US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping
A file photo of US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping | Qilai Shen | Bloomberg
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The Iron Curtain 2.0 is likely to descend again on the world grappling with the coronavirus pandemic. One of the leading protagonists is the same as the last time, the United States of America. The other, once again, a communist country, China. The Covid-19 outbreak is going to serve as a casus belli for Cold War 2.0 that was building up in the last few years since Xi Jinping came to power in China in 2013 and has since become its most powerful leader since Mao.


Also read: China is feeling the heat over Covid-19 — from Japan to Australia. But India’s hands are full


The consequences of Covid-19

The consequences of the Covid-19 are going to be manifold. It is going to change the world order significantly. It might also affect the United Nations, and how it is run, especially considering how China used the World Health Organization (WHO) to mask its lies and save its image and prevented a discussion on the pandemic while it held the chair of the Security Council. The US withdrew from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 2017 and from the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2018. Trump has already spoken about stopping funding to the WHO. The risk of breakdown of multilateral organisations, including the World Trade Organisation, are real. The global supply chains are going to see a shift away from China.

There could be claims of compensation from countries around the world which are facing massive economic losses. A report calculated that just the G7 countries could claim over $4 trillion. China is not expected to pay any compensation if any claims are filed against it. That will trigger countermeasures from the claimants which could be significant including the possibility of an armed conflict.


Also read: Republicans on US House panel accuse WHO of siding with China, helping spread ‘propaganda’


Geopolitics over corona

There is geopolitics over any natural or manmade disaster. Covid-19 is no different. China, where the virus originated, suppressed information and failed to inform the world about it until it was too late. Using its authoritarian ways, it conducted extensive surveillance including use of artificial intelligence and facial recognition to track its citizens and then used methods like welding people in their homes to counter the pandemic.

China sees the crisis as its moment to project its governance model. China’s propaganda led by its foreign ministry, its diplomats around the world and state-controlled media started to promote its authoritarian model of governance as superior over the democratic system which it says has failed. They are using English language and free world platforms like twitter, platforms China denies its own citizens.

China has also used its control over manufacturing of medical supplies to further its geopolitical aims. Its media suggested that China will not supply masks to countries that don’t allow Huawei for 5G. Led by the foreign ministry spokesman Lijian Zhao, China started to deflect blame for the origin of the virus to the US Army which led to Trump retaliating by calling Covid-19 the Chinese Virus.

The reactions have been swift and are ongoing. It is not just the US that has blamed China for the pandemic, other countries have also done so in one form or the other. US secretary of state Mike Pompeo has repeatedly spoken out against authoritarianism.

Western countries are looking to decouple from China in its dependence for manufactured goods and secure its supply chain. The Japanese government has even allocated $2.2 billion for its companies to move out of China. American companies which had started moving out of China in the aftermath of the trade war are expected to speed up their exit. China also recognises this threat and has warned against it.

EU foreign affairs representative Josep Borrell wrote a blog in which he stated that there is a global battle of narratives going on in which timing is a crucial factor. There is a geo-political component, including a struggle for influence through spinning and the ‘politics of generosity’.

The US has led two rounds of meetings of the countries in the Indo-Pacific – the Quad plus South Korea, New Zealand and Vietnam. The purpose as reported by the Times of India is exploring ways to facilitate trade, sharing technologies and movement of people. And not just to deal with the ongoing crisis, but also going forward to see how to put the global economies back on their feet. And while the war of words has been on, President Trump on 27 March signed into law an act that requires the US to support Taiwan diplomatically around the world and take actions against countries that undermine Taiwan’s security and prosperity provoking an angry response from China.


Also read: WHO and China covered Tedros’ past — but what is worrying is how India fell for it


The making of the Iron Curtain

After becoming the President, Xi Jinping announced the Belt and Road Initiative with strategic intent. In 2015, he announced the Made in China 2025 to make the country a manufacturing powerhouse through technology and innovation, particularly in ten core areas. His vision is to make China a global military and economic superpower by the time the Chinese Communist Party celebrates its 100 year rule in 2049, displacing the US.

China has also signalled its intentions to dominate the region – claiming the entire South China Sea (SCS) and put it as part of its expanded core non-negotiable interests. It has militarised the disputed islands in the SCS, claims Japanese island of Senkaku and in 2017, it triggered a 72-day standoff with India over Doklam.

The Chinese aggression was being contested. The US, under President Donald Trump declared China as its strategic competitor in its National Security Strategy released in 2017. Trump’s trade war with China was never just a trade war but a part of the overall competition between the two countries and their battle for supremacy.

The US banned Huawei, China’s leading communications technology company, citing it as a security threat, pressuring  its allies to do the same for their 5G networks. In August last year, Trump asked American companies to quit China. The Quad consisting of the US, Japan, Australia and India which was shelved after its first iteration in 2007, was revived in 2017. The US has continued to conduct freedom of navigation operations in SCS despite Chinese protests and some aggressive behaviour by the Chinese navy against US navy warships.


Also read: Aap chronology samajhiye: Did Modi buckle under Trump’s pressure on HCQ for COVID-19?


Battle for supremacy

The Iron Curtain 2.0 will not have defined borders like it had in its first avatar. China doesn’t have a significant number of allies or controls other states like the Soviets did. The BRI is still in the works for that. China perhaps mistimed its breakout.

But the Iron Curtain 2.0 will retain the similarity of its earlier avatar. The battle is going to be for attaining technological, economic and ideological supremacy with democratic countries, led by the US on one side and China on the other with its authoritarian model and its growing technological prowess.

There could be an alliance of democracies that will promote rule of law, open and transparent systems and economic cooperation within them which will incentivise democracies around the world and sanction authoritarianism.

The author is editor of Defence Forum India. He is a commentator on defence and strategic affairs. He tweets @YusufDFI. Views are personal.

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18 COMMENTS

  1. Bells of WW3 are being heard ringing again in South China Sea during April , 2020. Despite working to control a pandemic that first came into being in Wuhan – China around December 2019 , Beijing has not reduced its activities in the South China Sea , a strategic waterway through which one-third of global shipping flows. Some appear to be suspecting that Chinese govt survey ship Haiyang Dizhi may be there to explore oil. It is strange that China can afford to divert much of its focus to South China Sea while battling with a deadly novel coronavirus. News reports around 21 April , 2020 , indicate that the USS America , an amphibious assault ship and the USS Bunker Hill , a guided missile cruiser , entered contested waters off Malaysia. At the same time , a Chinese govt ship in the area has for days reportedly tailing a Malaysian State oil company ship carrying out exploratory drilling. The news reports also claim that the Australian frigate HMAS Parramatta and arrived near the US warships in April 2020 , to join the US Navy. These developments in the South China Sea by just a week to May 2020 have the potential of triggering something dangerous , could even be WW3. In this context , it is relevant to refer readers to 11 November , 2019 predictive alerts of this Vedic astrology writer in article – “ Astrological probable alerts for 2020” – published at wisdom-magazine.com/Article.aspx/5176/ on 1 January , 2020. The related text of the predictive alert reads like this in the said article :-
    “ Predictive Conclusions
    4. The months of April to June , particularly May-June in 2020 , look to be trending into the scene serious worrisome landscapes. THERE COULD BE SOME WAR OR WAR –LIKE CONDITIONS ACROSS THE WORLD , WHICH THE US MAY BE CALLED UPON TO ADDRESS. SEA OR OIL REGIONS OR SUCH STUFF SEEMS TO BE CALLING ATTENTION. More care and appropriate strategy may be taken during April to June , particularly May-June in 2020 , against spill or loss of such stuff as are known for repugnant and repulsive smell through air passage. It may be alright to take pre-emptive measures against potential leakage or spill of oil-gas in vulnerable regions or locations during the said period of time”.
    Such dates of May as 6 , 7 , 13 , 14 , 15 , 16 , 25 and 26 ; and such dates of June as 3 , 4 , 11 , 12 , 21 and 22 may be kept in view.
    Further , this writer had contributed the following predictive alert last year 2019 on 18 November , to the opinion piece by Mr. Madhav Nalapat published at sundayguardianlive.com/news/warzones-heat-us-china-conflict-continues :-

    “ kushal kumar says :
    November 18 , 2019 at 7 : 44 am
    This Vedic astrology writer has been , for some years past , making yearly predictions every October-November before commencement of new year for nations like India , Singapore , Japan , Canada , Italy and the U.S. In relation to coming year 2020 , this writer’s predictive alerts for more care and appropriate strategy were published as early as on 10 October , 2019 through article – “ Predictions for world in coming year 2020 by kushal kumar” – at theindiapost.com. Singapore and Japan in coming year 2020 have been covered in October 2019 by bringing those to public domain widely. The U.S. predictions for 2020 have been submitted to Wisdom Magazine for publication in its monthly Webzine. It is expected to be published on 1 December 2019. In relation to worrisome concerns of war , there could be even some kind of WW3 , April to June in 2020 have been indicated as potential time. In any case , even if better wisdom prevails not to venture WW3 , widespread catastrophic times involving huge shortages , disease and destruction , massive earthquakes , floods , storms and the like look to be likely in vulnerable regions and countries , deep economic stress or disaster during the said period”.
    It is a well known history that South China Sea continues to be a disputed territory between Republic of China on the one side and Indonesia , Taiwan , Philippines , Taiwan , Malaysia and Vietnam on the other side. The International Court of Justice had given verdict in favor of other nations also but China continues to assert its territorial sovereignty over the sea. During the spread of COVID-19 in Europe also in the present times , it may be that China may not be continuing to enjoy their support as much as it was in pre-Covid19 days. So China may have to think many times before it can make a further move.

  2. Covid-19 = China’s weapon of global aggression and world domination
    We are not in the same skin as the Chinese. We are their victims, not fellow sufferers. Why would one develop a laboratory-modified virus if he does not want to endanger those he consider competitors, or to strengthen the dependency of economies whose independence and self-sufficiency one intend to exhaust, destroy and economically subordinate? Let’s finally look at China as the international aggressor who has found this subtle weapon to control the world. The Chinese have found a smart solution how to counter the aggressive potential of the devastating military weapons at the disposal of the USA, France, Great Britain and Russia, while at the same time presenting themselves as the promoter of its global progress. What prevents us to think that everything was planned in advance by a totalitarian Chinese state? Why was Europe and the rest of the world attacked by virus, not Beijing and Shanghai?
    And the subsequent emergence of a second wave of covid-19 infestation in China is just a fals news of China’s vulnerability, as to cover up China’s original intent – a global aggressor.
    European and other scientists who collaborated with China for a personal gain on the Covid-19 design project cannot hide behind the freedom of scientific research. They must become subject to investigation and prosecution as terrorists by the judiciary of countries whose health and survival have been compromised.

  3. USA is most unreliable country, to cover up its misdeeds it always blames other countries. It is 1918 influenza, originated in Haskell county, Kansas,USA and put the name as Spanish flu.
    The origin is not the concern, it is the remedy ,how soon it is found is important. It is not beneficial to any one to blame one another with out evidence.

  4. Rubbish. On which planet was Unjhawala when Madeline Lewinsky Clinton shredded the Reagan Gorby delas, took the Baltics into NATO and bombed Yugaslavia for 84 days to provide the Catholic insurgents and invading Taliban with air cover? And, inter alia, exercised US unipolarity to lob a missile into the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade?The World has always been in a State of Cold War since the formation of the United Nations at various levels of severity.
    That said, yes, as 156,000 humans die from China’s bio weapon in a matter of weeks, the chances of China’s economy, in the word of Paul Krugman is “Never”.

  5. @rahul brother how educated are you to claim this. Please let me reiterate it again how ignorant can you be? Kindly be rational and show some empathy to the people who have died.

  6. It’s time for India to raise itself from all these lessons around it . If still our politicians think they can live self centred and corrupted it’s sooner than later that we may have to surrender our identity .This will catapult us from British Raj to Chinese raj where we cannot have any reprieve from then on. So it’s right time for India to create a well planned charter for next 50 years whosoever in the Power .

  7. American reaction to WHO is clearly political. As far as other nations approach to China is concerned as usual it will be as per their own interest. This is a propaganda article.

  8. I presume the US will walk out of the WHO for sure and this will result in a political spat in the UN, which could lead to – WHO IS WHO ? And there would be reshuffling and realignment of the UN. New members could be brought in. And the Veto powers could be dissolved or multi shared. China’s expanding nefarious designs to become a Super Power will truncated. Russia, and US will become close friends challenging the Chines Yellow Race domination. India will be well recognized in the New World Order.

    • @Elstan Anthony: I hope your prediction comes true for India!
      Today though, India is attacked by the Christian west & communist China along with their stupid, disposable, low cost weapon of Islam/Muslims!

  9. It was only a matter of time before the coronavirus pandemic started to show a rupture in Western relations with China. Today, the market got some of the first hints of a rising probability of “decoupling”.
    Evidence came today in the form of two BBC reports, one of the U.K. government of Boris Johnson (who has COVID-19 now) saying there would be ramifications for China failing to share how they stopped the virus from spreading. One such punishment was getting rid of Huawei in their 5G program. FORBES

  10. Depends on who wins the election in the US. I seriously doubt Biden has it in him to fight a cold or hot war with China and her allies.

    • @Shalini: Christian America & the west is just about sold out and too afraid of China!! China has bought out Islam & Pakistan too!! The stupid west is also taking on India/Hindus before it becomes another China (you can see the signals of this in western press)!!

      Meanwhile, America & the west is on it’s knees humiliated by Pakistan/China by surrendering to the Taliban!! It was Funny if wasn’t serious, how the once mighty west has started surrendering..!!

      Else, In 1985, when Hezbollah kidnapped four Russian diplomats in Beirut, killing one, Moscow’s retaliation was swift. A Hezbollah commander began receiving body parts of a close relative through the mail. Hezbollah released the remaining hostages and never took another Russian!!

      I told the above story to say that enough is enough of Gandhiwaad!! India must now be very aggressive against it’s internal & external enemies! It also has to work, more than ever before, towards it’s economic & technical prowess!! If not, we risk being overwhelmed by inimical break India forces In India, in our neighborhood & across the world!!

      • Well said!
        But we cannot give up on Gandhivaad yet.
        We will have to master the art of invoking / using Gandhi but ultimately doing what suits us the best.
        Doing this will us more space to maneuver and a clear ak of morality as well. Gandhi is still a huge brand and respected figure worldwide and throwing away his legacy isn’t wise.

  11. This article is misleading and biased against China.
    1) China never said that they will stop madical supplies if countries will not accept huawei 5 G
    2) we don’t know where virus originated but this person is claiming that it originated in China,
    So many facts are misleading. This also a kind of fake news. Plz make sure if you have aim of providing unbiased and fair information to public, you must be fair in yourself. Thank you

    • @Rahul – You are clearly misinformed & highly ignorant!! Sorry to say, but people like you make me think of how the communist/SICK-ularist’s/urban naxals defend the EVIL perpetrated by the “peaceful” against India/Hindus & the world!!

      China #CCP Is completely responsible for this carnage!! Long after doctors in Wuhan had concluded human transmission was ongoing, China #CCP government insisted human transmission was impossible!! The CORRUPT, INCOMPETENT & COMPROMISED World Health Organization too assented to that conclusion!!

      China also lied About the Number of COVID-19 Deaths: The death figures reported by the Chinese Communist regime may be less than 10% of the actual number. The production of coffins, telephone cancellations, and intelligence reports all point to this.

      Xi, needs to be declared a war criminal for his miserable handling (and deceitful and non-transparent methods) of the Chinavirus issue!! #CCP China cannot be allowed to get away with what they have unleashed on all human kind. And this is not being racist. Just real.

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