India’s Modi Supplants Trump as China’s Toughest Global Adversary

(L to R) Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attend the Dialogue of Emerging Market and Developing Countries on the sidelines of the 2017 BRICS Summit in Xiamen, southeastern China's Fujian Province on September 5, 2017.
WU HONG/AFP/Getty Images

Amid military hostilities with China and leading the world’s only concrete plan to decouple from the Communist Party’s monopoly on manufacturing, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has emerged as the leader of the free world’s fight to contain Beijing, assuming a role now mostly vacated by President Donald Trump.

Trump won his first presidential election largely on a promise to be tough on China after decades of criticizing his predecessors for allowing China to secure a stranglehold over the world economy and America’s economy in particular. China currently manufactures more goods than anywhere else in the world and overpowers local economies by monopolizing the manufacture not just of complete goods, but of parts necessary for more complex goods all along the world’s supply chains. Anyone nearly anywhere in the world making anything from antibiotics to computers is enriching the Chinese Communist Party.

“We can’t continue to allow China to rape our country and that’s what they’re doing. It’s the greatest theft in the history of the world,” Trump asserted at a 2016 campaign rally.

At a different campaign event, Trump vowed to “instruct my Treasury Secretary to label China a currency manipulator. Any country that devalues their currency in order to take advantage of the United States will be met with sharply,” a promise he only temporarily kept.

Shortly after his election, Trump put an exclamation point at the end of his anti-communist China policy by accepting a phone call from Taiwanese President Tsai-ing wen simply congratulating him on his win, a precedent-shattering act that aroused the ire of the Chinese, who refuse to accept the reality of Taiwanese sovereignty and see Tsai as the leader of a rogue separatist movement.

Now, embroiled in what polls indicate may be an even fiercer battle as an incumbent than four years prior, Trump has significantly changed his public attitude towards China, touting his “phase one trade deal,” which strengthened the link between Beijing and America’s agricultural sector, as the flagship success of his China policy.

“I made a great deal [with China], $250 billion potentially worth of purchases,” Trump boasted in an interview on Sunday. “And by the way, they’re buying a lot, you probably have seen.”

Asked directly why he had not imposed sanctions on Chinese officials for building concentration camps for Muslim ethnic minorities in the west of the country, Trump replied, “well, we were in the middle of a major trade deal, and when you’re in the middle of a negotiation and then all of a sudden you start throwing additional sanctions on – we’ve done a lot. I put tariffs on China, which are far worse than any sanction you can think of.”

Trump insisted he wanted dictator Xi Jinping “to do business with this country.”

Trump’s attitude towards Beijing does not appear to correlate to the national popular sentiment in America, particularly after months of mass death at the hands of a virus the Communist Party allowed to cause a pandemic through secrecy and repression. A Pew Research poll published in April found record-high unfavorability towards China among American respondents, including 62 percent of Democrats. The same percentage described China as a “major” threat to the United States. Asked about Xi Jinping personally, 71 percent of Americans said they had “no confidence” in him.

Polls show that Australians, Filipinos, Kenyans, Indians, and a growing chorus of other nationals around the world have seen their opinions sour on China in recent history, not only as a product of the Chinese coronavirus pandemic but in response to China’s colonization projects, such as its illegal reclamation of the South China Sea and the “Belt and Road” infrastructure initiative. Confronting communist China is a popular move and, if Trump chooses not to answer that mandate, he leaves a vacuum for another world leader to fill.

Across China’s western border, India had already begun plans to usurp some of its manufacturing power before a bloody hand-to-hand brawl erupted between the two countries’ soldiers last week. In May, following the publication of a bombshell report accusing 83 international companies of using Uyghur Muslim slave labor to manufacture products in China, Bloomberg News revealed that Modi’s government was making a power play literally twice the size of the nation of Luxembourg for Chinese factory clients. According to Bloomberg, India was planning to set apart that much land to offer competitive deals to international companies seeking to leave China and build trustworthy factories elsewhere.

A week later, Apple announced it would move a significant amount of its iPhone production out of China and into India.

It took about a month since that announcement for Chinese soldiers to club their Indian counterparts to death with sticks wrapped in barbed wire.

Last week’s incident, Indian outlets assert, began when Indian soldiers in the Ladakh region of the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the mutual border between India and China, found that People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers had erected a tent on Indian territory. When confronted about their incursion into the area, known as the Galwan Valley, the PLA soldiers attacked with the aforementioned sticks as well as rocks and other rudimentary weapons. Some Indian soldiers were flung off the Himalayan cliffs while others died of hypothermia. India confirmed the deaths of 20 soldiers; the Chinese refuse to offer a casualty count, but Indian government officials have said the Chinese lost twice that number, a humiliating defeat after reportedly triggering the aggression.

The official Communist Party line on the incident is that the entirety of the Galwan Valley is Chinese — a surprise to New Delhi — and that “none of the responsibility lies with China.”

What was once the subject of reports whispered anonymously to international news media became an all-out national campaign to economically decouple from China. Indian citizens, many supporters of Modi, burned dictator Xi Jinping in effigy and started an online “challenge” where participants film themselves throwing Chinese-made products in the trash. Chinese state media has arrogantly asserted that, with its economic dominance complete, boycotting China is a “suicide” mission, but India has become the world’s first major nation to begin proving Beijing wrong.

The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), a merchant advocacy group, has lobbied some of the richest businessmen in the country to help them boycott Chinese products by manufacturing more items in India. The government is aiding the endeavor by making “made in” country labels mandatory on products sold on its official Government e-Marketplace. On Wednesday, the Indian outlet WION reported that ports in India are not only stopping Chinese goods but Chinese-made goods from American companies like Apple from entering the country.

“India levies anti-dumping duties on 90 Chinese products. So the plan is to slap this on at least 300 more products. There are at least 40 sectors in the Indian industry that can make these products — with a much better quality,” WION reported. “These moves are unprecedented. This is India’s biggest clean-up of imports from one country.”

The boycott has just begun, and Indians expect more challenges to China ahead, polls show. One such survey published Wednesday by the IANS news service and the pollster CVoter found that 60 percent of Indians believe China has “still hasn’t gotten a befitting reply” for its attack on the Indian border but 74 percent trust Modi’s government on national security, suggesting their support is contingent on Modi being more, not less, aggressive towards China.

The Galwan Valley massacre has prompted the full-throated challenge to China’s economic dominance that many Americans voted for when they elected Trump in 2016. Indians’ support for a boycott on China and for a bold government response to Beijing indicates that American sentiments on the Communist Party are not an anomaly internationally. The concrete steps New Delhi is taking to boycott China, with a much weaker economy at home than America’s and a similarly dire Chinese coronavirus epidemic at home, shows that eliminating China from national supply chains is not a fantasy. If India can do it, Americans devastated by the “free trade” policies that built modern China may soon realize, so can the United States.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

.

Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.