What Would the Chinaman Do?
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 18 Dec , 2021

“Right, as the world goes is only in question between equals in power; while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must” – Melian Dialogue

Chinaman’s Googly!  

In cricket field,‘Chinaman’, a ‘googly’ bowled by a left-hander, is more difficult for any batter to read. In international politics,however, given his ingrained culture of imperialist ambitions, the Chinaman’s strategic googly of duplicity and deception is simpler to scan. Be that as it may, what concerns the Chinaman’s neighbours and their allies is that he has chosen a path of political-military domination, economic entrapment and extra-territorial expansion to secure that ambition.Steered by an autarky that subscribes to no norms of conduct but his own roughshod, partisan ways, and cares little over his accountability, domestic or international, but to the handful heavy weights of the Communist Party’s Politburo, that must be a matter of grave concern for the Asia-Pacific neighbourhood.

Truly, the Chinaman has ever been unequivocal in expressing the grandeur of his expansionist objectives while regulating that intent with such ambiguities as to keep his target-nations pacified in hope of finding palatable mutual accommodation. In so doing, he has nurtured the target-nations’ buoyant, if banal, notions of gainful relationships without ever easing upon his expansionist claims. Over the preceding decades, that subterfuge has secured him cooperation in building-up his national power from the very target-nations upon whom he would eventually deploy that power – Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, for example.[1]

Presently, the Chinaman has shed the Deng Xiaoping era policy of ‘build-up, hide capability, bide time’. Having more or less met the objectives of his ‘four modernisations’, he has begun administering the consequences of his domineering and expansionist intent even upon those who have so far been treated as economic associates and technological benefactors–particularly the United States, European nations and Japan, while Russia’s turn awaits. Culturally, he believes his policy turnabout to be ordained by a‘mandate of the heaven’ that sanctifies his ‘superior entitlement’ over what are considered as but ‘underling’ nations.

So far, in falling for the lure of profitable commerce, the international community has been distracted by sublime hopes of moderation in the Chinaman’s behaviour to overlook his long-known expansionist culture. But as his arbitrary assertions over the last decade have begun hurting the global power-block nations, their concern has finally been stirred up. That notwithstanding, much as these powers might try to keep the Chinaman from levelling up and then surpassing them in the matrix of global power, the Chinaman’s engrained imperialist culture will not be suppressed. Expectedly therefore the question raking the alarmed strategic minds is as to ‘What would the Chinaman do?

Chinaman’s Predilections

Well, a simple answer to the question is that inspired by a blend of grand Han and a haughty communist culture:the archetypal Chinaman will do exactly as he is wont to. Yes, impelled by the dictates of his instinctive hegemonism and endowed with sharp intelligence, remarkable initiative and prodigious industry, be will strive to be the ‘Central Kingdom’ and attended to by neighbourhood ‘satellites’. He will thus think big, act grand, covet other’s assets, and concoct spurious tales of rightful entitlements to impose his chauvinistic diktatson the hapless co-habitants of the region.

Realisation of that cultural quest, as the Communist autarky believes, is contingent on perpetuating its absolute and everlasting control both within and beyond its geographic boundaries.Whereas territorial expansion, economic arrogation and strategic hegemony are its means of securing that end while military posturing is its master instrument.To that end, right from the time it captured power in the mainland, the totalitarian regime has opted to accord priority to the ‘barrel of the gun’ over its people’s wellbeing, even if that meant millions of starvation deaths and displacements. Unaccountability to the citizens has suited the regime’s consistence in building up its most vital organ, the Peoples’ Liberation Army (PLA),at any cost.[2]Having thus build-up its military power at such high cost, the Communist Regime finds pragmatism in buying its people’s legitimacy by deploying that power to grab at what it considers, in its arbitrary mindset of course, as its ‘sovereign rights’ over coveted territories and common resources.[3]

With China’s economic, technological and military modernisations more or less in place, the recent years have seen the Chinaman going audacious in factoring his burgeoning economic and technological power, backed up with military power, to secure his goal of regional, and eventually global dominance. These developments justify the reiteration of a known but seldom articulated truth: Enforcement of extra-territorial hegemony is but a compelling characteristic of the Chinaman’s strategic culture, and not just dictated by any leader’s or ruling elite’s fancy.[4]It is therefore wishful to hope that the rising incidents of his claim-clamp-and-capture ventures are to be ascribed to the current Xi Jinping Regime alone, or that in times to come there could be relief from the Chinaman’s highhanded behaviour. The western powers block as well as the Asian nations have to come to terms with that uncomfortable truth.

Configuring for Global Domination

In tune with his oft-pronounced ambitions, the Chinaman has employed many well-contrived devices to secure his seat at the global power table. Assessment of these devices are notable.

One, he has modernised the education and technological standards by subscribing to advanced training in top western universities, research and industrial complexes. Besides, in order to hasten the process, he has defiled the norms of conduct through violations of the provisions of intellectual property and transfer of technology, even theft of technical designs, expertise and tools. Exposure of such misdeeds are muffled by nonchalance, denials, bribery and threat. China thereby is fairly advanced in technology, manufacturing and military industry sectors within a short time and less cost.

Two, the Chinaman has deployed his humungous economic and technical prowess to gallop into a position of global influence. Totalitarian vice-grip over domestic industry and banking system enables him to undertake ambitious infrastructural ventures overseas. He has thus cast his muscular economic tentacles to ensnare almost every nation in the region, and beyond, into such ‘collaborations’ that appear enticing in the immediate term, even if these could subsequently turn exploitative. His ready advancement of fat loans to fund infrastructural projects, if with disparate economic and technical stipulations, are overlooked by the leaderships of his client States in their race for populism and political control.[5]Fellowship of such client States also allows the Chinaman to divert global strictures against his brazen conduct.[6] Here is a case of free world aspirations promoting the cause of a dictatorial regime!

Three,as a matter of policy, the Chinaman comes forward to offer economic and military, even political support to globally shunned regimes in return for favourable collaborations which would otherwise be unthinkable. Extraction of extra-territorial natural resources,securing profitable business transactions and appropriation of large projects are some aspects of that policy. In that, securing a foothold in the regime’s domestic affairs and creation of influenced local constituencies are the Chinaman’s larger objectives.[7]

Four, the Chinaman has gone about strengthening China’sleverage in management of various international political and economic institutions. In this endeavour, the Chinaman has been manoeuvring into key positions in many of the United Nation’s (UN)as well as regional organisations – like the World Bank (WB), World Health Organisation (WHO), Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RECP), Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), and various other cooperative forums in Central Asia, Africa and Latin American States. In the same vain, he has recently secured top positions in the Food and Agriculture Association (FAO), Civil Aviation (ICAO), the Telecommunications Union (ITU), Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), and most ominously, even in the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) a law that she often repudiates. Though his attempt to head the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) has failed this time, and his much desired ‘strategic partnership’ with the ASEAN remains stalled, it is only a matter of time that he will succeed in ‘purchasing’ such positions too. Notably, his push for Renminbi transactions is a parallel scheme to upturn the current dollar-euro dominated order of global currencies.Besides bolstering her political-diplomatic sway over the global affairs, the purpose is also to force obfuscation of misdeeds and legitimise bogus narratives.

Five, closing-up with his desired state of political, economic and military dominance, the Chinaman’s current regime has begun to use subtle coercion to ‘discipline’ those dissenting nations who are viewed as potential ‘trouble makers’ and who could come in way of his dominance over the Asia-Pacific Region.His challenges against the stabilsing influence of the peaceful Asia-Pacific community– particularly his attempts to curtail freedom of navigation and mining, and consolidation of occupation of China Sea islands – are but some aspect of the Chinaman’s stiffening approach to what he considers as ‘intransigence of the minions’. Any show of solidarity with such dissenting nations coming from the region’s stake-holding western powers is reproved as ‘outsider instigation’.It is in this context that the Chinaman is wary of the region’s other, if comparatively modest, powers – democratic and progressive India, Japan, Vietnam, Australia etc. – and their strategic partners, viewing them as inevitable spoilers of his hegemonic dreams. Given the named nation’s power-potentials, the Chinaman just cannot free himself from that anxiety. His growing territorial and diplomatic belligerence combined with economic hard-sell are but the symptoms of that anxiety.

In all of the afore-stated cases, the Chinaman has played his cards well to distract the target-nations away from his ultimate intent, and taking advantage of the human frailties, offered irresistible enticements to plug any possible expose` of his machinations. He has thus created many favourable constituencies within his target-nations by a policy of rewarding, in various forms, the favourably disposed constituencies among them. In any populist order these constituencies act as formidable pressure groups in Chinaman’s favour. His craft is best exposed when he masks his brazenness under the rhetoric of ‘peace and development’. He subscribes to United Nation’s peacekeeping forces and champions the cause of climate, but shows no compunction over his self-sanctified ‘historical rights’ to destabilise regionalcalm or to proliferate nuclear weaponization or to protect designated terrorists, all to ‘promote peace’, as he suggests!

It is notable that all global powers have acted similarly at one time or the other, the United States (US) being the current hegemon. But here comes the key: Western powers have mostly been democratic and law abiding, in intent if not always in practice. They have powerful constituencies to restrain, even shame them from going overboard in their tyranny. More importantly, they have usually been empathic with the victims of their highhandedness and having gained their primary objectives, offered some semblance of accommodation with the hapless. China’s Communist Regime entertains no such pretentions; trampling over neighbours is seen as its divine right. Dominance of western power block has therefore become somewhat reconcilable, but not that of the Chinaman’s.

Response of the Reigning Global Power Block

As the Chinaman was casting his political-economic tentacles in the Asia-Pacific Region, the westerns take-holding powers had been hedging, for the lure of profitable commerce, against the needed counter-measures. It was also hoped that as the Chinaman rises as a global power, he could be incentivised to grow-up to act responsibly with commensurate maturity and fortitude. That hope flourished till the reality of the global throne being close to being shifted to Beijing could no longer be obfuscated. The Chinaman’s persistence in undermining the western power block’s influence in the Indo-Pacific Region was the last straw. It was so that in the past few years,his garnering advantages out of the western training, technical and industrial facilities while proceeding with rampant violations of the acceptable codes of conduct,has come to be indicted.That is also when the Chinaman’s unilateral impositions began to be repudiated by the US, its regional allies and the European powers. Imposition of sanctions against culpable Chinese firms, individuals and trade practices, build-up of regional strategic partnerships like the ‘QUAD’ and conduct of multinational military power projection exercises like the ‘Malabar’ in the Chinaman’s self-proclaimed areas of domination are the fallouts of that development. Needless to state, the Chinaman-wary neighbours in the Asia-Pacific Region couldn’t agree more with the above mentioned counter-steps, not overtly though.

Heightened concern of the Chinaman’s escalating challenges to the settled US-led global order is best depicted by the series of US Department of Defence Task Force Reports on China.[8] This Report has prompted the US Government to direct its key government departments to make concerted efforts to address the security challenges posed by China. This directive comes in continuation with the Innovation and Competition Act, 2021 that aims at reinforcing the US’ techno-industrial edge over China. Recently,citing Taiwan’s global contributions to world health and information technology, the US has called for restoration of Taiwan’s seat at the UN. The US’ ideation of ‘Build Back Better World’ (BBBW) and the EU’s $340 bn‘Global Gateway’ scheme is another initiative that could offer egalitarian opportunities to the developing nations to free themselves from the clutches of the Chinaman’s controversial Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Terming these steps as “aggression against China”, the much riled Chinaman has held out, in his characteristic strong words, retaliatory threats through his Foreign Ministry and even his rubber stamp National People’s Congress.[9]

That said, going by past records it is not certain as to how long might the western powers’ Chinaman averseness would last against the strains of politics and business. All that the Chinaman needs to do – in fact, has already began doing so – is to mouth few pleasantries, dangle some profitable enticements and apply few cosmetics over the contentious issues to permit the developed and developing world to be satisfied with the ‘success’of their policies and then amenably slide back into the Chinaman’s sway. Indeed, over the past couple of years there have been indications of the Chinaman making subtle attempts to sow division among the various China-wary strategic partnerships while hinting at on-the-side reconciliation with some of the advanced nations who stand exasperated by his underhand deals.Probing efforts have also been made to arrive at a Sino-US understanding over apportioning of their respective ‘areas of domination’ – on his terms, of course.[10]

Indo-Pacific nations need to factor such possibilities in their security calculus.

Inevitability of Chinaman’s Regional Domination

No divine revelation is needed to deduce that the Chinaman will not, just cannot, cease his inveterately hegemonic instincts. That instinct has come to the fore during the past decade-and-a-half of China’s post-modernisation assertiveness in internal as well as external affairs. Arbitrary interpreter of contentious issues and events, he is the claimant, supreme judge and ruthless enforcer as it suits him.He is too resource-rich and too powerful to be restrained. He is upbeat that at one stage of his haughtiness, the opposition would just melt away in fatigue or fear only to reconcile for economic enticements. He is confident that in time, the currently estranged US-led western powers would succumb to the allurements offered by his association and so find accommodation with his regional hegemony. In the domestic front, he has succeeded in buildingup populist support for his missions by fuelling a nationalist storm over the hypocritic slogan of ‘China is under threat’.

Expected continuance of current Regime’s grip on absolute power, and its ‘core leader’ Xi Jinping’s likely elevation to the status of Mao and Deng are contingent upon his continuance in power by subversion of the succession norms, persecution of internal dissent and raising public life-style. In external matters, the aspirations are the recovery of ‘lost territories’, unification of Taiwan, and ultimately, the assumption of super-power imperialism by 2049.The Xi Regime’s burden is therefore twofold: One, continued rise of people’s standards of living, described as ‘common prosperity’; and, two, recovery and integration of the Chinaman’s self-claimed ‘lost territories’. The former needs greater access to natural resources which in turn needs exercise of extra-territorial hegemony. The second, territorial expansion, is underway through incremental encroachments of the China Sea islands, Indian and Bhutanese territories and intimidation of Taiwan. Aspiring to be in the class of Mao and Deng, President Xi Jinping’ has to deliver on these accounts.[11]

No nation in the Asia-Pacific Region has the capacity to impede the Chinaman juggernaut unless a strong alliance, duly stiffened with active support from global powers, is forged. Besides certain gestures on that account, that seems to be far-fetched yet as the Chinaman’s stratagems would not permit that to happen. In sum, in the coming decades, the inevitability of the Communist Party Regime dominating, dictating and appropriating the South-Southeast Asian affairs is certain. The region needs to girdle-up for difficult times ahead.

Black Prophesy this!


[1] These are the neighbourhood nations including Japan and Vietnam, besides the regional stakeholders like Russia, the United States, Europe etc.

[2] The Chinese system permits the Communist Regime to adopt even the most draconian courses in pushing its anti-people agenda. The Great Leap Forward, construction of the Three Gorges Dam, the Cultural Revolution, to mention just some, that have brought extreme misery to its people are some examples of the regime’s ruthless sway. Similarly, political and religious enforcements – the Tiananmen Square incident for example – are some of the many instances of domestic suppression. Oppressive enforcements along its periphery are evidenced in Tibet, East Turkestan, Inner Mongolia and Hong Kong. Times have changed, but not enough to make the regime’s autocratic rulers any less brazen in matters of domestic policies.

[3] Outlandish claims over the South China Sea,Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh, parts of Bhutan, Nepal and the Russian Far East, occupation of China Sea islands, and enforcement of extra-territorial fishing ‘rights’ and air defence identification zone, are some examples of the Chinaman’shard force-posturing.

[4] Come to think of it, what business after all China has in claiming sovereignty over nations which have nothing in common with her geography, ethnicity, culture, history, religion, language or politics – Tibet, Eastern Turkmenistan, Mongolia, Manchuria and Yunnan, to wit.

[5]African, South Asian and European nations’ economic entanglements with China are well settled. Pakistan, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Cambodia and Tajikistan are some recent examples of aspiring governments succumbing to such enticements.

[6]For example, obfuscation of Tiananmen massacre, atrocities on Uyghurs, origins of Covid-19 Virus, shieldingof Pakistani terrorists, nuclear proliferation, rebuff of navigational freedom etc.

[7]Kim’s North Korea, Pakistan’s dictatorships, Afghanistan’s Taliban, Myanmar’s military junta, Erdogan’s Turkey, arguably even Sri Lanka’s Rajapaksa regime, are the recent examples of Chinaman’s collaboration with tainted regimes.

[8]The latest being the DOD’s Report on ‘Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China’,November, 2021.

[9]The Global Times,June 9, October 27 & 30, 2021.

[10]Since June 2020, at the height of US-led trade-war, the Chinaman hinted a call for rapprochement. There have been many talks at official level, besides three conversations between the two Presidents; the latest being the Biden-Jinping meeting on 15 November 2021. The Global Times,October 27 & 30, 2021.

[11]On 11 November 2021, the Communist Party passed a resolution to anoint Xi Jinping as the ‘core leader’ Xi Jinping was thus elevated to the stature of  Mao Zedong and  Deng Xiaoping, the founder of the Communist Regime and the ideologue of modernisation respectively. 

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Lt Gen Gautam Banerjee

former Commandant Officers Training Academy, Chennai.

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