Why China is far from being a 'normal' state

Claude Arpi
Claude ArpiMar 02, 2019 | 13:39

Why China is far from being a 'normal' state

Is China changing? Or to put it differently, can present China change? On February 21, China seemed not to side with Pakistan when the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) condemned in “strongest terms the heinous and cowardly” terror attack in Pulwama by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).

The UN press statement named the Pakistan-based terror group headed by Masood Azhar. In the past, China always vetoed such statements and blocked India's bids to designate Azhar as a ‘global terrorist’.


China still has to put its weight behind the fight against terror. (Photo: PTI)

Defiant dragon

Was it a sign that China is becoming a ‘normal’ state?

No, the next day, the Chinese foreign ministry said it had mentioned a particular organisation in ‘general terms’ only. Spokesman Geng Shuang added that China was not convinced about who conducted the attack although JeM had itself claimed responsibility.

A day before the UN vote, the Chinese Communist Party’s tabloid, The Global Times heavily criticised the Indian media: “Venting their anger, some Indian media outlets directed their ire at China, blaming Beijing for offering protection to the terrorist group Jaishe-Mohammed… They impulsively demanded India downgrade diplomatic and economic relations with China.”

Why should the Indian media not point a finger at Beijing when it refuses the obvious, that Azhar is indeed a ‘global terrorist’. Why should the world accept double standards from China?

Look at Xinjiang. Beijing may genuinely be worried about Islamic terrorism, but is it a reason to randomly persecute a minority? For months, the world media has reported that more than one million Uyghurs in Xinjiang were being politically ‘educated’ in special camps.


On February 17, Reuters quoted a Dutch Internet expert who discovered that a Chinese surveillance firm was tracking the movements of more than 2.5 million people in the Muslim region; an online database containing names, ID card numbers, birth dates and location data, had been left unprotected for months by Shenzhen-based facial-recognition technology firm SenseNets Technology. SenseNets is said to work with China’s police across several cities.

China has been accused of snooping on its citizens. (Photo: Reuters)

That places the Chinese state closer to totalitarian North Korea than Western or Indian democracy, where individuals are allowed to openly express their opinion and dissent, without having to be ‘reeducated’. Another aspect of an abnormal state is that at the slightest excuse, Beijing does not respect and uphold the engagements or agreements it has with other states.”

The example of the Doklam episode is striking. China had a problem with India because Beijing’s own troops were stopped from building a road on Bhutanese territory. Beijing took offence at India’s rightful action and immediately riposted by stopping the supply of data for rivers having their sources in Tibet, forgetting that both countries had agreed to share hydrological data from May 15 to October 15 for the Brahmaputra and Sutlej rivers (the agreement was renewed in 2013 and 2015).


Two years later, when the border incident took place at the tri-junction Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet, Beijing refused to share the crucial data in case of floods. It also stopped the Kailash-Mansarovar yatra via Nathula in Sikkim as well as the joint exercise between the Armies of India and China (‘Hand in Hand’).

Doklam bitterness

A ‘normal’ state does not renege on signed agreements/MoUs at the slightest pretext. The Communist leadership in Beijing often says that China does not want to follow Western constitutionalism. In the Middle Kingdom, discussions have often taken place to decide the relationship between the Communist Party and the Law? On February 16, the official Central News Agency published a couple of speeches of President Xi on the subject.

In August 2018, during a meeting of the party’s central committee, Xi explained that the Party is the forerunner and guide on national law: “China will never take the Western constitutional path.

To promote the rule of law comprehensively, China must take the right path.” He concluded that China will never follow the Western system of ‘separation of powers’ or ‘judicial independence’.

Ultimately, the dictatorship of an individual or a party makes a state extremely vulnerable . (Photo: Reuters)


According to the well-informed website Chinascope: “In February 2014, Xi told a group of provincial level officials that the Chinese democracy is essentially different from Western constitutionalism;” For Xi: “The leadership of the Party is the most essential feature of socialism with Chinese characteristics.”

The conclusion was that China is ruled ‘according to the Constitution’, which means that “the party leads the people to formulate the Constitution and the laws, and the party leads the people to implement the Constitution and the laws.” The party first, the law second.

Black swan moment?

During the Lunar New Year holiday, Xi warned party officials to “be on guard against black swans and keep watchful for gray rhinos”.

The China Brief of the Jamestown Foundation explained: “It is also not accidental that Xi’s admonition to CCP cadres to uphold stability has been linked together with a demand of utmost loyalty to Xi himself.”

Xi urged all cadres to enhance their “four-fold consciousness, political consciousness, consciousness about the big picture of party dominance, consciousness about following the instructions of the ‘core’ leadership of the party, and consciousness about seeing eye to eye with the core.” Xi is the core! It practically means, “follow Xi, the party and the law”, in this order.

Ultimately, the dictatorship of an individual or a party makes a state extremely vulnerable (to a ‘coup’ for example); in these circumstances it is difficult for neighbours, friends and foes to have ‘normal’ relations with this state. China should realise this.

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

Last updated: March 02, 2019 | 13:39
Please log in
I agree with DailyO's privacy policy