The unprecedented growth of China in recent years is unquestionable, whether it is in terms of production or in terms of relative military power it has surpassed our expectations. The Chinese government is focusing on its goal of becoming a “superpower” or “hegemon” in the world, more than ever, to highlight same, a distinguished lecture was held by the Centre for International Relations and Strategic Studies (CIRSS), IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi, the lecture was under The State of International Affairs – #DiplomacyDialogue. A Distinguished LecturebyDr. Rafiq DossanionChina’s Grand Strategy.
Starting with Dr. Simi Mehta, the moderator of the session gave the stance that as China continues in its quest for establishing its geopolitical might and influence, the elements of its grand strategy need to be looked upon, whether it is over strategic thinking articulated by the military or it also includes Beijing’s diplomatic maneuvers. She questions the reasons for shaping this grand strategy, its goals over the next two decades, and the response required by other major powers like the United States.
Speaker Dr. Rafiq Dossani Director, RAND Center for the Asia Pacific Policy (CAPP); Senior Economist, RAND Corporation; Professor, Pardee RAND Graduate School, Santa Monica, USA
What is Grand strategy and its Functions?
The lecture was started with a brief introduction on the topic, followed by defining the term “Grand Strategy” which is a national plan to convert a country’s priorities and interests into actions. These grand strategies have some key characteristics like advanced national security, always evolving the policies which are running for a long term, and concentrating on developing the state’s military, diplomatic and economic resources. He illustrated how the grand strategy plays a vital role in the development of the nation, he explained this via various case studies of Japan and the USA.
He mentioned that the Grand strategy’s key determinant is the degree of strategic autonomy. The small and middle powers may not have much autonomy and their grand strategy must be set in reaction to big power grand strategy. However, even big power autonomy is never absolute. He stated the cases of high and low strategy autonomy giving examples of Japan’s quest for regional eminence 1960-85, through infrastructure, trade, and aid strategies, and South Korea’s quest for unification with North Korea after the Korean war 1953.
The various manifestations of grand strategy occur through institutions and initiatives, resources deployed and National security objects achieved. Rather, he also discussed how and what dominant factors could shape our grand strategy. There are various features of it like multilateral or regional institutions like United Nations or European Union, or they could be based on diplomatic or economic resources like the belt and road initiative, and at last, they could be having a common objective which could be diplomatic or military-centric.
USA’s Grand Strategy
At First, he divided the Strategy of the United States into parts, the first one was based on the time of Cold War (1945-1991) which explicitly mentioned that the United States promoted various global institutions along with America’s soft belief in the market economy, respect for human rights. UN and its other agencies were in most of the institutions which the United States used for diplomatic and economic relevance.
USA’s Grand Strategy and China started during the Vietnam war, where China switched sides and supported the USA, rather than the communist USSR for UNSC’s permanent membership and derecognition of Taiwan. Before this, it is considered that China maintained a low profile in global politics. After entering the UNSC, it is believed that China had a spur of powerful leaders with ambitious goals for the nation. Moreover, China did not have much impact on USA’s policies and plans, but this changed in 2012.
The second part of the USA’s grand strategy during 1992-2012, was the USA was the sole superpower, they used their dominance in full power not only by invading nations and intercepting in conflicts and have the burden of the global savior. He also showed the change in pattern in the use of the Veto in the security council.
He further concluded this part of how and what factors made a change in the USA’s perspective towards China. Which were assertiveness of China in the South China sea and the economic growth hold of China and Russia in Shanghai corporation organization, the unexpected growth of China at an unprecedented rate is one of the significant factors along with many like infrastructure development plans.
In the third part of the USA’s grand strategy from 2012 to 2021, was the USA invested more in specific regions like Asia – Pacific and others, on the basics of bilateral treaties and agreements. It lowered its investments in multilateral organizations where China has grown a strong threshold.
China’s Grand Strategy – The Ultimate Changemaker
First, he focused on the Belt and Road initiative, which he believes is an especially important strategic and diplomatic challenge to Asia-pacific. He further goes and explains various infrastructure projects which are in the BRI, which included highways, ports, airports, and rail links, etc. Not only that, he highlighted how the completed projects are benefiting China and its trade, various nations thought the projects are more than happy, as not only does it help their infrastructure growth but also collect carriage fees at a large scale.
Reflecting on the USA and China’s trends based on various issues and sectors, trade and economic corporation have already been a basis of the relation between both, but competition and security are an issue which is evident between the two. After the Xi Jinping era, the difficulties between the two have grown and it has been a battle between both in various areas. But what made the change in China’s conception of the United States? It is because of some of the partnerships that the United States made under which China has a direct threat, 2017 Trump explicitly mentioned China as a chief rival, the whole Trade-war between the nations could also be one of the factors.
China is also trying to exploit the areas strategically where the USA is weak like Korea and Europe, and whereas the USA is trying to focus on areas of importance for China but has a weak spot like Hong Kong, Singapore, and Thailand.
Overall China’s strategy has moved from an institution-based, socio-economic strategy to institutional and non-institutional diplomatic, socio-economic and military strategies while the US has moved to less formal strategies. This has made China’s actions more predictable and less flexible.
Hard and Relative power of Nation: A Realist Grand Strategy
Maj. Gen. (Dr) P. K. Chakravorty, VSM (Retd.) Strategic Thinker on Security Issues
The discussion was started by P. K. Chakravorty, he started with the importance of the Grand Strategy, and in the current status quo how could or should India, go ahead and formulate one and implement it. Rather, he believes that a grand strategy should be based on the implementations of the programs in action, these should be based on realistic perspective. He also goes ahead talks about autonomous, and how the nations cannot violate it and bomb or stack nations on their choice.
He also spoke about the power and importance of hard power in diplomacy, he believes that keeping a soft tone has not worked best in the field of diplomacy, he believes that it should be based on the hard and relative power of the nation to present a better image and achieve greater things.
He highlights the military grand strategy of China, with its various partners like North Korea, Iran, and Pakistan, and how China is taking the advantage of its strategic location and position. He believes that the USA needs to amend its military strategy, there are eminent failed examples of the United States such as Vietnam, Iraq, and now Afghanistan which speaks out for change in their policy. He challenges the capabilities of the soft power restrictions like sanction and what negative implications it has, not only does it makes the nation firm but also gives them ways to reach out for essentials.
Dr. Prashant Kumar Singh Associate Fellow, Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA), New Delhi
Dr. Prashant Kumar Singh took the stage to discuss the lecture, at first, he liked the way by which the lecture was framed, and the chronology was a very affluent way of understanding this vital issue. He also acknowledged various points that were presented by the lecturer. He gave a highlight how the USA and its works towards China, have helped make China such a superpower, like being part of the various multilateral and inter-governmental organizations.
He presented a different view of Asia-Pacific as a strategic region via the lenses of India. He also asked for clarification on assorted topics like the view of other countries in Latin America and the African region, what are their preview, and their perspective on China’s growth.
Answering the first of “how should the developing nations in South Asia move ahead, in these changing scenarios.” He answered that China’s growth and the recent activity in the middle east might make China’s intentions difficult due to the bigger challenge of the Taliban. He believes that in a nation like Afghanistan in the recent Taliban regime, proper governance would be a more challenging task to perform, rather than spreading terrorism.
After which it was asked what the benefits for India are if it aligns with China or USA, that India has decided to align with the USA, and he thinks that is going to sustain due to India’s border issues with China. Next, the question was regarding the declining power of the USA, he said that it is quite overrated, it is not that weak as it has been said. It is still the center of the world with the tech and capital, but it is slightly blurring if could differently change if the USA does not give up.
At last, he answered the question of nationalism in India and the USA, but they are not seen as a threat. Then why is China’s nationalism being? He questioned the intent of nationalism not in China, his view was against it, and how it could bring danger to the entire world.
Acknowledgment: Ayush Aggarwal is a research intern at IMPRI
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