It would be pertinent to ask why China cannot afford democracy even though it is so well-off. Some may say, particularly in the day and age of Corona mayhem, totalitarianism is the way to go if there is a large population spread over a huge area of land. On the other hand, China’s troubles in Hong Kong and with Taiwan would considerably ease if it moved more towards democratic functioning while retaining its ancient characteristics of central control that spread out from the ‘Forbidden City’ through the Mandarin bureaucratic system. The ruling Communist Party knows, however, that any kind of opening up would threaten its very existence and it would lose its monopoly over power that has given the new ‘aristocracy’ a comfortable ride at the cost of national resources. So, unlike the dismantling of USSR communism through glasnost and perestroika, the “People’s” government in China knows full well which side is buttered and will go to any extent to retain its hold.
This requires, of course, a continuous expansion of power to prevent inward collapse. So, while it seems peculiar to the world why China must pick fights with its neighbours, even the tiniest ones, to assert its authority, it all emerges from a barely concealed paranoia that keeps its leadership awake every night. It is laughable that two countries like India and China, which have had through history such mutually profitable trade, should be squabbling over little pieces of territory on their border. And, yet, it is a reality that could even erupt in a major conflagration if not carefully handled.
One of the ironies of history is that China had to collaborate with western capitalists to increase its industrial capacity and wealth. Even as it attempts to take on US President Trump’s ‘America First’ belligerence, it is hoping it will retain the goodwill of the multinational corporations that thrived on its potential. Basically, in the present situation, both the extreme capitalists and the diehard commies are holding onto the same lifejacket in stormy seas, whoever lets go is going to sink. India is willing to throw the ‘free market’ a rope but it would seem even extinction is preferable to functioning in the typical Indian chaos.
Quite obviously, the corona pandemic has precipitated the crisis in a number of ways. How it will pan out depends not just on the way the pandemic moves, but also the coming presidential election in the US. Till then, the problem will continue to manifest itself in a number of peculiar ways, which may seem inexplicable but are quite inevitable in this larger perspective.