Red China is 60


Oct.01 : As it celebrates the 60th anniversary of the 1949 Communist revolution led by Chairman Mao Zedong today, there is much that the People’s Republic of China can legitimately be proud of. Led by the engine of economic growth, in recent decades its comprehensive national power has grown exponentially. But easily the most striking aspect of the rise of the Chinese system has been the accretion to the capacities of its military establishment, which was among the four “modernisations” underlined by the late Deng Xiaoping, who inspired the dragon’s resurgence in the era after Mao. More than anything else, it is arguably this factor that has provoked considerable latent unease in China’s neighbourhood, causing the subject of keeping a rising China within a stable framework of rules to become a staple of regional and international political concerns. In the event, it is interesting that Beijing should be asking India and Pakistan to seek a resolution of the Kashmir issue through peaceful and friendly consultations, and has even offered to play a “constructive role” in settling the problem. The observation of assistant foreign affairs minister Hu Zhengyue to this effect was made to a group of visiting journalists and does not carry the imprimatur of the highest organs of state. Nevertheless, China watchers are known to track little and big developments, and nuances of wordplay, for that country doesn’t have a settled system of political articulation on account of the system it runs.

The only concession to Indian sensitivities in the Chinese statement is that it refers to the Kashmir question as a “bilateral” issue (between India and Pakistan). It is well known that this country has always discouraged any international solicitousness as regards Kashmir. Pakistan, on the other hand, has chosen the opposite course. It likes the idea of “internationalising” the Kashmir question in the hope that this will help further its claims. Seen in this light, Beijing’s low-key but unexpected activism on Kashmir is certain to please Islamabad but not New Delhi. There is also no little irony in the fact that China sits on a chunk of Kashmir’s territory gifted to it by Pakistan even as it complacently urges its South Asian neighbours to deal with the contention between them through peaceful and friendly consultations. Given this state of affairs, there is discernible presumptuousness on its part to offer to play the role of a disinterested broker.

China’s own record of settling problems that are a carryover from history is far from satisfactory. The Vietnamese know this to their cost in the case of the Paracel and Spratly Islands in Vietnam’s Eastern Sea and Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea. Taiwan remains disputed territory. On the border marking Tibet’s contiguity with India, Beijing moved troops in 1962. Xinjiang in China’s northwest is not tranquil either, and is a region with a past that China seeks to dispute. A record such as this is hardly conducive to the offer of good offices to other countries. China should celebrate the anniversary of its revolution with gusto, but its advice to others, if it is not to provoke hilarity, should be grounded in realism.


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