It has been over three years since a coronavirus from the Chinese city of Wuhan invaded the world, plunging us all into one of history's worst extended crises and viral pandemics. The international community has struggled with COVID-19 and its variants with masks and sanitizers all these years. However, the year 2023 ushered in exposing the failure of Xi Jinping and his ill-conceived zero-COVID policy. People revolted, and the world saw China inundated with the coronavirus tsunami.
Even today, we see no respite from the virus. Currently, nearly 6.75 million have died. And the virus is still lurking around, with 23.3 million current cases in different variants (nearly 675 million cases in different variants from the outset).
China suppressed information, maintained a supercilious attitude, and pretended to be clean and ahead of others.
It looks at why, despite the country's deteriorating situation, is China flexing its muscle around antagonizing the pacifist neighbors in the Indo-Pacific regions. And how Japan and the international community should work together to deter the threats and dangers that China portends.
Will military alliances and acquisition of counterstrike capability be enough to keep the aggressors at bay?
Xi Jinping and the COVID-19 Pandemic
When the pandemic first spread in China in 2019, the authorities suppressed information. And the virus spread globally. Now that the world has gained some level of leverage and competency in containing the virus, it has burst open in China.
Xi Jinping's faulty zero-COVID policy backfired. This inhuman and draconian policy to hush the people by locking them inside unhygienic places with no proper food and medical facilities coerced them into the street and revolt.
It lifted it's zero-COVID measures. But China is now struggling with the virus of its own making, which Xi Jinping first tried to use as a Trojan horse to global hegemony. COVID-related death is surging, and crematoriums are booked and full.
It is estimated that over 250 million caught COVID in 20 days last December (2022) in China, and thousands are dying daily. Close to 60,000 people are reported to have died in just a few days after lifting the zero-COVID restrictive measures. Given the tight control over media, this could be the tip of the iceberg.
Governments worldwide are worried and fearful of another pandemic coming out of China. When some nations, including Japan and South Korea, announced a requirement for a negative PCR test result 72 hours prior to departure for anyone departing China, the latter retaliated with the suspension of visas for Japanese and South Korean citizens alone. This is how China conducts its wolf-warrior diplomacy, targeting close and easy prey.
Sending Infected People Abroad Under Xi Jinping
Now that China has the largest number of infection carriers, why is it encouraging people to travel abroad? This reflects the thinking and value system of the communist leadership.
Information from Tibet is scarce because of the strict and harsh measures adopted by the communist regime to stop contact with the outside world. It is wrong to presume that everything is fine in Tibet just because there is no news. It is precisely the opposite. Things are so strictly controlled, and the people are so traumatized that there is no space to vent their emotions.
More than 157 Tibetans have committed self-immolations since 2009 to protest the Chinese occupation of Tibet and the repressive rule.
At least five people committed suicide in 2022 in Lhasa and the suburbs to protest the inhuman treatment at the mass quarantine sites. From what little information trickling from Tibet, on January 2 alone, 64 bodies were cremated at the Drigung cemetery in Maldro Gongkar. And Kriti Monastery in Amdo is seeing 10 to 15 bodies every day seeking last funeral prayers.
Xi Jinping and Aggressive Diversions
Amidst all these crises in China and the occupied regions, instead of trying to control the pandemic and save the lives of its citizens and people around the world, Xi Jinping is using this opportunity to further tighten his grip on power.
Moreover, in attempting to divert the attention of the people, the communist leadership resorts to frequently used tactics. They provoke the democratic world outside, and make incursions across neighboring borders to incite Chinese nationalism and hush the dissents at home.
Not content with the iron grip it has on people in the country, China is policing the overseas Chinese. And it is doing the same for Tibetans, Uyghurs, and Southern Mongolians living overseas, through its dubious outposts far and beyond its borders.
Prominent countries where these outposts are identified are the United States, Japan, Italy, France, Britain, Germany, Hungary, and the Czech Republic, among other nations. This is the long arm of repressive Chinese law trying to control people beyond its border. We must strongly protest this overt attack on other nations's sovereignty.
China and Taiwan Belong to Chinese people:
The communists, under the leadership of Mao Zedong, took over China in 1949. They established the People's Republic of China (PRC) and forced the then government of the Republic of China (ROC) headed by Chiang Kai-shek to retreat to Taiwan. Both the ROC and PRC are the results of the Chinese people's aspiration to achieve a fair government for the people, by the people, and of the people.
The ROC later embraced the path of people-centered democracy, freedom, and the rule of law. Today, Taiwan is a multi-party democracy, ranking 94th on GDP per capita with a high record of civil liberties and a healthcare system. But mainland China, despite the promise of socialist paradise and dictatorship of the proletariat, is still under the tyranny of a repressive authoritarian regime.
In the International Community
When China was selling faulty medical gear around the world, Taiwan donated generously to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Taiwan was with the international community to battle the illness it caused, while China bossed around, ignored WHO, and obstructed independent research on the source of the virus.
Here, we can see the difference between a democratic entity and an authoritarian regime. A democratic government, however small, has greater potential and inclinations to contribute to humanity than a big totalitarian regime.
The world belongs to humanity, not this leader, that leader, kings or religious leaders. The world belongs to humanity. Each country belongs essentially to their own people.
If a nation belongs to the people and not to a government or a political party, the government in Taiwan is the legitimate government of the people of China. The Communist Chinese government is not legitimate because it is not the government for, by, and of the people. It is not the representative government which the Chinese people fought to achieve when they established a Republic a hundred years ago.
Aggressions in the Indo-Pacific Under Xi Jinping
Continued military aggressions by China in the South and East China seas and its wolf-warrior diplomacy have prompted the nations around the Indo-Pacific region to boost their military presence. The result of China's behavior is making the area highly dangerous and volatile.
Despite the 2016 ruling by an international tribunal in the Hague, China's incursions and reclamation activities have continued. It has further equipped the disputed reclaimed areas with military facilities and airstrips. And it has deployed anti-aircraft missile systems, fighter jets, and jamming equipment in the regions.
China made the Senkaku Islands a core issue out of nothing. It claimed ownership only after the US reverted the Islands to Japan in 1972 under the Okinawa Reversion Treaty. Then China invented a new status quo, making the Senkaku Islands a core issue. Chinese internal documents reveal that Xi Jinping vowed in 2016 to take over Senkaku Islands and other disputed islands in the Indo-Pacific regions stating that securing the Islands was a "heavy historical responsibility" for his generation. ]
Taiwan Threats from Xi Jinping
Xi Jinping is stated to have repeatedly said that China will unify Taiwan within his extended term. In addition, he has warned the Taiwanese people that independence would only bring profound disaster to Taiwan.
China fired missiles over Taiwan, some of which fell into Japan's exclusive economic zone, during US Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to the region in August 2022. China deployed 71 warplanes in a day for a "strike drill" at the year's end in December 2022 to force and intimidate the people of Taiwan to submission.
These constant aggressions and provocations have disturbed the peace in the Indo-Pacific regions. They have also warned the international community of another Ukraine-like situation brewing in the region.
Japan's Soft Power and Bold Leadership
China's continued provocation and intimidation have coerced Japan to adopt a more realistic policy of strategic deterrence to contain the red dragon's nagging fume. Japan recently increased its defense budget to strengthen its defense preparedness and to acquire counterstrike capability. As a country, it has every right to defend its land and territory.
Since adopting the war-renouncing postwar constitution, Japan has patiently tolerated Chinese incursions and threats with the hope that someday, a good sense would prevail over the communist neighbor.
But Xi Jinping's third term and his irresponsible rhetoric outbursts betray any promises of peaceful years ahead. Instead, China's maritime harassment and assertiveness have reached a stage where the Japanese parliament has been forced to debate the need for stronger self-defense through revision of the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution of Japan.
Parliamentarians Focus on Chinese Human Rights
Japan's lower house and its upper house also passed resolutions condemning China for violations of human rights and religious freedom in the occupied regions of Tibet, the Uyghur Autonomous Region, and Southern Mongolia in February and September 2022, respectively.
The Japanese Diet has called upon the government to monitor and remedy the serious human rights situation in cooperation with the international community.
Both houses of Japan's parliament have recognized the issue of human rights as not limited to the internal affairs of a single country but as a legitimate concern of the international community. Moreover, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's government appointed former Defense Minister Nakatani Gen as its International Human Rights Advisor.
Additionally, last September, Japanese parliamentarians formed a bipartisan Special Caucus to monitor Chinese human rights violations. Lawmaker Keiji Furuya was appointed as the Chairman. This will encourage and further confirm Japan's leadership and potential contributions in enhancing freedom, human rights, and democratic values worldwide.
In addition, US President Joe Biden has hailed Japanese Prime Minister Kishida's measures to reinforce Japan's defense capability as "bold leadership" to contain the threats from China, North Korea, and Russia.
Persevering to Attain Peace and Democracy
Japan suffered greatly during World War II, but it struggled and persevered to become one of the most peaceful, democratic, and developed nations. It has won respect and admiration of the international community.
The way Japan handled the Great East Japan Earthquake and the tsunami disasters in 2011 won millions of hearts. The Island nation inspired many countries and contributed significantly to promoting peace and development around the world.
Japan initiated the Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) concept to ensure peace and stability in the region and promote free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific. If democracy, freedom, and the rule of law are to prosper and survive, Japan's role and initiative in propagating these universal values should be supported and acknowledged.
Free and democratic countries around the world should join Japan and India, the two positive forces in Asia. And along with them, they should join the members of the Indo-Pacific Alliance (AUKUS) and the QUAD, to tame and pacify the destructive force of the totalitarian regimes threatening the world order.
This soft power of Japan needs to be activated to defuse the tension and pacify the irresponsible red dragon's assertive fury. The international community should stand with Japan in realizing this warm and compassionate side of Japanese culture in enlightening and educating the Chinese leadership.
Tibet, a Zone of Peace and Non-Violence
Tibet was once a military power in Central Asia. With the advent of Buddhism from India, however, Tibet renounced territorial aggressions and committed to the development of mind and inner peace.
Historically, Tibet played crucial roles in pacifying and negotiating peace for the warring neighboring states of Mongols, Gorkha, Manchu, and China. No wonder the Dalai Lamas, Sakya Lamas, and other high Tibetan lamas are still revered in these countries and the neighboring Himalayan regions.
The Dalai Lama's government was governed through "Choe-srid nyiden" policy, where the country was ruled through religious ethics based on the Buddhist teachings of peace and non-violence. This concept of governance has ensured peace and stability in the country and neighboring regions.
Tibet may not be a materially developed nation, but it is highly developed in terms of spiritualism and the inner science of mind. Just like Japanese Shinto, Tibetan's indigenous faith, Bon religion, respects hills, mountains, rivers, and forests as the abode of gods and deities. Conquering nature and exploiting it to satisfy human greed was taboo for them.
Himalayan mountains, glaciers, rivers, and grasslands were safe in the Tibetans' hands. Tibetans lived in peace and hoped to spread this message of peace to the world.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama has proposed to make Tibet a zone of peace, free of military installations and conflict, where the international community and all faiths could come and learn to spread the message of peace and non-violence around the world.
A Continuum of Danger
Unfortunately, with the coming of Communist power in China in 1949, China invaded Tibet brutally under the guise of "peaceful liberation." Despite the repeated plea for help, the United Nations and the international community sacrificed Tibet to appease the communist aggressions and avoid confrontation.
Tibet's border with the Himalayan states of Nepal, India, and Bhutan, which was most peaceful in the past, has now become very dangerous and militarized. This is due to continuous border incursions from China.
Today Tibet has become one of the most militarized zones threatening peace and stability around the region. But a dream and hope of Tibet as a zone of peace is still relevant.
With the Chinese occupation of Tibet, India and the neighboring countries are faced with continuous border incursions from China. If Xi's threat is to be taken literally, Taiwan is in grave danger.
Communist rule over Taiwan would jeopardize peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific regions. International norms and universal value systems based on freedom, democracy, and the rule of law will suffer, and a situation like Tibet and Ukraine will proliferate.
Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar, a noted Indian leader and the father of the Indian constitution, said, "By letting China take over Tibet, we have brought the enemy to our border." True to his word, China's constant border incursions have left India, Nepal, and Bhutan's borders highly militarized and volatile.
If the current communist regime were to take over Taiwan, the peace and stability of the Indo-Pacific regions and to the world would be greatly disturbed. The consequences would be disastrous.
Imminent Danger and the Way Out!
Military deterrence is necessary to counter the threat posed by China. But too much emphasis on arms and military deterrence may not be conducive to peace. Instead, we need to explore the human aspect of resolving conflicts.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama has rightly said,
The 20th century has been a century of war. We must make the 21st century a century of dialog and peace.
Therefore, the promotion of the international and universal values of freedom, democracy, and the rule of law is crucial. Chinese people have never tasted the joy and freedom of democracy and the rule of law for which they once fought. For that reason, the world should be more assertive in educating and enlightening the Communist leadership so that through dialog, mutual understanding and respect could be developed. If that happens, a cordial environment promising peace and stability for humanity should be the result.
Japan's war-renouncing constitution and its role in the Free and Open Indo-Pacific alliance have great potential to inspire the international community. And they can open the eyes of the communist neighbor to take a more reasonable and peaceful approach to alleviate the difference through dialog rather than missiles.
Realization of His Holiness the Dalai Lama's concept of Tibet as a zone of peace, and Japan's vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific, can contribute greatly to disarming the regions and making this world a better place to live and breathe in. Japan, strengthening its defense, must also build on this soft power to counter the Chinese assertiveness in the South and East China seas.
Democracy is inevitable. History has shown that people cannot be subjugated for long because the human spirit is free and unfathomable.
With his term extended for an historic additional five years and absolute authority over the politburo, Xi Jinping may be feeling invincible and strong. But he must know that nothing is permanent.
The world, including China, is on high alert because of his obstinate and corrosive lust for power. His third term, which he acquired through unscrupulous means, may be his eventual undoing. Just like he forced Hu Jintao out of the Chinese Communist Party National Congress, his day, too, will come. Mao, Deng, and Jiang have come and gone, and so will Xi.
Justice and righteousness are fundamental truths essential to our existence. But we should be bold enough to raise our voices whenever injustices are perpetrated anywhere.
It is refreshing to hear Japanese Prime Minister Kishida saying he will not mince words with China when necessary.
True, to avoid ambiguity, Japan should be clear and concise about what it wants to convey to its communist neighbor. The land of the rising Sun has great potential to harness the fiery red dragon, not through tanks and missiles but through the message of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the goodwill of the international community. While working on defense preparedness, Japan should explore this side of its soft power.
The international community should support Japan's bold leadership to realize this potential. Together they should navigate the year 2023 to prevail over the dark force of totalitarian regimes and let humanity bask in the sunshine of peace and freedom.
- BOOK REVIEW | On Tibet: 'Harnessing the Dragon's Fume' by Dr Tsewang Gyalpo Arya
- INTERVIEW | Tibetan President Penpa Tsering's New Mission to Protect Tibet's Lands, People, and Neighbors
- Predictions 2023: Asia's Eyes On China and its Territorial Assertions
Author: Tsewang Gyalpo Arya
Dr Tsewang Gyalpo Arya is the Representative of the Liaison Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama for Japan and East Asia. He served earlier as Secretary of the Department of Information and International Relations of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) and Director of the Tibet Policy Institute. Disclaimer: The view expressed above is the author's own. Dr Arya's recent book "Harnessing the Dragon`s Fume" is available on is also available on pdf.