Q/ Where is the US-China technology war headed?
A/ The winner of the US-China tech war will dominate our era. Beijing was not considered a tech contender a decade ago. Now, some call it a leader. America is already behind in critical areas. Focused on other matters, Americans did not mobilise themselves to meet Beijing’s challenges. Now, the Trump administration is thinking of how to get back control of cutting-edge technologies. Just look at how the US is now going after Huawei Technologies. At the beginning of the year, Huawei looked like it was going to dominate 5G. Now the company is in retreat in the world’s most important markets.
Q/ How should India respond to Chinese aggression—military versus economic costs?
A/ India needs to put more forces on its border than China has. Ultimately, however, it will be economic pressure that forces the Chinese military to pull back. Boycott of Chinese goods, banning of China’s apps, removal of Huawei equipment from India’s telecom backbone, ejection of Chinese businesses and the like will pressure China to return to its side of the border for good. India must teach China a lesson it will never forget.
The costs imposed on China must be greater than the benefits Beijing believes it obtains with its hostile conduct. Because Xi sees breaking up India to be of great benefit, New Delhi—and the Indian people—must be willing to impose severe measures on him and his dangerous regime. India’s only option is to be strong. If it is not strong now, China will dismember India. India is in the same position as the rest of the world when it comes to China. India cannot think it can escape decades of misguided policy towards Beijing without cost.
Q/ How has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted China’s relations with the rest of the world?
A/ An arrogant Xi Jinping, who has always believed his China should dominate the world, saw an opportunity during the coronavirus pandemic to extend Chinese influence while countries were stricken by and preoccupied with the disease. China’s generals thought they would catch the Indian Army snoozing on the border.
Q/ Is China overtaking a declining US?
A/ No. China has reached the limits of what it can do. There is wide disagreement on why China has gone full “wolf warrior”, as it is called. Some believe China went on this bender because Xi thought China was strong, and others argue he did so because he thought his regime weak. I am in the latter camp. I think Xi saw a closing window of opportunity. The arrogant leader knew China’s economy was stumbling, the environment was giving out, the Chinese people were restless, and the country’s demography was entering a long period of accelerating decline.
India is of particular concern for Xi. The Chinese people take great pride in being the world’s most populous tribe, and he knew that India was just about to overtake his country in population size. Xi could see that demographic trends, which he could do nothing about, would mean India would soon leave China in the dust. For Xi, it was now or never, the last moment to humble India.
Q/ What does the future hold for China’s ambitions of emerging as a superpower?
A/ China has reached the limits of its power, and in the ordinary course of events would be starting down a decades-long slide into weaknesses. We should, however, be aware that a declining China is still a dangerous one—perhaps even more dangerous than a strong one. Xi, presiding over a deteriorating situation, now has all the reason in the world to lash out, especially because he has seen that Chinese intimidation has worked in the past. If India stands its ground, it will prevail.