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Red Fear: The China Threat (Book Review )

In tracing the tumultuous relationship between two emerging Asian giants, India and China, the book, Red Fear: The China Threat, derives its premises from the historical relations between the two nations which have been filled with extreme political upheavals and infinite military confrontations. Starting from the 15th CE and leading up to the 21st CE, the book has tried to elucidate every significant dimension of their relations which has eventually shaped where the two neighbours stand today.

To understand the persistent Chinese position towards India, the book makes a U-turn and looks back at the Chinese worldview based on the concept of the “Great United Empire” which was established around 700 BC during the Eastern Zhou period. Being highly ambitious, China had propounded the concept which guided it to respond to several challenges emerging on its way. Even today, in what China describes as an era of Pax-Sinica, Chinese authorities vow to embrace the uniqueness of their perceived “cultural superiority” and thus try every possible way for achieving the feat of regional hegemon, and in the process may violate the sovereignty of other countries and irking them in the process.

Having faced to accept the hegemony of foreign powers for decades starting from 1840 to 1940 (what the Chinese call-century of humiliation), Chinese people were well-versed in history. They do not leave any attempt to humiliate any country; and the recent tensions with India might also be a similar attempt. The book also exposes how the Chinese leadership was plagued with angst due to the UK’s collaboration with its Indian colony; and playing a role in destroying and subjugating the Qing Empire and afterwards enslaving almost a quarter of China’s male population to opium addiction which later led to opium wars having a profound impact on Chinese society and politics.

The book is also unique as it has highlighted some extraordinary sequences of events, for instance, it talks about the first Chinese incursion in India in 1420 when Naval Admiral, Hou Xian sailed up to the Ganges to face the king of Jaunpur, Raja Ganesh. It talks about Mao and his strategy to protect the then-existing nuclear mandate of China by attacking and occupying the valuable resource-rich area of Aksai Chin. It has also raised several crucial questions having relevance in contemporary times such as the ones related to the Chinese defeat in the 1900’s Boxer rebellion by the Indian troops and whether it created any animosity in the minds and hearts of first-generation Chinese leadership towards India which was later manifested after 1949, i.e., once Communist Party of China taking control of the mainland; Russia’s role in sanctioning China’s attack against India in the year 1962; the after-effects of the opium wars, the ongoing border conflict between India and China; and finally some over India’s role in keeping the Tibetan cause alive, to counter Chinese aggression in India’s eastern border areas along the LAC. Tibet, even today acts as a bone of contention between India and China because the former hosting the Dalai Lama, the spiritual head of Tibetans, and also supporting its autonomy and sovereign rights. In contrast, China claims Tibet as a part of its larger territory and sees Dalai Lama as having separatist influence over the Tibetans.

The author, Iqbal Chand Malhotra having served as AIM Television Private Ltd.’s chairman and producer is a member of the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He has served on the Emmys jury and has directed three feature documentaries that have won multiple awards. He has a strong interest in China and has worked tremendously to contribute to the existing scholarly works on Chinese history and its current relationship with its neighbours. His other contribution includes “Kashmir’s untold story: Declassified” which was a bestseller and showcased his potential as a prominent sinologist and academician.
The main peculiarity of this book which intrigued me is the way the author has emphasised on both the traditional (conventional military oriented) and the non-traditional security aspect simultaneously with respect to China. The non-traditional security aspect is discussed in the context of the Covid-19 virus which the author suspects and therefore provides enough evidence to prove that it must have originated from some lab in Wuhan and also in the motivation behind China’s need for water and the subsequent web of deceit and lies behind its land grabbing and water theft in the Himalayan and Karakoram Mountain ranges since the 1950s. There also seems to be high suspicion in the author’s mind that China might have used Covid-19 as a means of unrestricted warfare to disrupt the activities of its adversaries.

The book apart from being highly detailed about the various aspects it has covered is also smooth and balanced in its approach to exposing the details in a justified manner. The author has dwelled on a historical and analytical approach but with a sharp focus on all the recent ongoings whether it be the recent skirmishes in Pangong Tso and Galwan valley or the Chinese intentions about resolving the dispute related to Jammu and Kashmir by taking both China and Pakistan into consideration. Even the recent changes in India’s FDI policy to contain opportunistic investments by China can be mentioned in this regard.

Lastly, even though the book tries to comprehend the growing proximity between India and China as a fallacy, it is now for time to tell us whether this duo will let go of their historical baggage and converge their interest in those domains which is highly essential in today’s global order such as combating several non-traditional security threats such as Pandemics, climate change and terrorism or continue to withstand the age-old animosity and disrupt the peace and stability in the newly active and volatile Asian theatre

Book Details:
Title – Red Fear, The China Threat
Author – Iqbal Chand Malhotra, 427 pages
Publisher – Bloomsbury India,
Publication Year – 2020

Book Review By:
Sakshi Sinha

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