USA And China Continue Flexing Their Muscle In The International Arena

President of USA Trump and President of China Jinping

USA and China recently displayed international aggression as well as animosity at mutual level. The developments come in the light of new laws and treaties, all amidst the time of heavy loss due to the lockdown imposed to curb Coronavirus’s spread.

Crux of the Matter

China And Hostilities In HK
China recently proposed the ‘New Security’ Law for Hong-Kong (HK), which is tied to China in ‘1 country, 2 systems’ manner. The law enables strict action against “treason, secession, sedition & subversion” directed towards Chinese Govt in HK, and would enable the Chinese Govt to eliminate any type of protest swiftly. The law was first introduced in 2003, but it was never drafted properly after mass protests from HK civilians fearing for their loss of freedom of speech.

Hong Kong’s History

  • 1997: Britain gives up its colony Hong Kong to China and integration occurs by ‘1 Country, 2 Systems‘ provision. China grants significant liberty in business and freedom of speech otherwise not provided in China.
  • 2003: More than 500,000 citizens protest against the introduction of ‘Security Law’, which is being reintroduced in 2020.
  • 2010s: Demand for Independent Hong Kong increases.
  • 2019: Mass-protests in HK to oppose Extradition law, which would allow China to have particular criminals from HK on trial in Chinese Courts.

1 Country, 2 Systems
China is engaged with Macau and Hong Kong in ‘1 Country, 2 Systems’ provision, and has tried to bind Taiwan with the same. Recent times have seen an increase of demand for Independence from China, particularly in the latter 2. Re-election of Tsai-Ing-wen as Taiwanese President saw open rejection of the policy amidst calls for inclusion of Taiwan in UN and WHO.

In 2005, China passed the ‘Anti-Secession’ law which enables it to take “non-peaceful” measures against Taiwan if it declares independence from China. Analysts are apprehending the same fate for HK which might turn into reality if unchecked.

USA Out Of The ‘Open Skies’
Trump recently announced the decision to withdraw from the ‘Open Skies Treaty’. The treaty allows member nations to fly unarmed aircraft over other member nations to observe their military forces’ development. The treaty came into effect from January 2002, and had 34 members including the USA, Russia, Germany, Belgium, etc. Trump pointed to Russia’s violation of the pact as a reason to withdraw. However, he has kept options open for reconciliation in the future.

Trump’s Major Withdrawals

  • May 2018: Pulls out of the ‘Iran Nuclear Agreement’ which restricted Iran’s nuclear development.
  • August 2019: Withdraws from the ‘Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty’ with Russia in which the 2 countries agreed to dismantle their stock of intermediate range land missiles.
  • May 2020: Withdrawal from ‘Open Skies Treaty’, making it the 3rd major pull-out by Trump during his tenure.

USA and China at Loggerheads
USA and China are the world’s largest and second-largest economies respectively. However, they saw a loss of 4.8% and 6.8% in GDP respectively due to Coronavirus. The USA is one of the worst-hit countries due to Coronavirus, while China is facing the wrath of nations for opaqueness in sharing information on Covid-19. USA openly accuses China of hiding information regarding the virus, which China has denied.

The tensions increased with Tsai-Ing-wen’s victory as Taiwan’s President. In reaction to China flying fighter planes in the Taiwanese border, US sailed armed ships in the China-Taiwan strait. The USA also backed Hong Kong in the latest development, warning China of “strong reaction” if the security law is passed.

  • Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code lays down the punishment for sedition. The Indian Penal Code was enacted in 1860, under the British Raj. Throughout the Raj, this section was used to suppress activists in favor of national independence, including Lokmanya Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi, both of whom were found guilty and imprisoned.
  • For more than half a century, governments all over the world trusted a single company to keep the communications of their spies, soldiers, and diplomats secret. The company, Crypto AG flush with cash, became a dominant maker of encryption devices for decades and sold its equipment to more than 120 countries. On 11 February 2020, The Washington Post, ZDF (German Broadcaster) and SRF (Swiss Broadcaster) revealed that Crypto AG was secretly owned by the CIA in a highly classified partnership with West German intelligence.
  • Hong Kong became a colony of the British Empire after the Qing Empire ceded Hong Kong Island at the end of the First Opium War in 1842. The colony was further extended when Britain obtained a 99-year lease in 1898. The whole territory was returned to China in 1997, although Hong Kong maintains separate governing and economic systems from that of mainland China under a principle of “one country, two systems”.

India To Lead WHO Executive Board

India has been added to the Executive Board of the World Health Organization. On top of that, in the recent World Health Assembly meeting, India’s Dr. Harsh Vardhan was appointed Executive Board’s chairman.

Crux of the Matter

India’s Inclusion In The Board
In the 73rd World Health Assembly (WHA) of the World Health Organization, India was elected to the Executive Board (EB) of WHO on 19 May 2020. Besides India, the other new members elected were Botswana, Colombia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Madagascar, Oman, Republic of Korea, Russia, and the United Kingdom. The members are elected on a 3-year basis.

What Is The Executive Board?
WHO’s EB comprises of 34 nations, with each nation providing a “technically qualified” representative to the board. The EB’s primary aim is to implement WHA policies, advise the WHO, and facilitate the working functions. Every year, the EB holds 2 meetings. The first occurs in January, and the second occurs after the WHA.

India At The Helm
Besides the recent inclusion, India also saw the election of its senior minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan as the Chairman of the WHO Executive Board. He would replace Dr. Hiroki Nakatani of Japan. In WHO, the Chairman position rotates annually in the selected regional group. Dr. Harsh Vardhan currently occupies the following offices in India: Ministry of Health and Welfare, Ministry of Sciences, Ministry of Science and Technology.

  • The League of Nations was the first worldwide intergovernmental organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace. It was founded on 10 January 1920 following the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War.
  • A potential superpower is a state or a political and economic entity that is speculated to be or to have the potential to soon become a superpower. The Republic of India is considered one of the emerging superpowers of the world. In 2015, India became the world’s fastest-growing economy with a 7.5% estimated GDP rate.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) in April announced that it will work with India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to leverage the strategies that helped the country eradicate polio to fight the pandemic. The Director-General of WHO also praised the strategies used by India to eradicate polio and the steps taken to combat Covid-19.

World Turns Up Heat On China and WHO

In the latest WHO meeting, majority of countries supported an independent inquiry into origin and spread of Coronavirus. Several countries also questioned WHO’s shielding of China’s irresponsibility while continuously praising for its “transparency”.
Complete Coverage: Coronavirus

Crux of the Matter

WHAt Happened?
Recently held the 73rd World Health Assembly (WHA) meeting centered on the issue of Coronavirus. The online meeting sanctioned an Independent Inquiry of the pandemic probing into the source and transmission of the virus. The inquiry was proposed by Australia and had was backed by 115+ countries including UK, US, Japan, India, Africa Group, etc.

The demand for Taiwan’s inclusion in the WHO was delayed as Taiwan itself postponed the process owing to the pandemic and decided to resume after the situation subsides.

Aussie-Sino Spat
China imposed an 80.5% import duty on Barley from Australia, which proposed the inquiry. Nevertheless, China showed acceptance of the WHO inquiry.

China supports the idea of a comprehensive review of the global response to COVID-19 after it is brought under control, to sum up experiences and deficiencies.

Xi Jinping, President of China

However, the inquiry is set to begin after the pandemic is declared over. China pledged in WHA to provide $2 billion to WHO for fighting Covid-19, particularly in African countries.

Critics have pointed out that China might get the ‘window’ caused by delaying the inquiry, and that the amount might divert attention from its lack of transparency in the fight. China has denied the claims, stating it has provided complete cooperation to WHO in a timely manner.

US, China & WHO in War of Words
US President Trump has accused WHO of shielding China’s lack of transparency in the fight against Coronavirus. Recently, Trump gave a deadline to the WHO to “commit to major substantive improvements” in the next 30 days. On failing to do so, the US would permanently freeze its contribution to WHO and would reconsider its membership in the organization.

China to Blame for Recession in Japan?
Japan is in recession for the first time since 2015. It is in a technical recession, which means a decline of GDP in 2 consecutive quarters. After a 6.4% decline in the last quarter of 2019, Japan reported a decline of 3.4% in this year’s first quarter.

Japan, which also supported the Independent Inquiry, has provided a stimulus of $2.2 billion to companies shifting their production from China. $2 billion of the amount is reserved for companies shifting back to Japan.

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) was established on 7th April 1948. And hence with effect from 1950, 7th April is celebrated as World Health Day globally under the sponsorship of WHO.
  • In 2018, Forbes announced Chinese leader Xi Jinping as the “World’s Most Powerful Person”. Since 2009 (with absences in 2017 and 2019), the business magazine has compiled an annual list of the world’s most powerful people. The list has one slot for every 100 million people. Russian President Vladimir Putin topped the list for 4 consecutive years (2013-2016).
  • The Communist Party of China (CPC) is the founding and ruling political party of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the second-largest political party in the world. It was founded in 1921, chiefly by Chen Duxiu and Li Dazhao.

Sino-Pak Deal To Build Dam in PoK

Chinese state-run firm China Power and commercial arm of Pakistan’s military Frontier Works Organisation have collaborated to construct the Daimer-Bhasha dam in the disputed Gilgit-Baltistan region. India protested immediately and cleared its stand over this matter.

Crux of the Matter

Diamer-Basha Dam
Pakistan and China have signed a 442 billion Pakistani Rupees contract to build a dam on the Indus river. The dam will have 8 million acre-feet (MAF) reservoirs and a height of 272-metre. It will be the tallest RCC dam in the world. The structure of the dam will consist of a spillway with 14 gates and 5 outlets for flushing out silt.

In case of emergency, there is a diversion system that involves two tunnels and a diversion canal each of 1 kilometer long. The hydropower plant at the dam will be able to produce 21 MW power at full capacity. This dam is very important for Pakistan as it will increase the water capacity of Pakistan from 30 days to 48 days.

India’s Strong Protest
India protested the Sino-Pak joint venture as it is in the disputed territory of Gilgit-Baltistan. India has cleared its stand over the matter. Recently India’s decision of weather forecasting of Gilgit-Baltistan was a diplomatic response to Pakistan clearing the clouds over the issue of territory in the northern region. In the past, India had protested against the “One Belt One Road” project as it ignored India’s essential concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity. China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a part of OBOR, which comes under the disputed PoK.

Our position is consistent and clear that the entire territory of the union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh have been, are, and will continue to be an integral and inalienable part of India.

Anurag Srivastava, Spokesperson, External Affairs Ministry

China’s Vested Interests?
China has a motive to integrate India’s northern part into its sphere by political, economic, and military support. China’s wants to connect China’s Kashgar in Xinjiang to Balochistan’s Gwadar port that China is constructing. To do so, both countries signed the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). It is estimated that this route consists of resources and a market of 1.8 million people and has a potential of business of ~$60 billion. China and Pakistan have support from each other on the international platform in the matter of PoK.

Increasing Terrorist Attacks
Since the Coronavirus outbreak, terrorist activities backed by Pakistan have increased. In the recent Doda terrorist attack in J&K, the army neutralized the attack by the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) terrorist group and killed top HM commander Tahir Ahmed Bhat. In past terrorist attacks in Handwara, Kupwara and Pulwama were also neutralized by the Indian Armed Forces. The army is on alert after standoffs with Chinese forces in Sikkim and Ladakh.

  • The Three Gorges Dam is a hydroelectric gravity dam that spans the Yangtze River by the town of Sandouping, China. The Three Gorges Dam has been the world’s largest power station in terms of installed capacity (22,500 MW) since 2012. The dam flooded archaeological and cultural sites, displaced some 1.3 million people, and had caused significant ecological changes including an increased risk of landslides. The dam has been controversial both domestically and abroad. In 2010, NASA scientists calculated that the shift of water mass stored by the dam would increase the length of the Earth’s day by 0.06 microseconds and make the Earth slightly more round in the middle and flat on the poles.
  • Kallanai is an ancient dam, which is built across the Kaveri river in Thanjavur District in the state of Tamil Nadu in India. The dam was originally constructed by the Chola king Karikalan in 100 BC – 100 AD. It is the fourth-oldest water-diversion or water-regulator structure in the world and the oldest in India which is still in use.
  • The Indus Waters Treaty is a water-distribution treaty between India and Pakistan, brokered by the World Bank, to use the water available in the Indus System of rivers. The Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) was signed in Karachi on 19 September 1960 by Jawaharlal Nehru and then Ayub Khan. Salal Dam is a hydropower project on the Chenab River in the Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir. It was the first hydropower project built by India in Kashmir under the Indus Water Treaty.

Rising Steam on South China Sea

From deploying underwater drones in the Indian Ocean Region and sinking Vietnamese ship to renaming islands of South China Sea to make territorial claims, China has been muscling its way in the geopolitical sphere even as the world battles the China-born Coronavirus.
Complete Coverage: Coroanvirus

Crux of the Matter

China Making Claims
China made a sovereign claim on 80 islands in the South China Sea by renaming them. The disputed islands are the Spratly Islands and Paracel Islands over which territorial claims are contested among China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, and the Philippines. China had made territorial claims by renaming islands in the South China Sea in 1983 – it renamed 287 islands then.

Complete Coverage: China Deploys Sea-Drones Near Subcontinent; Tries To Play Big Brother With SAARC

Sino Strategy During Pandemic
At a time when the whole world is struggling to beat the China-born Coronavirus, China is aggressively pushing its maritime strategies. Here is the list of known events that China carried out during the pandemic:

  • Late March: China deploys 12 underwater drones in the Indian Ocean Region.
  • Early April: Vietnam accuses China of ramming and sinking a Vietnamese boat with 8 fishermen onboard near the Paracel Islands. This happened after Vietnam protested China’s actions in the South China Sea in the UN.
  • Mid April: Japan says Chinese ships intruded in Japanese waters for about 90 minutes
  • Mid April: Chinese warships intimidated Malaysian oil vessels. US warships sailed to disputed Malaysian waters to deter away Chinese vessels.

Chinese bullying activities in the South China Sea are distractions from the current efforts to deal with the pandemic

Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State

Implications for India
Abhijit Singh, a former Naval officer, and now head of the Maritime Policy Initiative at Observer Research Foundation (ORF) says the following about China’s actions:

“For three reasons, the crisis unfolding in the South China Sea has implications for India.
1) Chinese militia operations have focused on the region’s western end close to the Indian Ocean Region, targeting countries like Vietnam and Indonesia that India has a close political and military relationship with.

2) China’s expanding presence in littoral coincides with a rise in Chinese activity in the eastern Indian Ocean, particularly the presence of Chinese research and survey vessels in India’s EEZs.

3) The growing operations by China’s deep-sea mining vessels, fishing fleets, and intelligence ships in the Indian Ocean are an indication of Beijing’s expanding economic and strategic footprints in India’s natural sphere of influence.

The bottom-line for Delhi is this: once China firms its grips over the South China Sea, it will use island outposts to project greater military power in the eastern Indian Ocean.”

  • The South China Sea is a marginal sea that is part of the Pacific Ocean of around 3,500,000 square kilometers. Huge oil, gas, and natural reserves are believed to lie beneath its seabed.
  • The nine-dash line refers to the undefined, vaguely located, demarcation line used initially by the Republic of China (1912–1949) and subsequently the governments of the Republic of China (ROC, which governs Taiwan) and the People’s Republic of China (PRC), for their claims of the major part of the South China Sea. The claim encompasses the area of Chinese land reclamation known as the “Great Wall of Sand”.
  • In September 2012, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III signed Administrative Order No. 29, mandating that all government agencies use the name “West Philippine Sea” to refer to the parts of the South China Sea within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
  • The South China Sea is a major trade route for crude oil, and in 2016, more than 30% of global maritime crude oil trade, or about 15 million barrels per day (b/d), passed through the South China Sea. Somewhere between $3-4 trillion in trade each year is carried out through this trade route.