Beijing’s leaders are determined to pry away Greece, Hungary, Poland and other nations from reliance on the European Union to make China the dominant Eurasian economic and security power, two Indian security experts said Wednesday.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and other leaders in Beijing have a long-term view of dominating large swaths of land and water economically, militarily and culturally, Samir Saran, president of the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, said at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.
“They are salami-slicing Europe” by extending the Chinese One Belt One Road initiative to the West.
Saran compared it to the Chinese successful initiatives to spread its reach in Asia, starting with India’s neighbors like Pakistan and smaller Himalayan nations Bhutan and Nepal by building port facilities, airports and offering credit. Across Africa Beijing is financing and constructing roads and dams in a host of nations and opened its first overseas military base in Djibouti. China has also made several investments in telecommunications and energy in Turkey, a NATO member and a nation bridging Europe and Asia.
However, the Chinese “have taken some blows” and seen an ebb and flow of their influence-peddling through the One Belt One Road drive, but what they see as the fixed goal is a single market of $40 trillion. To get there they ignore regional differences between South Asia, South East Asia and Europe, Saran said.
Sunjoy Joshi, director of Observer, termed this goal of controlling such a grand market as “the great prize of the 21st century.”
“No one can ignore each other,” he added in recognizing that China not only is a rising power but a great power. Joshi was referring to the United States, India, China, the European Union and Japan, particularly in the resetting of relationships with Beijing’s larger global role as a fact and the unexpected twists of events.
As one example of how international relations quickly shifted with a twist of events, he said, “see what happened in North Korea; [it was] completely unexpected,” the possibility of a summit meeting between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un on the denuclearization of the peninsula rather than a shooting war.
An example of a shift based on changed facts is “China is a country definitely focused westward” in pursuing its larger interests by “pushing for the soul of Europe.”
Joshi added often India, the United States and its allies and partners in South Asia and Southeast Asia think in terms of regional silos, not how issues from security to trade to infrastructure in one area affect another. China sees these two areas “as one geopolitical region” and even expands that vision eastward and westward, northward and southward.
The question is, “How can you [as a nation including economic powers such as the United States, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and the European Union — all liberal democracies] benefit from China’s rise?” This means, China’s concept of a rules-based order is different from theirs, Joshi said. He and the other panelists suggested these countries create their own infrastructure and development bank as China has done and Russia has done for its immediate neighbors.
For India, one step in seeing China under Xi realistically to has been to realize the “limits to partnership” and “limits to enmity” with Beijing. He called the recently concluded informal summit between Xi and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi an attempt to “lower the temperature” between the two nations. India and China have been engaged for decades in border disputes that even now have escalated into exchanges of gunfire.
“The health of the U.S.-India relationship is very solid,” and that was important to both nations and other democracies in this era of an expansionist China, Jeff Smith, a research fellow at Heritage, said.
On the security front in the last four or five years, he noted the approval to sell armed unmanned aerial vehicles to New Delhi to better defend its border, expanded dialogue over maritime issues in the eastern Indian Ocean and the Western Pacific and the stationing for the first time of a liaison office in Central Command headquarters to coordinate activities from one geographical command to another and provide an Indian perspective as examples of this.
He was also optimistic that the on-again, off-again logistics agreement between India and the United States would finally be signed, opening the way for further security pacts to deepen the relationship.
At the same time, the Trump administration has cut military aid to Pakistan significantly in response to its inability to control cross-border Taliban and Haqqani Network attacks in Afghanistan and is again exploring other logistical routes to support forces in the region. It’s a move that India views favorably.
Smith praised the Malabar Exercises, now an Indian, American and Japanese naval exercise. This year, it scheduled to be conducted near Guam and will involve surface ships, including aircraft carriers, submarines and land-based aircraft. He suggested the three nations should “consider inviting our cousins in Australia to participate.”
“Our shared challenges are not going away,” he said.