Let me start by putting the cart before the horse. Rising China is already an economic superpower. It is flexing diplomatic, technological and military muscles to be the next all-around superpower as analyses about a declining USA abound. However, China itself is declining. A couple of years back when people spoke of this decline, they were pooh pooed. China was expected to overcome its hurdles effortlessly to become a superpower. When the Chinese Virus broke, everyone seemed crippled against its onslaught. China went from strength to strength. It virtually rewrote the world order and rules as per its aggressive writ. China was a step away from being a superpower. Then subtle changes started. Demography and the virus turned the tide. Analysts are now writing that China has peaked. If China has peaked it will not be a superpower. That is my considered opinion. It is based on an overview of the canvas which has been unfolding in front of all of us. However, let me clarify. China will not collapse. It will remain an international power to reckon with. It will not be the fire breathing dragon which it is normally depicted as. It will remain troublesome as ever though. India has to adjust to the emerging reality and reorient itself. Now that I have put my foot in the mouth, let me expound.
A young and growing population is necessary to propel national aspirations, drive economic growth, equip and man a modern military. 19th Century USA and 20th Century Germany and Japan exemplify this trend line. Powers rise on strong demographic tailwinds. China’s population is shrinking and ageing faster than any other country in the history of mankind. A demographic transition that took 126 years in France, 46 years in the UK, 40 years in Germany and 24 years in Japan is happening in 21 years in China. By 2022, China will be an aged society with one person in seven being over 65. Beyond that, the number of aged people will increase. China cannot tide over its old age crisis without being a pacifist or a conformist of an established international order. It does not have the time to set the new international order. On the other end, fewer people are getting married or starting families. Chinese birth rates are 10.48/1000 as against a global average of 18.1. Their fertility levels are below replacement rates. China’s one-child policy has consigned it to a declining population irreversibly. China’s working-age population has already declined by almost 40 million. The result — fewer workers, a costlier workforce, fewer consumers, more dependants besides a reduction in overall numbers of youth. This has economic, political, social, technological, developmental and other penalties. China rose to be power with a demographic tailwind in the past two decades. Historically, nations with a shrinking population have not risen to power. Hereafter it will decline in the oncoming demographic headwind. China’s rise has peaked as per SCMP, National Interest, Nikkei Asia and Bloomberg, to name few platforms. Many more have similar views.
China declared victory over the coronavirus last year. Its booming economy was on track. People removed their masks and gathered for pool parties. The strict ‘Zero Covid’ approach was flaunted as an ideological and moral victory of the Chinese political system. Others, especially India were ridiculed. However, the super transmissible ‘Delta’ variant (Ro of 5) has caught China flatfooted. Delta has made China’s tough virus defences look fragile. It has appeared in 17 of its 31 provinces and major cities despite strict control protocols. The virus is spreading despite more than 1.7 billion vaccines being administered. China has stuck to its ‘Zero Covid’ policy of strict lockdowns, travel curbs, mass testing and tracing (multiple times) while the world is learning to live with Covid-19 as an endemic. Low efficacy vaccines and a population with low natural immunity leave China extremely vulnerable with no other option. This will intensify if Shi Zhengli, the batwoman of China is right. There will be more deadly variants to contend with. The Chinese economic engine could remain isolated and stutter for years. Competitors, who have suffered losses, have coped with the virus and are recovering. Every lockdown shuts the society and economy. It has started impacting the life and livelihood of 1.4 billion people. They are getting fatigued. This rigorous process imposes increasing social, economic and political costs in the long term. The CCP method of virus control has become a high stake political investment. Communists cannot import efficient vaccines or start a mitigation policy as in the West and other democracies since it will be the admittance of a flawed approach. As the virus continues to wreak havoc, Chinese virologists are voicing second thoughts on China’s approach. Look at it from any point of view — economic, technological, diplomatic or political- the law of diminishing returns has set in for the Chinese. On Jan 21, I had predicted that “Despite the well-advertised victory, China remains vulnerable to its virus…. the efficacy of Chinese vaccines is suspected to be low…. outbreaks in vulnerable and unvaccinated people will continue…there are grave internal issues if the Virus control goes awry…. as long as the Chinese virus is well and alive in its womb, it will trouble mother China. The virus is democratic unlike its autocratic mother”. I am being proven right within the year!
China’s capitalist economy under a strong authoritarian government-generated international envy, this powerful combination propelled national GDP, lifted millions out of poverty, sheet anchored the greatest military build-up attempted, embraced technology and gave rise to superpower dreams. It was fairy tale stuff. However, the underbelly started surfacing — widening social inequities and spiralling costs of housing, healthcare and education. The common man is out of the gravy. For example, the Chinese healthcare system is largely profit-oriented. Good hospitals are located in wealthy coastal cities. Inland China does not have adequate healthcare. Rurals are fleeced in cities by over-prescribing tests, drugs and procedures. The multibillion-dollar education technology sector was fuelling a high-priced education race that was going out of the reach of the middle class. The tech wave started accumulating data. Data, information, influence and power in China can reside only in the CCP. Data in the hands of anyone else is a threat to Communist hegemony. Hence, the CCP is prepared to be in the power of China which is not a superpower rather than being out of power in attempting to make China a superpower. So what does a revisionist system do immediately on turning 100? It torpedoes its wealth creators! Heard of Evergrande, Tencent, Alibaba, Huarong, Didi, Pinduoduo, New Oriental Education, Netease, C Garden, Kuaishou, Bilibili, and ByteDance Gaotu Techedu Inc, TAL Education Group, Archegos, Capital Management, New Oriental Education & Technology Group Inc, and Meituan’s? These are icons of the Chinese economy which created vast wealth, jobs, influence and power. They span almost all sectors. These icons have lost between 25% to 75% of their market capitalisation due to deliberate government decisions. A trillion dollars have gone down the drain without stretching the imagination. More are likely to follow. A slowing economy has been braked just through questionable decisions. Consider these examples. Encouraging families to have two-three children to increase population takes women off the workforce. The net effect on the economy is zero! If people cannot send children to education classes, they will hire private tutors who will be costlier! Such huge ‘one fine morning’ decisions will have economic and social impacts. The natural slowing down of the economy in Virus times has already created a situation of job scarcity. In such an environment, torpedoing wealth and job creators will have serious consequences. It is fully on the cards that all this self-destruction is being done due to political control only but due to inner factionalism.
There are other economic strains. As per a detailed Arabian Business report ‘China is experiencing an exodus of foreign firms despite surveys and published opinions from commerce lobby groups and business consultants…the pace of companies leaving China is accelerating, causing a “ripple effect” that threatens Covid-19 economic recovery. The exit also presents a challenge to President Xi Jinping’s “dual circulation” plans.’ Till last year, China’s growth was aided. Hereafter, its growth will be opposed and its decline will be aided. China is not the most popular government in Western societies as per Pew research. Very importantly, there is always a deep connection between business, trade and geopolitics. Chinese geopolitical assertion and its trade ambitions are definitely not aligned. It does not make good economic sense. Tony Abbot, ex-PM of Australia and Special Trade Envoy for India recently wrote ‘A swift deal between India and Australia would be an important sign of the democratic world’s tilt away from China…the answer to almost every question about China is India’. This is serious intent that can have a pied piper effect if India plays its cards well. Decoupling has begun to happen. If decoupling proceeds at the current rate for the next five years, a 25% shift is likely. That will be enough to take the wind out of China’s superpower sails. After that, the pace of decoupling will increase if China does not change track.
There are a host of other inhibitors. China is being justifiably blamed for hiding the origins of the virus and its spread through negligence. Its vaccine diplomacy is failing with many nations spurning Chinese jabs. Chinese technology is two-toned. In some respects, they are masters like in cyber and infotech. In others, they are suspect/failures like in vaccine and food technology. China remains a food deficient nation. Zhengzhou floods indicate that Chinese urban development and building models have been faulty. Every year China keeps bursting dams to ward off floods. This is weird since most of their dams were flood control structures in the first place. Climate change and pollution are set to have a major impact but their industrialisation and energy mix aids the former. Their mega project, BRI plus CPEC is in trouble. They have a huge debt bubble. Their language and form of government are inscrutable. It leads to either lack of understanding or trust or both. They lack allies and friends beyond Pakistan and North Korea. There are repressive strains in society. Non-Han ethnicities are not integrated with the mainstream. They are perpetual fault lines. Tibet, Taiwan and Xinjiang remain major challenges to the One China concept, the cornerstone of CCP. They are building an oversized military of questionable quality and utility that much is already proven. The new great game in Afghanistan is full of potholes.
There is a very important quality of a superpower, it is the ability to take in on the chin and recover. All superpowers past and present have demonstrated the ability to take a hit and bounce back. China’s ability to take a hit in the pre-revolution period is well known.
However, China under the CCP has built glass walls around it. These might just crack to bring the edifice down. The evidence is that China is risk-averse and will get into a fight only if it can win politically. Chinese leverages against competitors have been proven to be limited. Its ability to overcome its internal demons/schisms is disastrous. Examine China’s recent history. Modern China has been dominated by four leaders — Chiang Kai-shek, Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, and Xi Jinping. All of them have left China with a gigantic problem for the next generation. They presided over China’s worst disasters, implemented flawed policies, endeavoured to superfast track progress and have led the country into a period of isolation, unrest and/or conflict. China cannot beat its own history to become a superpower.
Every factor identified analysed above is at cross purposes with each other. If China is still to be considered a superpower, all the best.
Lt Gen P.R. Shankar was India’s DG Artillery. He is highly decorated and qualified with vast operational experience. He contributed significantly to the modernisation and indigenisation of Artillery. He is now a Professor in the Aerospace Dept of IIT Madras and is involved in applied research for defence technology. His other articles can be read on www.gunnersshot.com
Chinese leverages against competitors have been proven to be limited. Its ability to overcome its internal demons/schisms is disastrous. Examine China’s recent history. Modern China has been dominated by four leaders—Chiang Kai-shek, Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping and Xi Jinping. All of them have left China with a gigantic problem for the next generation. They presided over China’s worst disasters, implemented flawed policies, endeavoured to fast-track progress and have led the country into a period of isolation, unrest and/or conflict. China cannot beat its own history to become a superpower.
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‘ARMY CAN MEET ANY CHALLENGE TO SAFEGUARD COUNTRY’
The Army is fully prepared to meet any challenge like the use of drones and social media by adversaries to safeguard the country, said Commandant of Chennai-based Officers Training Academy (OTA) Lieutenant General M K Das. Lt Gen Das, who is also the colonel of the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry (JAKLI) regiment, said the situation in J&K is getting better with the Army and other security agencies working together to stamp out terrorism. Speaking to media on the sidelines of the maiden attestation parade of 460 new recruits of the 126th batch after a successful 40-week training period at Dansal here, he said the Indian Army is aware of the challenges and prepared to give a befitting response to the enemies of the nation.
Talking about the need to introduce special training courses for soldiers in the aftermath of the developments in Afghanistan, he said, “Our training is very contemporary as it caters for all the contingencies and unforeseen situations. My young soldiers, who have taken the oath to defend the constitution and the country, will live up to all the challenges. One of the unique things of this regiment (JAKLI) is all our troops hail from J&K and Ladakh. They have ingrained quality to be security conscious much more than others.” Lt Gen Das said, “All the situations unfolding in the country or in our neighbourhood, the JAKLI regiment will continue to excel and be the lead agency in the fight against terrorism.” Asked about the challenges posed by the use of drones to hit targets and deliver weapons and narcotics from across the LoC and International Border, he said a capsule course on anti-drone measures has been introduced. “On Army Day on 15 January, our chief took the threat seriously and our soldiers are being prepared to deal with the challenge in a better way.” During recruitment training, Lt Gen Das said that besides the arms handing and exercises, thrust is also given on science and technology, cybersecurity and other new challenges. He said the misuse of social media by “anti-national” elements is a reality and the new recruits are being trained in cybersecurity during their basic and orientation courses.
On attempts by Pakistan to mislead the youth of J&K, Lt Gen Das said, “The youth of J&K is showing keenness to be a part of the regiment which is a message to those who think they can mislead our youth. Joining the regiment is the best way to serve the nation, the youth live like a family and there is complete communal harmony.” He said the regiment is increasing the number of local youth from Ladakh and would also go for recruitment in J&K to provide an opportunity to the local youth to become part of this regiment. Asked about his message to the misguided youth, he said, “J&K is the crown of India but if I focus as a soldier, I feel they (misguided youth) have not understood their country… the situation has not gone out of hand and the Army has kept its window open to allow them to surrender and join the national mainstream.”
He added, “We have a unit of 162 Infantry Territorial Army who are former militants but have become upright soldiers.” Lt Gen Das said the Army and other security agencies are working in close coordination and the situation in J&K is getting better and the “day is not far when this region will make our country proud.”
SOUTHERN NAVAL COMMAND OBSERVES INTERNATIONAL COASTAL CLEAN-UP DAY IN KOCHI
The Southern Naval Command observed International Coastal Clean-up Day on Saturday with a focus on mangrove plantation and clearance of plastic/non-biodegradable waste along with waterfront areas in and around Kochi, said a press release from the Ministry of Defence.
Pursuant to the global campaign of keeping coastlines clean, more than 600 Naval personnel and the families of Southern Naval Command undertook clearance of plastic and non-biodegradable waste at different locations spread across the city, coastal areas such as Fort Kochi beach, Thevara waterfront, Willingdon Island, Cherai beach, Bolgatty and around 2 km stretch of the Venduruthy channel while restoring around 1 lakh sqm of mangroves to the pristine condition. In addition, 80 mangrove saplings were also planted along the Venduruthy channel. Similar coastal cleanup drives and lectures/webinars/competitions emphasising protection of the coastal and marine environment were undertaken with the enthusiastic participation of the Naval community at other outstation Naval units located at Lonavala, Jamnagar, Chilka, Coimbatore, Goa, Ezhimala and Mumbai.
Being the Training Command of the Indian Navy, the Southern Naval Command has always been at the vanguard in promoting environmental conservation activities both at the Command Headquarters, Kochi as well as at Naval stations spread across the country.
Mandated to oversee naval training, the Southern Naval Command has conceptualised and implemented a variety of green initiatives. Keeping environmental preservation as one of the Key Result Areas, the Command has constantly endeavoured to motivate young officer and sailor trainees of the Indian Navy to imbibe the habit of protecting mother nature as part of their grooming efforts in preparing them to become responsible future Naval leaders and dependable citizens of India.
Particular attention has also been given to create more awareness among the families and more importantly the children.
During the last three years, the Command has adopted a multi-dimensional approach towards conservation of the environment and implementation of energy conservation methods.
To highlight a few, the personnel of the Command were actively involved in the rejuvenation of 4.5-km-long Venduruthy Channel near Kochi Naval base, creating awareness in and around Naval establishments.
Efforts were undertaken to enhance green cover by conducting mass plantation drives which included planting more than 75,000 trees, using the fast-growing Miyawaki forestation method. In addition, regular coastal clean-up drives, mangrove plantation drives, in-house handling and recycling of bio and non-biodegradable waste, adopting efficient energy and water-saving methods etc were also undertaken. The Command has also earnestly endeavoured to continue all the efforts for protecting and conserving the environment and natural resources. Towards achieving the same, the Command has implemented a Green Initiative and Environment Conservation Roadmap with a prime focus on Carbon footprint reduction.
With the personal involvement of Vice Admiral Anil Kumar Chawla, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Naval Command is committed to creating a clean, green and healthy environment in line with the visionary environment conservation policies of the Govt of India. On the occasion, Adv M Anilkumar, Mayor, Kochi Municipal Corporation and staff also participated in Kochi.
IAF TO HOLD AIR SHOW OVER DAL LAKE IN SRINAGAR ON 26 SEPT
An air show will be held here on 26 September where IAF’s skydiving team Akash Ganga and Suryakiran Aerobatic and Display Team and paramotor flying will manoeuvre the skies over the famous Dal Lake, officials informed on Saturday.
The air show will be organised by the Air Force Station Srinagar and the Jammu and Kashmir administration as part of the ongoing celebrations commemorating ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’, they said. The main aim of the exercise—under the theme ‘Give Wings to Your Dream’—is to motivate the youth of the valley to join the Indian Air Force (IAF) and to promote tourism in the region, the officials said.
The event will be flagged off Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha at the Sher-e-Kashmir International Conference Centre (SKICC) overlooking Dal Lake.
More than 3,000 college and school students are expected to participate in the programme to witness the impressive manoeuvres of the IAF, which will motivate them to dream about a career in the force and in the aviation sector, the officials said. “The show will also develop passion among the students to give wings to their dreams. Along with the students, 700 teachers will also be present at the venue,” they added.
During the demonstration, students will also be familiarised with the new technological advancements achieved and incorporated by the IAF while flying aircraft in the sky over the world-famous Dal Lake, the officials said. Stalls will be established at SKICC where students will be familiarised with the achievements of the Air Force, employment opportunities in the IAF, recruitment rules and eligibility criteria, they added.
Srinagar-based PRO Defence Col Emron Musavi said the display will include flypast by various aircraft of the IAF. The spectators would also get to witness paramotor flying and IAF’s skydiving team Akash Ganga in action. ‘Ambassadors of IAF’, Suryakiran Aerobatic Display Team, will be performing in the valley after a gap of 14 years, he said. Col Musavi said the symphony orchestra of the IAF would also be performing at the event. The event would also consist of a photo exhibition depicting the history of the
IAF, he said.
ARMY ORGANISES EXHIBITION IN JAIPUR TO COMMEMORATE INDIA’S VICTORY IN 1971 WAR
JAIPUR : South Western Command of the Indian Army on Saturday organised an exhibition showcasing defence equipment at Chitrakoot Stadium in Jaipur to mark the 50th anniversary of India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war.
Speaking to ANI, an Indian army official said, “We have displayed the defence equipment in this exhibition to make people aware of the Indian army achievements. We want to motivate the youth by showcasing these types of equipment.” “Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, these events had been started to make people aware of Indian Arm Forces. So, we are also continuing the move by organising these kinds of events,” he added.
Further, he said that India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war is memorable for all the Indians, so, every citizen should be aware of this war.
BRO makes history, appoints woman Army officer in-charge of road construction unit
The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has appointed a woman Army officer for the first as the Officer Commanding of its 75 road construction company (RCC) in Uttarakhand, the Defence Ministry said on Sunday.
The three platoon commanders under Major Aaina, Captain Anjana, AEE (Civ) Bhawana Joshi and AEE (Civ) Vishnumaya K became the first women RCC. The appointments were made on August 30.
BRO on Sunday recalled the list of women officers who were assigned higher leadership roles in the organisation in the current year.
According to a statement issued by the Defence Ministry, BRO has inducted a large number of women into its workforce over the years, right from officers to the level of commercial pilot license holders. “In this regard, a General Reserve Engineer Force (GREF) officer EE (Civ) Vaishali S Hiwase took over the reins of 83 Road Construction Company on April 28, employed on an important Indo-China road connecting Munisairi-Bughdiar-Milam, in an area full of adversity and challenges. The lady officer has taken control and is leading the charge with meticulous execution of her tasks,” the statement said.
“The BRO created history again on 30 August when Major Aaina of Project Shivalik took charged as Officer Commanding, 75 Road Construction Companies (RCC) at Pipalkoti in Chamoli district in Uttarakhand. She is the first Indian Army Engineer Officer to command a road construction company. Not only this, all three platoon commanders under her, Captain Anjana, AEE (Civ) Bhawana Joshi and AEE (Civ) Vishnumaya K are lady officers and they have together created a first-ever women RCC. The Border Roads plans to make four such all women-led RCCs, two each in North Eastern and Western Sectors.”
As India celebrates 75 Years of Azaadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, it also celebrates the ongoing efforts of our Nation towards women empowerment. Women today have started assuming their rightful, equal place as the frontrunners in nation-building and representatives of our strong national character, the statement read.
Over the last six decades, in a graduated and steady manner, the BRO has increased the number of women employed in various roles and duties of road construction. A consolidated effort is being made to empower them by giving them authority and responsibilities to undertake work independently. These women have become symbols of Nari Shakti in their respective areas.
IN FIRST FOREIGN VISIT AFTER TAKING OVER AS CDS, GEN BIPIN RAWAT TO VISIT RUSSIA, US
In his first visit abroad after taking over as the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Bipin Rawat will be visiting Russia and the US.
Rawat took over his new office as CDS on 31 December 2019, and since then has been declining foreign invitations for focusing on the new assignment of integrating the defence forces as a combined fighting force. “There is a conference of the CDS-rank officers of the Shanghai Cooperation Agreement member countries. China and Pakistan are also part of this grouping,” senior defence officials said.
The CDS conference would be focusing on addressing the regional security issues and Afghanistan is also likely to come up for discussion, they said.
The CDS would also witness the activities of the respective armed forces taking part in the SCO peace mission drills being held in Russia. Indian Army and Air Force are also taking part in the exercise there.
The visit will take place in the coming week and soon after return from Russia, Rawat would be leaving for the US for meeting his counterpart and other American military leadership at the Pentagon.
The two countries have been coming closer militarily in the last few years and have been holding multiple military exercises and hardware cooperation.
The Indian military saw a major change in senior-level structures under the Narendra Modi government as the focus is now on the theatrisation of the fighting forces and bringing in more capabilities and jointness among the three services.
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