China is keeping an eye on the business prospect even in Marshall Islands

Perhaps the Chinese have a greater sense of history than the Soviet Union and the United States-led West and are waiting for their chance to come and strike at an appropriate time, gathers Soroor Ahmed

China, where the Communist Party recently held its 20th Congress, unlike the then Soviet Union and the United States and other European colonial powers of the past, has expanded its area of influence across the planet without firing a single shot and without losing a single soldier as well as without thrusting its political ideology in any far off country.

No doubt, it has set up bases in Djibouti and Sri Lanka and reached the warm waters of the Arabian Sea by getting access to the port of Gwadar in Pakistan – but in doing so it has to lose nothing.

In contrast, the erstwhile Soviet Union on December 27, 1979 rushed over one lakh strong military personnel to Afghanistan, keeping in mind two clear cut goals. The first one was to overcome the bloody feud between the Parcham (Flag) and Khalq (People) factions of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, the then ruling outfit of Communist Afghanistan. Though both the factions were considered close to Moscow, the tussle within was taking a huge political toll and embarrassing the Soviet Union. The second objective was to reach the coast of Balochistan (a region divided between Pakistan and Iran) by any means, military or otherwise.

It was thought that once these objectives are achieved, they would increase the influence of Soviet Union in the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean theatre after the overthrow of pro-US Shah of Iran in a revolution on February 11, 1979.

But in the process of imposing its Communist ideology in Afghanistan and suppressing the resistance by Mujahideen, the Soviet Union got bogged down in an unending bloodletting and lost thousands of soldiers. After almost a decade it had to make a retreat. By the end of 1991, the great Communist empire got dismembered. The 11 countries of the Communist bloc of East Europe subsequently slipped out of Moscow’s hand and later became allies of the West. In the process of controlling the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean it lost everything and had to struggle to even keep its hold on the Black Sea.

The Soviet Union had not only sent its forces in neighbouring Afghanistan, but had earlier directly or indirectly intervened in Angola in the south western Africa, Cuba, (to name a few) as well as several other countries of Asia, Africa, Latin America and East Europe.

The post-World War II United States too had lost heavily in Vietnam and burnt its finger in Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, and several other countries of Asia, South America and Africa.

The process of expansion by the US and rump Russia is still going on. A much-weakened Russia had, without learning anything from history, poked its nose in Syria and fought wars with Georgia and Ukraine. The United States is still busy inducting more and more countries in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Its good friends in the West, Britain and France in particular, are also working overtime and using all sorts of hard and soft powers to expand their influence in various nooks and corners of the world. They have had mixed result in their efforts.

Contrary to this, the 101-year-old Communist Party of China has virtually given up the idea of exporting its ideology after the rise of Deng Xiaoping as the supreme leader of the country over four decades back.

True, Maoist China fought war against the US-led western alliance in Korea between 1950 and 1953, with India in 1962 and invaded Vietnam in 1979. But ever since then it has not indulged in bloody confrontation with any other country.

Though it has done a lot of muscle flexing in and around South China Sea, East China Sea and on lofty Himalayas yet Beijing till now has not crossed the limit. Even during the recent Congress of the Communist Party of China, President Xi Jinping resorted to controlled rhetoric over Taiwan. In the same way, China has on and off been making claim over Senkaku Islands of Japan.

China has boundary dispute with India and has often made claim over some small islands of the neighbouring countries.

But, barring these issues, one cannot say that Chinese soldiers are busy fighting in any country of remote Africa, Asia, Europe or western hemisphere. It has no ambition to militarily control Caribbean islands to checkmate the United States as the Soviet Union used Cuba six decades ago.

On the other hand, it is Washington which has military bases in South Korea and Japan and naval presence in the vicinity of China. The tension increased in the region after the visit of Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, to Taiwan on August 2-3 last.

If China has historical territorial disputes with neighbouring countries of the region, it is nothing unusual. Many countries of the world are locked in such conflicts with their neighbours. In the name of nationalism, the European powers had fought two World Wars in the 20th century.

Instead of achieving military objective in the distant land and thrusting its ideology – as was done during the time of Chairman Mao Zedong (1949-1976) – China today is busy in increasing its business empire all over the globe. Even its rivals, the US, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea or European countries cannot ignore it on this count as they are aware of its importance.

At present, it may not venture to set up military base anywhere in the Pacific Ocean or Atlantic Ocean but it is definitely keeping an eye on the business prospect even in Marshall Islands, which was under US administration till 1979 and is still a significant outpost of Washington.

China knows both its strength and weakness. This strategy has some similarity with that adopted by the European powers in the 16th and 17th centuries, that is before they actually became militarily strong and went on to conquer the world. From traders, they went on to become the rulers of the world.

Perhaps the Chinese have a greater sense of history than the Soviet Union and the United States-led West and are waiting for their chance to come and strike at an appropriate time.

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