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The 19th Congress of the Communist Party of China

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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When, in 1972, Nixon pointed out to Mao Zedong that “the Chinese President changed the world”, Mao just answered “no, only something on the outskirts of Beijing.” In the mind of the Chinese President, a Taoist poet, that was the sense of the natural centrality of the “Middle Empire” compared to the First World (the United States and the USSR, namely “the barbarians of the North”), to the Second World (namely the  servants of either power) and to the Third World, the region that was bound to be represented and dominated by China.

 Currently, after the Long March of the “Four Modernizations” launched by Deng Xiaoping, China is the world’s first economy and is becoming one of the first powers – and, in the future, it  will be the hegemonic military power at least in the Asian world.

 In the 1950s, however, an old map of the CPC’s Central Committee considered Japan, the Philippines, all the South Pacific islands, South and North Koreas and Vietnam as areas of Chinese hegemony.

  This project will not be implemented – if ever – with weapons, but with the economy and with strategic and cultural dominance, which will be protected by weapons.

 Hide a knife behind a smile is one of the Thirty-Six Stratagems used in politics and war.

 In China’s traditional culture, war is not “the continuation of politics by other means”, but simply politics tout court.

 The splendid isolation of Mao’s China was fully realistic: the country was poor but, in spite of the failures of the “Big Leap Forward” of the 1950s and of the “Great Cultural and Proletarian Revolution” between 1966 and 1976, the per capita GDP denominated in power purchasing parity (PPP) doubled.

 Not falling  into the Cold War trap that Mao Zedong considered a “paper tiger” – which, in fact, was at the origin of the USSR’s economic and military collapse – is the basis of this slow, but relentless economic and international status growth.

 But without the very strong traditional Chinese nationalism, combined with the Marxist-Leninist ideology, that Mao’s project  – which is currently being achieved with Xi Jinping – could not be implemented.

 From the rejection of the bipolar international order to the construction of a new multipolar order, with China at the core – this is the geopolitical pathway from Mao’s slogan of 1949 “the Chinese people have stood up” to the 19th CPC Congress led by Xi Jinping.

 Furthermore, even under Deng Xiaoping and his successors, China has never accepted a role as “revisionist power”, thus  maintaining the request for a new international order and even strengthening the polemic against the United States and Russia in favor of Third World’s rights.

 Nor should we forget the long coldness vis-à-vis the old post-World War II economic alliances, such as the World Bank and the Monetary Fund, seen as “instruments of American imperialism” and relics of a bipolar era that ended just when China – still following Mao’s cry on Tien An Men Square in 1949 – “stood up”.

 In 2012, however, Xi Jinping did not inherit a “developing” China – just to use the compassionate jargon of international bankers.

 In 2012 Communist China had recorded two decades of double-digit GDP growth and was already the second global economy. It was also the world’s largest exporting country and finally recorded a stable commercial surplus of over 4-5 trillion US dollars.

 Since the beginning of the Four Modernizations, China has been the largest trading partner for the whole Eastern Pacific region and has been pushing upwards – for years – the prices of raw material  it badly needed.

 Also the Chinese Armed Forces are closely following economic development.

 Currently China has already declared its Air Defense  Identification Zone (ADIZ) operational throughout the East China Sea, in view of full control of the Western part of that sea.

 A change of the US strategic equation in the Pacific entailing a  radical transformation of the US geopolitics: either still accepting China’s investment and the much needed purchases of US Treasury bonds or the net decrease in financial trading and Communist China’s greater military and economic presence in the Pacific – with the related loss of hegemony.

 With a view to masking and concealing – in a world still linked to the Cold War – the growing phase of China’s economy and military strategy (which are always two sides of the same coin) and not to alarming its neighbouring countries, Deng Xiaoping coined the “tao wang yang hui” (韬光养晦) policy line, namely hide your light under a bushel or conceal your strengths and bide your time – Taoist terminology relating to the tradition of Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” and the Thirty-Six Stratagems.

  The sense is easily understandable.

   Deng’s Taoist policy line implied some successive rules: 1) avoid leading or forming faction in any international conflict and stay neutral in all circumstances; 2) do not try to lead an opinion in international politics; do not try to represent any interest group and stay away from any sphere of influence; 3) avoid any trouble, controversy or antagonism in world politics; be humble, but try not be humiliated and even accept minor humiliation if you have to; 4) concentrate on economic development, 5) focus on establishing a friendly relationship with all countries in the world, irrespective of the ideology of the countries you deal with.

 Indeed, Xi Jinping is fully heir to this policy line and, in the early years of his leadership, he focused on carefully hiding his light under a bushel and remaining in the “dark”, namely what does not concern or is not immediately seen by the “Western devils”, as Europeans were called during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900 – a fight that was later mythicized precisely by the Red Guards.

 The rapid development of the economy, from Deng to Xi Jinping, has led to inevitable imbalances in Chinese society: 12 million migrants moving from rural to urban areas every year, with almost all rural migrants heading for the coast from Fujian up to Laoning.

 Other major unavoidable problems are the decrease of the population replacement rate, which leads to severe shortcomings in the search for new workforce; widespread corruption, another predictable phenomenon in a fast-growing command economy and finally the average age increase.

 Currently the average Chinese aging rate is the highest in recent world history.

 In 2050 the cost of pensions could rise up to 44% of the current one.

 As some Western sources say, currently China’s public debt is approximately 60% of GDP, while some other Western observers even maintain that the Chinese debt is equal to 110%.

 China’s official sources maintain it is equal to 46.5% and has been stable for two years.

 Probably the truth lies somewhere in between, although considering the Chinese scarce willingness to resort to the debt lever.

 Hence Xi Jinping wants to face all these new situations in the CPC tradition.

 A “strong and prosperous China”, in the tradition of Sun Yat Sen, the father of nationalism and constant point of reference for Chinese Communists, as well as Xi’s continuity with the reforms which – as maintained by the CPC Third Plenum of 2013 – view the “market as the decisive engine for economic development”.

 Xi Jinping also wants to create a strong and stable internal market to counterbalance the First World’s financial and economic crises.

 Xi Jinping’s main economic challenge lies in doing with the domestic market what has been done so far in China with exports, while maintaining a good level of exports.

  Not to mention pollution, which can block both domestic production – especially in the agricultural sector, by stopping exports – and foreign investment.

 Xi wants to upgrade the exporting companies in order to make them adapt to international quality standards and improve their  price level. The Chinese leader also wants to build an effective and profitable internal market, albeit targeted to social and political stability.

 With specific reference to internal market reforms, one of the Thirty-Six Stratagems is particularly appropriate, namely “cross the sea without the emperor’s knowledge”.

 The room for the market-world within future China’s internal market will be little and well-defined.

 The fight against corruption, which is the natural corollary of this strategy devised by Xi Jinping, was and is still massive and fast.

 It is also based on the old Plenum of 2013.

 It was in the 3rd Plenum of the 18th Central Committee of the CPC that the idea of ​shifting from a phase of fast capital accumulation to a phase of gradual internal redistribution emerged.

 Hence Xi Jinping is currently defending the Party from the slow erosion of the Chinese social system.

 Today the block of social and economic innovation lies in the hidden interests of Chinese State-owned enterprises and in their monopoly or monopsony markets.

 Since he rose to power, Xi has entrusted approximately 800,000 State and Party officials only with the task of fighting against corruption.

 A dual structure, namely the CPC leadership and the local units, controls the inspectors’ activity, and in the first half of 2017, over 210,000 State and Party officials have been investigated.

  Last year the total number of officials investigated was 415,000.

  As reported by Chinese internal sources, only in the first half of 2017, 38 national leaders and 1,200 prefecture officials have been judged corrupt by the central authorities.

 In August 2013, in the framework of a careful analysis of the Chinese oil system, Jiang Jiemin, the CEO of China National Petroleum Corporation, was removed from his post, followed by Xu Caiohu, the Vice-President of the Central Military Commission and later, in March 2014, by Liu Yuan, the son of Liu Shaoqi, while the illegal outflow of Chinese capital is approximately 60 billion US dollars a year.

 Xi Jinping’s hard line, namely “governing the nation according to law”, follows the tradition of Shang Yang’s legalist school of the 3rd century BC, as well as the ancient Taoist and State policy line followed by Shi Huangdi, the founder of the Qin dynasty and the first Emperor of a unified China and of the famous Terracotta Army.

 Shi Huangdi was one of Mao’s favorite quotes: “Remember I am a thousand times fiercer than Shi Huangdi,” he used to say to his aides.

  Furthermore, in keeping with a policy line set in a secret circular letter of the CPC Central Committee, Xi Jinping is promoting the struggle “against the seven problems”: the promotion of constitutional democracy; the propaganda of universal rights as Western-style “civil rights”; the promotion of citizens’ movements  destroying the Party’s foundations; the dissemination of the neo-liberal ideology; the promotion of press freedom; the support for the traditional nihilism on New China and finally the ban on defining the current Chinese economic system as “State capitalism” or “new bureaucratic capitalism”.

 At strategic security level, as leader not yet in power, Xi Jinping supported Putin for the launch of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and hence proposed a pan-Asian view of military security and economic development to the other Heartland countries.

 A vision that is currently based on the fast implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative, which will reach the Mediterranean and the core of Europe.

  Hence this is how Xi Jinping is approaching the 19th CPC Congress since its foundation in Shanghai in 1921 – a Congress that now gathers 2,338 delegates, while there were only fifty in Shanghai.

 The goals are now well-known.

To achieve the “Two Centennial Goal” successfully: firstly, the issue lies in completing the process of building a moderately well-off society and accelerating Socialist modernization so as to turn China into a “great modern Socialist nation”.

 The two dates set are 2020, the centennial (one year before) of the CPC foundation, and 2049, namely the centennial of the People’s Republic of China.

 The terminology often used by Xi, “a moderately well-off society” must not make us think of mediocre and modest goals.

 Conversely, it is a typically Confucian expression, where moderation implies wisdom and hence the balance between human passions and their reflecting on interpersonal relations.

 In Xi Jinping’s policy line, the practical measures envisaged by the leader to achieve these goals will be, first of all, improving the people’s living conditions –  but the masses’ best living conditions assume and imply Socialist democracy – then complying with  laws and finally ensuring security, safety and the protection of the environment.

 Besides modernizing domestic laws, Xi Jinping’s China will avoid the sale or sell-off of State-owned enterprises, which will maintain and increase their value, while their reform is implemented.

 Hence a market-based reform, but also controlled by the Party as to the mix of factors of production in the medium and long term.

 Again following the line of “hiding your light under a bushel”, China will maintain its strategic profile which does not seek hegemony and – again in Xi’s words – will carry out military actions outside its territory.

 Hence, according to Xi Jinping, China will continue its policy of welcoming foreign capital and foreign companies – albeit more carefully. As meant by Xi between the lines, China will continue to pursue its project of becoming the global manufacturing hub.

  Nevertheless, most of the capital generated by the Four Modernizations will lead to such an internal social stability in China, which is  now unthinkable also in Western societies and to a rational rebalancing of China’s productive forces, which will have a strong domestic market while the export market will shrink due to the Western structural crisis.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

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East Asia

Nepal-China Boundary Treaty: An example of peaceful Himalayan frontiers

Birat Anupam

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image source: Chinese Embassy in Nepal

Chairman Mao: How is everything with Your Excellency? Have all the problems been solved?

King Mahendra: Everything is settled.

Chairman Mao: Fair and reasonable?

King Mahendra: Yes. We all agree.

Chairman Mao: It is good that we agree. There is goodwill on both sides. We hope that will get along well, and you hope we shall get along well too. We do not want to harm you, nor do you want to harm us.

King Mahendra: We fully understand.

Chairman Mao: We are equals; we cannot say one country is superior or inferior to the other.

King Mahendra: We very much appreciate the way of speaking.

This was a snippet of the candid conversation between founding father of People’s Republic of China Mao Zedong and Nepal’s the then king Mahendra on the historic Nepal-China Border Treaty day of 5 October 1961. A book titled ‘MAO ZEDUNG ON DIPLOMACY’ has detailed this conversation. The conversation is mentioned under the topic of ”Talk with Nepal’s king Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah Deva and the queen’ (page 366 and 367) in the book.

This famous diplomatic book of Mao was compiled by The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China and the Party Literature Research Center under the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and was published by Foreign Languages Press Beijing on 1998.

This conversation, from the verbatim records, speaks volumes about the level of trust and the height of friendship between two neighbors Nepal and China.

Nepal-China boundary: An example of speedy settlement

Nepal and China boundary settlement has reached 59 years of its signing ceremony at Beijing. It is an extraordinary example of speedy settlement. Nepal and China formally established diplomatic relationship on 1 August 1955.

Few years later on 21 March 1960, Nepal and China signed Boundary Agreement. Nepal’s first democratically elected Prime Minister Bishweshwar Prashad Koirala signed it during the official China visit. The friendly diplomatic dialogue of Koirala and Mao is also included in the book ”MAO ZEDUNG ON DIPLOMACY’ under the topic of ”The Sino-Nepal Border Must be Peaceful and Friendly Forever.”  

On 5 October 1961, Nepal and China signed Boundary Treaty at Beijing during the state visit of the then king Mahendra. The 1414-kilometer-long border treaty protocol was finally inscribed on 20 January 1963.

The adjustment was made on equal footing by land-swapping with Nepal gaining more land than it gave. According to a working paper presented at ”International Cross-Border Conference on Border Regions in Transition (BRIT)-XII Fukuoka (Japan)-Busan (South Korea) 13-16 November 2012” by Nepal’s former Director General of Survey Department and the author of the book titled ‘Boundary of Nepal’, China had given 302.75 square kilometer more land to Nepal.

The paper says, ”the adjustment was made on the basis of ‘give’ and ‘take’ and the inclusion of some pasture land within Nepalese territory. With this principle, Nepal had given 1,836.25 square kilometer of land to China and Nepal had taken 2,139.00 square kilometer, as it has been added 302.75 square kilometer of Chinese territory into Nepal.”

Nepal-China border settlement is an excellent example of speedy border settlement compared to Nepal’s southern neighbor India. Since the formal diplomatic engagement of 1955, it just took around eight years to ink full-fledged technical border adjustment between Nepal and China.

Tragically, Nepal and India are at odds over the border demarked by 204-year-old Treaty of Sugauli. The recent issue of Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura and new political map of Nepal unanimously approved by lower and upper houses of the federal parliament point to the long-pending friendly border settlements between Nepal and India.

Media myths on China’s encroachment of Nepal’s territory

Nepal and India has not resolved much of their border tensions since long. Lately, there are some media reports, mainly from India, about so-called Chinese ‘encroachment’ of Nepal’s territory. There was report about missed pillar number 11. However, it came out to be untrue with the finding of the pillar.  After field inspection and technical studies, Chief District Officer of Humla district, Chiranjibi Giri, made it clear that the rumored border encroachment from China was not the fact.

Similar incident was reported few weeks ago when Nepal’s leading daily Kantipur claimed China’s encroachment of Nepal’s territory citing unverified Ministry of Agriculture, the ministry that has nothing to do with border issues. However, after formal clarification from Nepal Government, the report was found to be false and the biggest daily of the nation apologized.

There is a section in Nepal that desperately wants to draw parallel between factual Nepal-India border tensions with fictitious Nepal-China border rows. However, so far, this mission has proven wrong at times.

Nepal does not have any serious border tension with China. The only concern Nepal has it about China-India agreement to ‘boost border trade at Quiangla/Lipu-Lekh Pass’ as said in the 28th point of the  joint communiqué issued by visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang on 15 May 2015.

Nepal has diplomatically protested about this agreement by two countries as Lipulekh falls in Nepali territory not only based on the Treaty of Sugauli of 1816 but also the Nepal-China Boundary Treaty of 5 October 1961. Given China’s generosity and friendliness towards Nepal, it is not a big issue to address. Nepalese citizens are optimistic on China’s support on Nepal’s sovereignty over Lipulekh.

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Why doesn’t China take India seriously?

Shalabh Chopra

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India needs to formulate a long-term strategy on China, lest it be lurching from one crisis to another.

Amid rising anti-China sentiment in the aftermath of the bloody border clash with China, India has announced a slew of measures to curtail Chinese presence in the Indian economy. Building on previously imposed restrictions on foreign direct investment (FDI) from China, the latest round of regulations constitute banning over 200 Chinese apps and clamping down on Chinese investments in Indian startups. These measures, while drawing applause from Western governments such as the US and helping massage the nationalistic ego, have seemingly failed to irk the Chinese administration as much as India would have intended, let alone compel the PLA to pull back from the disputed areas along the long and undemarcated Indo-China border. In previous instances as well, India’s signalling to China of allying more closely with the United States in response to China’s aggressive posture on the border has failed to yield desirable results. This begs the question: why does not China take India seriously? The answer may lie in India’s China policy which can be described as reactive at best and incoherent at worst.

India’s Policy Conundrum

Although its geopolitical rise has been significant – next only to China, India still finds itself bereft of a world order concept or a guiding foreign policy framework. The lack of which, when it comes to dealing with China, has translated into a foreign policy muddle. Mohan Malik, for instance, points out that there are three schools of thought in India’s policy-making with regards to China – pragmatism, hyperrealism, and appeasement. Pragmatists maintain that India should balance China both internally (increasing its economic and military strength w.r.t. China) and externally (by forging alliances and enhancing interstate cooperation with other powers) while mitigating differences through economic and diplomatic engagement. Hyperrealists decry pragmatists’ optimism that increased trade and economic engagement can win over a territorially unsatiated China and instead argue for an unabashed encirclement strategy towards it with other China-wary powers. Appeasers posit that China is a benign and friendly power, meaning no harm to India and that it should be enthusiastically engaged. In trying to accommodate such plethora of views in dealing with China, successive Indian governments have found themselves muddling through one approach to another.

Current Government and Policy Flip-Flops

Following the Galwan clash, India appears to be hinting at a change of tack as evinced by India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar’s repeated assertions that realism should shape India’s China policy and that peace and tranquillity on the border cannot be separated from the overall architecture of bilateral ties. India’s slashing of Chinese presence in the Indian economy suggests a move in that direction. China’s rather staid response to India’s manoeuvres stems from a general under appreciation of Indian resolve to follow through on such a policy initiative. China’s belief in Indian irresoluteness is not without basis either. The new dispensation led by Narendra Modi started off by trying to bring the “pragmatic” element more into play in India’s dealings with China. To this end, it resorted to a two-pronged strategy of bolstering strategic ties with other regional partners alarmed by China’s newfound boldness such as Vietnam, Japan, Indonesia, Australia among others and spurred up defense and strategic ties with the US, while simultaneously trying to improve relations with China by enhancing bilateral trade (which was already heavily-tilted in China’s favour). However, relations nosedived with the Doklam standoff in June 2017 which lasted for over three months. Cognizant of its power differential with China, and therefore not keen on antagonizing it any further, India broached the idea of organizing an informal summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and India’s PM Narendra Modi. As the two leaders met in picturesque Wuhan, India had by then made up its mind to drop the “pragmatic” yet somewhat “confrontational” approach and decided in favour of going full throttle with appeasement vis-à-vis China. Following the summit, the Indian government scaled down its contact with the Tibet’s India-based government-in-exile and refused to back Australia’s bid to participate in the annual Malabar exercise. What exactly did India hope to achieve with such tactics is anyone’s guess as China continued to brazenly oppose India’s membership to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and block India’s efforts to get Pakistan-based terrorist Masood Azhar admitted to the UN Sanctions list – eventually relenting on the latter (courtesy of US pressure) while continuing to hyphenate India’s cause with Pakistan’s in the case of former.

A Long History of Fluctuating China Policy

As a matter of fact, the blame for such a vacillating policy cannot be squarely put at Modi’s doorsteps. Historical precedents abound where previous Indian governments too have struggled to come up with a comprehensive and coherent strategy on China. Notable examples include Jawaharlal Nehru’s flip-flops on China threat which not only cost India loss of territory but also resulted in a personal loss of face for Nehru. Some twenty-five years later, Rajiv Gandhi who showed remarkable courage in standing up to the Chinese challenge in a serious military provocation along the eastern flank of the LAC let go of the chance to articulate India’s long-term strategy vis-à-vis China and instead sought a quick return to normalcy in bilateral ties following his visit to Beijing in 1988. A decade later, AB Vajpayee, after having justified India’s nuclear tests as a response to Chinese nuclear weapons, ended up describing China as a “good neighbour” in his address at the Peking University only a couple of years later. Indeed, India’s foreign policy history is riddled with complacency on the part of successive Indian governments in dealing with its largest neighbour, and a continual cause of strategic concern.

It is clear that unless India does away with policy ad-hocism and sticks with a clear, long-term China policy,it would not be able to effect a change in China’s attitude towards itself. In this regard, Jaishankar’s recoupling of economic and trade ties with the larger border question is a welcome move, but a lot would depend on how determined India is to persevere through the demanding nature of realpolitik.

Notes:

  1. Mohan Malik’s article on three schools of thought on India’s China policy: accessible at: https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a591916.pdf

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India-China Relations: A Turbulent Future?

Leoni Connah

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On the 10th May 2020, Indian and Chinese troops engaged in a cross-border dispute in Sikkim. After built up tensions, a month later another clash began in The Galwan Valley. By September, shots had been fired for the first time in over 40 years. Such confrontations are the worst India and China have seen in recent years. Although face-offs between the two sides are not uncommon, border disputes do pose a challenge for Indian and Chinese security. Also, their economic relationship could be strained if the two rising giants do not resolve their territorial dispute. Therefore, this article looks at the recent tensions between the two states and considers what this means for the future of their bilateral relationship.

Where did it Begin?

The Sino-Indian war took place in 1962, when Indian and Chinese troops fought over the Himalayan territory of Aksai Chin. Aksai Chin is located between Tibet, Xinjiang and Ladakh and territory was the primary cause of the war, as well as other issues including sporadic violence. China had gradually exerted its influence over Aksai Chin for four years before the war. At the time, India placed its forces along the border, but China’s strategy was to launch a full-blown attack. China’s standpoint was that the territory they were fighting over was deemed the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and they should have sovereignty over it. As India’s strategy was one of defence, they were outnumbered and lacked sufficient weaponry. Therefore, they suffered heavy casualties with many of the army killed, wounded, missing and captured. The war lasted until China announced a unilateral ceasefire on 21stNovember 1962.India was left defeated and humiliated as it was never prepared for a war with China. Until 1962, India had always focused on the security threat posed by Pakistan and had the upper hand militarily.

Cross-border Disputes

Since the 1962 war there have occurred numerous infrequent stand-offs between Indian armed forces and Chinese armed forces along the disputed territory. There is a competitive nature between the two states whereby these stand-offs become an opportunity to militarily flex their muscles. Episodes occurred in Northern Ladakh in 2013 and Eastern Ladakh in 2014. In 2017, the situation escalated when China attempted to form a road that would extend its border into India. India opposed this and feared that if the road was built, China would have increased access to the Siliguri Corridor, also known as the ‘chicken’s neck’. This is a highly contentious area for India as they believe it is a strategic asset to them because it connects the North Eastern states to the mainland. The high-altitude stand-off lasted for over a month. In September 2019, another violent clash took place near the Pangong Tso (lake), an area that China has control over two thirds of. The most recent disputes involved pushing, shoving, fists, wooden clubs, and stone throwing. The skirmish in May resulted in 11 injured in total, 4 Indian forces and 7 Chinese forces. It was resolved by local brigadier-level sector commanders who were able to discuss the tensions and come to a resolution. However, the clash in June saw 20 Indian soldiers dead and up to 40 Chinese casualties. In late July, it was believed that troops were withdrawing from the border region. However, this remained incomplete and throughout August and September, Indian troops were continuing to deploy along the LAC. For over 40 years, no bullets were fired in these skirmishes because of the de facto border code that prohibits the use of firearms. However, this changed in September when the first shots were fired. The most recent disputes are believed to have been triggered by a disagreement over the location of Chinese observation towers and tents. It seems, tensions have been building since India’s revocation of Article 370 in 2019 and China’s resistance against India’s infrastructure plans in the borderlands.

A Turbulent Future?

In 2018, PM Modi and President Jinping agreed to maintain peace along the border at the Wuhan summit. India and China’s collective economies make up over 17% of the entire global economy. Also, China is India’s primary trading partner with annual trade worth $92 billion. They have attempted to increase cooperation and build confidence measures by undertaking joint projects including a training program for Afghan diplomats and reviving the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) corridor. However, these efforts are undermined by the pervasive feeling of distrust between the two states and the echoes of Cold War history. Also, the summits and efforts of cooperation have not stopped the outbreaks of violence, nor have they solved any of the underlying issues. Underlying issues that strain the Sino-Indian relationship include nuclear weapons, China’s support for Pakistan, the situation in Tibet and India’s sheltering of the Dalai Lama, the Chinese navy making an appearance in Indian waters and Indian foreign policy. The Covid-19 pandemic has added pressure to Sino-Indian relations as the Indian general public blame China for the outbreak thus causing an anti-China sentiment. Both states have downplayed the recent stand-off’s as short-term and temporary incidents. However, if relations continue to sour over territorial boundaries and the border remains unresolved, this could compromise their economic relationship. To prevent prolonged crisis, China would need to withdraw its aggressive position voluntarily through peaceful negotiations with India. India could attempt a forceful removal of Chinese forces, but that would lead to increased escalation. Further, India should tread with caution as neighbouring countries including Sri Lanka and Nepal are becoming increasingly supportive of China. In other words, unless India and China find a way to trust each other, it is highly likely that they will be pushed to the brink of war once again.

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