The ‘peaceful rise of China’ is obviously a myth … if only the myth could be busted a bit more subtly. Cornered over not alerting the world on time about Covid-19, Beijing has obviously decided to jettison all diplomatic niceties and come out as a bully whenever it feels fit.
Even New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden—quite the toast of the world for the manner in which she has tackled the pandemic—has got a taste of it now. Her rather nuanced statement at the NZ-China Business Summit in Auckland that their relations were in “good shape”, but Wellington would continue to voice its views on Hong Kong, Taiwan and Xinjiang, came in for a sharp rebuke from Wu Xi, the Chinese envoy to New Zealand.
The Kiwis were told to keep bilateral relations away from the “various viruses” of the day, and hinge them on mutual ‘respect’. China does not interfere in the ‘internal’ affairs of others as it believes in “cooperation, not confrontation”, Wu added. The last bit could have been music to New Delhi’s ears, had our soldiers not been getting the rough end of the stick in Ladakh. Or ask Vietnam and Philippines, getting the heebie-jeebies over Beijing’s recent belligerence in and around the South China Sea.
It’s against this background that Tehran has been entertaining China in a renewed engagement. Though still on the drawing board, Beijing’s $400 billion deal offer, covering everything from communication to ports and railways, is too lucrative for cash-starved Tehran to walk out on. Despite its proud self-image as an old civilisation, and a state with a sovereign foreign policy, Iran may find it difficult to keep China at bay for too long. Particularly if America votes Donald Trump back to power. Beijing is clearly moving in to set up a new order in an increasingly radarless, leaderless world. But all prospective client states would be well advised to study history.