Is Xi on his way out?
It was the first of its kind fly past.
Ms Nancy Pelosi's aircraft escorted by 20 USAF/USN Fighters while flying into Taiwan. Some of the aircraft, probably armed to the teeth.
Now if that was not 'blatant air violation' of so called Chinese air space, what was it? Such events of extreme politico-military significance are not norms and invariably result in offensive action from the country, whose air space is violated.
Ms Pelosi's physical presence pales into insignificance, when viewed in the context of serious military intervention.
Technically and operationally China could have met the threat by using S-400 based on its eastern most shores of mainland China. After all armed fighters, 20 of them, flew over Taiwan, a China territory as claimed by Chinese leadership.
Should Chinese action, rather inaction, be termed as responsible behaviour or cowardice? There are both views already in media. But that is irrelevant.
Most relevant aspect is how Chinese view it?
Nearly two years ago, when global COVID onslaught was wreaking havoc and Chinese misadventure against India was forcefully replied, I had opined that Xi's time to EXIT has come. My original article is attached.
China's woes were further compounded by the miniature micro chip industry of which Taiwan is the world leader. TSMC, today is possibly the most advanced strategic industry, better than the prominent world leaders of Defence Equipment manufacturers. From latest cars to modern aeroplanes, hypersonic missiles, space launch vehicles, satellites; all require microchips. China's exponential growth will come to grinding halt if microchip industry from Taiwan disappears due to any Chinese misadventure of forcibly taking over the island 'nation'.
Leaving all that aside Chinese communist party is extremely averse to leadership failure. Examples of which are listed in my original article.
October is not too for away. In less than 60 days time Xi has to prove his credentials or else....
Two microscopic entities might result in unseating of Xi in none too distant future. One of these is the tiny microscopic COVID-19 VIRUS and the other is a few nanometer wide chip.
Communist Party of China (CPC) is notorious for purges. Two most notable purges in recent times were declaring Marshal Lin Piao and Ms Jiang Ching, leader of "GANG OF FOUR", as two major anti party activists. Lin Piao was designated successor to Mao. Ms Jiang Ching was the fourth wife of undisputed Chinese leader Mao Tse Tung. Ms Jiang Ching was also known as Madame Mao. Lin, the longest serving Minister of National Defence till date "perished" in an aircrash on 13th September, 1971. CPC ruthlessly acts against anti-party activists as well as those, who fail to meet the commitments made to CPC. Xi's elevation to post of China's President was deemed to have been keeping in view the promises he made. These were;
- No Chinese will be classified as "POOR" by 2020.
- Replacing USA as the technological Super Power.
- Completion of Belt and Road Initiative project.
- Resolution of Boundary Disputes with neighbours.
That was in 2013. Everything appeared to be going the way Xi may have imagined until the trade war with USA started immediately after Trump occupied white house. COVID-19 outbreak on global scale put paid to all dreams of Xi. As of now it is of no consequence to discuss whether or not COVID-19 was a manmade virus in Wuhan, China. Even if it were to be assumed that the spread was "accidental", which is contrary to claims of Chinese virologists, who have since fled mainland China and have given detailed account of how COVID-19 came into existence. Entire "GLOBE" is against China for spreading the worst pandemic in human history. When Xi assumed office China was the fastest growing economy of the world. Xi, in his misplaced exuberance to place as a numero uno nation. China under Xi has merely accomplished the opposite. He has turned friends into foe; allies into fence sitters; all on account of misplaced notion of having become the world power. In fact China is now seen as land grabbing nation (asis happening in Ladakh, India), a sea swallowing nation (as is happening in South China Sea) and as an international bully (as is happening by unilateral declaration of ten dash line and declaring Air Defence Identification Zone). China has accomplished what no nation has ever done in recent history. In less than a year China carries a tag of "ROGUE NATION" a "BULLY", "VIOLATER OF HUMAN RIGHTS" and "SUPPRESSION OF POPULAR VOICE BY FORCE" as in Hongkong etc.
Status in brief of Xi's promises made to CPC are as under;
Poverty Alleviation. Onslaught of COVID-19 has resulted in large scale closure of industrial units causing wide spread unemployment. One of the Chinese tabloid has claimed that unemployment figures might be as high as 70-80 million. It is also being claimed that more Chinese are below poverty line in 2020 than any other period in Chinese history. Situation is likely to get worse with forecast of massive famine in near future. Unwritten deal between Chinese people and CPC Leaders has been "You follow our dictate; we will make you prosper". Indeed it has been true ever since cultural revolution led by Mao. This is possible only and only if the economy keeps growing, which may not be the case now or in foreseeable future. Conditions are ripe for an uprising.
Technological Super Power Status. Attaining tech super power status is no longer in the realm of accomplishment. Chinese grand design to not only become a Tech Super Power but also unseat USA from number one position of military super power has become a mirage. Like the tiny virus the nanometer width chip has destroyed Chinese ambitions. Tech superpower status can only be accomplished if China had indigeneously developed chip technology to meet the requirements of producing ambitious war machines. China imports most of the chips from her "bete-noire" USA, manufactured in Taiwan. Worst hit is the Chinese 5G technology, which had already taken the world in its grip. Opposition by USA, UK and India has shattered the dream.
Belt and Road Initiative. In fact this was the most ambitious of all Chinese projects but now it is the biggest burden on Xi's shoulders. BRI dream might become a nightmare for China. Demand of loan restructuring from nearly all countries is causing Chinese planners lot of discomfort. Few nations have even threatened to pull out of BRI project. African nations have realized it rather too soon the "debt trap mechanism" of Chinese government. A classic example is acquisition of Hambantota port of Sri Lanka.
Resolution of Boundary Dispute with Neighbours. Xi's biggest and possibly his costliest strategic error of judgement has been unwarranted and undesirable stand off with India. Whatever be the outcome Xi will have to carry this blemish of gross underestimation of Indian resolve/Response to poorly planned and executed PLA plan to alter the status of LAC. No amount of purges as are already taking place/have taken place will exonerate Xi from his personal lack of foresight and vision. With Taiwan issue festering as a chronic wound and trade (read tech war) war with USA, opening of Indian front was/is his greatest mistake. Chinese can no longer intimidate Indian Military (read leadership). A possible and probable option with Xi is to ensure that the situation at LAC is not allowed to escalate. There can be following options as on date;
- Chinese forces withdraw to pre 5th May, 2020 position on LAC.
- Chinese forces refuse to move back. Stand off continues through the winter.
- India decides to take offensive action resulting in armed conflict.
- India accepts Chinese latest perception of LAC before armed conflict.
- India accepts Chinese latest perception of LAC after armed conflict.
With present Indian leadership at the helm, last two options are of academic interest only. If China is forced to accept any of the first three option, it will be deemed by international community that "China" has been shown her "rightful" place in comity of nations. Xi will have to take and accept the blame. As if this would not be enough to fill the cup of woes for Chinese leadership (read for Xi), the forecast famine and likely food shortage in near future might be catastrophy for China.
Xi has failed in accomplishing anything of substance on all these fronts promised by him. Natural calamities viz floods and famine will further aggravate the situation for Xi.
Floods and Famine. China aimed at becoming a world super power by demonstrating her economic and military might to the world. For instance Chinese military muscle depiction in 2009 annual day Chinese parade was in form of missile columns occupying a length of about 0.5 km. In 2019 the missile forces occupied a length of over 4 km. But weapons do not fill empty stomachs. One needs food. The rice bowl of China, Yangtse river basin has faced unprecedented floods resulting in rice crops in thousands of hectares destroyed. Deteriorating diplomatic relations with food supplying nations has only made the situation worse. Chinese might be looking at the great famine of 1959 in which millions of Chinese starved to death. China imports huge quantities of agricultural produce from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and USA. Xi's recent statement, rather a directive to Chinese people to observe "Gastronomic Discipline" is a firm indicator of things to come. China might just face the biggest food crisis since the great famine of 1959.
Xi has made a gross strategic error in opening all fronts clearly violating the preachings of Chinese greats such as Confucius and Sun Tzu. His blatant disregard to international community is best stated in his own words; "we do not promise to renounce the use of force and reserve the option to use all necessary measures".
Armed conflict with India and its probable adverse outcome for China might just be the final nail in the coffin. Withdrawal of PLA to pre 5th May position will be seen as loss of face.
Xi's presidency is under threat from within.
About the Author
Gp Capt. Tej Prakash Srivastava has served in Iraq and is a graduate of both DSSC and AWC. He was Directing Staff at DSSC and Chief Instructor at College of Air Warfare. He Served at Air HQ, commanded a MiG-21 Sqn and headed the IAF establishment of Strike Corps during 'Operation Parakram'. He has authored a book titled 'Profligate Governance – Implications for National Security'. He has written extensively on international and strategic affairs and Defence Procurement Procedures. The IAF officer graduated from the NDA in June 1970 and trained at AFA with 107th Pilots Course. He can be reached at Email: [email protected]