More than India, it was China which celebrated seventy years of Indo-China relations last week. Many newspapers carried an editorial written by the Chinese Ambassador to India on the event, but none from the Indian leadership. There were tweets from the Chinese ambassador and government on the growing relationship with mentions of telephonic contacts between the two foreign ministers.
The editorials praised the proximity between the leaders of the two countries and invariably had a paragraph on the two nations battling Covid-19 (Coronavirus) together. No formal event was organized on account of social distancing norms. The Chinese Ambassador also participated in the national Lighting of the Candle event on the weekend and tweeted, ‘we are standing together through thick and thin.’
Last month, Pakistan had requested China, as the monthly head of the UN Security Council to initiate a discussion on Kashmir in the Security Council. This was ignored by China, again a first. China has not commented on the Kashmir domicile act. The Indo-China border has been incident free for the last few months, which is rare. China has offered all assistance to India, including constructing a temporary hospital, to battle coronavirus.
The Alibaba foundation has gifted masks, ventilators and other protective items to India. When its latest delivery arrived last weekend, the Chinese Ambassador tweeted, “The third batch of donation of test kits from Alibaba Foundations has reached Delhi tonight. With solidarity between the Chinese and Indian people, we can overcome the challenge of Covid-19 epidemic.” Tik Tok also donated medical equipment worth Rs 100 crore.
Both these companies are acting on the directions of Beijing. Why are the Chinese suddenly displaying affection for India? The answer is simple. India has adhered to the WHO term of Covid- 19. It has not blamed China for its failure in preventing the spread of the virus and delay in sharing inputs. In the current environment, China is desperate for allies especially when the global backlash starts, which will happen soon.
To cushion itself internationally, every Chinese Ambassador around the world has been tweeting on the country winning the battle against coronavirus as also providing medical assistance to help nations in their struggle against the virus. There is no mention that stores provided by China are not a donation and most are of poor quality and costly. On being questioned on quality, a Chinese spokesperson stated that when China received donations of medical stores from across the globe, many did not meet Chinese standards but were accepted.
The Western press is flooded with advertisements paid for by the Chinese government or its proxies displaying Chinese largesse to economically weak nations. Journalists close to China fill Western media with praise on China’s success. They advise nations to adopt the Chinese strategy of severe lockdowns. They fail to mention that inhuman lockdowns and hiding true casualty figures are a part of Chinese strategy.
China insisted that WHO change the name of the virus, removing any link to China. WHO went to the other extreme of praising China for its handling of the crisis despite being aware of shortcomings which led to the spread of the virus. The attitude of WHO officials who refused to discuss inputs from Taiwan indicated its bias and failure as an organization. Japan went as far as terming the WHO as the CHO (China Health Organization).
Hopefully, nations will now realise that the WHO should either be disbanded or reconstituted, if it needs to stay relevant. Patient Zero in China, who was allowed to roam free, inputs about whom were hidden from the world, has led to the loss of over seventy thousand lives, demolished health care systems across the globe and pushed almost the entire developed and developing world into recession.
Animosity towards China and by extension the Chinese diaspora is on the rise. Videos emerge everyday accusing members of the Chinese diaspora of spreading the virus by unhealthy means. Nations are currently struggling to control the virus and banking on Chinese medical equipment to cater for internal shortfalls. As it comes under control, public anger would surface. Internally, as China did with the Tiananmen Square incident, it will wipe out from its records the chaotic handling of the coronavirus within the country.
It will obliterate the shameful behaviour of its hierarchy which silenced whistle blowers, jailed those who spoke against their apathy and left thousands to die. It will remove horror stories within Wuhan where the state sealed apartments and let people die. It will turn the tragedy into a victory for the party and claim the leadership’s actions saved China. The current Chinese narrative that the virus was intentionally released by the US in Wuhan to embarrass the government would be sold to its people and to the diaspora across the world.
It had adopted the same approach when it alleged the Hong Kong protests were instigated by the CIA. It may save its own public from rising in anger but would estrange the Chinese from the rest of the world including in nations where they have settled. China blaming the world for its own failures will never be accepted by the international community.
As days pass and research on the virus progresses, its possible point of release would emerge, so would inputs on the impact caused by China’s delay in sharing crucial information on the virus. Internationally, despite its mass spending on projecting a positive image, China will find it difficult to change the narrative.
Nations, including the US, which initially blamed China are presently quiet as efforts are on to curb the spread for which medical equipment is being imported from China. With time, China will be alone as it battles global anger. It would then need friends and it hopes India would remain one. Hence, China is singing the tune of ‘Chini- Hindi Bhai Bhai’.
(The writer is a retired Major-General of the Indian Army)