On 28 August 2020, Takshashila Institution hosted the first #DeepWebinar in the China Challenge Series in partnership with Hudson Institute. The session focused on the impact of China’s rise on the future of the world order and included Ambassador Nirupama Menon Rao, former foreign secretary of India and Ambassador Husain Haqqani, the director for South and Central Asia, Hudson Institute as panelists. Pranay Kotasthane, Head of Research, Takshashila Institution, anchored the discussion as the host. Hamsini Hariharan (Yenching Scholar, Peking University), Shreya Upadhyay (Principal Risk Analyst, India Bound) and Akshay Alladi (Alumnus, GCPP Programme) joined the #DeepWebinar as discussants, posing thoughtful questions and providing insightful comments.
The conversation began with Ambassador Rao stating that given the rise of China and the United States’ attempts to counter it, the world must be prepared “for disruption and disequilibrium”. In her view, the future of Taiwan seems especially bleak. The threat to Taiwan is also a test for the USA. Its legitimacy as a global power would depend, Amb. Rao asserted, on whether the US is able to keep China in check or merely watches as Taiwan is gobbled up by the PRC. She concluded her opening thoughts by cautioning that India ignores China at its own peril.
Ambassador Haqqani then underlined the complicity of the liberal world order in China’s rise. He pointed out that the US–and by extension, the liberal, democratic world–bought into the Chinese Communist Party’s narrative of China’s rise being a peaceful, non-threatening one. In the process, China was allowed to engage in trade practices that virtually undermined the trade order. He concluded his opening thoughts by reminding the audience that the US remained the world’s most powerful country militarily and wondered if it could use its military might to counter China without waging war.
Pranay Kotasthane then enquired what India ought to do to respond to the volatile world order, to which Amb. Rao responded by stating that the discourse would become much more important for India. She stressed that the post-COVID-19 world order might not be a kind one for India. It is likely that to become more brutish and inward-looking, and therefore India must be cautious in its foreign policy, willing to engage with a diverse variety of nations on different issues.
Ambassador Haqqani then brought in the American point of view. The US, he said, looks at the world as allies and non-allies. Thus, much like India’s Non-Alignment during the Cold War, India’s cautious, non-belligerent approach towards China is likely to irk it. Amb. Haqqani also stressed on the importance of US domestic politics on its approach towards China. A Biden presidency, he said, in contrast to that of Trump, would be driven less by rhetoric and more by concrete action.
The discussants then asked the panelists about their views on China’s centenary goals, (Hamsini Hariharan), the role of BRI in a post-COVID-19 world (Shreya Upadhyay) and what should the US and India not do in trying to tackle China (Akshay Alladi).
Ambassador Rao reckoned that China’s centenary goals are playing out in the present and that India must act immediately, without waiting for a decade or so in order to comprehend Chinese ambitions. As regards to BRI, she asserted that its trajectory is not only going to determine the future of the world order but also the well being of countries, their sovereignty and freedom.
Ambassador Haqqani, in response to Akshay Alladi’s question said that the US must realize that not every nation wishes to be a military ally. The US cannot try and erect, he warned, a NATO-like partnership in South China.
The conversation concluded with Amb. Haqqani stressing that India and the US must take advantage of the increasing animosity that China’s belligerent actions in the Indo-Pacific and along its borders have harvested.
About the Takshashila Institution
The Takshashila Institution is an independent center for research and education in public policy. It is a non-partisan, non-profit organisation that advocates the values of freedom, openness, tolerance, pluralism and responsible citizenship.
The Takshashila Institution seeks to transform India through better public policies, bridging the governance gap by developing better public servants, civil society leaders, professionals and informed citizens.
About Hudson Institute
Founded in 1961 by strategist Herman Kahn, Hudson Institute challenges conventional thinking and helps manage strategic transitions to the future through interdisciplinary studies in defense, international relations, economics, health care, technology, culture, and law.
Hudson guides public policymakers and global leaders in government and business through a vigorous program of publications, conferences, policy briefings, and recommendations.
The video of the #DeepWebinar can be assessed on Takshashila Institution’s Youtube Channel.