Video Editor: Mohd Ibrahim
Video Producer: Hera Khan
Yeh Jo India Hai Na… it’s very fond of Jackie Chan, and of his video wishing India all the best in fighting coronavirus, videos of Chinese students in cute accented Hindi wishing us well, and sympathetic tweets from China’s ambassador to India.
All this is China in damage control mode – because it is being blamed for the pandemic.
Had China told us all in December 2019 that an untreatable virus had been detected in Wuhan, the world would have locked down sooner – greatly reducing the spread of the virus and preventing lakhs of deaths.
Today, China is Everyone’s Enemy #1!
US President Donald Trump targets China every day, he’s also raising tariffs against Chinese imports into the US. In Europe too, public sentiment is anti-China. A normally restrained Japan is encouraging Japanese companies to shift base out of China. Within China, too, we hear of public anger. It was most visible on Chinese chat site Weibo in support of the original coronavirus whistleblower Dr Li Wenliang when he passed away, after being targeted by the Chinese government.
So, what does India make of this anti-China mood?
Well, China is not our favourite country. Firstly, it is Pakistan’s biggest ally –diplomatically, militarily, economically, and unapologetically. China has also been wooing India’s neighbours Sri Lanka, Maldives and most recently prodding Nepal to rake up a border dispute with India.
Then, apart from the bloody memory of 1962, there are the border disputes in Arunachal Pradesh, Ladakh and Sikkim. The face-offs at the Line of Actual Control or LAC are more frequent, more belligerent, be it Doklam in 2017 or in the last few days in Ladakh and Sikkim. China also enjoys a massive roughly $60 billion trade imbalance with India. So our economic ties are highly one-sided.
Can India Reset the Equation With China?
So, is the coronavirus crisis that point in history, where India is able to get back at China? Reset the equation? Regain lost ground – politically, diplomatically? Acquire some economic leverage? What can India do?
Well, the situation is not so simple. India should not be swayed by Trump’s anti-China statements in an election year. He has to attack China to paper over his own failures. Also, if we believe that China will be permanently shunned by the world community from now on or that China is on its knees economically, we would be wrong!
As always, it’s best to look at the facts.
Why Are the Companies Exiting China Not Coming to India?
At 4,600 deaths and 82,000 positive cases, almost all of them recovered, China has just over 60 active cases today. China is now an average victim of the pandemic. The US has 1.16 million active cases, Brazil and Russia both over 2,00,000 each, while India has over 90,000 active cases. India’s death toll is more than China’s. Our positive cases are double that of China.
In March, there was a lot of talk – India should become the go-to place for companies exiting China. Do we hear that chatter today? No, why?
Because, while the world and India are still struggling, China’s coronavirus crisis is over! It’s been over for almost two months. Since then, their economy has been rebooting itself.
Yes, some companies have exited China. But they’ve already chosen their alternative destination. Many have chosen Vietnam – Why?
Well, they have tackled coronavirus brilliantly, just 327 cases and not a single death in all of Vietnam!
So, while India is in Lockdown 4.0, numbers are rising, deaths are rising, states are under-testing, migrant workers are walking or are on trains that are getting lost, Vietnam has put up a big bright board saying, ‘We are open for business offering you a low cost, efficient, 100% corona-free production hub. Please come!’
India Must Check China’s Growing Influence on Its Neighbours
China’s military posturing in Ladakh and Sikkim is no laughing matter and by not blinking, by demonstrating the ability to match China move-for-move at the LAC – the Army and the government have done well. And China’s diplomats are back to talking about peace and tranquility.
In fact, India should use this momentum to cut at China’s growing influence with neighbours like Nepal, SriLanka, Bangladesh, the Maldives, and in the Indian Ocean region.
The World Cannot Boycott China
And yet, our localised border skirmishes and regional diplomatic priorities should not obscure the big picture. And what’s that?
That China is at the heart of the world’s economy and geo-politics today.
Far from boycotting China at a time like this, countries across the world, including the US and India, will all quietly be hoping that China’s economy will help the world to recover. Even when we finally have a COVID-19 vaccine, it will need China and India’s formidable pharma production capacities to come together to vaccinate billions across the world, in a quick time.
Yeh Jo India Hai Na… and the world, we may have our problems with China but ultimately, we will all have to find a way of working together.