Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

[op-ed snap] Headwinds after a hard-line approach

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : China's internal conditions

Context

The challenges for the Communist Party of China and Chinese President Xi Jinping are mounting by the day. 

Over Hong Kong

  • In a rebuke to the handling of the Hong Kong crisis, pro-democracy forces made massive gains in local elections.
  • 17 of the 18 district councils are now controlled by pro-democracy councilors. 
  • The election saw an unprecedented voter turnout of more than 71%.

Managing Hong Kong

  • Protests began early in 2019 over the introduction of a bill authorizing extraditions to mainland China.
  • It is not clear if the voices of the Hong Kong street protests would be heard in Beijing

Problems for China

  • Mr. Xi held the Hong Kong portfolio on the Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee before he became China’s de facto emperor. 
  • He has centralized power to an unprecedented level. There is no one else to share any blame for the policies enunciated by Mr. Xi. 
  • Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has reiterated that “no matter what happens, Hong Kong is a part of China”.

Uighur issue

  • A massive trove of classified Chinese government documents was leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
  • It showcases a much more granular narrative of how China is carrying out the mass detention of Muslim Uighurs and other minorities in its northwest Xinjiang province. 
  • These documents belie repeated Chinese claims that it is sending the estimated million or more people to vocational training schools with the goal of combating terrorism. 
  • Chinese embassies and consulates worldwide had been instrumental in facilitating the mass detention. 

Costs of the backlash

  • There are no good options for him in Hong Kong. If he continues his hard-line approach, he will make the ground situation worse in Hong Kong.
  • Making concessions also is not a very viable option for him as it is not readily evident how far the demands might go. 
  • Though the extradition bill has been withdrawn, the demands of protesters in Hong Kong have grown to include genuine universal suffrage and an inquiry into allegations of police brutality. 

Effect on party dynamics

  • The delicate balance that the Communist Party has managed to evolve in the politics of China can be frayed if ordinary Chinese lose trust.
  • There is also a chance of rivalries within the Communist Party flaring up as Mr. Xi’s policies take a hit. 
  • He has made a lot of enemies in his drive to emerge as the supreme leader and he has been ruthless with his opponents.
  • The Chinese economy is not doing well. There is growing internal criticism of Mr. Xi’s flagship Belt and Road Initiative and the costs China is having to bear for a grandiose project. 
  • China’s aggressive influence operations in other countries are also generating strong backlash. 
  • The Australian media has reported on an alleged Chinese plot to plant a spy in the Australian Parliament which has been termed as “deeply disturbing”.
  • Reports that a Chinese spy has applied for asylum in Australia after providing information about Chinese operations in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Australia has damaged an already battered Chinese global image.

Conclusion

Beijing might want to divert attention from its own internal failures by lashing out at the world.

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