Chinese Communist Party: An Existential Threat to Humanity and the Rules-based World Order
Webinar No. 6
By Usanas Foundation
Scholars around the world gathered together to discuss the emerging threat to the world order by the Chinese Communist Party in a webinar titled ‘Chinese Communist Party: An Existential Threat to Humanity and the Rules-based World Order’, organised by Usanas Foundation, Udaipur-based geopolitical and security affairs thinktank. The speakers at the event were: Namrata Hasija, Senior Fellow at Centre for China Analysis and Studies; Abhijit Iyer Mitra, Senior Fellow at Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies; and Teng Biao, Grove Human Rights Scholar, Hunter College and President, China Against Death Penalty. The CEO of Usanas Foundation Abhinav Pandya moderated the event.
Hasija’s address was centered around China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). She began by highlighting the Chinese propaganda around the BRI. She said, “during the first BRI forum in China in 2017, a lot of video propaganda was released in English as the Chinese tried to explain to the world how important the BRI was. When India refused to join it, there was a lot of criticism of India. The BRI has nothing for the global good but has only put China’s state-owned enterprises in profit. It is an instrument to serve China’s Dream, which is based on a book titled ‘China Dream’ by a retired Colonel. After the 19th Chinese Congress, Jinping gave a deadline of 2021 for fulfilling the China Dream for rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. They also planned to recover all the territory that they had lost in the past 100 years. The Second deadline was 2035, focusing on made in China - an idea to make it the most powerful country in trade. The next deadline was set for 2049 to make China a global power when it would either replace the US or become equal to it.
China has expanded its debt trap in the past few years. Nepal, Pakistan, Maldives, Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan, etc. are some of the countries that have started falling into the debt trap. The projects under the debt trap as well as the BRI are unidirectionally benefitting China and not the host countries. According to a report of European Union Chambers, 89% of the contracts under BRI have gone to Chinese companies under the initiative and the process of bidding is not at all transparent. The BRI is not at all a project that is beneficial for all the partners. It has strategic as well as military importance.
Talking about the CPEC, she said, “even the CPEC is going to be a tool to facilitate Chinese interests, and not Pakistan’s. As it runs from North to South down the spine of Pakistan, going through its rural areas, it places China in an important strategic position in Pakistan. In a Deloitte study, it was claimed that around 700 thousand direct jobs are going to be created between 2015-2030 for Pakistan under the CPEC. But this has not happened at all. All the contracts and employment are being given to Chinese people including engineers, construction workers, and security personnel. The actual number of jobs that have been created for Pakistanis under CPEC is only 4,000. Last year, only 9 vacancies were advertised for Pakistani people under the project.”
“China is giving nothing for free but under huge interest rates - as high as 7%! When the chief of the Bank of Pakistan said in 2016 that Pakistan will not be able to repay the loans, he was removed as a consequence. China has given an interest-free loan to Pakistan only on Gwadar, only due to its strategic interests. A 10-feet wall has been built around the project and even the locals and Pakistani partners are not kept updated about the development.
Now China has started to get increasingly concerned about the security of the CPEC projects. During the Balakot strikes, the Chinese projects were just 30 km away from the areas that were attacked. So to ensure the security of the project, Pakistani people were made to pay for the project and Pak Army had to raise special infantry divisions to protect CPEC”, she added.
Highlighting the social aspects of the project, she said that the project also has a social angle. The locals of G-B and Balochistan are opposing it by arguing that CPEC actually means ‘China Punjab Economic Corridor’. They have also been raising the slogans that this is a road to Ghulami (slavery). At the social level, a number of girls have been forcefully married to the Chinese men working on CPEC. Several stories on forced marriage and torture have been exposed by the Pakistani media. There is also a Chinese woman who is running a brothel there to serve Chinese workers and security personnel. Now several supermarkets are running that are exclusively established for Chinese people, run and owned by Chinese. Tehreek-e-Taliban and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi have also criticised China and reminded the Pakistani govt to be cautious about the new friend.
PLA’s Western Theatre Command is also responsible for protecting the Chinese projects, individuals, and equipment for CPEC. China is creating a special army to protect the CPEC. In a first of a kind development, Chinese carrier Liaoning is going to be deployed in Gwadar. They have intensified training of the Western Theatre Command and are going to build global capabilities.
CPEC will have problems and it is having problems. But the major problem is the way that both countries look at this project. For China, it has strategic importance and sees it as a stepping stone for its global ambitions. In Pakistan, locals are stirring against the project and dissent is developing amongst them.
China does not have a disciplined workforce. A prominent Chinese leader said, “lie low and keep working”. When it comes to leaders like Hu Jintao, most of these issues like the East China Sea and South China sea - all began during his regime. But he knew to withdraw. However, Jinping is working on a bold timetable, unlike Jintao. Look at the EU, nothing has been spoken by Europe or the US to tighten its screw on China.
On Chinese Propaganda machinery, she said, “look at the way China has worked to create a lobby of Journalists, academicians, think tanks, etc. Look at Huawei and its working module. What Huawei did was to make sister companies and then made them participate in biddings. We don't have a strategy to fight China. Even after the Covid scenario, we don't have a China policy then when are we going to have one?”
Criticising India’s tackling of China, she said that it's a sad state of affairs that we are lagging behind at Pangong Tso. It is unfortunate to note that this has been an absolute military and intelligence failure. But what have we done after that diplomatically? From what I am hearing is that we resorted to Russian intelligence inputs and instead of our own channels networks, we trusted them. Besides, some of the statements issued by the MEA have been a direct translation of Chinese statements.
Teng Biao began by highlighting the historic roots of persecution of dissidents by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). He said, “the CCP established a totalitarian regime in 1949 and started killing the Kuomintang people and slaughtering the landowners, and proved to be a humanitarian disaster from the very beginning. Tens of millions of Chinese people died because of the PLA and the great famine. In 1989, they massacred thousands of protestors at Tiananmen Square. In 1999, Millions of Falun Gong practitioners in prisons and thousands were tortured to death.
Since Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, things have become worse and worse. He attacked and killed the dissidents. At least three hundred lawyers were detained. I was kidnapped, disappeared, and tortured in China. Xi Jinping's government tightened its control on the internet, universities, and civil society in a comprehensive crackdown. In Xinjiang, it detained at least one to two million Uighur Muslims and other Turkic Muslims to lead to the worst humanitarian disaster in the 21st century.
He also narrated the story of a Chinese dissident poet who was being threatened by the CCP for publishing dissident works. He later got a Swedish passport in 1990. However, in 2015, he was kidnapped in Thailand and tortured. He was later released after a long disappearance. He was then taken away in front of some European MPs and then again disappeared.”
On the ongoing crisis in Hong Kong, he said that Hong Kong’s National Security Law is an example of practicing extra-territorial jurisdiction by China. It has entirely destroyed the Sino-British declaration. There is an article in this National Security Law which endangers everybody across the world. If you support Hong Kong independence and oppose Jinping, you have committed a crime and you might be arrested if you travel to Hong Kong. The Law is in conflict with the Sino-British declaration and is a breach of international laws so according to the extraterritorial article in this law. Its a symbolic threat to everyone who is intending to criticise the CCP.
China has built up a strong propaganda network across the world. The Chinese media in the Western countries are actually the spies and propagandists working for the CCP. There are also several apps propped up by China to help in espionage. TikTok, WeChat, etc. are a couple of other apps that are breaching privacy and helping to magnify the Chinese propaganda. Besides, Confucius Institutes have also become a major threat to academic freedom. In total, there are more than 1000 such Institutes, blocking sensitive topics from being discussed and inviting dissident people critical of the CCP.
Highlighting the inactiveness of Western countries and their appeasement of China, he said that the Chinese have played a more active and aggressive role in the international front and the Western countries should learn a lesson from it. The Western countries largely supported the Tiananmen Square massacre and adopted an ‘engagement’ policy, full of presumptions to include China in global human rights treaties and further promoting China as a democratic society. The status of Most Favoured Nation (MFN) Permanent Trade Relations (PNTR) was given to China by the US just after a few years of the Tiananmen Massacre. A number of major companies also came forward to embrace China.
When China was allowed to host the Summer Olympics and later the Winter Olympics, these events became excuses for the Chinese government to infringe human rights. Despite China’s terrible record on human rights, At least 180 countries voted in China’s favour in the Human Rights Council. It's not that the world has a strategy to combat the CCP, rather it has a wrong strategy in which it resorts to appeasement. So there is an urgent need to rethink this as China is a potential threat to every country.
On the emerging dynamics of the China-US relations, he said ”I am currently staying in the US. The climate seems to be changing. Trump is very tough on China on the manipulation of intellectual property and unfair trade practices… Chinese legal and fundamental treaties are antagonists to Human Rights. The UK, US, and Canada, and other countries have threatened to seize bilateral treaties with Hong Kong as they can not guarantee human rights and rule of law. ”
He concluded by commenting, “it's high time for the world to think about the Communist Party and it's One China policy. Let us all force the CCP to establish a rule-based on world order until it's too late.”
Abhijit Iyer Mitra began by highlighting China’s breach of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. He said that China was one of the biggest proliferators of cruise and ballistic missiles and was indulged in an uncontrolled deal with state and non-state actors. There is no end-use monitoring, which was observed when an Israeli ship, INS Hanit, was hit by Hezbollah and it was observed that it was an anti-Ship missile produced by China. But there was no monitoring of China selling missiles to non-state actors. They agreed on a deal to sell the Saudi 60 Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles (IRBMs), the Dongfeng missiles.
Talking about the Sino-Pakistani nexus, he argued that the Chinese help of the Pakistani nuclear programme began in 1970 when it began sharing designs and helping in lock-stock-barrel. China joined the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in 1992 and changed the method in which they violated the established procedures. They created a nexus between Iran, Pakistan, and North Korea on developing nuclear warheads. China organised the transfer of information between the three countries and facilitated this network. There are UN reports on this and that were never worked on. They also helped canisterised Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and miniaturisation of its nuclear weapons.
The international community got smart after China’s NPT and chased away China from joining the MTCR, which led to the creation of the Iran-Pakistan-North Korea nexus. China begins from the land paradigm and takes them further beyond to the sea. They never use cartographic maps and resort to nothing that is based on cartography.
Questioning the business instinct and efficiency of China, Mitra argued that Chinese investment practices follow no established methods of economic practices. The name of OBOR changes more than the number of times Elizabeth Taylor changes husbands. China did not even think that the gas to be transferred over the Karakoram to China needs pressurisation and canisterization. Its economic practices do not make any economic sense. Infrastructure by itself does not produce economic growth. Most of the Chinese projects aren’t proving to be profiteering them. Even after the Hambantota project was defaulted and was taken over by the Chinese, it has not proved to be a major profit for China. It is still going in loss. This is why we see something happening in Pakistan. Pakistan’s elite is using every trick to prevent CPEC.
It makes me very very happy. For starters, almost 90% of these projects are going to be defaulters. Chinese don't realise that economic bubbles created by them are fundamentally unsustainable. Jinping is to China what Kruschev and Breznow were to the USSR. Jinping is taking on dead-end projects that are hardly fetching profits as we have not seen an increase in Hambantota or Gwadar. Money is not talking and currency manipulation is not working. These are three kinds of countries that are going to be victims of Chinese bad loans in the world: The first category is of smarter countries who would disengage like Zambia/Tanzania. The second kind of country like Venezuela would become bankrupt and burn. Pakistan is going to become the next Venezuela. What India could not do to Pakistan, China is going to do it. The third category of countries is going to become free loaders. Countries like Myanmar, who are smart, are kicking off Chinese projects on the basis of convenience. India should play an important role in teaching countries to take in Chinese projects and kick them out when danger comes in. Burmese policymakers should be roped in to help out on this. India should teach the countries trapped in Chinese debt and send financial advisors to countries to teach them that they grow rich in debt and default calculatingly on it without loosing sovereignty.
On the Sino-American relations, he opined that though Trump scares a lot of people, he seems to be the first person who really scares China. China very carefully hides behind Russia at the UN. Russia is stupid enough to fall into the Chinese trap.
On the current conflict at the LAC, he said that India’s grace is that Xi Jinping is stupider than India's leaders. During Covid pandemic, look at the number of stakeholders he has been alienating at the same time. Trump sent two aircraft carriers in the South China Sea during the current conflict, which was a very strong message. Militarily, we are doing absolutely nothing.
Answering a question on the possible tussle between the CCP and the PLA, he said that Jinping has consolidated his power, a complete castration of the top brass. Infantry commanders are being shifted to artillery, artillery commanders and being transferred to air defense, and so on and so forth. So, it is unlikely that the PLA will revolt against the CCP.
The opinions expressed in the webinar belong to the panellists and not necessarily to the Usanas Foundation.