China is well on the way to becoming strategically isolated in the world. It wishes to intimidate other nations with its military might. Its expectation that the world’s economic dependence on it would prevent others from standing up to its bullying has already been belied. The developed nations have moved more swiftly than others to diversify their supply chains and find alternatives to most Chinese technologies and equipment. India’s resilience, too, was greatly underestimated. This is partly why China is facing multiple political and economic problems within. Xi Jinping is attempting to reverse the impact of China’s economic progress on society, which has created a strong desire for a ‘modern’ lifestyle that would include far greater democracy. Experts hint that he has not been out of his country for several months, now, because he fears a political coup from within the CCP. (Something he has in common with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan.)
Any strong and confident nation would be flexible in its relations with other nations. The hard line that is being adopted indicates the insecurities that exist. The very companies responsible for China’s spectacular economic growth are not only skeptical about the future, but are under attack for their reluctance to accept political diktats that would adversely impact their profits, even render them globally uncompetitive.
All that this belligerence, as exhibited during the recent military level talks, has achieved is the emergence of military and economic blocs specifically targeted at China. Militarily, India is the most affected (along with Taiwan). It has overhauled its defence strategy vis a vis China and is working overtime to upgrade its capabilities on all fronts. China knows it has a brief window in which to leverage whatever advantages it might have, untested as they are. While it talks tough, it is chary of an actual confrontation because that might reveal some unpleasant truths about its capabilities. If this were not the truth, there would have already been serious trouble on the border. Any defeat against India, even at the tactical level, would have serious political repercussions in Beijing.
All the shadow boxing also has to do with relieving the pressure being applied on Pakistan by India over the past seven years. India’s willingness to cross the border with Pakistan if the situation so requires is a scary prospect and its attention and resources are being sought to be diverted to a second front. This has been a blessing in disguise for India as complacency on the China front should not have existed in the first place. It should not be forgotten that it is not just a battle between two countries; it is also one between two systems.