China the aggressor
BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - June 4, 2020 - 12:00am

Amidst the global pandemic crisis, China has decided to become more aggressive in its international affairs. In Hong Kong after a relatively handoff policy in dealing with protesters, Hong Kong has now been deemed a threat to the Communist Party. A new security law which will be written in Beijing will declare crimes of subversion and secession which will be used to lock up dissidents. China will be allowed to station its secret police in Hong Kong. The charade of “one country, two systems” is about to end.

In the last issue of the Economist magazine, it says:

The people of Hong Kong want two things: to choose how they are governed and to be subject to the rule of law. The Chinese Communist Party finds both ideas so frightening that many expected it to send troops to crush last year’s protests in Hong Kong. Instead, it bided its time. Now with the world distracted by COVID-19 and mass protests difficult because of social distancing, it has chosen a quieter way to show who’s boss. That threatens a broader reckoning with the world – not just over Hong Kong but also over the South China Sea and Taiwan.

People must understand that the primary purpose of China in any of its domestic and foreign policy is the retention of absolute power in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.

Camilla Sorensen referred to this in her book “Asian Perspective”: “One such priority is the fundamental imperative to keep the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in power, which gives paramount importance to the Chinese leadership’s effort to maintain domestic social and political stability...the link between keeping the CCP in power and the demand on the party to continuously deliver on domestic stability, economic growth and growing prosperity for the Chinese population is political legitimacy: the CCP’s performance during the economic reforms determines its legitimacy.”

Deng Xiaoping, father of China’s modern economic miracle, tried to establish a global leadership position for China through goodwill diplomacy without using aggressive, imperialistic machinations. There was a time when the world hoped Xi Jinping would follow similar policies. After Trump was elected, Xi gave a speech at Davos where he said China would be the leader in globalization against protectionism. He promised China would engage in major development programs to help alleviate global poverty. All those statements remained talk and never became reality.

Another geopolitical expert Kristine Berzina recently said: “This is a worrying trend... China’s foreign policy is becoming more aggressive, more Russian and more Trumpian.”

This is a dangerous situation for the world as the three countries are led by domineering personalities – Trump, Putin, XI whose sole obsession is to remain in power and whose main political tool is an appeal to nationalism. The Chinese Communist Party, like Donald Trump, was able to ride on the economic boom started by past administrations in their country. As I have said, China’s economic boom was started by Deng Xiaoping and Xi is just the political beneficiary.

The COVID-19 crisis, however, has changed all that as the global economy is facing a recession, if not a depression. World leaders that were expecting to govern during economic boom times are now suddenly faced with the prospect of governing during a time of health crisis and economic crisis.

Trump’s strategy is clear. He is stoking the flames of division in the United States especially racism to solidify his white base for the coming elections.

The strategy of the Chinese Communist Party for retaining power will surely include  calls for nationalism like Trump. If the economy of China worsens, an even more aggressive foreign policy by the Communist Party is expected. There are already certain signs.

Mt. Everest is actually divided between India controlling the southern side and China the northern or Tibetan side. A recent item came from China’s state media outlet China Global television network which said: “An extraordinary sun halo was spotted Friday in the skies over Mount Qomolangma also known as Mt. Everest , the world’s highest peak located in China’s Tibet Autonomous Region.” There was no mention that the mountain was divided between two countries.

This is how Chinese expansion in the South China Sea started by giving the geographic features Chinese names and recognized as part of Beijing’s own territory.

Away from the eyes of the world, there are now very serious standoffs between Indian and Chinese troops along disputed boundaries in eastern Ladakh.  According to Indian media, Chinese troops have intruded across three places in Ladakh. The actions are unprecedented because Chinese troops have crossed the Line of Actual Control (LAC) which is the China-India boundary as agreed by both parties. Chinese troops are clearly intruding into Indian territory.

There is the possibility that China will try  the tactics it used in the South China Sea. It could build structures in the disputed territories and dare other countries to push them out. The question is whether India will allow themselves to be bullied.

China is waging a more aggressive economic confrontation with other countries. After Australia recently joined a call to investigate the origin of coronavirus, China has threatened to stop importation of all beef and coal imports from Australia.

If Hong Kong’s opposition is finally defeated, the next target for the Chinese Communist Party is Taiwan. This will be a risky adventure for the Communist Party since Taiwan has a strong military component and its people are definitely anti Communist Party. But if China’s aggressiveness  proves successful, a cocky China could provoke a war in this part of the world.

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