Xitler isn’t going to go down like Hitler – R. Jagannathan

Adolf Hitler & Xi Jinping

R. JagannathanXitler cannot be defeated like Hitler; he has to be worn down economically like the Soviet Union was. The world has to brace for multi-year economic warfare. It should not blink first. – R. Jagannathan

A foreign ministers’ meeting of the Quad, the four-nation bloc comprising the US, Japan, India and Australia, sent a strong message to that rogue entity called the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on Tuesday (October 6). At the same time, it also sent an additional signal, that the US and Asian members of the Quad have differing approaches to the problem of dealing with China.

While US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo was upfront in calling out China, the other three failed to name China, speaking about it in elliptical terms. Pompeo said, “it is more critical than ever that we collaborate to protect our people and partners from the CCP’s exploitation, corruption and coercion. We have seen this in the South, in the East China Sea, the Mekong, the Himalayas, the Taiwan Straits.”

The tone was different with the other three members. The Japanese talked about developing a common vision for a “free and open Indo-Pacific”, and India about the need for “upholding a rules-based international order. The Australian foreign minister talked about the Quad having a “positive agenda”, reports Mint.

Where there may be substantive agreement between members of the Quad in trade, where at least three members, the US, Japan and India, have quietly decided to move trade dependence and supply chains away from China.

Trade is where the Quad can and should confront and contain China. It is the least damaging among many options.

India has already banned certain Chinese-owned apps and has chosen to vet Chinese investment projects most closely. It has put in place a production-linked incentive scheme to get companies to shift production bases to India under Atmanirbhar Bharat—an umbrella term meant largely to get more military equipment produced locally and to get key players in electronics and active pharma ingredients to Make in India (which is code for lowering China dependence).

Japan is offering incentives for companies to relocate supply chains outside China, and Australia is also trying to figure out how to reduce its China linkages after being subjected to state-supported cyber-attacks from Dragon country.

The US under Trump has, of course, been escalating a trade war for years, and has recently extended sanctions and penalties on Chinese companies.

If the Quad has, separately, done much to call out and impose economic costs on China for hostile acts against its neighbours and trade partners, and is yet hesitating to act more boldly in unison, the reasons for the ambivalence vary from country to country.

For the US, which is a Pacific power, putting a check on Chinese domination in Asia is critical. It thus has military (mostly naval), economic and cyber security interests at stake. But it faces no direct military threat from China. And, having actively disengaged from many military conflicts of the George Bush and Barack Obama years, it has no reason to contest China militarily beyond a point.

Japan and Australia face economic and cyber threats from China, but it is unlikely that China will ever escalate conflicts with them to the military arena. So, neither has an interest in provoking China beyond a point.

In the case of India, we face a triple threat: actual possibility of a military conflict, a trade conflict, and cyber-warfare. We are vulnerable on all fronts, though militarily we can give them a bloody nose. But we have even less of a reason to provoke a military conflict right now, when we are down on the economic front.

Most significant, the country that really faces a military and economic threat to its existence from China is Taiwan, but it is not even mentioned as a potential member of the Quad.

Even in the US, the Democratic Party is more likely to try and heal its rupture with China, which makes it riskier for the other Quad members to do anything that will end up in military, cyber or economic conflicts that nobody can win.

While the whole of Europe and most of Asia (barring Pakistan and North Korea) are clear that China is no cuddly teddy bear, no one wants to confront it. If you leave out Donald Trump, most of the world (including India) has been extraordinarily nice to China, never mind how badly it behaves with them. This is, of course, basic human behaviour. When faced with a loud and muscular bully, very few stand up to it.

The world did not stand up to Adolf Hitler when he started militarising post-First World War Germany, or when he swallowed up Austria and a part of Czechoslovakia. It was only when he invaded Poland that the world could no longer afford to ignore the new thug who was threatening everybody.

When the US was obsessed with the Soviet Union, and later the non-existent “Russian” threat, it was over-sweet to China, and allowed it to break every norm of economic behaviour—from currency manipulation to intellectual property theft to adoption of non-tariff barriers and predatory export pricing.

India was no different. Jawaharlal Nehru, of course, allowed the Chinese to swallow Tibet without a murmur, declined a UN Security Council seat in favour of Communist China, and sent his soldiers to war in 1962 without proper woollies or ammunition. Recently, Narendra Modi, after standing up to China in Doklam, has tried hard to be nice to Xi Jinping in bilateral meetings—to his eternal regret, as China repaid his friendliness with hostility.

The problem is, unlike Hitler, Xi Jinping (Xitler) is on a stronger wicket. Hitler did not have the atom bomb or the military might to take on so many great powers all together. China not only has nuclear weapons, but also the conventional military might and the population numbers to thwart any concerted military threat to itself—excepting on the high seas, where American naval power still is vastly superior. If the US, India, Australia and Japan decide to block China on the high seas and restrict its sea access, they can do something to thwart the dragon.

But not much more. Even partial denial of sea access will not impact China much as it has enough land and other routes from which its economic power can be projected and trade can continue without too many barriers. This includes the Gwadar Port in Balochistan through Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

To make matters worse, a Covid-impacted world may have no stomach to do even this, and its dependence on Chinese purchasing power may have grown over the last few years as China focused on internal consumption growth.

A McKinsey study last year, titled China and the World, written before China started baring its fangs over Hong Kong, Taiwan, India and much of its southern neighbourhood, had this to say:

The relationship between China and the rest of the world appears to be entering a new phase. China’s economic miracle was fuelled by industry and investment, but today domestic consumption is the main driving force of growth. The country is becoming less exposed in economic terms to the rest of the world. However, reflecting China’s rise to being the world’s second-largest economy and its leading trading nation, the rest of the world is becoming more exposed to China. These shifts have been accompanied by trade tensions and rising protectionism in many countries, raising the question whether we have reached a point of peak integration between China and the world. – McKinsey Global Institute

The report raises the right question: have we a reached a point from where the world’s engagement with China can only fall?

The answer is a big yes. Xitler can’t be confronted militarily like Hitler was. He can only be sanctioned and isolated in trade, with the hope that the Chinese people will, at some time, realise that the cause of their increasing isolation is not the rest of the world, but their own autocratic party and its bosses.

This ought to be the Quad’s primary prong of strategic containment of China, apart from naval coordination in the Indo-Pacific region. Xitler cannot be defeated like Hitler; he has to be worn down economically like the Soviet Union was. The world has to brace for multi-year economic warfare. It should not blink first. – Swarajya, 7 October 2020

Quad Tokyo Oct 6 2020


2 Responses

  1. Indians Seeing 60,000 Chinese Soldiers On Their Northern Border: Mike Pompeo – NDTV – ANI – October 11, 2020

    US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has hit out against China for its aggressive military behaviour and the threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party to the Quad group of countries, including India as well as Beijing’s response to the handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
    In several interviews after his return from the Quad ministerial meeting in Japan, Mike Pompeo pointed out how the Chinese have begun to amass huge forces against India and that Indians are seeing 60,000 Chinese soldiers on their northern border.

    Speaking on The Guy Benson Show, Pompeo said: “A million people are now dead because the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) didn’t respond to the Wuhan virus in a way that they should have. Economies have been destroyed as a direct result of that. Indians are seeing 60,000 Chinese soldiers on their northern border.”

    The US Secretary of State reiterated this in an interview with Larry O’Conner while speaking about his “important trip” in which he met his Indian counterpart S. Jaishankar along with those from Japan and Australia, to further efforts to “build out the coalition that is working to ensure that the Chinese Communist Party doesn’t become the global hegemon that it seeks to become.”

    “The Chinese have now begun to amass huge forces against India in the north,” Pompeo told Larry O’Conner.

    Pompeo also talked about the important allies of the United States in Asia.

    “They absolutely need the United States to be their ally and partner in this fight. But they’ve all seen it, whether it’s the Indians, who are actually having a physical confrontation with the Chinese up in the Himalayas in the northeastern part of India – right? The Chinese have now begun to amass huge forces against India in the north – whether it’s the Australians who did the simple thing of saying the Chinese screwed this deal up with the virus, and we’d like to understand what happened and said we ought to have a full investigation, and in exchange for that, the Chinese Communist Party began to extort, coerce, bully the Australians,” Pompeo said.

    He also alleged the previous US administration had “bent a knee”, and had allowed China to steal their intellectual properties and jobs.

    “For decades, the West allowed the Chinese Communist Party to walk all over us. The previous administration bent a knee, too often allowed China to steal our intellectual properties and the millions of jobs that came along with it. They see that in their country too,” he mentioned.

    “I was with my foreign minister counterparts from India, Australia, and Japan – a format that we call the Quad, four big democracies, four powerful economies, four nations, each of whom have real risk associated with the threats imposed – attempting to be imposed by the Chinese Communist Party. And they see it in their home countries too. They see the people of their nations understanding that we all slept on this for too long,” Pompeo added.

    “The Australians saw that when they did – had the temerity to simply ask for an investigation about the virus that the Chinese began to exert economic power against them and to try to coerce and bully them,” Pompeo said.

    The Quad foreign ministers meeting in Tokyo took place on Tuesday, (October 6, 2020).

    On the Hugh Hewitt show, Pompeo talked about the “push back against Chinese Communist Party predatory activity” by the four democracies of Quad- India, Japan, Australia and the US.

    “The Indians have banned dozens and dozens of Chinese apps, and have stopped having their government purchase any product from China. That’s remarkable. It’s work that has been done diplomatically, and then there are the security issues too,” he said.


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