🔌🇨🇳🇮🇳CIN#15 China-India Kinetic🏔⚠️
Two views on the border clash from a well-known academic and a former vice-commander.
ChinaIndia Networked is a newsletter by me, Dev Lewis, highlighting the networked relationship between the two regions at the intersection of technology, society, and politics.
June was a rough month in an already difficult year. Personally its been a tough watching the bilateral relationship nosedive following the first border casualties in 45 years.
I'm keeping commentary to a minimum in this issue. I was putting together this issue as news broke that India has banned + blocked 59 Chinese apps including Tik Tok and Wechat. I spoke to Bloomberg about how the move actually shows a convergence in the two country’s approaches to internet governance. I’ll put down my thoughts on what I think is misguided economic retribution, and more, in the next issue because I wanted to get this one out before its too late.
Observing discourse following the June 15 clash from Shanghai has been a bit surreal. The difference between the Indian and Chinese mediaverses could not be more stark. On the morning news broke Chinese media was for more occupied with a “2nd wave” of COVID-19 cases in Beijing rather than the first casualties along the LAC since 1975. It helped, of course, that Beijing did not reveal its casualty figures and is clearly downplaying the situation. But over the past weeks its barely registered in daily conversation either, even if it did scale trending topics on Weibo for a while. On Wechat a couple of poorly researched, jingoistic commentaries went viral, but frankly none were worth translating. Sadly (for us observers) in times like this many smart people who have interesting things to say chose it wise to not say anything in public at all.
Eventually I managed to gather two contrasting views that pair up nicely.
The first is a commentary is by a Naval strategy expert Wang Yunfei 王云飞 , an “ex-Warship vice-commander with multiple expeditions to the South China Sea and multiple years experience participating in naval strategy department work”. The commentary was published on a platform 三策智库 Senstrat and republished on a military science journal on June 26 pulling in about 35,000 views on Wechat. Not viral but meaningful. The first half of the piece summarized events and Indian actions which I’ve skipped translating because its nothing new. I’ve reproduced the 2nd half in which he ambitiously lays out how China’s military strategy and tactics should change.
China must change from passive to active. In the past, the physical conflict between the two sides was basically caused by the Indian side's initiative to cross the border, and the Chinese side responded passively, trying to find opportunities in the passive position to fight for the initiative and win.
To my untrained military eye, and according to experts like Ajay Shukla, this is exactly what PLA has already been doing for years🧐. He also noted the Indian army’s announcement to “change the rules of engagement” and explained how he thinks China should respond:
Without fully escalating the physical conflict into a crossfire, China can try to use non-explosive weapons such as laser weapons. When dealing with the situation on the side of the Chinese control line, you can also try to use tear gas and shock bombs in explosion-proof equipment. If the Indian party dares to attack with a gun, the Indian party will bear all the consequences.
He’s got plenty of ideas and suggestions you can read in the piece below.
The second commentary is by a well-known South Asia hand Zhang Jiadong 张家栋, Head of the South Asia Center at Fudan University. It was published in the Chinese edition of the Global Times a week ago and I originally ignored it as I assumed it would have been translated into the English version but apparently it has not. Clearly their editors thought he was too tempered and not on-brand🤷🏽. Since he is writing to the Chinese audience its interesting to note some of the points he emphasizes.
The argument that the border conflict will push India to a third party only regards India as a pawn in international politics and underestimates India as rising world power.
He also highlights the need for a “realignment” of the bilateral relationship. His point reminds me of what Ambassador Shivshankar Menon sagely said, as early as 2017, about a ‘need for a new framework because the old modus vivendi is showing signs of stress’.
China and India really need to realign their bilateral relations in this new landscape. The current relationship framework between China and India, from micro to macro, was basically determined from the 1990s to the beginning of the 21st century. At that time, China and India were relatively weak, and their international capacity and ability to control border areas were very limited.
The question: do we have leaders with the courage and vision to build a new vivendi that does not take us back in time? More on that in the next issue. For now here are the two pieces.
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Military expert suggests China needs to upgrade its preparedness to face the Indian threat 军事专家建议，面对印方，中方必须做冲突升级的准备
Wang Yunfei 王云飞
In order to prevent unexpected events and prevent the Indian side from taking further actions and to prevent the Sino-Indian border from falling into a major crisis, China must focus on military actions to avoid major losses in national interests, while continuing to negotiate with the Indian side to resolve the crisis,
Strategically, China must change from passive to active. In the past, the physical conflict between the two sides was basically caused by the Indian side's initiative to cross the border, while the Chinese side responded passively, trying to find opportunities in the passive position to fight for the initiative. But it is difficult to guarantee success every time in the future. The best layout is to win influence first and then achieve your interests. Therefore, the Chinese side must give the front-line troops limited decision-making power and change the situation. Should they find that the Indian army has crossed the border or just enter the country, they will be able to resolutely force the intruders back of the LAC and avoid losing their position due to the need to report back to superiors.
Tactically, we must counterattack and harass the Indian army by strengthening the construction of reconnaissance and surveillance methods in the border area. Once the Indian army is found to cross the Chinese actual control line to sneak attack and disturb Chinese military and local personnel, China must resolutely counterattack. The pursuit should not be not restricted by the actual control line, Chinese troops should reach over into the depths of the Indian side until the Indian army pulls back and retreats.
In terms of policy we must give the Indian army a taste of its own medicine. The Indian Army has repeatedly crossed the border and destroyed Chinese barracks, roads and other military installations. If such a situation occurs again, the Chinese side should use more powerful means to damage the other side's related facilities and equipment, so that the other side will lose the gains.
In terms of methods try to take advantage of high-tech weapons and equipment. In the past, the friction between the two sides was limited to physical conflicts and the use of non lethal weapons. Now the Indian government has declared "changing the rules of engagement" alongside the LAC . Without fully escalating the physical conflict into a crossfire conflict, China can try to use non-explosive weapons such as laser weapons. When dealing with the situation on the side of the Chinese control line, you can also try to use tear gas and shock bombs in explosion-proof equipment. If the Indian party dares to attack with a gun, the Indian party will bear all the consequences.
After continuous talks between China and India's defense and diplomatic departments from June 22 to 24, if the Sino-Indian border situation is alleviated and no conflicts occur for a period of time it would mean that after difficult negotiations the desired purpose has been achieved and the two sides can live together in harmony. On the contrary, it reminds China that the effectiveness of confidence-building measures in the military field on both sides is limited.
In this new landscape, India-China must once again realign relations 新形势下，中印需重新定位双边关系
Zhang Jiadong, Head of the South Asia Center at Fudan University,
Historically, China’s and India's foreign policy strategy has been very stable. After the Sino-Indian conflict in 1962, India did not fundamentally change Sino-Indian relations, nor did it change its basic stance on some major issues, but just froze relations with China. The fundamental adjustment of India's foreign policy strategy occurred only after the improvement of Sino-US relations and the end of the Cold War. The adjustment of India's strategy to China is the result of the obvious changes in the traditional international structure after the 2008 financial crisis, and the simultaneous rise of China and India. Therefore, the argument that the border conflict will push India to a third party only regards India as a pawn in international politics and underestimates India as rising world power.
China and India really need to reposition their bilateral relations in this new situation. The current relationship framework between China and India, from micro to macro, was basically determined from the 1990s to the beginning of the 21st century. At that time, China and India were relatively weak, and their international capacity and their ability to control border areas were very limited. At that time, both countries had very low patrol capabilities in the border areas, and chances of encountering were relatively rare. The patrols of the two countries often know that the other party's patrol has been there only through changes in the landscape or writing on a certain stone. But now, both countries have established a comprehensive and full-time monitoring system, and their patrol capabilities have also been greatly enhanced. The sporadic encounters and confrontations that used to happen are now normalized. The current Sino-Indian border control mechanism can no longer meet the needs of maintaining peace and tranquility in the border area under the new situation.
At the macro and strategic levels, China and India also need to solve some new problems. Since sending an escort fleet to the Somali waters China has normalised its presences in South Asia and the Indian Ocean. This can be said to be the biggest change in China's maritime strategy in the next 600 years since Zheng He's voyage to the west. India, too, has expanded its maritime activities to the South China Sea, the East China Sea and even the eastern Pacific Ocean through its Acting East strategy and various bilateral and multilateral military cooperation. China and India have experienced unprecedented simultaneous rise while pursuing the status of maritime powers, bringing new opportunities and challenges to bilateral relations.
With the strategic perspectives of the two countries transforming, from land to sea, and at the same time, the Himalayas no longer constitute barriers to communication between the two countries, and are no longer an effective strategic buffer between the two countries. When China and India view each other's strategic perspective, they should also surpass the Himalayas and be more independent, strategic, and forward-looking.
Thank you for reading till the end. Stay well (and calm!).