China’s Global Security Initiative — what it is, what Xi hopes to gain & what it means for India

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New Delhi: Chinese President Xi Jinping’s proposed Global Security Initiative (GSI), as enunciated by his Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng last week, is aimed at creating an Asian security framework that replaces “confrontation, alliance and a zero-sum approach with dialogue, partnership and win-win results”. 

The move comes at a time when Beijing is getting increasingly concerned that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) might expand its influence in the Asia-Pacific region, while China’s ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ continues to face numerous geopolitical challenges, multiple sources told ThePrint.

While China continues to remain pretty much closed to the world due to rising Covid cases, President Xi is busy shaping yet another narrative on the security front for how his country plans to forge partnerships through dialogue, after it was subjected to scathing criticism on a global scale for aligning with Russia on the latter’s invasion of Ukraine.

For India, the GSI comes in the form of China’s attempts to unilaterally change the status quo in the eastern sector of Ladakh, resulting in the military standoff that began in early 2020, according to strategic and security sources.

Under the GSI, sources further said, Beijing will take steps to bring India and other nations in South Asia under an overarching Asian security architecture of its own as the US increases its influence in this region with the Quad (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, of which India is a member) and AUKUS (a trilateral security pact between Australia, the UK and the US) under the Indo-Pacific Strategic Framework.

According to a source, during Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit to India in March, an indication was given to this effect when, during his meeting with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, Wang insisted on moving ahead with trade and economic ties while keeping the border issue at bay on a parallel track.

At an online dialogue of global think tanks called ‘Seeking Peace and Promoting Development’ last week, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng vehemently denied claims that China was aware of Russia’s plan to attack Ukraine when President Vladimir Putin met President Xi during the Winter Olympics in February, when both sides vowed to establish a “no limits” bilateral ties.

“Recently, President Xi Jinping also solemnly proposed a Global Security Initiative. The idea is to take the new vision on security as the guiding principle, mutual respect as the fundamental requirement, indivisible security as the important principle, and building a security community as the long-term goal, in order to foster a new type of security that replaces confrontation, alliance and a zero-sum approach with dialogue, partnership and win-win results,” Le, who has served as China’s ambassador to India, said at the event.

Xi had proposed to lay out the GSI at the Boao Forum for Asia’s annual conference last month, where he said: “This major initiative offers a fundamental solution to eliminating the peace deficit and contributes Chinese perspectives to meeting international security challenges.”

According to Jabin T. Jacob, associate professor in the Department of International Relations and Governance Studies at Shiv Nadar University’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences, China’s GSI “isn’t about safeguarding ‘world peace’ and ‘tranquility’, but about making it look like the US is threatening world peace and tranquility, and the Chinese are trying to fix the problem created by the US”.


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Implication for India

According to a source, India is closely watching what China means when it talks of “indivisible security as the important principle” and “building a security community” under the GSI.

China, the source added, is now worried about NATO’s eastward expansion after Japan hinted favourably at NATO’s attempt to strengthen ties with Asia-Pacific partners.

The source further said that China has already “tried” this on India by taking a “step ahead of their active defence stance to undertaking pre-emptive moves” like the Ladakh stand-off, adding that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was also an example of such a pre-emptive move.

On his part, Prof. Jacob said “China will now move from what was ostensibly the economic development approach through the Belt and Road Initiative to a more confident security focused approach of the Global Security Initiative in India’s neighbourhood”.

“China’s seeming opposition to the Indo-Pacific or to an ‘Asia-Pacific version of NATO’ should not blind us to the possibility that China sees opportunities to build security blocs of its own in Asia, as it has attempted to a limited extent through the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and might take forward with South Asian partners,” he added.

Jacob further said that Wang Yi’s recent visit showed that the effort will be to make it look like China and India have put the ongoing boundary tensions in eastern Ladakh behind them, and are on the same page as far as the Russia-Ukraine conflict is concerned.

BRI in flux & CCP’s 20th Party Congress

The Chinese Communist Party will hold its 20th Party Congress in the latter half of this year, in which President Xi may claim the post of chairman, a post that has till date only been held by Mao Zedong, the founding father of the People’s Republic of China.

This will come at a time when Xi’s pet project, the Belt and Road Initiative, is facing multiple challenges in terms of the Covid pandemic, countries coming under debt, the comeback of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and the Ukraine war, among others.

“There is no doubt that the Global Security Initiative presages a propaganda campaign to help China recover lost diplomatic ground following over two years of the pandemic. And the campaign is important as the Communist Party enters the home stretch towards its 20th Congress later this year,” Jacob said.

“With major cities in China in severe lockdown, economic activity on a downturn, the BRI looking like it has stalled or faces threats in Pakistan, and China on a sticky wicket with Russia’s inability to quickly conclude the Ukraine invasion, the BRI is probably seen as providing an opportunity to paint a rosier picture of China’s diplomacy and external initiatives,” he added.

(Edited by Gitanjali Das)


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