Beijing is nervous that its ambition of dominating the world is not making any headway. That is why President of China Xi Jinping has accused the United States and other Western countries of trying to contain and suppress China, say observers.
Participating in a panel discussion in Beijing on March 7, 2023, President Xi said: “Western countries, led by the U.S., have implemented all-round containment and suppression of China, which has brought unprecedented severe challenges to the development of the country. The risks and challenges we face will only increase and become more severe.”
The news from Beijing is grim indeed. In 2022, the Chinese economy registered a growth of only three percent; the lowest in decades. Newly appointed Premier of China Li Qiang in a news conference on March 13, 2023, admitted that it would not be an easy task for the Chinese economy which had slowed down to achieve the growth target of five percent in 2023.
It is no use, however, accusing the United States and other Western countries of hatching a conspiracy to push China into this sorry situation. The main reason why the Chinese economy is floundering is the mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic by the mandarins of the Communist Party of China. The blunder that they had made was to refuse to import vaccines from countries like the USA and the U.K. and out of a false sense of ego to depend on inefficient Chinese vaccines. As deaths from the pandemic started mounting, the Chinese government reacted by imposing a draconian lockdown when the rest of the world was opening up and returning to normal. The urgent need to vaccinate the elderly people was again ignored.
A zero-Covid policy that was destined to fail was imposed on the hapless people of China to ensure unhindered nomination of President Xi to a record third term in power. As the economy of China collapsed under the disruption caused by the lockdown and common people of China erupted in protest, the restrictions were withdrawn completely in a knee-jerk reaction; leading to an avalanche of deaths, the true figures about which have never been disclosed.
Another ominous signal threatening the Chinese economy is the demographic crisis, for which, too, it is senseless to blame the USA and Western countries. The population of China is shrinking, and worse, it is also ageing; reducing the size of the workforce. The comparative advantage that China had hitherto enjoyed in the form of a large labour force and cheap labour is, thus destined to be lost. The mandarins of the CPC are now worried how they would continue to maintain the story of a rapid growth rate which had been scripted by exploiting the common Chinese workers.
Threats issued by Foreign Minister of China Qin Gang on March 8, a day after the accusations levelled by President of China Xi Jinping, have further exposed the helpless situation of Beijing. Qin Gang threatened Washington of “conflict and confrontation” if it failed to change course in relations with Beijing. Shedding diplomatic niceties, the Foreign Minister of China was reported to have adopted a combative tone in a news conference in Beijing while accusing Washington of “entirely deviating from rational and sound track.”
By contrast, the response of Washington to the unseemly outburst from Beijing was measured. U. S. State Department spokesman Ned Price denied that the U. S. Government wanted to suppress China. He said Washington wanted to “coexist responsibly” in a global trade and political system. “This is not about containing China. This is not about suppressing China. This is not about holding China back,”he said. “We want to have that constructive competition that is fair and does not veer into that conflict.”
What President of China Xi Jinping and Foreign Minister Qin Gang seem to have overlooked is that the relations of China with the USA, Japan, India and other Asian neighbours, particularly the littoral states in the South China Sea, have soured because of the aggressive policies pursued by Beijing. The Xi Jinping government is out to colonize the world through its military and economic policies.
The Quadrilateral Alliance comprising Australia, Japan, India and the USA carrying out a comprehensive review of the situation in the Indo – Pacific in New Delhi on March 3 has further unnerved Beijing. The four Foreign Ministers of the alliance issued a statement after the meeting, reaffirming the commitment of Quad to a free and open Indo-Pacific and upholding the principles of rule of law, sovereignty and territorial integrity and peaceful settlement of disputes. No right-thinking person can have any objection against this righteous stand of the Quad members, yet Beijing in response called the alliance an “exclusionary bloc”and an Asian version of NATO.
It has been rightly pointed out that Beijing is trying to advance a vision of the world that is fundamentally at odds with the one set forth in the UN Charter. “We are seeing strategic competition unfortunately play out in dangerous ways by advancing a vision of the world that is fundamentally at odds with the vision that is set forth in the U. N. Charter, fundamentally at odds with the vision that so many countries in the world also share,”U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price pointed out on February 24, 2023. Among the shared values were upholding of international law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
China, however, shares none of these values. Chinese attempts to establish its hegemony in the South China Sea at the cost of the other littoral countries is a blatant violation of international law. So also is the Chinese attempt to change the status quo to its favour on the Line of Actual Control along the India – China border in flagrant violation of international protocols.
Serious violations of human rights in the Xinjiang region and in Tibet by Chinese rulers have in recent periods been roundly criticized by the United Nations, but to no avail.
Even as late as March 8, 2023, experts backed by the United Nations urged China to improve upon the independence of its judiciary, share data on Covid-19, suspend the construction of coal-fired power plants and immediately end the violation of human rights in the western Xinjiang region. The recommendations were based on a report of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, made up of 18 independent experts who worked with the human rights office of the United Nations.
China was asked to do more to protect the cultural diversity of its religious minorities, and to set up an independent national human rights institution to monitor the protection
of human rights in Hong Kong. China was also asked to increase taxes on carbon emissions to meet the goals of Paris climate accord.
The Committee of experts was highly critical of the “Belt and Road Initiative” of China which Beijing has designed as a tool to dominate the world economically. “The review also aired concerns about the lack of transparency, corruption and unsustainable debt levels incurred by some countries that have taken part in the Belt and Road Initiative, a China-funded development project,”an AP report from Geneva said. Beijing is using the BRI to enmesh poor countries in a debt trap and using this to gain control of strategic assets of these countries like ports to further the ambition of Beijing to dominate the world militarily, too.
President of China Xi Jinping has accused the USA and the European Union of cracking down against Chinese tech giants like Huawei and banning Chinese social media app TikTok from the phones of officials; but Beijing was using these tools to steal vital data from the Western countries and gather intelligence. China has realized that the only way it can return to the high growth path of yore is by upgrading the technology, but is helpless as it cannot access advanced technology from the USA; the world leaders in technology.
Beijing has landed itself in this sorry plight because it has deviated from the path of cooperation with the world community and chosen the path of confrontation to establish the supremacy of China in the world. The key to prosperity for the whole world is free flow of trade and investment in a peaceful atmosphere. If Beijing chooses to suppress and contain other countries militarily and economically, the world community will meet the challenge from China in its own way and the mandarins of the Communist Party of China cannot complain about it.