The Chinese, it seems, possess an uncanny knack for acquisition not very unlike the Americans. In the olden days the British Empire conquered other people’s space: the geographical conquest. In the globalised world the American Empire conquered other people’s wealth: the economic conquest. China seems to be rivalling both those empires: it is accomplishing both geographical and economic conquests.
China’s economic conquests are already better than America’s in many Asian countries. The Chinese Filipinos form just about one percent of the Philippines’ population. But they control 60 percent of the country’s private economy. The four major airlines, almost all the banks, prominent hotels, and shopping malls belong to the ethnic Chinese. The industry and commerce are governed by the Chinese at every level of society. There are millions of Filipinos working for the Chinese in the Philippines, but there are almost no Chinese working for the Filipinos. Most billionaires in the Philippines are of Chinese origin.
Similar is the situation in Myanmar. The Chinese dominate the commerce at every level of the society there too, from big hotels to hawking of cheap Chinese bicycle tyres. Globalisation brought more and more Chinese into Myanmar and they have established themselves securely wherever they entered. Railways lines, bridges, dams, airports and housing complexes – almost in every area of the infrastructure development, it is the Chinese who control the industry. The grim fact is that 69 percent of the ethnic Burmese are unable to compete with the 5 percent Chinese. Three-fourth of the ethnic Burmese people live in extreme poverty while the Chinese in Myanmar enjoy luxurious lifestyles.
Thailand began to open up their economy and borders in the 1970s. Today, virtually all manufacturing establishments are Chinese controlled. With the exception of a handful, all the powerful business groups are owned by the Thai Chinese.
The Chinese form 3 percent of the population in Indonesia. They control 70 percent of the private economy of that country. All the billionaires in that country in the time of General Suharto were of Chinese origin, except Suharto himself.
In Malaysia the Chinese population has grown to one-third of the country’s population. The Chinese conquest in Malaysia is both geographical and economic, while in the other countries mentioned above it has largely been economic.
China is renewing its attempts at geographical conquests in India. Recently China has made a number of aggressive intrusions into India’s territory along the borders in Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. When China cocked a snook at India’s attempts at building up peace in the neighbourhood in 1962, India paid the price for not taking China’s aggressive gestures seriously by losing parts of Ladakh and Arunachal. And now, again, India is playing down the Chinese aggressions in many parts along the 2000-km Line of Actual Control. Will India end up letting the Chinese Empire make more geographical conquests?
The Chinese intentions have never been innocuous. Wherever they have set foot they have made the soil (or the economy) their own. China has already made two-lane roads that stretch well into Arunachal, India’s territory. The road that China built in their own territory, running parallel to the McMahon Line, is reinforced with many checkposts, barracks, watchtowers and underground constructions, all of which are meant to be used against India.
In accordance with the String of Pearls doctrine, China has already encircled India technically by forging military ties with Sri Lanka and persuading the Maldives, Seychelles, Mauritius and Madagascar to give it surveillance posts. Moreover, China is making strategic ties with Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is also well-known that China has links with the militant groups in Assam, Nagaland and Manipur. In addition to all that is the tri-nation road link between China, Myanmar and Bangladesh.
China also plays certain cheap tricks on India where international trade is concerned. India and China are the largest drug suppliers to Nigeria. In June this year, Nigeria detected a large consignment of anti-malaria drugs from China which were of no medical value at all. But the packets of spurious medicine were all labelled “Made in India”. China betrayed both Nigeria and India at one go.
Perhaps it’s high time that India took Chinese gestures more seriously. When the Chinese appear to be cocking a snook, they may actually be rolling out their battle tanks or at least cocking their eyes on our wallets.