China's civilisational thought is key to its behaviour- and for an antidote.
The rushed inclusion of China into the global economy and onto the world stage has resulted in a multitude of complications. Our global institutions are being hijacked, our norms subverted, and a sense of instability abounds. Dismissing Chinese actions as irrational excesses, or as coldly calculated moves, ignores the nature of China’s ‘civilisational goals’, which are shown to have a large influence upon China’s behaviour. The piece is organised in seven sections and a coda, which serves as a brief but comprehensive primer on explaining (and countering) China’s actions on the world stage.
It begins with using the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a case in point of China’s institutional hijacking, and its corresponding caustic impact on said institutions. The next section undertakes an analysis of the functioning, motivations, and constraints of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) rule. It throws light on the civilisational character of these ideas, as opposed to them being the CPC’s own constructions or rationalisations. The third section attempts to explain China’s conduct on the world stage as being inextricably linked to how China views its place in the world. The Chinese state is described as characteristically pre-Westphalian in its makeup, and hence viewing China with a Westphalian lens is of little use. Equally importantly, ‘scientific’ deductions do grave injustice to China’s ‘reality’ which is determined in the realm of China’s collective subconscious and unconscious. Treating China as a ‘modern’, Westphalian state is found responsible for the bulk of the world’s woes with China, and is particularly fruitful in decoding a spectrum of behaviours unique to it. The crux of this section, corresponding to one of the broader aims of the piece, is to look at China and the world from Chinese eyes, after delving into Sinic thought and history, to garner actionable conclusions for the rest of the world.
Furthermore, China’s ‘aberrant’ behaviour’ is intrinsic to its political being, and its systems of political or economic manipulation are vital to the CPC. The succeeding section elaborates further on China’s abuse-cum-dismissal of the international legal system, as also the economic architecture as being linked to its self- placement in the world, ending any possibility of a course reversal from the Chinese end. The fifth section delves deeper into the west’s own motivations and ‘irrationalities’ responsible for China’s hurried inclusion, and undertakes a game theoretic overview of why China’s continued presence as a full member of the international system is bound to undermine the same. The penultimate section connects Chinese actions, thoughts and their published doctrines of war to stress that all relations with the Chinese necessarily require securitisation, and cannot be evaluated in their own silos of operation as the case is with other nations. The final section offers a few rules of thumb- tools of engaging with China while and after ‘decoupling’, within the suggested future framework of community and preceding, verifiable concessions in return for proportionate access to the rest of the world.
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(Deekhit Bhattacharya is currently a student of Economics at the Delhi College of Arts and Commerce, University of Delhi. He has interned previously at the Australia India Institute at New Delhi, and the Federation of Indian Exports Organisations under the Ministry of Commerce, the Government of India).