from China, move towards self-reliance and react to Chinese multi-domain aggression.
The views expressed are the personal views of Major General S.B. Asthana, SM, VSM (Veteran), who also retains the copyright.