China’s hostile behaviour towards almost every country in the world including India, US, Japan, Australia is seen as a deviation from Deng Xiaoping’s tao guang yang hui strategy that signifies a moderate external policy of “hiding claws”.
Chinese President Xi Jinping had several confrontations in the last few months. With a raging border conflict with India, a cold war with the US that has resulted in several sanctions and its deteriorating relations with the UK and Australia, China has earned a global condemnation for its hostile policies.
However, Xi Jinping has shifted this course towards China becoming a “great power”. Xi’s ambitious strategy allowed China to economically and technologically compete with the US but it also led to serious confrontations especially during Trump’s regime, that sees China’s rising growth as a threat.
“This changes the whole narrative of China’s intentions. China looks like it has very narrow self-interest that it is pursuing rather than a more cooperative approach, and that means that other countries are going to erect all sorts of barriers. There will be real costs – not just reputational but economic costs,” said Susan Shirk, chair of the 21st Century China Center at the University of California, San Diego.
There have been several reports of China’s policies of crushing dissent in the country. More countries have now spoken against China over its atrocities inflicted on its minorities in the country.
China’s mass detention of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang has drawn global backlash where activists have called for sanctions and legal measures. The brunt of such actions will be borne by the common Chinese people including its scientists and students who will come under the scrutiny, abroad.
With the implementation of the new security law in Hong Kong, China has maintained its stand and defended its policies in the face of global denunciation against the new legislation.
“For years, China worked to assure the international community that its rise was peaceful, that it would not try to overturn the status quo. A more assertive China has emerged under Xi, one more willing to confront its critics and brave damage to its reputation,” wrote Lily Kuo, the Guardian’s Beijing bureau chief. “This past year, after containing the Covid-19 outbreak at home, Beijing has gained the upper hand over some of its rivals, such as the US, still struggling with the pandemic,” she added.
With Huawei losing access in the US, UK and Australia, many other countries are reviewing the security issues with the company. India has banned 59 Chinese applications following its violent clash at the LAC. The economic impact of this decision will be huge since India is one of the world’s fastest-growing markets, especially for WeChat and TikTok – a third of whose global users were in India.
“There has long been a question of whether Beijing could be authoritarian at home while acting responsibly and constructively abroad,” said Mira Rapp-Hooper, a senior fellow for Asia studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. “Hong Kong, Xinjiang, the South China Sea, Huawei, come together in a distressing picture. It is hard not to feel like we have been given a preview of what sole Chinese global leadership would look like,” she said. “This puts all of its neighbours on guard at once.”
Analysts are puzzled by this behaviour of the Chinese leadership as China has never picked fights with several countries at once. Reportedly, Xi Jinping’s centralised approach has led to rising dissent in the country.
With the threat of unemployment as the economy – already slowing before the pandemic, online censorship appears to be worsened. Critical opinions of the government or its handling of the Covid-19 response have been detained, including a prominent law professor and young internet activists working to save information wiped from the Chinese internet.
“There is something broken with the policy-making process. This is a reflection of what Deng Xiaoping called the ‘over-concentration of power’ that leads to policy mistakes. And why does it lead to policy mistakes? It’s because nobody dares tell the leader that this is a bad idea.”
Minxin Pei, an expert on governance in China at Claremont McKenna College, said: “Inside the system, voices of dissent, of disagreement are not heard. So one mistake follows another.”