India, get ready for more irritants!
The developing economic and strategic alliance among four Pacific and Indian Ocean giants – Japan, the US, Australia and India – seems to be driving China mad. The communist country’s latest verbal attack against Japan and its democratically elected prime minister, Shinzo Abe, and calling him and the Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh, currently in Japan, ‘petty burglars’ display its growing frustration and intolerance towards other Asian powers and nervous reaction to growing Indo-Japan strategic ties.
For China, there is no issue when its soldiers sneak in at the middle of night to Ladakh to illegally camp inside Indian territory for weeks until driven out diplomatically. There is no issue when Chinese premier, Li Keqiang, visits the newly elected Pakistani prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, to ensure that the latter does not reach any closer to India in trade and diplomacy. At the same time, China objects to Abe’s visit of its neighbour, Myanmar, whose military regime China has armed and befriended to drive away Indian and western influence on the predominantly-Buddhist Bay-of-Bengal rim nation. China has been creating a lot of problem to India-Myanmar joint offshore oil and gas exploration programme as it did to a similar programme between India and Vietnam.
China has already encircled India through trade and strategic partnership with the latter’s neighbours such as Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka, all bordering India, with a strong military intention. The world must stand up to face China’s pre-1939 Hitlerite design to disturb peace in Asia by stopping trade with China to force a big hole into its ballooning economy, which feeds its military.
China’s aggressive and hegemonistic posturing in the region have lately been a matter of concern of not only of India and Japan, but other littoral countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Thailand in the vast Asia-Oceanic expanse. China’s bid to strategically control the Strait of Malacca, the East and South China Seas and even the Bay of Bengal pose a great threat to international shipping cargo movement through the historical sea route. China is also aggressively pursuing its economic cum diplomatic strategy to excise control over Indian Ocean rim countries.
Why does China want to control the entire Pacific and Indian Ocean region? Its fast expanding global trade is certainly a key reason. The country owes its economic and military might to international trade. China is the world’s largest export and import house. It has the world’s largest dollar hoard, estimated above $4 trillion, and the third largest official gold stock after the USA and Russia.
Trade is China’s real strength. It boasts of seven of the world’s 10 largest sea and river ports. Trade and investment are being increasingly used as strategic tools by the Chinese state to expand its influence to even remote destinations in Africa and South America, building roads, airports, sea ports, telecommunication networks and mining ore in economically sound countries such as South Africa, Kenya, Zambia, Nigeria, Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela.
Last year, China became the world’s biggest trading nation, with the total value of its exports and imports surpassing those of the United States. US exports and imports of goods in 2012 aggregated to $3.82 trillion, according to officially released US Commerce Department figures. China’s customs administration had recently reported that the country’s trade in goods in 2012 amounted to $3.87 trillion. This could not be achieved overnight. China’s ambition to lead the global trade and economy has also turned it into becoming a global maritime nation.
According to a UNCTAD report, China controls nine per cent of global shipping tonnage or sea-borne cargo carrying capacity as against Greece’s 16 per cent, Japan’s 15 per cent and Germany’s nine per cent, the world’s top four maritime nations by registered tonnage. The world’s second largest economy, averaging 10 per cent GDP growth rate over the past 30 years riding mostly on foreign trade, is still among the poorest when it comes to per capita income – 87th by nominal GDP and 92nd by GDP calculated under the purchasing power parity (PPP) method.
While China is increasingly focusing on raising the domestic consumption and domestic per capita income, foreign trade and foreign market will continue to play a very important role to sustain and grow its global ascendency as an economic power. To this end, it has to exercise more control over the global routes, the seas and oceans.
China’s growing irritation over the build-up of strong strategic relations between the world’s third largest economy, Japan, by nominal GDP and the fifth largest, India, by PPP is understandable. India is also among the world’s top five markets in terms of domestic consumption of commodities. Unfortunately, China has never tried to befriend India since the end of the Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai days. It considers India a major economic rival while Japan was always regarded more or less as an enemy. Now, the coming together of India and Japan threatens to stand in the way of China’s ambition to emerge as an undisputed global economic and maritime power too soon.
The latest outburst of the Chinese government-controlled People’s Daily over Shinzo Abe’s call to Japan, India, Australia and the US to jointly form a ‘Democratic Security Diamond’ to compete with ascendant China calling it an act of conspiracy of ‘petty burglars in China-related issues’ is a combined Chinese expression of frustration, anger and fear over the possible coming together of Japan and India.
Although, logically, China would have done well to win over India by addressing its geopolitical and trade concerns to build a formidable Indo-China union and, thus, preventing its rising southern neighbour from joining any other camp to ensure India’s economic and external security.