New Delhi: Over the week, China has given a preview of the sort of global order that would emerge should it become the single dominant world power replacing the United States. In retaliation for the perfectly lawful arrest of Huawei Technologies’ chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, who has since been released on bail awaiting deportation to the United States, China has seized two Canadians in as many days. One is an entrepreneur and the other a former diplomat, and they face suspicion of “engaging in activities that endanger the national security” of China. The detentions have the crudeness of a security service operation and they are meant to be crude. China is behaving no differently that the Islamic State or the Al-Qaeda. If you authorize military operations against them, they commission retaliatory terrorism.

China believes laws and conventions have to be flouted for rise. It has gone beyond most nations in stealing technologies to obtain politico-economic and military superiority over the United States. Earlier this week, the FBI and the departments of justice and homeland security briefed US legislators about the scope and extent of Chinese industrial espionage, and the details are positively alarming. The United States’ assistant attorney-general, John Demers, disclosed in the briefing that China has been found to be involved in ninety percent-plus cases of economic espionage investigated by the justice department. Further, over two-thirds of all trade secret thefts have links to China. “From underwater drones and autonomous vehicles to critical chemical compounds and inbred corn seeds,” Demers said, “China has targeted advanced technology across sectors that align with China’s publicly announced strategic goals. The playbook is simple: rob, replicate and replace.” Officials also said China leans on the diaspora in the United States, including technology company executives and students, to steal secrets for the state. The recent massive cyber attack on the Marriott hotel chain has also been traced back to China. “What hangs in the balance,” an FBI counterintelligence official told the Senate Judiciary Committee, “is not just the future of the United States but the future of the world.”

In India, these briefings scarcely have made news. India has been among the first countries to sound the alarm about Huawei Technologies’ links to the Chinese PLA. Over time, however, India has become lax about non-conventional threats coming from China. The threat from China is mostly seen as territorial and military and infrastructure build-ups are considered sufficient redress. Indeed, after the reckless bravado during the Doklam crisis, the Narendra Modi government caved in to Chinese pressure to contain Tibetan nationalist programmes, followed by summit meetings with the strongman, Xi Jinping, in which China regained its premium over India. This was succeeded by a perilous suggestion from the defence minister, Nirmala Sitaraman, that India ought to ramp up trade with China to fill the place vacated by a feuding United States. If India can look askance at a Russia-Pakistan arms deal, what’s to prevent the United States from frowning at Indian opportunism in the US-China trade war? More than that, it is the naivete of India that galls. If China can be thoroughly unscrupulous with the United States, why should it be any different with India with which it has fought a war?

This is not to suggest that India be guided by the United States in its relations with China. But since China is obviously a nation that steals and cheats and resorts to thuggery when other nations legitimately call it to account, India cannot deal with it as a normal state. It is abnormal and hubristic to claim two seas for itself as China does. China’s sense of entitlement is so exaggerated that no one can question its fudged figures, its currency manipulations, its exports economy, its espionage and cyber attacks, its general and consuming illegalities, and its notorious self-centredness. Meng Wanzhou has been held back in Canada for a crime. Since China has no conception of law, justice, and so on, it cannot accept the Huawei executive’s wrongdoing. This sort of disregard for law and propriety must not be tolerated by juridically-guided states like India. The grave threat that China represents must be recognized for what it is.

Editor’s Note 1: The Supreme Court has come to an extraordinary conclusion in the Rafale case without the benefit of the smallest independent inquiry. Parliament must conduct its own inquiry at an appropriate time in the future. The perverse inflation of the unit price of the jet fighter in the second deal requires close scrutiny. Prior to that, there can be no clean chit.

2. The next non-Narendra Modi government should by law make the Reserve Bank accountable to Parliament and not to the executive. The shameful denigration of the institution of the Reserve Bank by the current regime must be brought to an end at the soonest. In a span of just under five years, two Reserve Bank governors of high scholarship and unimpeachable integrity have resigned before their term having faced hostility from the regime. This is a precedent that should alert the country to institution-wreckers seized with megalomania.