RCEP: China’s Strategy To Browbeat The World – OpEd


China has not concealed its ambition to become the global super power by dominating the world politically, economically and militarily. To achieve its ambition, China believes that any means, ethical or unethical, are appropriate. It further thinks that the world opinion is impotent and need not be taken seriously and can even be ignored with contempt, so long as it remains economically and militarily strong.

In the past, China has aggressively occupied Tibet and in the process massacred thousands of innocent Tibetans. It is laying claims to South China Sea and the Senkaku Islands, with least care about the protests from Japan, Vietnam, Philippines and others. It is occupying thousands of kilometres of Indian territory and is claiming more. While it is threatening to invade Taiwan, which may well happen sooner than later, it is suppressing the liberty and freedom of people in Hong Kong with brutal force. Several countries have objected to China’s such aggressive strategies but China is going ahead, as it is convinced that the world opinion matters little.

China very well knows and probably several countries also know that it is vulnerable to trade pressure, as its economy is very largely dependent on exploiting the global market. To check China’s greed and ambition, US President Trump started a trade war, which impacted China to some extent. But, Trump did not get much support from other countries including those in Western Europe.

Now, with most countries becoming weakened due to the COVID 19 crisis and the USA facing humiliating internal conditions due to bitter hate politics between the two parties and in the process tarnishing its global image, China obviously thinks that the present is the right time to assert its position and move on with clever strategies.

With China’s expectation that every country in the world can be made to be tempted by its huge market and knowing very well that no country in the world would challenge China that would make them lose China’s market, China has successfully kicked off RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic  Partnership).

Countries which have been clearly accusing China in recent time like Australia, Japan, Philippines have joined the RCEP with the clear objective of enhancing trade with China.

Only India has refrained from signing RCEP with courage of conviction and confidence that it can protect its interests and it has alternate option without joining RCEP.

In recent months, we have been repeatedly hearing about QUAD where  India, Japan, Australia and USA have formed an alliance, which is widely perceived to be an anti-China alliance. China and Australian governments have been exchanging bitter statements. Japan even went to the extent of providing special incentives to Japanese companies to withdraw the investments from China. Now, Australia, Japan and twelve other countries who have certainly expressed doubts and misgivings about China’s intentions in recent times have joined RCEP.  What to make of this?

Obviously, these countries seem to think that economic interests and political interests are different matter. They do not seem to understand that it would be a naïve idea to separate economics and politics in devising the policies for any country.

China has ensured that its interests would be protected even if the trade war with the USA would continue, by successfully enticing fourteen countries to sign RCEP. China would certainly dump its goods on these countries and most of these countries would not be able to get benefits from entering the Chinese market, to the extent that China would gain by “invading” the markets of these countries. 

Perhaps,  countries like Australia, Japan, Korea which are all reasonably well-developed seem to be thinking that China would not be able to use their countries as dumping ground for its goods and services. This remains to be seen.

Even a casual observer cannot but get an impression that countries like Japan and Australia have fallen in to China’s trap. Certainly, China would not give up its claims on South China Sea or Senkaku Island, inspite of the affected countries like Japan, Vietnam, Philippines joining RCEP.

They are bound to learn at great cost soon that their sacrificing political interests for the sake of economic interests is an unwise gamble and short sighted policy.

With several weak countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and a few others already falling into China’s trap, China now seem to feel confident that its strategies and approach have been further vindicated by its clever and successful RCEP strategy.

By joining this RCEP, Japan and Australia, who are part of the QUAD, have belittled themselves and have virtually accepted that China is a big brother and in the process, they have made the QUAD Accord a laughing stock, which virtually means that they themselves have become a laughing stock in the eyes of the world.

N. S. Venkataraman

N. S. Venkataraman is a trustee with the "Nandini Voice for the Deprived," a not-for-profit organization that aims to highlight the problems of downtrodden and deprived people and support their cause. To promote probity and ethical values in private and public life and to deliberate on socio-economic issues in a dispassionate and objective manner.

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