KATHMANDU, Nepal, 14 September 2016
The old English dictum “the sun never sets on the British Empire” resonated in the 19th and 20th century during the British colonial rule. It was the voice of arrogance, the vanity of the rulers of the British Empire consequent upon the immensity of the power they wielded over mankind. However for the ruled, this dictum meant untold miseries of oppression, suppression, torture, killing, and exploitation at the hands of the British Empire. One ‘maha atma’ armed only with the indomitable spirit of man, truth, non-violence, and humility set out to make matters straight. Winston Churchill, the then Prime Minister of his Imperial Majesty, disdainfully addressed him as the half-naked fakir.
The sun would set and Great Britain would lose the brightest jewel from its crown because of this one man, the half-naked fakir, Mahatma Gandhi.
India gained independence in 1947 and a year later Mahatma Gandhi was no more, but after about a decade, the indomitable spirit of man, truth, nonviolence, and humility reincarnated in the same country India via Tibet, this time not in the form of a naked fakir but as a simple Buddhist monk, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and he strides the world no less.
Just like the naked fakir, His Holiness has to suffer the ignominy of harsh and arrogant words and deeds, this time not from the British but from Chinese Communist Imperialism, no less powerful and much more despotic than the British Empire. However there is a remarkable difference in the approach to the gigantic issue faced by these two great souls. Mahatma Gandhi involved the masses and adopted a non-cooperation movement, hartals and bandhs, hunger strikes, Quit India movement, etc., whereas His Holiness deliberately does not involve anyone for fear of causing pain to them. He himself does nothing spectacular, and only preaches loving kindness and compassion. However his very presence is sufficient to bring the Tibet issue to the fore. Wherever he goes Tibet’s plight is highlighted not by him but by China by their scathing attacks on him and his host, which inadvertently wins him and Tibet’s cause the sympathy of the host as well as the world. He shows immense patience for truth and time to take its toll.
There is an old Chinese proverb “Humility receives benefits; arrogance invites ruin.” Prior to 1979, China was a struggling, destitute, war-devastated and famine-stricken country, but humble. True to this proverb, its humble beginnings enabled it to receive support from the rest of the world as soon as it embarked in 1979 to open economy and globalization. Till the end of the 70s, China’s trade with the rest of the world was only 6% of GNP, but in the 80s this figure accelerated to 20% of GNP. And in 2013 China surpassed the United States as the largest trading nation in the world. By 2015, China’s total foreign trade value was US$3,956 billion. Foreign investment also poured into China and in 2002, it surpassed the USA as the world’s major recipient of FDI. By the end of 2015, cumulative FDI in China was US$1,639 billion.
External trade and external FDI have been the two dominant factors for China’s miraculous growth into the second largest economy in the world, and concomitant growth in military power. But all this is history for the present-day power structure in Beijing. Arrogance rules the roost. Within the country, the slightest opposition is dealt with mercilessly, and the door to natural justice remains shut. Anybody from outside expressing a voice of concern and sanity is promptly and sternly warned not to interfere in internal affairs of China.
The biggest concern, however, to the rest of the world today is the legacy of Tibet. The untruth, that Tibet was not an independent nation and was a part of China, nurtured by the outside world just to appease China, is back to haunt them with a vengeance. China now bays for more blood for territorial claims, backed by deployment of military forces in the South China Seas, Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh, Taiwan Strait, Japan’s Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, etc. Apart from the proximate nations other countries like Australia and USA have also been embroiled in these disputes. Arrogance has also made China mired in diplomatic flashpoints, the Queen of England finding them very rude, scathing diatribe of China’s FM on a journalist in Canada, suspension of diplomatic relations with Taiwan, machination to bar India from NSG, and last but not the least, the snubbing of the US President at the airport during the G20 Summit.
The road to ruin appears to have been opened, and seeing how dependent Chinese economy is on external parameters it may prove to be catastrophic for China. Though China still retains the premier position of largest trading nation since 2013, its foreign trade declined by 8% last year, and India surpassed China as the top destination for foreign investment. Foreign investment in China is shifting from manufacturing to the financial sector, and signs of flight of foreign capital are already visible, indicative of the loss of investor confidence. China’s Forex reserve fell by $15.89 billion in August 2016 to its lowest level since 2011.
Countries like Australia, UK, and US have suspended vital contracts with China. A $7.6 billion Chinese bid for buying a majority stake in state-owned Ausgrid was blocked by Australia. The UK is dilly-dallying over the approval of the GBP18 billion Henkley Point C nuclear power project. A High-speed rail project linking Las Vegas and Los Angeles was shelved by the USA.
If the external props are removed, China’s domestic sector may not be able to sustain itself, given the industrial over-capacity it has created. Its white elephant is the State sector enterprises and government debt, which was 43.90% of GDP as of 2015. Any downturn in economy can lead China to a disastrous turn of events and a situation like in erstwhile Soviet Union cannot be ruled out. The simple monk may after all emerge victorious just as the half-naked fakir did.
About the author
Laden Tshering Samdup is a retired businessman, living in Kathmandu. He has MA (Hons) economics from Birla Institute of Technology and Science from Pilani, Rajasthan, India. He can be reached c/o Boudha Peace School, Phulbari, Kathmandu, Nepal.
More articles by Laden Tshering Samdup on Tibet Sun.