The people’s republic is under a three-pronged attack, and to wade it off; it needs a limited border conflict with India.
There is every possibility that China might engage in a localised limited military conflict, won India’s eastern borders, to achieve its three key goals. Yes, you heard, right!
There are enough indicators and reasons why China picks India, as it did in 1962, to engage in a limited conflict. For China, a limited military engagement, that does not blow into a full-fledged war, will severe diplomatic and domestic purpose.
The Chinese President Xi Jinping finds himself in a precarious situation due to Covid19. A similar situation was faced by Chairman Mao during the early 60s, when he nearly lost control of The Communist Party of China (CCP), as his program the “Great Leap Forward” lead to millions of death across the country.
Xi needs an external threat that will force his people to rally behind him and also pause, even though temporarily, the international pressure for accountability on the coronavirus. This is where a limited military conflict with an equal adversary comes into play. This might sound like a sweeping statement. However, there are enough indicators to back it. Lets lay out all the pieces of the table.
China is under a three-prong attack; two threats are from the domestic front and one international.
The first attack from the global community: Since the outbreak of “Chinese Virus,” as President Donald Trump likes to call it, the People’s Republic has been under tremendous pressure for accountability. As a lot has been said and written about it, let us deliberate upon other fast-moving pieces.
The second attack from domestic unrest: The CCP is facing internal challenges on two front. The primary threat is emerging from Hong Kong due to continued unrest and followed by the brewing trouble in the mainland.
Honk Kong Crisis: There has been turbulence in Hong Kong even before the corona crisis hit the world. Between last year August and till early this year, the Chinese PLA tried to make its presence felt in Hong Kong. Yet, this did not deter the local residents from engaging in violent protests. The explosive situation got temporarily diffused due to the spread of the “Wuhan Virus.” However, the lockdown did not quell the unrest, and China knows it. Thus, it has introduced “a national security law in Hong Kong” that proposes to ends “one country, two systems policy,” and gives additional power to security forces. This move clearly demonstrates that the mainland communists are threatened by the autonomous region.
Trouble Brewing in the Mainland: “Trump’s trade war was hurting china’s economy,” and then the Corona crisis exacerbated the crisis, especially for the people of Wuhan. They openly challenged the Chinese authorities. Such a public revolt was last heard or seen at the Tiananmen Square in 1989. Though, China has tried hard to prevent such incidents from leaking out. However, due to technology and social media, it failed to keep domestic unrest under wraps.
The third attack, from the international business community: This is the most destructive attack that could impact China both in the short and long term. Martin Schwarzburg, a Finance Expert with over 25 years experience, writes in his article titled “Healing Broken Supply Chains: Manufacturing Outside China,” “the recent COVID-19 outbreak and its disruptive impact on the supply chains of companies with production facilities in China has led to considerable soul-searching in a number of boardrooms to recalibrate global sourcing and supply chain strategies.”
Martin further says that global manufacturers had started working on a “China +1 policy” before the Corona Crisis. Under the policy, the business community looked for alternate competitive manufacturing locations such as India. One of the biggest “long-term fallout of COVID-19 outbreak would be China+1 policy now gets rolled out fast and quick.
In his article Martin, analyses various “countries and regions around the world in terms of suitability to replace manufacturing capabilities currently maintained in China.” When it comes to India, Martin writes, “India provides significant replacement opportunities for manufacturing capabilities and to repeat the success demonstrated by its outsourcing and IT sector over the past two decades.” He further adds, “I believe that, as opposed to China, the comparably lesser frictional potential between India and the western world will refocus the West’s attention toward the Indian economy and, as such, provide significant opportunities for investors.”
This new reality of losing future investments and losing part of the existing manufacturing business is troubling China. Furthermore, losing it to India, its primary challenger in the region is the last nail in China’s ambition of global domination.
This emerging reality makes China-India conflict a possibility. A limited military conflict between the two Asian giants is in favor of China, as it gets to kill three birds with one stone.
“Who wishes to fight must first count the cost”- Sun Tzu, Chinese Military Strategist.
COUNTING COST ON BEHALF OF CHINA
Quelling unrest in the mainland: China’s economy was already in trouble, due to trade war that Trump unleashed on to the Dargon. The Covid-19 crisis set fire to the Dragon’s tail. This year China has abandoned setting a target for GDP growth for the first time in decades, citing “great uncertainty.” The two setbacks can lead to millions of job losses and be a recipe for further unrest, in the mainland, that might not just ignite but also stick for a long time. Thus, the Chinese need to find ways to quell the unrest, especially in the mainland.
Misha Ketchell is the Editor of ‘The Conversation,’ an independent online forum. According to Ketchell, Beijing used the standoff in Hong Kong to whip up nationalism among its citizens. If China can use a protect in Hong Kong to quell distent at home, think what would it do if the communist party can convince its people of a potential threat from its advisory- India.
“The whole secret lies in confusing the enemy so that he cannot fathom our real intent.” -Sun Tzu.
Force the international community Blink: The international community lead by Australia and the US have created pressure on China. It is was evident when Chinese President Xi, while addressing the World Health Assembly, committed to providing $2Billion to help countries around the world with vaccines. Imagine China offering money without being asked. That explains the stress the Chinese are under. Thus, China needs a diversion; it needs to create confusion.
That will help it catch a breath, get its thoughts organized, and then take on the world. For this, it needs a diversion that looks not just real but something that can escalate fast into a full-fledged war.
India and China have been involved in two conflicts; the Sino-Indian war of 1962 that the world knows and then in 1967 when India beat back Chinese aggression at Nathu La Pass pass. This conflict resulted in 340 death on the Chinese side as compared to 88 on the Indian side.
There have been numerous skirmished between two forces, the recent one being in North Sikkim, where Lieutenant Birol Das’s punch left a PLA Major with a bloody nose. Thus, one can not completely rule out a conflict between the two nations. The recent visit by Indian army chief General MM Naravane to Ladakh to reviews operational preparedness is yet another indicator that things are hotting up on the eastern borders.
A military conflict between two nuclear nations that are economic powerhouses will draw in the world community. The world would have blinked, allowing China to replace corona investigation with conflict resolution across various international forums and the UN.
“Convince your enemy that he will gain very little by attacking you; this will diminish his enthusiasm” -Sun Tzu
Instill uncertainty among the investors & businesses: China knows it might lose part of its manufacturing businesses and investments. However, if it has to lose, it should not be to India because that would establish it as the engine of the world, the statues China has enjoyed for many decades.
If the business and investments are dispersed across the globe, it will help China retain dominance as the leading manufacture. Thus, military engagement with India will create uncertainty among investors and manufacturers.
That explains why a limited conflict is in China’s interest.
However, the question remains why India?
Equal Opponent: China needs an equal opponent to make its citizens, and the international community believes that the conflict is real. Thus, a conflict between the two nuclear-armed nations has the potential to destroy whatever is left of the global economy.
The followup question would be – Why not Japan or South Korea. China will not start a conflict that will directly draw in the United States of America, especially with Trump in power.
Both “Japan and South Korea are close neighbors, and they are the main allies of the United States in East Asia.” American has a bilateral Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security that will allow it to step in.
President Xi knows too well; China can not take chances with Trump. The South China sea is hot, and Xi would not like to make it unstable at this moment when China is venerable.
That leaves India on the table.
Now, I am not suggesting that China wants a full-fledged war with India. Given the current international isolation, China is facing it will not risk a global backlash. However, a limited conflict, where it can push the blame on India and play the victim, as it did after the 1962 Sino-India war, will serve its objectives. The dilemma in the dragon mind is when to strike. For China knows, the new India is different from that of the 60s. Neither its military nor the political leaders will blink come what may.
Then why does China need a conflict: in the Word of Sun Tzu, the military tactician- “But a kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come again into being; nor can the dead ever be brought back to life.”
China has never faced such international isolation and open revolt by its people. Could this be a make or break moment for the CCP. As much as it wants the world not to see its underbelly – it stands exposed. Thus it knows if it falters here, it might leave too many dents to its military, political and economic stature.