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Monday, February 26, 2024

China or USA – Hobson’s choice


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In September 2021, the Chinese Ambassador to London was banned from the British Parliament since China had sanctioned some British MPs over their criticism of the violation of the rights of Uighurs

The Chinese Embassy, facing a loss of face, retorted in the only ways it knows how to, with abuse and fury, calling it a “despicable and cowardly action of certain individuals of the UK Parliament to obstruct normal exchanges and cooperation between China and the UK for personal political gains is against the wishes and harmful to the interests of the peoples of both countries”

Surprisingly, China acknowledges that the British action might also harm the people of China

This is a climbdown since all previous warnings to other countries that have issues with China have said that the people of the other country would suffer (never the Chinese)

After determining how many children each Chinese couple can have (fertility with Chinese characteristics), how much food a Chinese can eat (hunger with Chinese characteristics), PingPong now wants to limit the time that Chinese children spend gaming on the Internet (fun with Chinese characteristics) and restrict membership of celebrity fan clubs (role models with Chinese characteristics whose earnings cannot be discussed)

He is truly the granddaddy of control freaks

The phrase Hobson’s Choice refers to something that seems to be a choice but isn’t

Democracies like the USA and India are founded on individual will and liberty

Autocracies like China seek unity through uniformity

One system survives, the other collapses

In the mildly centripetal agglutination of people that is India and the USA, suppression (of minorities and others) does not work

Despite its obnoxious triumphalism and arrogance, the American dream of liberty, the freedom of choice and the choice of freedom, is a universal desire, shared by billions

There is palpable anger against China in the USA (and elsewhere) as many believe that it cheated and conned its way to US technology and investment

In a 2-hour conversation with his Chinese counterpart in February 2021, Joe Biden expressed concern over China’s coercive and unfair trade practices, its violation of human rights, crackdown in Hong Kong, mistreatment of Muslims, aggressive actions in Asia including Taiwan, and obfuscation over the virus

These are the issues that Beijing wants the world to forget

“There will be repercussions for China, and he knows that,” Biden said of Xi at a town hall event

He told US senators that “if we don’t get moving, they (China) are going to eat our lunch” and said famously that Xi PingPong did not have a democratic bone in his body

Their conversation in September 2021 was more cordial

The US, realizing that it is too expensive to be the sole Rambo of the world, is reincorporating its friends and allies into a triple C or “Contain China Coalition”, as the June 2021 NATO and G7 Summits show

A US Defence Department taskforce is working on a plan to counter China, and the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or Quad (India, US, Japan, Australia) is the flavour of the month

The Quad leaders will have their second ever Summit in the same year in Washington DC later this month

In November 2020, Donald Trump outlawed Americans from investing in firms suspected to be owned or controlled by the Chinese military, forcing US exchanges to delist several Chinese companies like China Mobile, China Telecom, China Unicom

Yet Chinese companies chase US listings, because it offers greater liquidity, a massive investor base and a streamlined listing process, apart from the willingness of US investors to deal with startups

Earlier this year, shares of the Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi crashed 20% (it had raised USD 4.4 bn in New York) after Chinese authorities opened an investigation suspecting that it had shared its massive database about its Chinese users

It opened similar investigations against truck-hailing Full Truck Alliance and job-listing firm Kanzhun, immediately after the companies raised capital in the United States

Now it has gone after online education platforms

Interestingly, China has no compunctions about filching data from wherever it can

Data has become the new gold standard, as enhanced AI, algorithms, machine learning, combines with state-sponsored cyber activities become more pervasive

Several top US Republican lawmakers have introduced more than a dozen bills in Congress to counter the growing Chinese influence in the country and to protect America’s critical infrastructure

A US Congressman said that China is our foremost military adversary, which seeks to infiltrate our economy, universities, digital infrastructure and intelligence agencies

The Intelligence on Nefarious Foreign Leaders Using Education Networks for Corrupt Enrichment (INFLUENCE) Act aims to limit intellectual property theft at colleges and universities since there was evidence that the Chinese government would stop at nothing to steal American secrets and intellectual property

In a few years (perhaps even before my approaching expiry date) experts shall be analysing the reasons for the collapse of Communist China, beset with military, financial, demographic, and agricultural challenges while entangled in disputes all along her eastern, southern, and south-eastern periphery!

China is a dystopian state

When the USSR collapsed in 1991, its former constituents and East European allies, with a couple of exceptions, rapidly abandoned the sinking ship and rushed to embrace western liberal democracy

None shed a tear for the old system

If Communist China were to implode, the world, including the overwhelming majority of Chinese, would applaud

Lee Kuan Yew once said that he thought China would not achieve its goal of surpassing the US as a global power because the US can draw on the talents of the entire world and recombine them in diversity and creativity that is not possible with China’s ethnic nationalism

US Presidential elections are followed by people in many countries, with greater interest than their own

China’s “elections” are decided years in advance

Over the last few decades, hundreds of thousands of Chinese women have travelled to America to give birth taking advantage of jus soli, birthright citizenship. One of the most prominent Chinese agencies dealing with such expectant mothers is called “Meijiabei” – Good American Baby!

Given half a chance, the average Chinese would rush off to live the American life

There is no rush in the opposite direction, to enjoy citizenship in paradise with Chinese characteristics

There are also significant indicators that Russia might re-pivot to the West, seeking a way out of its increasing dependency on China

Putin, aware that he needs the west, said that “we will work with them…on those conditions that we consider beneficial for ourselves”

The two Presidents met in Geneva in June 2021

“We do not want face masks made from used Chinese underwear”, a senior Russian academic told me, in what has now become a metaphor for China’s greed and unreliability

China’s economic packages via the BRI were creating influences in Russia’s backyard (worrying Moscow)

China choked over the 2020 commemoration of the 160th anniversary of Vladivostok, annexed by Russia in 1860 after China lost the Second Opium War

ASEAN is uncomfortable with China’s aggression, the African Union is beginning to feel cheated on the vaccine promise, and big Latin American nations are hopping mad

But of course, China has steadfast friends, on the moon, the sun, Venus, Mars, Mercury etc. So, it is becoming even more belligerent

May I recall the classical Greek phrase: Quos Deus vult perdere, prius dementat – Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad?

Someone please tell Xi PingPong that

China’s actions in Hong Kong in 2020 were inspired by its fear that democracy was dangerous and disruptive. In Tiananmen (1989) the young demonstrators erected a Styrofoam statue of liberty, and over 5,000 got slaughtered

China tries to fool its people into believing that America is declining and that it is superior in every which way with “the wheel of history” turning faster toward American decay

After the spectacular Beijing Olympics of 2008, China said they did not need to learn from the West anymore

In 2009, a starry-eyed Barack Obama, visiting China, described US-China relations as the “most important bilateral relationship of the 21st century”

China’s pride in its economic development has metastasized into arrogance. Addressing his rubber stamp Parliament in 2018, Xi said that China was now able to offer “a new type of political system” to the world

China wants to be a global leader, but leadership has to be accepted

China is unable to transmit global values that other nations accept and appreciate. China’s perspective does not resonate with other nations, so its rise becomes threatening

The USA is respected, China is suspected

Ping Pong has succumbed to the Gaius Caligula (the name means little boot) Trap of trying to rule through fear and terror (let them hate me as long as they fear me)

In living memory, an American president resigned over confirmation that he had authorized a break-in into the other party’s headquarters, another was forced to acknowledge his sexual dalliance with an intern, a third came clean on selling weapons to Iran prohibited by law

In contrast, has any divine Communist leader in China (beginning with Mao Zedong) ever come even close to acknowledging that he made an error of judgement?

There is racism and prejudice and hatred in the United States, a shameful blot on its fair name, with sporadic mass shootings (over 600 in 2020), but there is also compassion and empathy

China wallows in delusions of Han superiority, and persecutes and ethnically cleanses its minorities

America has this amazing ability to self-correct; China speeds up its march of folly

American supremacy does not depend on territorial control as much as it does on soft power

When China began flexing its military muscles in the last decade, and claiming parity with the US, an angry Obama reminded the world that USA was the most powerful nation on earth. Period

The phantom pain of losing imperial greatness is kept alive in the Chinese collective memory. History books, television series and newspaper articles repeatedly evoke the humiliation of China by foreign powers

The plans for the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” extend to 2049, the year marking the 100th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China

The nobler the goals and the farther into the future their fulfilment, the greater the sacrifices one can demand from the people, who must be on an unending Long March

Nothing like civil liberties or cumbersome constitutional processes should come in the way. Dissenters, human rights activists, even their lawyers end up in jail

The Chinese military is not invincible. If it were, they would have taken Taiwan and parts of Vietnam long ago. India exposed it as a stuffed, bloated dragon

When China needed western technology and money, the “foreign devil” became the “foreign friend” but now that he has been milked, he is back to being the devil

Rather than regret the deaths of over 4 million people and several hundred million infected (and counting) by its virus, the CPC forced Wuhan, ground zero, whose11 million residents endured a 76-day lockdown, to have a massive, faked pool party to celebrate the end of the virus and reopen schools in September 2020

As a newer and deadlier version of the virus attacks China in September 2021, it locks down millions. The bravado of “zero infection” disappears

Is it a surprise then that the Pew Research Centre says that ¾ of people in industrialized countries have a negative view of China?

Truth is eternal. Perfidy has a limited shelf life

Communist China is past its expiry date

I read again “They Thought They Were Free”, the 1955 classic by American journalist Milton Mayer that analyses why Germans did not stand up for their rights, even as one mesmerizing demon drove them to their destruction

A system slowly emerged in which hate and fear supplanted sanity and reason, and ordinary people were willing to kill and to die

Xi Jinping reminds me of the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland, egotistic, megalomaniac, narcissistic, with a deep need for excessive adulation, making his ideas the core philosophy of the nation, and giving frequent commands of “off with his head”

I do not know what you mean by your way, the Queen rebukes someone, all the ways about here belong to me

The USA has very little history, but is a seductive paradigm

It is easy to self-declare oneself to be a leader. The uncomfortable truth is that leadership has to be accepted by the led

Give me America any day!

China or USA – Hobson’s choice -


Deepak Vohra

Ambassador Dr. Deepak Vohra, Made in India,
Special Advisor to Prime Minister, Lesotho, South Sudan and Guinea-Bissau,
Special Advisor to Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Councils, Leh and Kargil, Gauri Sadan, 5 Hailey Road, New Delhi 110001.


I am not Indian because I live in India, I am Indian because India lives in me!

They said: Hide from the storm; I replied: I am the storm  


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