Sunday, 28 August 2022
When last enquired into, dancing with friends at a party was not a criminal offence in Finland.
Saturday, 27 August 2022
A safe perch in the US Senate made Joseph Robinette Biden Jr a trifle unaware of the need to ensure correctness in politics, and not just what is termed “political correctness”. Biden was a loyal supporter of President Bill Clinton in all but one of his adventures, the exception being the attachment that the then US President had with a vivacious intern, Monica Lewinski. Whatever his other shortcomings, Biden is 100% a family man, who was devoted to his first spouse and devastated by her passing together with two of their children. That pain, it is obvious, still lingers, although the light in the darkness was the appearance of his second wife, Jill, in his life. She has proved a healing influence, enabling the youngest US Senator who later became the oldest US President to concentrate on the brutal business of politics in his country and yet return to a calm atmosphere at home. Jill Biden is a doctor of medicine, but it is not that training which has proven invaluable in taking care of her husband, but her warmth. A feeling that the First Lady of what remains the most significant country in the world carries into a sphere far larger than her family, plunging into activities with empathy that assist the disadvantaged. There has been (entirely justified) criticism of President Joe Biden in these columns, but at no stage was it said, or can truthfully be said, that he is anything other than that disappearing species, a decent human being. As President of the US, Biden has accumulated a sizeable roster of errors, among the most egregious being his withdrawal of all US assistance to the Afghan government in his rush to implement the Instrument of Surrender agreed to by his predecessor at Doha. The way in which the US abandoned its Afghan ally and the people of Afghanistan, especially children, women and moderates, to the Taliban is a shameless act that will continue to be used in classrooms to exemplify how low a government can go in its desire to escape from the coils of its commitment to an ally.
In the columns of this newspaper, incoming President Biden had been warned that to continue with the services of Anthony Fauci, who has excelled in recent years as a salesperson for select vaccine manufacturers, would be to court the obloquy of the public. With his usual tin ear where public opinion was concerned, Biden continued with Fauci. Small wonder that instead of eliminating the virus that escaped from a lab in Wuhan in 2019, SARS 2 has accelerated its spread in the US. This is despite the Fauci-recommended expenditure of tens of billions of dollars on the purchase of vaccines by the now retired infectious diseases specialist. Whether it be the smallpox or the polio vaccine, they worked. What is clear from the branded vaccines Fauci publicly peddled is that they have proved an ineffective barrier to getting infected or re-infected with Covid-19. Given the hurry with which they went from lab to pharmacist, that was no surprise. Biden trusted Fauci to continue the work of protecting the population of the US against Covid-19 even after it was clear that the benefactor of the Wuhan Institute of Virology had played a major role in covering up the culpability of that institution in the origin of the disease, not the only bad choice that the 46th President of the US made in selecting members of his administration. Given that Fauci was known to be in favour of the example of lifelong employment in a government agency set by J. Edgar Hoover, it would appear that finally the US President got the memo about the toxicity that the retention of the controversial collaborator of the WIV was generating among voters. Joe Biden wants a second term in office, and a bit late, he is understanding that there are limits to the patience of the population of the US towards the errors made by the occupant of the White House. The hysteria created during the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdowns and suspension of activity that was the result of the measures taken to eliminate it caused much damage. It has therefore been proving difficult for the vaccine salesmen within the US Government to continue to force the public to undergo the restraints and other tribulations that they were victim to in 2020 and in some countries (although not India) even in 2021. Biden campaigned on a promise of change, but continued with several of the errors made by Trump, such as the plan to scoot away from Afghanistan in the manner that he did, or to retain Fauci even as Trump had throughout his term. After campaigning on the promise of looking after the underprivileged in the US, Biden is pouring money into Ukraine while at the same time doing far less to assist countries such as India and Taiwan that are on the frontline of the ongoing battle for supremacy with China. If the Democratic Party manages to hold on to its majority in the House of Representatives and to win a majority in the Senate, it will be because the mistakes made by the Republican side outweigh the unpopularity of President Biden.
Monday, 22 August 2022
Xi has built around him a network of advisors who are almost entirely different from individuals who were influential during the decade each in power of Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, and even among such persons, turnover is very high.
Sunday, 21 August 2022
Even a blockade of Taiwan would result in sanctions by the US and the EU against the PRC, and that would be the final straw that broke the back of the dragon’s economy.
These are, of course, not the usual times. Xi seems to have a particular distaste of democratically elected US legislators. A visit by a Congressional team led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi sparked off several rounds of fireworks, creating doubts about the quotient of common sense of those in charge in the world’s other superpower. Such a reaction was a gift to the already substantial anti-PRC lobby in the US, especially in the legislative branch. The tide of public opinion is becoming so strong that even President Biden, who has had contact with elements in the CCP for close to four decades is finding it difficult to carry out his wish to remove the Trump tariffs on Chinese imports in the name of fighting inflation. To make things worse for an accommodative, understanding Biden, soon afterwards a fresh lot of US legislators followed in the wake of Nancy Pelosi, and once again the PLA put on a fireworks display that may play well on television in the PRC, but which convinced even peaceniks in key locations such as Tokyo that Shinzo Abe was right in wanting to boost the defensive and offensive power of the Japanese military. Given the number of netizens in the PRC calling for a war against Japan, that appears to be a good idea. Given that the Chinese economy would implode if Xi were to try and carry out his threat of invading Taiwan through military force, all that the multiple rounds of the Chinese military’s Sound & Light show after the two visits by US legislators to Taipei achieved was to further increase the already massive proportion in the Taiwanese population who are averse to unifying with the PRC. After comments from Chinese Communist Party functionaries that are a textbook example of the false bravado that machismo brings, those Taiwanese who hunger for unification with the PRC must be a very lonely bunch. In 1995, there was on a much smaller level a similar show of PLA bluster, and this caused an exodus out of Taiwan, not to China but to the US and to countries allied to it. This time around, there was no such trepidation. Even a blockade of Taiwan would result in sanctions by the US and the EU against the PRC, and given the state of the economy in the country run by Xi, that would be the final straw that broke the back of the dragon’s economy. Interestingly, revolutions in China have usually originated in Hunan, which recently witnessed severe unrest as banks were resisting the honouring of cheques. After the usually persuasive “people’s police” failed to quell the disturbances, all of a sudden bank branches began honouring cheques. The situation across China is not different from what it is in Hunan, and the problems in the province may be a sign of what may lie ahead. If there is a nationwide run on banks in China, it is not certain that images of PLAAF aircraft and PLAN ships circling Taiwan will persuade depositors to accept their losses and remain quiet. What the PRC needs are leaders with common sense, not machismo.
Wherever a citizen of the Republic of India’s travels take her or him, the odds are overwhelming that there will be either citizens or those of Indian origin in the location visited. In almost all cases, they would be model citizens, abiding by the law, bringing up families and proving to be a success in their work. Out of the door have gone the impressions of India as a quaint land of snake charmers and ascetics meditating in caves for long periods of time. Fortunately for the variety that is the essence of India, there are indeed still snake charmers to be found, with their lilting music and the movement of the lute causing the reptile inside the basket to emerge in view and sway to that movement. China underwent a Cultural Revolution in the 1960s, the effects of which endure to this day, but what is often forgotten is that the radical politics and economics that were practised by the inheritors of the Raj caused their own cultural revolutions, whether these be the wiping out of millions of jobs at the stroke of a pen when Morarji Desai embarked on his Gold Control Order. That the government has in its possession a magic wand that can ensure the immediate obedience of every citizen to even its wildest dictates has been a staple belief of the colonial chemistry of the bureaucracy, including the political layer superimposed at the top. The other is that “Sarkar Sab Janta Hai”, that the government knows all and knows best, while the ordinary citizen is expected not to question but to blindly accept any diktat. Rather than go in for the nationalisation of banks with deposits above Rs 50 crores, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi (who went on to nationalise the wholesale trade in food and the production of coal as well, among other things) could have launched state-owned alternatives that would have competed with private banks. But competition was another bad word in the lexicon of the bureaucracy for a long while. Sardar Patel had presided over the integration of princely states into the Republic of India by signing a solemn covenant with the princes, which was torn up in 1969 in the name of egalitarianism. While many princes were degenerate, in common with too many others in society, there were also those who had nourished and preserved the traditional arts and culture of India. A bite of the quality of being “Incredible” disappeared with the princely order, again a cultural revolution in a country that has had several since 1947, some of which have been of great value. Among these is the digital revolution that has been fast tracked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in which more and more of the processes of government are being digitised. In time to come, a “laptop for every child” may come about, so that the young, no matter how disadvantaged their families will be, will have adequate access to the digital world and ensure that they are equipped through that to succeed in the professions of the 21st century.
Monday, 15 August 2022
Sunday, 14 August 2022
Monday, 8 August 2022
There is confidence in Beijing that the White House lacks the spine to follow the example set by Xi in sanctioning not just Mike Pompeo but Speaker Pelosi. Thus far, even a senior colonel in the PLA has not been sanctioned by the Biden administration.
Will Taiwan in the reign of Xi be what Czechoslovakia was in 1938, a victory by default by a revisionist and authoritarian power intent on turning upside down the status quo? Once again, with customary skill, the CMC’s infowar corps are spreading the story that manoeuvres that are intended to create “Shock & Awe” among target countries are just a one-off. This is the opposite of what they represent, which is a testing of the waters to judge the likely reaction of the US in particular to kinetic operations against Taiwan. There is confidence in Beijing that the White House lacks the spine to follow the example set by Xi in sanctioning not just Mike Pompeo but Speaker Pelosi, the third in line to the US Presidency. Thus far, even a senior colonel in the PLA has not been sanctioned by the Biden administration, which has contented itself with pained expressions of shock by known Europe First ideologues such as Secretary Blinken, with Defence Secretary Austin suddenly losing his voice in a manner not seen in him in the matter of the conflict in Europe. The other two Quad members are watching whether there will be measures that reflect the intent and intensity of the manner in which Xi Jinping has sought to redraw Red Lines concerning kinetic activity directed at Japan and Taiwan, and similar hesitancy is the case with ASEAN. As for the European powers, including the UK, the soothing clink of cash registers in several corporate houses has thus far ensured that they act in a totally contrasting manner to the “fire and fury” that they have unleashed on Russia, a power that is on any count far below the PRC in terms of threat and ability to react. Czechoslovakia was in effect left to fend for itself, and thus far that appears to be the case with Taiwan as well, no matter how many times there is the pious recital of the “Taiwan is not alone” hymn by Speaker Pelosi. Lack of substantive countermeasures, including sanctions rather than measures such as the tariff relief favoured by some in the US Department of Commerce, are needed so as to avoid strengthening the hawks in the CMC sufficiently to enable them to carry out General Secretary Xi Jinping’s dream of annexing Taiwan.
Sunday, 7 August 2022
Xi seems to have not got the memo that the Legislature is independent of the Executive under the US Constitution, for his accurate surmise that Biden was unhappy about Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan led him to believe that the White House could get it cancelled.
Saturday, 6 August 2022
The “1992 Consensus” invented by KMT functionary Su Chi in 1992 held that there was indeed One China, except that both the Taiwanese and the PRC side had their own interpretations of what acceptance of the phrase implied. In the case of Taiwan, the “1992 Consensus” was unilaterally scrapped by CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping, who went public that there was not just one China, but only one interpretation of the “1992 Consensus”, the interpretation held by Beijing. Given this, efforts by apologists for the PRC to point to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) that holds power in the island nation as being responsible for scrapping Su Chi’s doctrine are disingenuous. Even the KMT would not be able to accept the Xi Jinping interpretation of the “One China” consensus and ever hope to return to power in Taiwan. The frank authoritarianism of the regime led by Xi has caused the overwhelming majority of Taiwanese citizens to veer away from support for unification with China. The relevance of the assertion that there is only a single legitimate definition of the One China principle, the version favoured by the CCP, is that such a change in the mode of interpretation of the doctrine clearly applies not just to Taiwan but to other countries as well. As yet, the CCP General Secretary may not go public about this altered reality, but his intent is clear. Whether it be the Philippines, Vietnam, the US or India, acceptance of Su Chi’s diplomatic sleight of hand implies obedience to the line adopted by the CCP in the matter. In the case of India, officials who say that the world’s most populous democracy accepts the One China principle is to accept a falsehood, which is that Arunachal Pradesh, large tracts of Ladakh and other parts of Indian territory ought to be considered as Chinese. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj pointed out that there was no justification for India to accept One China, unless the PRC accepted One India, a construct that obviously includes the entirety of Ladakh and Arunachal. The rhetorical part of Xi’s campaign against the visit of Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan has as its centre-piece that such an action is in breach of the One China principle that was last accepted by President Joe Biden a few days before Speaker Pelosi landed in Taipei. The reality is that the authority assumed by Beijing to control who goes to Taiwan has not been recognised except by countries such as Pakistan and Russia, who are part of the PRC-led coalition of nations active in Cold War 2.0. Several countries in ASEAN or the EU send high level delegations to Taiwan, ignoring uneasiness in Beijing. Other countries have thus far restricted their own visits or the entry of Taiwanese officials to lower levels, in an effort at mollifying Beijing.The revitalisation of the Quadrilateral Security Alliance was the consequence of actions towards the same that were initiated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and then Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo. Not having a secretariat or a formal structure has placed several limitations on the effectiveness, indeed the very credibility, of the Quad. Such a lack needs to be attended to soonest. In the meantime, both the European Union and the Quad need to ensure that it is made clear to all countries that acceptance of the One China principle does not in any way imply acquiescence in the PRC’s expansionary designs. Both the EU and the Quad have their own interpretations of the One China principle, and it is such an interpretation that will prevail over the version adopted by Beijing. In the case of Taiwan, even during the days when US Presidents who were boosters of the PRC such as Nixon and Clinton were in office, it was emphasised that any unification with the PRC needed to come about voluntarily, and peacefully—that resort to force in an effort to extinguish the sovereignty of Taiwan would not be accepted. Under such circumstances, there was nothing untoward in Speaker Pelosi’s visit. The manner in which military power is being used to try and scare away officials from the democracies from visiting Taiwan reflects the zero-sum mindset of the present CCP leadership.
In the case of India, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru followed the path of total acquiescence to the wishes of the PRC. Such a policy of appeasement was most starkly reflected in his indifference to the takeover of Tibet by the PLA, thereby giving Beijing extraordinary leverage that was used against India. Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee gave up what little remained of the elements of Government of India’s policy on Tibet that were different from the CCP line. These concessions were made unilaterally and without securing anything in return. Given the lesson that has been learnt about the behaviour of the CCP after seeing what has happened with Tibet and Xinjiang, there has been a firmness shown in the matter of CCP efforts at taking control of Taiwan that was absent in the other two cases. Under Prime Minister Modi, India is following a policy that is principled in its firmness. What needs to be done is to ensure that a clear elucidation of the manner in which the One China principle is regarded by the democracies. Xi’s efforts at making the principle mean what the CCP intends it to mean needs to be countered. The best way of doing this is to stress that the definition of One China for each country is defined by itself and not by Beijing.