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Unravelling the Chinese Puzzle!

ANI  |  New Delhi 

For the last few months we have been hearing of Chinese incursions in Ladakh as well as in Arunachal Pradesh. The first series of reports about Chinese incursions were published a few weeks ahead of the visit to India by the Chinese Premier Li Kequiang and there was a demand from some parties that if the Chinese do not 'withdraw' the visit should be cancelled.

The Minister for External Affairs, Salman Khurshid, visited Beijing and drew the reports to the notice of the Chinese and the visit to India of the Chinese Premier took place as scheduled. However, there were reports that India had removed some of the shelters and the Chinese too had removed some of their structures when moving away and that the Chinese had destroyed some cameras installed by the Signals units of the Indian Army.

Has India been complacent? Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and Defence Minister A. K. Antony have assured the nation that our troops are vigilant. The Line of Control is being patrolled by units of the Indian Army and the sector commanders meet and exchange notes whenever such intrusions take place.

Simultaneously, discussions at the government level take place between the Governments of India and China to resolve the border dispute.

When dealing with China, one has to be aware of the internal pressure groups within the country. China is no longer a monolithic country. It consists of 31 administrative units directly below the central government in Beijing -- 22 provinces, five autonomous regions and four provincial cities; In addition, Hong Kong and Macao exist as Special Administrative regions. The powers that the provinces exercise are delegated from the centre and they constantly lobby the centre for resources.

China witnessed many changes during the period of Deng Xiao Ping, the major architect of modern China. He laid stress on 'province building' as against 'nation building'. A keen watcher of the Chinese scene Pye stated that ' it is one of the greatest illusions of the day that the Chinese authorities are as omnipotent as they pretend to be.

One should also know the relationship between the Chinese Communist Party and the Peoples' Liberation Army. It is no longer the situation that existed during the period of Mao Zedong who laid down:" Our principle is that the party commands the gun, and the gun must never be allowed to command the party."

According to D.S. Rajan, who says in his contribution in the book, 'the army is likely to be proactive in certain key foreign policy areas like those concerning land and sea boundaries, and thus, China's ties with its neighbours having territorial disputes with the Peoples Republic of China may come under further strain.' However, an unmistakable trend is that the PLA unlike in the past, is now playing a weaker role in Chinese elite politics. The professionalism in the PLA is making the army concentrate more on increasing its fighting capabilities.

The task allotted by the political leadership in China to the military is a three-fold: deal with security threats, safeguard security and development interests and maintain world peace and promoting common development. Under the circumstances, the PLA is naturally conducting its own diplomacy, in parallel to functions of the foreign ministry, says D.S. Rajan.

Tibetans, Muslims and Mongols yet to be integrated

The Chinese have not yet forgotten that during the Long March in 1935, the cadres of the Communist Party of China 'met with fierce hostility from the Tibetans, Muslims and Mongols. The effort to bring the 'minorities' under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party was to be of decisive significance on the road ahead to the victory of the peoples' revolution. Tshering Chonzom Bhutia, in his contribution on Tibet, points out that six decades after Tibet's 'liberation', Tibetans in China are yet to be wholly amalgamated into the CPC's scheme.

The presence in India of the Dalai Lama has influenced China's relations towards India. The series of self-immolations that have been occurring on the Tibetan plateau since 2009 have reignited a fierce debate about the PRC's model of governance in the restive region.

Bhutia points out that the Chinese have been conducting propaganda, both internal and external, in multiple forms like "White Papers, news articles, school books and patriotic education campaigns' to achieve the objective of amalgamating the Tibetans. There have also been efforts at conducting negotiations with the Dalai Lama, who is willing to forsake sovereignty claims in lieu of 'genuine autonomy' for a unified Tibet. But there has not been any substantive outcome.

What is problematic is the Chinese Communist Party's single minded emphasis on integrating the Tibetan economy with the Chinese economy, its rejection of any space for dissent and also a complete lack of openness towards the Dalai Lama's 'middle way approach'. Bhutia says all these behoove a grim and uncertain future for all stakeholders in the Sino-Tibetan problem. Similarly China has been facing problems in maintaining long-term stability and sustaining development in Xinkjiang. Debashish Chaudhuri, in his paper, points out that inequitable economic development in Xinjiang has created unfathomable gap between various ethnic groups. The call for unleashing a 'people's war' against the Uyghur separatists has been unfortunate says Chaudhuri, and adds:The people's war cannot be a response to so-called Islamic Jihad.'

Bhavna Singh, the contributor on the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region, points out that unless significant efforts are made towards genuine parity and distribution of economic benefits, the state will soon find itself tied in a quagmire of indigenous protests, human rights condemnations and geopolitical ruptures as in the case of Tibet and Xinjiang. '

The book has an interesting chapter contributed by Jayadev Ranade on the Bo Xilai affair, which saw Bo Xilai's ouster as Party Secretary of the centrally administered Changqing Municipality and later from the Politburo and even membership of the Party, followed by a series of dramatic events.

These included the abortive attempt by his hand-picked Chief of Public Security in February 2012 to seek asylum in the US Consulate General in Chengdu. There were also reports that the five million yuan embezzlement charge against Bo Xilai, was linked to plans to purchase a holiday villa for former president Jiang Zemin. Ranade points out that the delay in framing charges against Bo Xilai and bringing him to trial, reveals the intense protracted bargaining underway in the highest echelons of the Chinese Communist Party.

Jayadev Ranade has also made a an analysis of China's 18th Party Congress held from November 8 to November 14 which saw the smooth transfer of power to leaders of the next generation. He says the 7-member Poliburo Standing Committee led by 62-year-old Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang comprises of dependable apparatchicks who adhere to the party line and discipline and neither brook any violation. Four of them are 'princelings'.

A feature, we in India are familiar with. I would recommend the book to all 'strategic experts' in the country, particularly those in the media (By I. Ramamohan Rao)

Book Review: The 18th Congress of the Communist Party of China; edited by C.V. Ranganathan and Sanjeev Kumar. pages 341.

First Published: Thu, September 12 2013. 11:41 IST