Placing Indo-China relations in the Regional Security Complex Theory: Understanding the future of Indo-China interactions in West Asia.

Placing Indo-China relations in the Regional Security Complex Theory: Understanding the future of Indo-China interactions in West Asia.

By- Siddhant Nair;

What is RSCT?

In their book titled “Regions and Powers: The Structures of International Security,” Barry Buzan and Ole Waever coined the term ‘regional security complex (RSC)’. A regional security complex is a group of regionally clustered states where each state is interdependent for their national security concerns, with each regional security complex consisting of a unique security-based interaction with one another. The security dynamics present in each RSC are unique and cannot often be changed.

Furthermore, they categorize states into three categories: superpowers, great powers, and regional powers. A superpower is a state capable of defining the polarity of the world; a great power is a “state that is more powerful than a regional power and can project their power into a region outside their home region, but is not yet a superpower”, and regional powers are the states that influence the polarity of their regional security complex.

How does it apply to Indo-China relations?

Since India’s independence, the South-Asia complex consisted of Pakistan and India and the subsequent hostilities and rivalry. The two countries’ security concerns closely interacted with their policies directly formulated to counter each other. The two countries also engaged hostilities in wars fought in 1947-48, 1965, and 1971.

After the conclusion of the Cold War and the liberalization of the Indian economy in 1991, Indian power and influence was far superior to Pakistan’s. Due to India overshadowing Pakistan as it could no longer balance India in the South Asian complex, India’s primary security concern shifted from Pakistan to China. While India and China went to war in 1962, China far exceeded India to even consider India a competitor in the region. On the other hand, while wary of the threat China posed, India was mainly occupied with Pakistan and worked to stabilise and improve ties with China. 

Great powers, East Asia and West Asia

As India started to grow into the role of great power, its status as a rising power was recognized globally. China, on the hand, downplayed India’s great power status, borrowing arguments from Michael Pröbsting, the author of “Is India a New Emerging Great Power?”. Using India’s socio-economic characteristics, China argued that due to India’s high rate of social inequality, a small contribution to the global GDP (at 3.2%, compared to China’s 14.5%), the largest poorest population in the world, increasing indebtedness and low per-capita income did not qualify India as a great power. Therefore, China did not see India as a competitor or a strategic concern. For the large part, Chinese scholars and political elites believed that India was an important neighbor, despite having bilateral issues. This perception changed as China became wary of India when New Delhi grew closer to the United States. 

After India’s economic liberalization, it outgrew Pakistan in the South-Asian complex, compelling United States to change its stance towards India. The “Agreement for Co-operation concerning Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy” was signed between the two countries (2007) as the US also halted its military support to Pakistan. In 2011, the Obama administration announced the US pivot to Asia policy. While China and US shared good ties, China saw this as an attempt to contain China’s rise and growing influence in the region. Coupled with BJP’s rise to power in 2014 and its previous experience with BJP in power in 1990, China grew increasingly wary of India and the growing Indo-US relations. Under Prime Minister Modi, India grew increasingly assertive and outspoken about its dissatisfaction with China’s proposed China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). China was also under the impression that India had long abandoned its non-alignment policy by choosing to ally itself closely with the west to become a great power in the region and counter China’s influence. 

Through its “Act East” initiative, India started interacting with the Southeast Asia complex, promoting economic, cultural, and strategic ties in the region. Through its Act East Initiative, India launched and built multiple institutional mechanisms to expand, strengthen and cooperate on energy, cyber security, counter-terrorism, and maritime rights. Indian scholars argue that India’s Act East was aimed at containing China’s growing economic and military influence in the region.

India’s economic growth since liberalization, followed by India growing into a great power, the United States of America’s changing ties with India, and its announcement of the “Pivot to Asia” are all factors that contributed to changing Indo-China ties. While under Modi, there were moments of India-China cooperation, S. Jaishankar notes that Indo-China ties are characterized by collaboration and competition. He also pointed out that even before the Galwan valley clash, India had restricted access to Chinese markets, China opposed India’s membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, blocked attempts at adding Pakistani non-state actors involved in the 2009 Mumbai attacks on the UN terrorist list and has faced increasing trade deficit from China. 

Iran’s role in India-China competition: 

As India and China are globally recognized as great powers, both have looked at neighboring Regional Security Complexes to project their power. West Asia has proven to be the next realm of Indo-China competition. 

For India, West Asia is an essential source of oil and remittances. The percentage of Indians in West Asia grew exponentially after the “oil boom” in the 1970s, leading to the creation of the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs. India also increased its engagement with Israel, Iran, and other Gulf countries under its “Look West” policy. 

On the other hand, China has been increasing its economic cooperation in the region. China’s economic cooperation with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) stood at US$170 billion in trade in 2020. China has also expanded its ties with the GCC to include defense, nuclear technology, and health. China has also expanded its Belt and Road Initiative, a global strategy, to include the Gulf countries. So far, seventeen countries in West Asia have joined China’s Belt and Road Initiative. 

Iran has been the latest country in West Asia to become a part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, joining its regional Arab rivals. For both India and China, Iran is a crucial source of cheap oil and is central to accessing Central Asia. For China, specifically, Iran was the last key member in West Asia to be inducted into its Belt and Road Initiative. China bought more than 850,000 barrels of crude oil per day from Iran in 2021 alone. Experts point out that China underreports the exact number of oil imports due to the current US sanctions on Iran. On the other hand, India was forced to wean off Iranian oil and trade with Iran in 2019 after the waiver issued to it by the US expired. India has also partnered with Iran on the Chabahar Port project. 

As highlighted, the Gulf (and Iran) are essential to both India and China’s foreign policy. As Sebastian Goulard points out, by bringing Iran into BRI through its $400 million, China hopes to “present itself as a possible peace-broker,” bringing together Shia and Sunni majority countries to work on projects that will be introduced through BRI. China is hoping to change the security dynamics of the region. However, as the theory points out, each RSC has its unique security dynamics. During the Cold War, security dynamics remained unchanged despite superpowers directing interacting and interjecting themselves into the region. 

Competition between India and China in the Gulf region for regional influence will likely be at the forefront of Indo-China relations. While China through the creation of a global strategy, has solidified its influence in the region, India, on the other hand, could struggle to employ its “Link West”. Unlike India’s “Act East” policy was based on concern over China’s growing increasing assertiveness and influence in the region. “Link West”, could be created to establish and expand bilateral ties, however, it is unlikely that it will be used as means to counter China’s influence. West Asia, and more specifically the Gulf, are not aware of a Chinese threat, instead welcome the economic investments it brings in. 

Siddhant Nair is a post graduate student in Interdisciplinary Studies and Research, specializing in International Relations. He has previously interned in ORCA, The Gateway House and Chennai Center for China Studies. You can find him on twitter @siddhant__nair

China’s Foreign Policy In The Sahel: Challenges And Prospects

China’s Foreign Policy In The Sahel: Challenges And Prospects

By Dara Cheick;

According to Chinese political scientist Lanxin Xiang, there are three objectives of Chinese politics: the restoration of the past glory of China and the state; recalling the age-old desire for a rich and powerful modern China and maintaining social stability. Seen from Beijing’s point of view, Africa remains a political and economic question rather than a military and security issue, despite the mantra of “security and development”. However, the security dimension does exist and is even tending to increase, particularly because China is worried about the protection of its nationals in Africa, whose number is estimated today at one million people. In terms of resources (such as oil, zinc, iron, cobalt, copper, titanium, etc.) as well as from the commercial point of view, the development of the Chinese economy depends on Africa and therefore its stability is very crucial for China. The deployment of Chinese military forces in Africa responds to a growth in both security supply and demand.

The Sahel comprises a geographical area that covers five countries of West Africa including Mali, Niger, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Chad, working as an organization at the sub-regional level called G5-Sahel, created on December 16, 2014, in Nouakchott. The region is largely covered by sand and is in the grip of a security crisis that threatens the lives of the people struggling with forced displacement, and massacres with a very heavy toll on human life. This instability has also affected the industrial infrastructure of the region which has reached the brink of collapse, especially since the Malian disaster of 2012.  

China’s Sahel overtures:

For a very long time, Chinese policy was based on significant economic investments in the manufacturing industries of the Sahel countries. To this end, the creation, two decades ago of a mixed company between the Government of Mali and the Chinese Light Industry Company for Techno-Economic Cooperation with Abroad (SUKALA s.a) was set up which is today one of the largest industrial companies in Mali and has generated more than 35 million dollars for the Malian State in taxes and duties.

During the1980s China was strongly involved in Sugar Complex of the Upper Kala (SUKALA), Malian Textile Company (COMATEX), Mali Tannery Company (TAMALI), Malian Pharmaceutical Factory (UMPP), Popular Pharmacy of Mali (PPM) were subject to this type of intervention. 

In Niger, the main areas of investment are energy ($5.12 million); mining ($620 million) and real estate ($140 million), other aspects of cooperation include: the construction of stadiums and schools, medical missions, military cooperation, infrastructure (roads, bridges, rolling stock, thermal power plants). 

Malis still struggling to have a legitimate democratic leader elected through free and transparent elections and is floundering in a transition that is the result of two military putsches. In Burkina Faso, the power of President Rock Marc Kaboré succumbs to a great social protest and a soldier’s mutiny on January 23, 2022, under the leadership of Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo DAMIBA, president of the junta that took power on January 24, 2022. Among all these countries mentioned above, only Niger remains the one that maintains a “relative stability”, with its successful democratic alternation on February 21, 2021, which carried Mohamed Bazoum as President of the Republic with a foiled coup attempt on the night of 30 to 31 March 2021 even.

Nevertheless, without being as weak as their neighbours in the Central Sahel, the capabilities of the Mauritanian and Chadian armies are far from exceptional. Renowned for the quality of its intelligence services and rapid intervention units, Mauritania has still not been directly involved in significant fighting for four years. This is important to note as these are the two countries of the G5 Sahel organization that have a certain capacity to respond to the terrorist threats, hence for four years, they have not been directly involved in this scourge.

However, amidst such terse geopolitical realities in a situation of rejection and lack of coordination and results, France and the other European partners are in a situation of weariness and attempting to decide whether or not to reduce their footprints with the G5-Sahel joint force. This will only open further room for Chinese entry.

On the military and security front, China generally contributes to UN peacekeeping operations, for example in Mali as part of MINUSMA where it deployed 403 peacekeepers, including one killed and 12 others wounded in an attack in Gao in the north of the country.   

China pledged more than $45 million to the G5-Sahel joint force in early 2019 and $1.5 million for the operation of the permanent secretariat, in other cases it allied with Russia to block some resolutions initiated by other UN Security Council members on Mali, in addition to the supply of several military equipment respectively to the countries of the G5-Sahel and more generally to those of the African Union. 

THE GEOSTRATEGIC IMPLICATIONS OF CHINESE COOPERATION IN THE SAHEL

The relationship between the Sahel countries and China has evolved over several years of cooperation through investments in various fields whose interests continue to benefit all the different parties. For the former, it allows them to have diversified diplomacy and cheap goods and for the latter to establish its economic and political power in these developing countries. For China, thanks to globalization which has allowed it to liberalize its economy as well as the new law of 2015 that allows the Chinese military and police to intervene abroad as part of so-called “anti-terrorist” missions to protect its economic and human interests, Beijing has created strong political clout in the region that it has transformed into infrastructure according to the needs of these countries (as in Djibouti)  under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

In addition to these donations, it has carved out a significant share of the public procurement of these States compared to other powers in the West within the framework of bilateral agreements; several achievements have been carried out mutually that continue to benefit the interests of each party thanks to the low cost of Chinese products.  

Beijing’s goals in Africa are threefold, with the first being to get acquainted with uncharted territory. These operations allow it to improve its operational capabilities and test new weapons, such as infantry fighting vehicles and 95-1 assault rifles. Exercises are also being conducted at its military base in Djibouti, inaugurated in 2017, covering several terrains: such as the desert of sub-Saharan Africa, urban areas and sea lanes.

“This is one of the least threatening ways for the Chinese military to practice in real theatres of armed conflict,” says Obert Hodzi, an international relations researcher at the University of Helsinki and author of The End of China’s Non-intervention Policy in Africa”. 

This is why the Chinese government is seeking to consolidate ties between the PLA and the African General Staff. At the beginning of the summer, the first China-Africa Security and Defense Forum organized in Beijing by the Chinese Ministry of Defense was an opportunity to define the axes of this cooperation and in particular the issue of “mutual assistance for security”, terms that appeared in 2015 in the second white paper on Africa, which now includes the training of soldiers and the sale of arms.

 China’s influence in the regional security atmosphere

China has even gone so far as to use its economic power to force governments to give it special treatment, as was the case in Zimbabwe, or to defend politicians favourable to its interests as in Zambia or Zimbabwe with the fall of Mugabe. China behaves there like many Western countries that it has previously criticized.

The reason is the defence of its military-industrial lobby. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has interests in hotels, banking and real estate. With it, China cannot help but mix trade and politics. Companies, such as ZTE or Huawei in telecommunications, are likely to have to respond to requests or orders from the PLA or the party if the need arises. Beijing is thus drawing its new diplomacy, multilaterally via the UN, and bilaterally by maintaining privileged relations with the Sahelian states or political parties sensitive to its arguments to shale up traditional powers such as France and especially the United States in the region.

Dara Cheick is a student at the Faculty of Administrative and Political Sciences of Bamako (Mali) and a research assistant at the Timbuktu Center for Strategic Studies for the Sahel. He can be reached on Twitter @DaraCheick

Decoding the usage of Sun Tzu tactics in Contemporary Geopolitics

Decoding the usage of Sun Tzu tactics in Contemporary Geopolitics

By – Tanishk Saxena;

Sun Tzu’s ‘Art of War‘ is seminal Chinese military treatise that looks to forecast victory or defeat. China under Xi Jinping has followed his suggestions and satisfactorily executed Sun Tzu’s Military Treatise that have bolstered confidence and built a moral consensus within China to legitimize his decisions. This opinion piece analyses contemporary endeavors by China (domestically and internationally) that fall in line with Sun Tzu’s Military Treatise on laying plans, waging war and attacking by stratagem.

Sun Tzu mentioned that “morality makes the population comply with the ruler regardless of conditions.” (Pg.1) Herein, we see that Xi Jinping has enforced his thoughts on the people by embedding his thoughts in the education system and running re-education camps in the supervision of the Propaganda Department and Education system to build a moral consensus. 


Sun Tzu has also stated that “he could predict victory by analyzing the General’s ability, advantages derived from occupying strategically important grounds, discipline enforcement, increasing the strength of an army, training of officers and men and constancy both in reward and punishment.” (Pg 2). We see that China trains its generals to uphold the spirit of fearlessness and indomitable courage. PLA comrades endure rigorous training under extreme conditions which includes training to use NunChaku, spears and other non-lethal weapon fighting tactics, especially along the India-China LAC wherein firing of weapons is prohibited. It adds to the strength of the forces in hand-to-hand combat. Such training programs boost commanding and fighting capabilities to foster excellent conduct. During the Beijing winter Olympics 2022, Qi Fabao, the regiment commander of the People’s Liberation Army who fought during the Galwan Valley clashes, was made the torchbearer as a reward for his bravery. Concurrently, harsh punishment to officers for indiscipline is a common practice in PLA. China has worked extensively on gaining high grounds and places of strategic importance through its BRI projects, investments and loans globally. These strategic locations include Hambantota port in Sri Lanka and Gwadar Port in Pakistan which adds to the strategic depth of China.

Sun Tzu notes that “deception is at the core of warfare. Strategies should be formed as one is capable and prepared to conduct an attack- must seem unable; and while during aggression- must seem inactive; when close to conduct an attack must make the enemy feel far away; when far away, make him believe to be near.” (Pg 3). During the reign of Mao Zedong, China had limited military capabilities and didn’t hold significant economic might or stature in international politics. At that time, China claimed to reunify Taiwan in coming 10 years. China was very far away from its goal at that time as the presence of western powers and support for Taiwan was certain. Later during the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, China was in better condition after opening up its economy and had made a place in the international system. Deng Xiaoping during his tenure expressed the willingness to reunify Taiwan but changed it from ten years to hundred years. As China got closer to reunification; China made the world perceive it is moving away from its goal through statements of its leaders. Xi Jinping stated in his comment on Taiwan said that ‘China is still willing to reunify Taiwan but did not mention the exact time or year for his plans. Though China seems much closer to its goal to reunify Taiwan with its economic might, maintains a gigantic military, can write international rules and challenge the global governance, it has made its stance that it is outlying away from its plan of reunification. From Mao’s time to now, China has maintained its stance that China will use only peaceful means to reunify Taiwan also seems a deceptive move as it sends regular flights, fighter jets and bombers close to the island.

Sun Tzu has also suggested that “an opponent with a choleric temper should be irritated and then should pretend to be weak against that same opponent so that the opponent may develop arrogance.” (Pg. 3). During the Trade War with the USA, China had used all means to irritate the former President of the USA – Donald Trump, through various means. Donald Trump taking the America First campaign forward – was willing to bring back manufacturing industries from China back to the USA with a key objective to refrain China from taking unreasonable benefits of the international system, but the chronic temper of Trump was also a well-known fact. Xi Jinping imposed retaliatory taxes on the USA products that received retaliation with even more tariffs on Chinese products. Xi Jinping used to flatter Trump during the dinners and unofficial meetings telling him how grateful he is. John Bolton (Former National Security Advisor of USA) writes in his book ‘The Room Where It Happened’, that Xi Jinping’s personal relationships mean next to nothing to him if it is inconsistent with the interest of the CCP and then China. This consistent cyclic retaliation during the trade war and flattering during personal meetings built up arrogance in Trump. His arrogance grew to a level where he started competing with Xi Jinping and stated ‘People are talking about repealing the two-term limit for him. The Trade deal with China that Trump projected to his domestic audience as success went into a hoax. China used this tactic to build up arrogance into Trump so much that he later fired his National Security Advisor Jon Bolton and Defense secretary Mark Esper over Twitter and could not accept his defeat in elections by the Democrat candidate Joe Biden leading to Capitol Riots. 

Next, Sun Tzu’s statement that, “at the time of war: the expenditure is enormous both at home and on the front and suggests to account money required to pay for the entertainment of guests and other miscellaneous expenses” is noteworthy (Pg. 4). 

China has increased its military and defense budget by 7.1 per cent to USD 230 billion from last year’s USD 209 billion. Xi Jinping has paid extra attention to modernizing China’s defense equipment with self-reliance to sustain long wars. The recent session of the Fiscal and Economic Committee of the Thirteenth National People’s Congress emphasized food security, bringing fiscal and taxation reforms. China imports a significant amount of food from outside,  purchasing wheat from Russia and pork is imported through a long channel from Brazil. Having a stockpile of food beforehand during time of uncertainty acts as a tool to mitigate the risk of food security. China’s domestic spending is not standardized and lacks detailing during execution. The use of budgetary funds remains low and allows China to have backup plans/funds in the instance of any black swan event. 

Sun Tzu stated that the objective should be victory and, prolonging warfare campaigns must be avoided. (Pg. 4) We see that China has entered the conflict zone strategically and has always made it on top of its checklist to abstain from entering prolonged warfare. China had strategic plans in Afghanistan and Pakistan attached to its China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and broadly Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Despite strategic goals, China has abstained from directly entering the conflict zone or situation despite being a direct threat to its investments and interests for prolonged nature. On similar lines, Russia sent its forces to support the current leadership of Khaskasths against the coup. China also supported the existing regime of Kazakhstan but did not send its armed forces on the ground, sensing a fear of prolonged war. The pattern observed in various conflict zones where China abstains from entering despite high stakes and interests is for a reason being of prolonged nature. In all these conflicts, the objective of China remained to be victorious even without firing a bullet itself. Moreover, China’s support remained unaffected by the kind of regime it is dealing with.

Sun Tzu prioritized bringing the other state as a whole and intact within the sphere of direct influence. (Pg. 6). China’s strategy to extend loans through AIIB and under its BRI project provides an irresistible bait for any economy struggling. Ambitious leaders willing to bring a huge change within a short span tend to be caught easily into the trap as a desire to project growth is used to gain support,  popularity and acceptance to their people the kind of development brought. China offers loans without any requirement of restructuring the economy as often mandated by Institutions from the Bretton Wood System. The loans extended are offered at a cheaper price but takes tactically important assets for lease or mortgage. Through these means, China maintains the leadership of the state in control and in case of default takes over the assets of strategic importance to China. China under Xi Jinping has used this tactic in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and many other African states. This tactic is also referred to as salami slicing and debt trap diplomacy where loans and investments are provided as bait. These adhere to Sun Tzu’s strategy of bringing a state completely under its sphere of influence intact. 

Lastly, Sun Tzu mentioned that if you know yourself and your enemy well, you will surely win every battle, but if one fails to do so, he will suffer defeat. One who neither knows his strength nor weakness will surely scramble on the battlefield. (Pg 8). China runs extensive surveillance within the country through cameras that can even identify and report the ethnicity of a person and location. It also engages in using artificial intelligence and maintaining strong control over social media outlets. Along with this China maintains strict surveillance over its military leaders, capitalist class, social media influencers, journalists and members of the CCP. China also extensively reviews its domestic projects, population, military capability and situation of various provinces and autonomous regions. This helps China to identify its strength and weakness so that it never crumbles on the battlefield. Chinese companies like Huawei, ZTE, other applications and social media platforms are accused of stealing user data that is further refined and used to acknowledge the actions and to extract vital information from the user whose information is compromised without any consent. China has extensively built Confucius institutes globally along with the Embassies apart from their role in cultural exchange, act as a medium to gather vital information that helps to know more about a potential adversary. China has installed its surveillance equipment in various countries and withholds technological backend data for service and other purposes that can be used for surveillance as and if needed. 

Conclusion

China under Xi Jinping, one of its most powerful leaders since Mao, has effectively implemented the strategies provided by Sun Tzu. Building a Communist Socialist Society with unique Chinese Characteristics, and restoring glory lost during imperialism are key objectives of Xi Jinping.  Sun Tzu, being an ancient Chinese philosopher best suits Xi Jinping to protect the national interest. As he uses the tactics of Sun Tzu in international politics thereby becoming a part of the normal thought process and being used in domestic politics or to pursue his personal ambitions has high possibility. The work of Sun Tzu effectively bolstered the confidence of Xi Jinping while making strategies and taking decisions. Reading Sun Tzu’s work along with the contemporary actions of various state and non-state actors could help better understand and decode contemporary geopolitics.

Tanishk Saxena is Executive Outreach Head at Organization for Research on China and Asia (ORCA). Mr. Saxena is also Project Associate with Asian Pathfinders and is pursuing his PGDM with specialisations in International Marketing, Advertising and Public Relations. Mr Saxena was associated with Mitkat Advisory Ltd. – Information Services Department, Mahindra Rise – Mahindra Construction Equipment as a Management Trainee and as a Mentor at Teach for India (TFI). He has a Masters degree in International Studies from Symbiosis School of International Studies and a BBA-LLB (Hons.). He previously practised as a Criminal Advocate in District and Sessions Court. His research interests include Chinese politics, Private Military Contractors, International Relations, Security Studies and Business Continuity Management. He can be reached on Twitter @tanishk007.

Asia’s Position in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Asia’s Position in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

By – Donald Leung;

In the next 10, 20, and 30 years, the Fourth Industrial Revolution will upend and transform the world through new technology for better and worse. But what is an industrial revolution, and what does it have to do with technology? Plus, how will society change?

The etymology of the word ‘technology’ has its roots embedded in the Greek words, ‘techne’ and ‘logos’. ‘Techne’ means knowledge of art, skill, and craft. Whereas ‘logos’ means word, reason, or expression. So in a sense, ‘Technology’ is the outward expression of art, skill, or craft. 

It is also worthy to note that there are different categories of technology.  Technology begins with tools, and different applications of technology have assisted the development of civilization since mankind discovered fire in pre-historic times. The same fire that can be used as a source of light to increase productivity during the night can also be used to burn and destroy uncontrollably.

Throughout history, industrial revolutions have occurred through the gradual adoption of newly invented technologies.  When simple tools are adapted, and combined to work together they become complex machines. Machines are technologies that offer repeatable forms of leverage, by providing more-for-less efficiencies that could be adapted in different ways. For example, a sewing machine saved time and made hand stitching obsolete. Machines are tools that do very specific tasks well and generally produce more for less so they have transformed social and economic activities over time and established new standards of living. 

The First Industrial Revolution marked the transition from an agrarian to a handicraft economy that began in Europe around 1760. For more than 100 years, the ways of communication, transportation, and economic production have gradually become more efficient and effective. Technological advancement through the continuous development of machinery, steam engines, and the use of coal revolutionized agricultural and economic productivity.

By the 1860s, the advent of large-scale steel production, mass manufacturing, electrification, and the development of railways ushered in a new phase of industrial advancement which was termed as the Second Industrial Revolution.  Starting in the 1880s, the world’s first personal automobiles became commercially available and its adoption steadily improved. 

The Second Industrial Revolution was built upon the successes of the first and the standard of living continued to improve because scientific understanding of physics, chemistry, and biology became formally disseminated and systematically studied at universities and colleges. 

However, the macro-social, and economic progress of industrial revolutions also resulted in unintended consequences. Accidents and abuse was common and there was a lot of uncertainty associated with the transition from old to new forms of technology.

As early as the 1940s, the Third Industrial Revolution slowly began to spread globally from the West starting with greater advances in print and broadcast mass media plus personal transportation. By the 1960s, advances in nuclear energy research, telephone communications, automation, and prototypes of the internet were all being developed. Throughout this time, research and development in electrical engineering, material and computer sciences began to bring inventions such as the giant mainframe computers and microchip technologies that eventually progressed to the point of the smartphones we have in our pockets today.

One point evident throughout the broad historical overview is that while technology is fundamentally nonpartisan, the development and use of technology has often been politically motivated and used as a competitive advantage against one another.

For example, the ‘west’ that consisted of British, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, and Americans were technologically more advanced and were able to invade and hold colonies in different parts of Asia during the first and second world war 1. However, since then, countries in Asia have experienced their own industrial revolutions and are catching up to their Western counterparts through technological transfers. 

During the latter stages of the second world war, in 1944, the Bretton Woods Conference represented a gathering of delegates from 44 nations that met to discuss, plan and create a new financial framework with corresponding technologies that would control the global post-war reconstruction via an international monetary system.  

To facilitate the global economic and infrastructure reconstruction, the International Monetary Fund was created, and the United States Dollar was selected as a common, reserve currency. This decision exemplifies the political application of technology as, since the Bretton Woods agreement, the United States was considered the de facto financial leader of the world. International trade transactions and commodity pricing are mainly conducted in U.S. dollars. Presently, approximately 88% of foreign exchange transactions are U.S. dollar denominated, and it also makes up 59-62% of all international central bank reserves. 

As a result of growing international trade, countries in Asia have been able to integrate around the world and boost their standards of living in a shorter amount of time than it has taken the West to go through previous industrial revolutions due to globalization and international trade.

Today, countries in Asia are more developed than ever before. According to the United Nations, ‘61% of the global population lives in Asia (4.7 billion)’.So through demographics, the global political order is shifting from a unipolar to a multipolar world order . 

Historically, the West was the dominant military, economic, and technological advanced power in the world. But Asian countries like China and India have been able to leverage their large population’s labor force and use the economies of scale through globalization to make significant investments and rapid technological advances. 

For example, China constitutes for 56.7% of the global crude steel production while European Union (EU) and North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) countries combined make up a mere 12.8%. 

Moreover, India now supplies more than 50% of the global demand for different vaccines. India’s Ministry of Education’s various initiatives, like the development of Indian Institute of Technologies (IIT’s) has become the gold standard for young people to grow into world class Tech CEO’s. For example, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, Alphabet’s Sundar Pichai, and Twitter’s Parag Agrawal. Technological powerhouses such as IBM, Adobe, Palo Alto Networks, Wayfair, VMWare, and Infosys are all of Indian descent. 

In 2017, Klaus Schwab of the World Economic Forum published the book, ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution’. This book highlights some of the upcoming technological developments in artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, the internet of things (IoT), autonomous vehicles, and 3D printing among other technologies that are poised to disrupt the norms, and bring upon creative destruction and establish new standards of living.

China is now home to several multi-billion dollar companies that are leading the Fourth industrial revolution. From the field of 5G telecommunications, AI and IoT software, drone robotics, and autonomous electrical vehicle technologies, they are: 

Huawei, China Mobile Telecommunications
JD (Jingdong), Alibaba, TencentE-Commerce
DJI (Da-Jiang Innovations)Drones
Baidu, BYD (Build Your Dreams), SAIC (Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation)Autonomous, Electrical Cars
CATL (Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Limited),CALB (China Aviation Lithium Battery)Batteries

While all the companies above have multicultural teams and customers internationally, it is important to note that many of these large Chinese conglomerates are partially owned by the Communist Party of China.  State owned enterprises may have ulterior political agendas, and act as an arm to enact policies. 

For example, according to the China Global Television Network, China has the ‘largest number of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in the world that are more than 150,000 in number.’ Additionally, every year in China, there are two sessions of the National People’s Congress where delegates of the Communist Party meet to announce their national socio-economic and political goals for the year within a broader 5-year economic plan. 

In conclusion, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is poised to elevate the standard of living for billions of people with new and amazing green technologies. One of the outcomes of this process might be a continued rebalancing of power between countries in the West and East. These new opportunities could give rise to greater Chinese government surveillance and political influence as Rush Doshi, founding director of the Brookings China Strategy Initiative, says ’China’s leaders have often seen technology and economic exchange through a political lens’. 

Donald Leung is a modern world Historian and creator of newsography.com, a global headline news aggregator and database. He is an investor in natural resource exploration across Africa, and South America.  He completed his Bachelors of Social Work at the University of Windsor, Ontario, Canada.

China-Russia: A Strategic or a Tactical Marriage?

China-Russia: A Strategic or a Tactical Marriage?

By – Mahek Marwaha;

Sun Tzu defines strategy as the game plan for achieving a long-term vision or goal set in motion by the completion of tactics, which are checkpoints established at each milestone set by those in control of the state machinery. He says “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat”; another apt quote of his is “All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved”. Hence, when the present situation is weighed against the past, it becomes clearer to assess if China and Russia’s relationship is strategic or tactical.

Mao’s China and Stalin’s USSR: Ideological similarities with widening differences

Diplomatically, during the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, Mao’s China faced much animosity from Stalin’s Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) because USSR and China’s views on Communism differed from each other. The worker’s revolt gave birth to communism in the USSR, which was a way for workers to demand equal rights and to end the tyranny created by capitalism and the monopolization of industries by a few. In the 19th and 20th centuries, China was not facing industrialization; rather, it was an agrarian economy where, according to Stalin, Communism would fail due to the lack of a working-class force. The divergent views on how Communism should be carried out sowed the seeds for the eventual widening of the rift in relations with Russia. Because of the PRC’s(People’s Republic Of China) ambition for global recognition of its nationhood, Zhou En Lai’s foreign policy at the time was to maintain friendly relations with everyone, particularly the United Nations and the United States, deepening the division between the blue and red bloc. Because of these ties, China-USSR relations became complicated.

On the military front, the ownership of the riverine islands became a source of contention in 1960, resulting in a territorial war. Because the USSR treated China as a weaker nation, Mao’s China felt inferior to Stalin’s Russia. Tsarist Russia compelled China to cede its borders to the Soviet Union in the past. During the Cold War, the Brezhnev doctrine, which formalized the Warsaw Pact, was also used by the Soviet Union to justify invasions of eastern bloc nations in order to safeguard or strengthen communism, socialism, and authoritarian forms of government against invading liberal and democratic forces of the western bloc. It was an ideological conflict fought with firearms and machinery between two superpowers where everyone including China was getting roped in. China saw Moscow’s goals as a threat since the China of the 1960s wanted to be free of USSR influence, and didn’t want to be treated as second-class citizens by Russians. The 1970s saw Deng Xiaoping coming to power, strengthening US-China ties while weakening China-Russia connections.

Deng’s China was the economically hungry behemoth with whom the United States needed to engage in the 1970s. In terms of economics, the United States began to place bets on China after seeing promising outcomes. To empower itself economically, diplomatically, militarily, and strategically, Deng’s China adopted capitalism and industrialization. Russia was a declining superpower that had begun to lose its luster due to its communal economy, the drying up of its resources during the Star Wars, and the Soviet-Afghan War, which served as the final nail in the coffin that brought the USSR’s economy to its knees. The Red bloc of communism was torn apart by a decline in hard power (economic strength) and a skyrocket in hard and soft power (political sphere of influence) of the NATO(North Atlantic Treaty Organization) led alliance.

Despite ideologically sharing the same political agenda, China and the USSR were split on numerous fronts in the past. A similar philosophy of Communism, one in the Stalin-Lenin style in Russia and the other with Chinese traits in China, provided the seed for the division, which spread to the diplomatic, military, and economic relationships, resulting in a tumultuous relationship between China and the Soviet Union. “There are no permanent allies or foes in international relations, only permanent interests,” an overused adage that explains the evolution of all geopolitical interactions, accurately sums up their evolving relationship from the Cold War to 2022.

Present Realities shaping China-Russia Ties

 The formation of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in 1996 paved the way for deepening ties between China and Russia. Since Xi Jinping’s victory in 2013, he has seen Putin more than 30 times and considers him to be his most important ally. When it comes to Iran, Syria, Venezuela, and even North Korea, Russia, and China are on the same page in terms of foreign policy. Furthermore, with the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, Central Asia has become critical in Russia and China’s re-alignment of foreign policies in order to formulate counter-terrorism tactics to combat terrorism emanating from the Middle East and Afghanistan, which would have a significant impact on Central Asian countries due to its strategic importance in terms of economy, energy, and BRI(Belt and Road Initiative) connectivity, which SCO countries provide. Another reason for the re-alignment of each other’s foreign policies towards a single strategic aim of the China-Russia-led world order.

Following the establishment of QUAD(Quadrilateral Security Dialogue), there has been an increase in defense and military ties between China and Russia, ranging from joint naval maneuvers in the Pacific in October 2019 to large-scale war simulations in Ningxia, all of which are strengthening and reinforcing China-Russia inter-military ties. China and Russia are currently working on military helicopters, missile attack warning systems, and even lunar exploration sites.

When it comes to economic ties, China is Russia’s second-largest oil importer, and Russia is China’s largest exporter of weaponry and ammunition, resulting in significant military advances. The Siberian Pipeline may become China’s lifeline for oil and gas, considering the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine. Russia is giving these natural resources at a significantly reduced price, which will benefit China. The Siberian pipeline will be Russia’s largest pipeline, and that will be profitable due to China’s surging energy needs as a side effect of its growing economy and middle class.

The developing nexus between China and Russia in 2022 has much to do with their shared security danger of direct confrontation, as well as the expanding influence of western alliances such as QUAD, AUKUS, and NATO. This vicious cycle of anxiety, in which one picks up the stone in fear of the other doing so, feeds and amplifies itself, eventually resulting in a rift and a war-like situation. The breach between the US and China widened after the COVID-19 pandemic and China’s adamant refusal to cooperate with Western-led inquiries into the pandemic’s origins. China’s growing hostility toward India, as well as the greater democratic world order, fueled a vicious cycle of groupings that eventually results in the deepening of linkages and divisions. The Western-led bloc emphasizes democracy, rule-based order in the fields of military, diplomacy, ideology, and transparency in information sharing whereas the China-Russia-led bloc emphasizes authoritarianism, govt.-based order, and heavy restrictions on information sharing. 

Connecting The Dots

By examining the aspects of diplomacy, military, and economy, we can see that, with the march of time, today’s China, led by Xi Jinping, and Russia, led by Putin, has developed a marriage of convenience that is resulting in a tactical relationship aimed at achieving each other’s personal strategic goals. When we consider the strategic goal of dismantling and establishing a new world order free of a western, liberal, and democratic lifestyle and replacing it with a more restricted, autocratic, and government-based society, we can see the convergence. China has a grand strategy of implementing the Tianxia model of governance, in which everyone is subject to one heaven’s mandate meaning the whole of mankind undergoes a voluntary fusion of that particular culture and societal lifestyle which is beneficial for the evolution of both mental and moral state of whole mankind with Beijing playing a bigger role because of its evolved hard and soft power. Whereas Russia’s revisionist power wishes to return to the glory days of the Tsarist regime when the Eurasian continent and its countries were subject to the Russian Mir, or sphere of influence. This disparity in strategic goals, as well as a reactionary rather than proactive attitude, has resulted in a tactical marriage between China and Russia, with some strategic congruence.

Mahek Marwaha is a Master’s student of OP Jindal University, Jindal School Of International Affairs building an academic background in International Relations with a broad interest in security, trade, and politics of the Asia Region with a specialized focus on China Studies and Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism Studies. 

Friction between India and China: Examining the Indian Approach

Friction between India and China: Examining the Indian Approach

By – Vedika Tiwari and Shivam Shukla;

The ongoing belligerence between Russia and Ukraine epitomizes neighboring nations neglecting to engage in dialogue to solve disputes that have the potential to result in a militarized conflict. Hostility can arise from border issues, affiliation to certain military alliances/defense pacts, or any other historical disagreements. A similar case could be relevant in the Indian context as well.

India shares a boundary line of about 15,106.7 kilometers with nine neighbors, therefore making it imperative to maintain cordial ties with all the states to maintain peace and tranquility in South Asia. China and Pakistan are the two major players in the region with whom we share a border

Since we share borders with them, war remains a last resort. Apart from that, as war is never an option for any country because it will push the conflicting parties in humungous economic and strategic setbacks, regardless of who wins. Historically, Indo-China ties have been sporadic but have taken a bad turn in recent years due to border disputes.

Frictional Relationship 

The root cause of border dispute is an ill-defined 3,440-kilometer boundary that both the nations have claimed for years. The two nations engaged in conflict over border disagreement in 1962, resulting in a stalemate that continues to this day, making it one of the world’s oldest border disputes. The topography of this enormous border comprises rivers and lakes have brought soldiers face to face innumerable times, sparking a skirmish between the two regional powers. The two countries are also fighting to create infrastructure along the shared border, known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC). One of the primary causes of constant belligerence with Chinese forces in the region is India’s construction of a new route to a high-altitude air station. The recent conflict between Indian and Chinese troops in the Galwan Valley involved use of sticks and clubs. 

The boundary, or the LAC, is not delineated which leads to frequent border “transgressions.” The Ladakh area is exceptionally complex; with unusual geographical traits, this region is strategically very important for both the countries. Roger Llyod Kennion, an officer in the British Indian Army and travel writer, explaining the importance of this region has articulated that, “What Port Said is to the Suez Canal, Leh is to Central Asia.”. First, there’s Aksai-chin, a swath of land claimed by India but occupied by China. Beijing initiated the construction of a road across the area in 1956, connecting Tibet to Xinxiang, and has occupied it since 1962. Further, Pakistan ceded 5,180 square kilometers of Shaksgam valley to China in 1963. The Indian government has refused to recognize the China-Pakistan ‘Boundary Agreement’ of 1963 and has been heavily critical of its unlawful nature.

According to the geopolitical observers in India, New Delhi’s ambition to build infrastructure along the border areas has caused unrest in Beijing. Galwan River has become a flashpoint given its proximity to the Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldie (DSDBO) that India has built along the Shyok River stretching up to Daulet Beg Oldi (DBO), the most remote and vulnerable terrain along the LAC. The Chinese military has been heavily critical of India’s apparent aggressiveness in the Galwan valley. China already controls the Aksai Chin area, which is east of Ladakh. The land claimed by India is strategically important for Beijing since it connects China’s Xinjiang province to western Tibet.

In the first week of August 2020, India accused China of instigating military tensions twice along the border. China denied both charges and on the contrary blamed India for the impasse. China, in return accused India of firing bullets at their troops in September 2020. In contrast, China has been accused of firing guns into the air by India. According to reports, Chinese forces have been observed engaging in “provocative military acts” in Ladakh to disrupt the status quo. In June 2020, twenty Indian soldiers were killed in clashes with Chinese forces. They have accused each other of igniting war by crossing the disputed border. According to Chinese military sources, China denied that their men breached the status quo.  Historically, there have been instances of both armies crossing the LAC but situations were dealt at the local military level, however, the magnitude of escalation during this build-up was one of the biggest and most violent. 

Simmering tensions carry the possibility of complete militarization, which can be disastrous given that both sides are equipped with nuclear weapons. There would also be some economic consequences as China is India’s largest trading partner. Following the tragic conflict, India-China tensions have reached an all-time high. Both countries’ foreign ministers agreed to a five-point framework  in Russia’s Moscow to manage the situation under the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination of India-China Border Affairs (WMCC). The diplomatic mechanism was established in 2012 for consultation and coordination on effective management of India-China border areas. Further, the joint body group is tasked with strengthening communication and cooperation between border security personnel from both sides. They are also responsible for assisting special representation on border discussions, a post now filled by our National Security Advisor (NSA), Ajit Doval. The 23rd meeting of the WMCC occurred on 18th November 2021. The Indian delegation was led by the Ministry of External Affairs’ Additional Secretary for East Asia. The Chinese delegation was headed by the Director General of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Boundary and Oceanic Department. China and India agreed on a five-point plan to de-escalate tensions along their disputed border areas. The agreement states that the two nations are in alignment as the current situation in the border areas is not beneficial for either side. Conformity was achieved following “frank and constructive” discussions in Moscow between Indian External Minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang YI.

India’s approach and the Way Forward

China chose war over de-escalation due to a rising sense of vulnerability and confidence. Both countries declare they have no intention of escalating tensions; nonetheless, the future course of action will be determined by positive engagements towards co-prosperity.

India and China completed the withdrawal of troops and weapons from the North and South banks of the Pangong Tso lake after protracted talks at various political, diplomatic, and military levels. However, India has insisted that a resolution of border disputes is imperative for an overall improvement in bilateral ties. Mistrust and claiming border superiority resulted in the Galwan clash that has dented Indo-China relations like witnessed never before. While China is adamant about disengaging from remaining sites of tension, New Delhi has strengthened its stance against Beijing. India did not reply positively to a letter from Premier Xi to Prime Minister Modi about working together to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. Moreover, China’s telecom businesses have also been prohibited from joining the 5G network by India.

Despite border hostility, both nations are aware of the benefits of engagement and cooperation. Although China requires India’s growing market, India wants to avoid a tensed relationship with its neighbor. Despite India’s efforts to lessen its reliance on China’s economy through supply chains, the two economies have become increasingly interconnected over time. Given previous events, the two countries must participate in comprehensive dialogue in order to repair their relationship and rebuild future participation at various levels. There is a little chance of reinstating pre-Galwan ties between Beijing and New Delhi anytime soon, however, there is scope for building a pragmatic relationship since the two countries are members of multilateral groupings such as BRICS, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and they also share a platform within ASEAN. New Delhi and Beijing’s ties will morph the future of the groupings and will have an impact on the region at large and with other countries around the world. Therefore, reciprocity and mutual sensitivity remains pertinent in the volume and degree of engagement. Both countries are capable of settling their differences through high-level negotiations, similarly in a recently concluded Chinese Foreign minister. Wang Yi, visited New Delhi in March 2022, the minister attempted to mend bilateral ties following the act in the Eastern Ladakh in May and June 2020. Although, the Minister’s visit was not warmly greeted by the authorities in New Delhi and his presence was not announced publicly due to Wang Yi’s speech during the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit in Pakistan in March 2022 which has added fuel to the fire as he showed solidarity with ‘Islamic nations’ and their ‘desires’ on Kashmir. As Kashmir issue brewed during Yi’s Islamabad visit, New Delhi not only rebuked China, but also canceled plans it had made to welcome the Minister. 

India’s approach is pragmatic in nature; to further counter the Chinese advances towards Indian sensitivities to its sovereignty, New Delhi could opt to use the Beijing’s sensitivity to the one-China policy, the Tibet issue and the Hong Kong region to try to change Beijing’s narrative. This would allow India to signal to China that it has strategic options and that China would be wise not to escalate the pertaining hostile situations. Likewise, India’s leverage in the Indo-Pacific and stems from its strong democratic credentials, the dynamism of its economy, its leadership role in multilateral institutions, as well as the strategic advantage of its maritime geography is an asset that few other countries have which must be used much more effectively to counterbalance China’s entry into India’s strategic space and the natural sphere of influence, these assets must be used much more effectively to counterbalance China’s ingress. The events in the Galwan Valley should also act as a wake-up call to India’s Asian allies and partners, to provide a clearer picture of Chinese assertive behavior in Asian subcontinent.

Diplomatically, India might use its clout by restating its position on the two countries’ inked accords. Furthermore, because the fifteen rounds of discussions between the two nations have not yielded the intended outcomes, it is critical to reaffirm political level conversations at the ministerial level, as well as the spirits of the informal summits of Wuhan and Mahamallapuram, in order to propagate harmony. To achieve peace in its immediate area, India’s strategy must be to reduce tensions. Indian approach must keep in mind the diplomatic, strategic and political levers New Delhi can pull to dial down the brewing tensions. Nonetheless, a new strategy is required to reach an agreement on overlapping border claims. At a time when the two neighbors are dealing with comparable concerns, India should devise a framework to build a more strong strategy to reach a détente.

Vedika Tiwari is currently pursuing her BA.LLB from Baba Saheb Ambedkar College of Law at Nagpur, India. She is also an active member in Students’s committee of Moot court association.

Shivam Shukla is currently pursuing (B.A.LLB.) law from RTMNU’s Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar College of Law at Nagpur, India.

Anti-Corruption Campaign: Tigers, Flies and Everything in Between

Anti-Corruption Campaign: Tigers, Flies and Everything in Between

By – Rahul Karan Reddy;

Introduction

Corruption in China is not a recent phenomenon and nor are the anti-corruption efforts initiated by the state a new development. Corruption features prominently in China’s history, typically functioning as a special economic mechanism that was widespread and left unchecked in the build up to major political upheaval. The practice became increasingly visible after the reform and opening up of 1978, due to the injection of capital which created opportunities for Party and state officials to exploit state resources for private gain. Yet, tackling corruption took a back seat as China embraced capital and private enterprise, reflecting Deng Xiaoping’s phrase, “to get rich is glorious”.  Nearly four decades later in November 2012, China’s President Hu Jintao was warning the country and Party that systemic corruption could lead to the downfall of the Party and state. Picking up where Hu left off, President Xi Jinping, in his first speech as the Party’s General Secretary in 2013, highlighted graft and corruption as the most pressing challenge confronting the Party. A decade later, Xi’s anti-corruption drive is an all-encompassing campaign sweeping across the Party, state and private enterprises, eliminating his political opponents and becoming a hallmark of his tenure as China’s top leader.

Anti-corruption investigations in China are carried out by the Central Committee for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) and the National Supervision Commission (NSC), reminiscent of Mao’s rectification and self-criticism campaigns that characterized Mao’s Cultural Revolution purges. The CCDI in particular is at the core of corruption investigations at the central and provincial level since Xi Jinping took office, investigating and punishing more than 4 million cadres and nearly 500 senior officials since 2012. The CCDI even has its own TV program called “Zero-tolerance”, an annual production popular with the public for showcasing the body’s work in tacking graft and exposing the corruption and opulence of high-ranking members in the Party. 

Since 2018, the anti-corruption campaign has focused on non-CCP members as well, made possible by the formation of the NSC and passage of the Supervision Law to govern its operations. The Supervision Law has widened the range of targets to include managers of SOEs, administrators in public institutions and state officials across government branches. The anti-corruption campaign coincides with the arrival of Xi Jinping, evidenced by data released by the CCDI, which shows an increase in the prosecution of senior officials in 2013 compared to 2012. The inclusion of tigers and flies, Party and state officials, rivals and allies in the campaign has several pressing implications for elite politics in China and public perception of Xi’s regime. 

Ideology and Discipline

The anti-corruption campaign was set in motion by a sensational scandal in February 2012 involving Chongqing’s head of the Public Security Bureau who fled to the US consulate in Chengdu to seek asylum in the US. The incident revealed the alleged murder of a British businessman by Bo Xilai’s wife, which snowballed into rumours of a coup plot against Xi Jinping by Bo Xilai, Party Secretary of Chongqing, and Zhou Yongkang, Secretary of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission. Soon after the incident, Bo Xilai was dismissed from the Party and eventually sentenced to life in prison for bribery, abuse of power and embezzlement. The incident was followed by another high-profile investigation, this time focused on Liu Zhijun, the Minister of Railways responsible for China’s sprawling High-Speed Railway network. Liu Zhijun’s case was by far one of the most widely followed news stories in China and the prosecutions recommendation that he be given a lenient sentence was met with unanimous opposition by citizens across the country. These incidents cultivated the necessary public support for an anti-corruption campaign that was then in its infancy; however, this public support remains misguided by Party propaganda.

The anti-corruption campaign was supported by a Party Education Program (PEP) in 2012, the first of three such ideological education campaigns launched by Xi Jinping in his first term. The ‘Mass Line Program’ targeted Party cadres to rectify behaviours like hedonism, superficial conformity and inactiveness. The Politburo followed up with a directive called the ‘Eight Provisions’ in December 2012 that set concrete regulations to instil discipline among Party cadres: emphasising regular inspection visits to the local level, prohibiting ribbon cutting and cornerstone laying ceremonies, reducing the number of foreign visits, lower traffic controls when officials travel and other budgetary restrictions on the use of public finance for business meals and government cars. 

These provisions essentially set the rules for acceptable behaviour by Party officials that have become the basis for launching investigations. In operation for two years, the Mass Line Program was a populist measure emphasising austerity that removed the perks associated with Party positions. In the first year of the campaign, more than 30,000 Party officials were investigated and 7,600 of them were sanctioned for violations of the Eight Provisions. The second and third ideological campaign, the ‘Three Strict’ and ‘Two Studies’ programs, were slightly different in emphasis, focusing on political discipline and protocols that ensure loyalty to the Party center and Xi Jinping.

The ‘Three Stricts’ campaign was focused on the ethical conduct of Party officials, including offences like ideological deviances, sedition, espionage and treason. The concept of political protocols became popular between 2014 and 2016, with Xi urging officials to follow the unified Party center and later prohibiting alliance forming activity. One prominent example of prosecution for conducting unorganised political activity was the case against Ling Jihua, Hu Jintao’s former chief of staff, who was accused of organising a factional group called the Xishan society. Similarly, nearly 300 members connected to Zhou Yongkang, a retired Politburo Standing Committee member, were questioned or detained in 2014 while other leaders within the Sichuan faction were investigated as well, marking the first time a retired member of the Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC) was put on trial and imprisoned for life. 

On the other hand, Hebei Party Secretary, Zhou Benshun, was charged for expressing a dissenting opinion on the Eight Provisions directive by the Politburo, defying the orders of the Party center. Policing political discipline and loyalty to the Party center became the defining feature of the second wave of anti-corruption efforts. Shortly after, the Party center became concentrated in the office of President Xi Jinping who was elevated to the core of the Party leadership. By 2017, 15,000 Party members had received punishment for violations of Party discipline, more than the number of officials punished during the Tiananmen purge of 1989-1992. Another highlight of the political discipline campaign was the expulsion of 63 military generals, the largest such anti-corruption effort targeting the military in China’s modern history.

The ideology campaign that morphed into a political discipline campaign maintained its intensity until 2018, then expanded its reach to include the private sector, which continues to this day. The campaigns have heavily relied on disciplinary mechanisms like the CCDI and Central Inspection Teams (CIT) while punishment is mostly carried out by Party organisations and later handled by the state’s judicial bodies. The CCDI is now highly institutionalised, tackles corruption and roots out cliques and individuals challenging the authority of the Party core, Xi Jinping.


Expanded Focus

The scope of the anti-corruption campaign has expanded to countries outside China as well, evidenced by Operation Fox Hunt and Operation Sky Net. In 2015, the Chinese government released a list of 100 most wanted fugitives who fled to foreign countries and by 2017 the anti-corruption organisation managed to bring back 40 individuals on the list. In 2018 alone more than 1000 Chinese fugitives who fled abroad were brought back to the country, of which 307 were Party or government officials. The most high profile incident included the disappearance of the first Chinese head of Interpol, Meng Hongwei, who was detained in September 2018  during a visit to China and later sentenced to 13 years in jail. Between 2018 and 2020, the NSP claimed in its first work report that it brought back 3,848 fugitives from abroad and nearly 10 billion yuan in illegal funds. The operation to bring back fugitives from foreign countries is focused on white collar criminals, but is also deployed to target dissidents and political opponents.

The expansion of the CCDI and NSP’s operations abroad also accompanies a shift in the emphasis of the campaign. The CCDI has targeted bureaucratic inefficiency and performance related issues such as failure to meet key performance indicators, unaccountability to constituents and not complying with directives issued by the Party Center. For example, in January 2022, the Zhengzhou city Party Chief, Xu Liyi and 89 other officials were disciplined for their poor handling of the Henan floods that claimed the lives of 380 people in the city. Similarly, after an investigation by the CCDI into Hubei’s COVID-19 response, the provinces Party chief, Jiang Chaoliang, and the director of the provincial health commission were dismissed from their posts. 

Most recently, the anti-corruption campaign turned its attention to financial regulators, who the CCDI has accused of wielding regulatory power for personal gain, describing a revolving door relationship between business and government. The CCDI in October 2021 initiated a two-month long inspection of more than 20 financial institutions, like banks, stock exchanges, insurance regulators and asset management companies. So far, more than 40 officials in the financial sector have been investigated by the CCDI for financial crimes and violations of political discipline. One example is the case of Zhou Jiangyong, Hangzhou Party secretary with close ties to Alibaba, who was expelled for profiting from the disorderly expansion of private companies. The targeting of private companies and SOEs that began with a crackdown on tech companies and education firms has now swept through the financial sector. Most recently, in April 2022, nearly 17 officials including the President of China Merchants Bank, Tian Huiyu, were investigated or punished for violations of political discipline.


Conclusion 

The anti-corruption campaign and institutionalisation of Party organisations like the CCDI has massively affected elite politics, political culture and public perception of the CCP. The campaigns have permitted an increase in Xi Jinping’s unilateral ability to leverage political loyalty and discipline to regulate the behaviour of Party officials. Wang Qishan, the CCDI’s former head and close ally of Xi Jinping noted that killing tigers and swatting flies serves as a deterrent to corrupt officials, calling it the ‘Sword of Damocles’. Local officials and Party members at the center are now increasingly worried about an investigation into their past, incomes and conduct or the leak of information from other functionaries that could involve them in an investigation, especially if they present anti-establishment views. 

The proliferation of the CCDI units across all Party and state bodies has heightened the risk of being investigated upon presenting a threat to Xi. The anti-corruption campaign also has a dual effect on factions and cliques, dampening their operation on the one hand while also increasing the opposition to Xi’s efforts. Factions and cliques like the Xishan society, the Sichuan faction and Shaanxi faction, with the potential to destabilise leadership unity, were purged for forming alliances. As the anti-corruption struggle against Party members and vested business interests carries on, Xi increases the potential for opposition to his campaign and rule. Lastly, public perception of the anti-corruption campaign has been largely supportive of Xi’s efforts. Combined with corruption within the Party, the rising inequality in incomes in China is likely to generate support for the campaign as it moves forward. As the 20th Party Congress approaches, the anti-corruption drive shows no signs of slowing, indicating Xi’s resolve in maintaining his authority over the Party and demonstrating his willingness to shape the future of the CCP in his stride.

Rahul Karan Reddy is an international relations analyst pursuing a Masters degree from O.P Jindal Global University in Diplomacy, Law and Business. He is the author of ‘Islands on the Rocks’, a monograph detailing the Senkaku/Diaoyu island dispute between China and Japan. His research focus is China and East Asia. He was a research analyst at the Chennai Center for China Studies (C3S) and an intern at the Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS), writing articles and reports on China’s foreign policy and domestic politics. His blog, Asian Drama, follows the rise of India and China as they navigate the Asian Century.