That Chinese President Xi Jinping has bitten more than he can chew has been evident for quite some time. It seems that even the jingoists, including those in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), are becoming uneasy with Xi’s unrestrained aggression.
Major General Qiao Liang (Retd), one of the two authors of Unrestricted Warfare, kind of bible for Chinese imperialists, said in an interview on Monday, “If Beijing wants to take Taiwan back by force, it will need to mobilize all its resources and power to do this… You shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket. It’s too costly.”
In April this year too, he had recorded restraint over Taiwan.
In the same month, Wu Shicun, another hawk, had favored de-escalation of tension between China and the US over the South China Sea.
In May, Global Times editor-in-chief Hu Xijin seems worried about confrontation with the US. He wrote on his Weibo account in May: “Honestly, America today won’t back off before crippling China!”
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi is also worried. In a speech on July 9, he said, “Alarmingly, China-US relations, one of the most consequential bilateral relationships in the world, is (sic) faced with the most severe challenge since the establishment of diplomatic ties.” This was followed with an assurance: “…aggression and expansion are never in the genes of the Chinese nation throughout its 5,000 years of history.”
And a conciliatory note: “Some friends in the US might have become suspicious or even wary of a growing China. I’d like to stress here again that China never intends to challenge or replace the US, or have full confrontation with the US.”
Still further, “China and the US should not seek to remodel each other. Instead, they must work together to find ways of peaceful coexistence of different systems and civilizations.”
Much of what Wang said is fabrication and dissembling, but his statement and others’ remarks seem to indicate there some realization in China that Xi has made many more enemies than their country can handle at any point of time.
It needs to be mentioned here that even somebody as belligerent and expansionist as Hitler ensured one-front engagement when he began the Second World War. On August 23, 1939, a Nazi-Soviet pact was signed, which kept his military free on the eastern front. He turned on Stalin’s Russia only after he had brought Europe, save Great Britain, under his control. And even Britain, majorly enfeebled by German attacks, had ceased to be a threat to the Third Reich.
When Hitler attacked Russia on June 22, 1941, he had nothing to worry on the western front. That he and his Axis partners eventually lost is another story, but till he was in control of the situation on the European continent, he avoided a two-front war.
Xi, however, appears to be reckless in his aggression. On the west, China is engaged with India at Galwan; in the South China Sea, it has the US Navy. Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan, smaller nations—the neighborhood in the east is hostile in general. And then there is Australia. And the growing friendship between India, the US, Australia, and Japan—the Quad.
Power, Lord Acton said, corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This has happened with Xi. Will he listen to the warnings of hawks and experts? It’s too early to hazard a guess, for those corrupted by power often overestimate their own strength and underestimate that of their enemies’..