Although the Chinese notion on the emergence of China as a global power is quite liberal in perspective, as they believe in a peaceful rise and assuring no intentions of replacing US hegemony, however, the mere motive for the acquisition of power highlights the internal political beliefs. According to which, China obviously recognizes the anarchic state of nature of the world politics and that is why the state cannot trust any other state to the fullest, meaning that China is willing to take strong actions against any state that tries to threaten its sovereignty or other national interests. Power maximization under the core classical realists’ concept of offensive realism provides a logical theoretical framework to best describe China’s national motives and actions, however, Mearsheimer failed to provide argumentative support to the long-standing concept of power maximization under the economic sense. It is believed that China can provide an alternative and improvised theoretical framework on the concept of power maximization in the economic sense, as they believe that economy is a crucial contributing factor to a state’s actual power. The Chinese consensus in the last two decades is quite similar to the theories of Alfred Thayer Mahan, with a special focus on sea and economy. According to Mahan, the strength of a nation’s navy is the key to a strong foreign policy and economic achievements. These two concepts collectively makeup a theoretical framework for China’s power struggles during the recent decades.
With the course of time, a state’s national interests can change and so can the execution of its national policy. China in the recent decades have withered and recovered from the ‘Hundred years of humiliation’, in a constant struggle to revive its lost status of a great power. The reason why China has managed to strengthen its economy and improvise its political structure is because China has learnt from its past mistakes, dicey decisions, structural problems, long-standing political (and cultural) beliefs and ultimate failures. By deeply analysing the courses of actions, the state managed to uproot its biggest failures, mistakes and structural blunders, and yet continues to improve its national and foreign policy. United States of America on the other hand, ever since the Obama Administration’s indication of a shift to Asia, has been on a close watch for China’s surveillance. His predecessor, George W. Bush, was all about the ‘War on Terror’ and paid zero to none attention in the overall foreign policy of the United States of America. This paper examines the decades-long Chinese modernization, structural reforms and the current role of PLA in the national security of China and reveals answers to questions; what is the progressive international political hype for China all about? What are the assumed and announced PLA objectives? Why there was need for modernization? And how does China plan to be a world class force by 2049? As China has always remained opaque in terms of courses of action, so there’s a whole lot of ambiguity in the matter as well, however, the research of this paper thoroughly examines the areas under tension and provides a rough outlined sketch to best understand mysterious nature of Chinese orthodoxy.
Chinese National Security
National security, alongside state sovereignty, is a sub-component of the state’s grand strategy. A grand strategy incorporates tools of power such as economy, diplomacy, military and natural resources, in the formulation of the overall, core objective of the state. Every nation strives for power, making power acquisition and dominance, the core components of their grand strategy. China’s national security strategy can be derived from the three core national objectives of the state; sovereignty, modernity and stability. The aim of a state’s national security is to secure its national objectives, using necessary means and ends.
According to the Meriam Webster’s dictionary, sovereignty is defined as the supreme power of the state over itself and the freedom from external control. China has been claiming that it has never fought a war of aggression ever since its independence in 1949. The period spanning from the mid-19th century and the mid-20th century, from 1840’s ‘opium war’ to the war against Japan dating from 1937-1945, is characterized by China as the ‘hundred years of humiliation’. Therefore, after independence, the state swore off wars of aggression and urged for structural and doctrinal reforms. All the major conflicts and Chinese interventions (Chinese intervention in Korea-1950, War against India-1962, Sino-Soviet skirmishes in the late 1960’s and the infamous Vietnam War-1979) after 1949 are claimed to be responses to bulging threats to the state sovereignty.
Modernity implies a steady compliance with advancements of the technology, strategic environment and addressing outdated structural and institutional issues. In the closing decades of the 20th century, there was s strong emphasis on strengthening the economy and beyond the tangible, cultural, social and political reforms. The aim of modernity has shifted from ‘strengthening the economy’ to ‘strengthening the military’ during the last 3 decades. For example, in the late 90’s China was not willing to participate in joint military exercises and in the recent years the state has ironically sent PLA troops to various joint military exercises in order to compensate the deficit of its combat capabilities, since the state has not entered a war for a very long time.
Lastly, by stability, it does not mean a mere territorial stability but the internal and international- environmental stability is also a major concern of the People’s Republic of China. In 1998, Jiang Zemin at the 15th Party Congress said “. . . it is of the utmost importance to correctly handle the relations between reformand development on one hand and stability on the other so as to maintain a stablepolitical and social environment. Without stability, nothing can be achieved”.
All three of the above-mentioned objectives make up the entire national and foreign policy of the state, including the national security strategy as well. The objectives of a state’s national interests can predict its overall political and military policy through the courses of action highlighted by the developmental strategy of their military doctrine.
PLA’s Evolutional Journey
Preceding the actual evolution of People’s Liberation Army, China has made massive blunders and evaluated its failures very closely. After its foundation in the late 1920’s the guerrilla (mobileoperational-style) warfare, used by the state in the mountains of Jing gag, proved to be a significant warfare tactic required for state’s survival. Following the war in the 1920’s, the war against Japan in the 1930’s and 40’s made the state to fall on its knees. All was not lost, as the Chinese troops and citizens, collectively paid their homage and best wishes to the soldiers (and their families) who embraced martyrdom. This sacrificial spirit and emphasis on the guerrilla warfare, led to the Mao’s concept of ‘people’s war’ that advocated a ‘a sea’ of soldiers in order to defeat the enemy’s forces. However, things were not expected to worsen when the Chinese military decided to enter a war against Vietnam in 1979. An estimated 100,000 Vietnamese troops trolled the ‘twice-their-size’ 200,000 Chinese troops and that pushed China to ponder on the restructuring and advanced training methods of its military. This was not yet the ‘severe blow’ that laid out strong emphasis on modernization. After the Gulf war erupted in the early 1990’s, it was the first time that US had fought directly with coalition forces, therefore, their display of advance technology, equipment and advanced combat skills stunned the Chinese policy makers. Even though the state made massive reductions to its military force, after 1979, the Iraqi invasion was the actual turning point for the military strategy of the state, as it was a display of technological sophistication for the PLA and reflection of its capabilities at that time.
In 1993, the China Communist Party rolled out a set of reforms that accentuated the modernization of the People’s Liberation Army, it was the first time that the Chinese strategists had abandoned Mao’s concept of ‘people’s war’, which was a derivative of the total war doctrine. The Chinese strategists replaced the long-standing ‘total war’ doctrine with the ‘limited war’ doctrine. Although there was a stronger military modernization emphasis during the late 90’s however the actual developments were made in the economic realm. In 2001, after China became a member of the World Trade Organization, new economic opportunities paved a way for a prosperous economic growth for the state.
After all those years, the year 2012 proved be another major turning point for the PLA’s steps toward modernization. In 2012, president Xi Jinping took charge, he advocated a ‘Chinese Dream’ of making the state a world-class force by its 100th independence anniversary, which is 2049. This ‘Chinese Dream’ envisaged the restructuring, re-grouping and modernizing its armed forces. In 2015, China introduced two more forces to its service branches, namely Strategic Support Force and the Rocket Force (Strategic Missile Force). Following the year, in 2016, the government announced “the downsizing of 300,000 troops”, eradicating the former ‘the more, the merrier’ political belief, implying a focus on quantity rather than quality of the troops.
China’s overall military expenditure has also increased every year, progressively since the early the 2000’s. According to the 2019 Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Yearbook, “the Chinese military expenditure, recorded in 2018, was around 250 billion US-Dollars, while the US military expenditure was around 649 billion dollars”, still not as much as United States, however, China has come very close in compared to the rest of the states in the world, that could compete with the United States, in the economic sense. Therefore, there is a clear priority of national security for China, as a globally-chaotic political environmentcould suppress the state’s rise as a respected super power, which is why the capabilities of PLA has gotten the centre stage in the state’s national security.
PLA’s Force Structure
China has a coast line of about 18000 kilometres, however, its Exclusive Economic Zone is of 200 nautical miles, same as its strategic partner Pakistan, but China also claims over more than 6000 islands as a part of its territory. The state has five regions of commands;
- Central Command; Beijing and security for China Communist Party leadership.
- Eastern Command; Taiwan, East China Sea, Disputed Islands and Japan.
- Northern Command; Korean Peninsula and borders with Russia, Mongolia and the Yellow Sea.
- Southern Command; South China Sea and borders with South East Asian countries.
- Western Command; Borders with India and a fight for counter-terrorism.
These above-mentioned areas of commands are the responsibilities of People’s Liberation Army and which is why the PLA was re-structured into the following five group of forces;
- PLA Ground Forces/Army; has approximated of 975,000 troops in service.
- PLA Airforce; has approximated of 395,000 troops in service.
- PLA Navy; has approximated of 240,000 troops in service.
- PLA Rocket Force (Strategic Missile Force); has approximated of 100,000 troops in service.
- PLA Strategic Support Force; has approximated 175,000 troops in service.
China having the world’s largest population, has no shortage of troops, other than a total over 2 million personnel in service, China also has other 150,000 of militia and about 500,000 in reserve. On its first Independence Day parade, the state only had a few capabilities and most of them were captured. The shame was felt so deep that had to expand its military capabilities, and after decades of blood and sweat, China managed to develop the following capabilities;
- Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (70 in stock).
- Bomber Aircrafts (162 in service).
- Armoured Infantry Fighting Vehicles (3,860 in service).
- Main Battle Tanks (6,740 in service).
- Attack guide missile Submarines (57 in service)
- Aircraft Carriers (1 in service).
- Cruisers, Destroyers and Frigates (82 in service).
- Principal Amphibious Ships (4 in service).
- Tactical Aircrafts (1,966 in service).
- Attack Helicopters (246 in service).
- Satellites (77 in orbit).
All of these capabilities were created by the state itself, setting afoot to the journey to revive the lost status of a great power. In the early 1960’s the PLA made a shift towards building a strong Airforce, with a constant focus on the ground forces, however, the last two decades marked China’s shift towards the maritime development and security. The heavy naval build-up illuminates that not only does the state need to secure its territorial boundaries, but also to protect its mega-economic Belt and Road Initiative project, not because of the fact that it will cost the state more than just a couple hundred billion US-Dollars, but the trade it will hold and the regional connectivity that it will provide, may change the entire international order.
PLA and National Security:
People’s Liberation Army has a direct involvement in national security, because the military doctrine/strategy of a state is derivative of the state’s national interest, implying that the PLA is a mere tool in the execution of the grand strategy of the Republic of China. With rapid developments to the system the first major achievement for the state’s grand strategy is the transition of the state profile towards a ‘global power’ from a ‘regional power’ and such transitions are followed by a number of threats. Given the complicated globalised strategic environment, the national interests have also expanded, despite their developmental strategy, indicating a strong maritime force, there’s much ambiguity in the predictability of the executional strategy.
The China’s external threats are of two sorts; territorial and diplomatic tensions. Territorial disputes in South and East China Sea, over various islands, in particular the infamous Senku and Diaoyu islands, attracts much attention. If a proper military infrastructure is installed on the islands, it can prevent US involvement and also, most importantly, Taiwan’s independence. Diplomatic tensions can also result from territorial disputes in a region, such as with Japan. Other diplomatic tensions are merely out of spite, for example, China’s emergence as a global power is unbearable to the US’ hegemony and world recognized prestige. That is why China has been observing and acting upon improvements over its military capabilities and strategy. In April 2020, China constructed a second Type 075 warship, a class designed to compete in amphibious capability with the American Wasp class ships. Two more are anticipated, as are two more aircraft carriers. These are clearly designed to match American warships, and raise interest in China’s ability to sustain distant interest by sea, most obviously in the Indian Ocean, but also wherever Chinese geopolitical concerns may be favoured by naval power projection.”, said professor Jeremy Black of the Foreign Policy Research Institute.
Other than United States, Japan and Taiwan, Russia is also a great threat to the national interests of the state. The increased strategic cooperation does not imply that Russian strategists do not consider China as a major threat as well, in fact, it is quite the same on the other side of the fence. The Russian inclusion in the Caspian Sea, makes the Central Asian states vulnerable to Russian pressure, which could seize a major part of the entire BRI project.
Furthermore, the internal security threats are not the responsibility of the PLA, People’s Armed Police is assigned for internal security matters, however, if there occurs a situation of civil unrest or uprising, particularly in the Tibet and Xinjiang, then the PLA would most likely answer to the call of duty.
Conclusively, there is a direct role of the People’s Liberation Army in the Republic of China’s national interests and ultimately its national security. Although a number of modernizations and reforms were mentioned in this paper, there still is a lot of modernizations that are being kept confidential to the public and with opaque nature of matters, one cannot exactly predict where this will lead to. There are a number of global implications over the topic under discussion, such as the most likelihood of a third world war. This possible implication, is the most debated possibility in the current academic consensus over the matter, this is because the United States of America sees the Republic of China, as a ‘revisionist power’ and the hegemonic influence has strengthened its allies over the course of time, which is why China also takes it into account and keeps expanding its maritime territory to assert dominance in the Indo-Pacific region. Although China has claimed not to build offshore military bases, the naval base in Djibouti and the second under construction in Cambodia is a serious concern for the United States.
Regardless of the heavy criticism, China still believes in a peaceful and prosperous economic and prestigious rise. Not to blame the state, but if mere claims and assurances were enough to influence the global political assessments, then China may not get to that point of development. That is why the state has setup a heavy navy build-up and it aims to deter US and coalition forces. Assumingly, if the state manages to score a peaceful rise in the era of complex nature of warfare and false flags, then it could provide a new and improved vision for the world order. Henceforth, protecting the rule of the China’s Communist Party, is on the top of the priority shelf of the People’s Liberation Army and after that, 95 % of the threats that the PLA would provide a shield against, are the external threats of all sorts. In this automized information age, the purpose of expanding PLA’s service branches to Rocket force and the Strategic Support Force was mainly to have a separate supervision for the nuclear arsenals and also to fight cyber-terrorism threats.
Mulvenon, C., James and Yang, H., Richard.” The People’s Liberation Army in the Information Age.” Rand Corporation, no. 1(1999):5-10.https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/conf_proceedings/CF145/CF145.chap7.pdf.
Mulvenon, C., James and Yang, H., Richard.” The People’s Liberation Army in the Information Age.” Rand Corporation, no. 1(1999): 10-20. https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/conf_proceedings/CF145/CF145.chap7.pdf.
Mulvenon, C., James and Yang, H., Richard.” The People’s Liberation Army in the Information Age.” Rand Corporation, no. 1(1999): 20-30. https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/conf_proceedings/CF145/CF145.chap7.pdf.
SIPRI.” Armaments, Disarmament and International Security.” SIPRI Yearbook 2019, (2019): 6-10. https://www.sipri.org/sites/default/files/2019-06/yb19_summary_eng.pdf
Maizland, Lindsay.” China’s Modernizing Military.” Council on Foreign Relations. Accessed on August 5, 2020. https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/chinas-modernizing-military.
İlhan, Bekir.” China’s Evolving Military Doctrine After the Cold War.” SETA Analysis, no. 59(January,2020): 11-12. https://setav.org/en/assets/uploads/2020/02/A56En.pdf.
İlhan, Bekir.” China’s Evolving Military Doctrine After the Cold War.” SETA Analysis, no. 59(January,2020): 12-13. https://setav.org/en/assets/uploads/2020/02/A56En.pdf.
İlhan, Bekir.” China’s Evolving Military Doctrine After the Cold War.” SETA Analysis, no. 59(January,2020): 13-14. https://setav.org/en/assets/uploads/2020/02/A56En.pdf.
Black, Jeremy.” China’s Military Capabilities and the New Geopolitics.” Foreign Policy Research Institute. Accessed on August 5, 2020. https://www.fpri.org/article/2020/05/chinas-military-capabilities-and-the-new-geopolitics/.
The Greek-Turkish Standoff: A New Source of Instability in the Eastern Mediterranean
Since 2011, Eastern Mediterranean affairs have mainly been marked by instability due to the civil wars in Libya and Syria. Recently, a new source of tensions further perplexes the situation—the Greek-Turkish standoff. Currently, Athens and Ankara disagree over sovereign rights in the Eastern Mediterranean. Specifically, they both claim rights in maritime zones which have not yet been delimited. The nature of the problem is not new, dating back to November 1973. What is new is the breadth of maritime zones the two sides disagree upon. The attention has shifted towards the Eastern Mediterranean in the last ten years, while it had only focused on the Aegean Sea before energy discoveries were made in the Levantine Basin in 2009.
Greek-Turkish relations were relatively calm from 1999 until 2016. In 2002, Athens and Ankara launched the so-called “exploratory talks,” a format to exchange views on thorny issues informally. The 60th round of bilateral exploratory talks took place in March 2016 and was the last until now. After 2016, cooperation between Greece and Turkey continued—for example, on the management of the refugee crisis—but the latter employed a different foreign policy approach. Seeing the EU door almost closed and having to deal with the post-coup domestic priorities, President Tayyip Erdogan sought to strengthen his country’s regional role. He placed more emphasis on national security issues and was not hesitant to forge closer ties with Russia and China. He has lacked predictability in international affairs.
Eastern Mediterranean waters could not but come to Turkey’s interest when hydrocarbons were discovered in the Basin. Cyprus followed Israel in proceeding to explore and exploit some reservoirs, such as the Aphrodite field, in close collaboration with some international energy companies. Like any other sovereign country in the world with resources, it had the right to develop them. The Republic of Cyprus had already entered the EU in 2004, but the island remained divided after the Turkish military invasion of 1974. From the very beginning, Turkey disagreed with the practices of the Cypriot government and acted to protect, in its view, the Turkish Cypriot community. Such actions became bolder in 2018. Turkish vessels began researching and drilling in Cypriot waters, although the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus is grounded on international law. The reaction of both the EU and the U.S. was very mild. As a result, Turkish ships uninterruptedly continue their operations as of today. Having been disappointed with the EU’s stance, on September 21, 2020, Cyprus decided not to sign the list of European sanctions against Belarus unless Brussels moves to impose sanctions on Turkey over its violation of Cypriot sovereign rights in the Eastern Mediterranean.
August 2020 saw Turkey expand the same policy in regard to Cypriot waters, particularly maritime zones south of the island of Kastellorizo. The Turkish government sent the “Oruc Reis” ship to conduct research in disputed waters, according to the terminology of the American administration. It was accompanied by frigates causing Greece’s similar reaction. The research lasted for more than four weeks. On September 21, Ankara did not renew the relevant NAVTEX fueling speculation about its motivations. While maintenance reasons are officially presented as the main reason for the return of “Orus Reis” to the Antalya port, the decision is generally seen as a sign to diffuse tensions in view of the EU-Turkey summit of September 24–25, where the possibility of sanctions is likely to de discussed. Nonetheless, Turkey has declared the vessel could soon continue its mission.
The crisis is far from over. External mediators, namely Germany and the U.S., call for dialogue. Other partners such as Russia, China, France and the UK also advocate for a diplomatic solution. In principle, dialogue remains the only way forward. However, Greece and Turkey have completely different agendas. Turkey opts for negotiations without preconditions on a variety of themes. Experience from history—when the Aegean Sea was the epicentre of attention—shows Ankara is aware that international law would hardly favour its position, should talks only be concentrated on the delimitation of the continental shelf. The Turkish government endeavours to boost its argumentation by publicly talking about the geographic position of Kastellorizo, yet steadily combines other demands along with the proposed arrangement of maritime zones. Greece suspiciously sees this tactic.
Another reason for pessimism is that Turkey complements its position about future dialogue with Greece with some proposals on the island of Cyprus. Specifically, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has talked about the establishment of an equitable revenue sharing mechanism and other schemes with the participation of all parties, including the Turkish Cypriots. Whether the two themes, Greek-Turkish relations and the rights of Turkish Cypriot and perhaps a revival of talks on the Cyprus Question are to be linked, will be seen. As a matter of principle, Athens and Nicosia do not accept the participation of the Turkish Cypriot administration in any negotiations or meetings. And they both see the Cyprus Question as an international and European problem. Having said that, Greece and Cyprus raise provocative Turkish actions in the Eastern Mediterranean at the EU level, whereas Turkey prefers direct negotiations on outstanding issues. Despite this alignment, Athens does not negotiate on behalf of Nicosia.
So, where are we? NATO “deconfliction” talks are continuing and Germany is pushing both Greece and Turkey to engage themselves in new exploratory talks. The most delicate part of the task is not to talk about the need for dialogue but to make dialogue a success before a new military crisis occurs. Russia has also offered to mediate if asked, as the problem is an area of concern for the American administration and NATO first. From a Greek perspective, good ties between Russia and Turkey are a thorn in Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s initiative to mediate. Of course, this can also be a blessing in disguise. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis decided to publicize his interest in holding a telephone conversation with President Vladimir Putin at the end of July, while important meetings between Greek and Russian officials took place in recent days. Foreign Ministers Dendias and Lavrov regularly talk to each other. Greece strives to achieve balance between its clear foreign policy choices and the difficult but possible rewarming of ties with Russia, acknowledging the rising role of the latter in the South.
From our partner RIAC
Why the “Coronavirus Ceasefire” Never Happened
Six months ago, when COVID-19 had just moved beyond the borders of China and embarked upon its triumphant march across Europe and North America, politicians and foreign affairs experts started discussing what will happen after the virus is vanquished. The debate that ensued balanced the fears and concerns of pessimists with the hopes and expectations of optimists, with the latter believing that the pandemic and the global recession that followed would inevitably force humankind to put its differences aside and finally unite in the face of common challenges.
Six months later, we can say without any doubt that, unfortunately, the optimists were wrong. The pandemic did not bring about the changes in world politics they had been hoping for, even with the ensuing recession making things worse. And we are unlikely to see any such changes in the near future. Sadly, COVID-19 did not turn out to be a cure-all for regional conflicts, arms races, the geopolitical competition and the countless ailments of humankind today.
These persisting ailments are more than evident in relations between Russia and the West. No positive steps have been made in the past six months in any of the areas where the positions of the two sides differ significantly, be it the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, the unrest in Syria, the political instability in Venezuela or the war in Libya. The fate of the New START and the nuclear nonproliferation regime remains unclear. Moscow continues to be the target of new economic and political sanctions. Russia and the West are locked in an intense information war. There are no signs of a “coronavirus ceasefire,” let alone a full-fledged peace agreement, on the horizon.
Of course, Moscow has placed the blame for the lack of progress squarely on the shoulders of its western partners. While this may indeed be true in many respects, we must admit that the Kremlin has hardly been overflowing with ideas and proposals over the past six months. Even if Moscow did want to reverse the current negative trends in global politics, it has not taken any steps on its own to do so. Nor has it proposed any large-scale international projects, or even tried to temper its usual foreign policy rhetoric and propaganda.
On the contrary, the various troubles that have befallen Russia in the “coronavirus era” – from the public unrest in Belarus to the unfortunate poisoning of Alexei Navalny – are explained away as the malicious intrigues of Russia’s geopolitical opponents. For all intents and purposes, the Kremlin is in the same position now, in September 2020, that it was in back in March. The chances of another “reset” or at least a “timeout” in relations have disappeared completely, if they ever existed in the first place.
So, why did the “coronavirus ceasefire” never happen? Without absolving the West of its share of responsibility, let us try to outline the obstacles that Russia has put in the way of progress.
First, in an environment of unprecedented shocks and cataclysms, there is always the hope that your opponent will eventually suffer more as a result than you will. Many in Russia see the 2020 crisis as the final damning indictment of the West and even an inglorious end to the market economy and political liberalism in general.
The recent statement by Aide to the President of the Russian Federation Maxim Oreshkin that Russia is poised to become one of the top five economies in the world this year is particularly noteworthy. Not because the country is experiencing rapid economic growth, but because the German economy is set to fall further than the Russian economy. If you are certain that time is on your side and that you will emerge from the crisis in better shape than your opponents, then the incentives to work towards some kind of agreement hic et nunc are, of course, reduced.
Second, the current Russian leadership is convinced that any unilateral steps on its part, any shifts in Moscow’s foreign policy, will be perceived in the West as a sign of weakness. And this will open the door for increased pressure on Moscow. Not that this logic is entirely unfounded, as history has shown. But it is precisely this logic that prevents Russian leaders from admitting their past foreign policy mistakes and miscalculations, no matter how obvious they may have been. This, in turn, makes it extremely difficult to change the current foreign policy and develop alternative routes for the future. In fact, what we are seeing is a game to preserve the status quo, in the hope that history will ultimately be on Moscow’s side, rather than that of its opponents (see the first point).
Third, six and a half years after the crisis in Ukraine broke out, we are essentially left with a frozen conflict. Turning the large and unwieldy state machine around, rewiring the somewhat heavy-handed state propaganda machine, and changing the policies that determine the everyday actions of the army of “deep state” officials is tantamount to changing the trajectory of a supertanker carrying a load of hundreds of thousands of tonnes. It is perhaps even more difficult, however, to change the opinion that has taken shape in Russian society in recent years about the modern world and Russia’s place in it. Just because the Russian people are tired of foreign politics, this does not mean that they will enthusiastically support an updated version of Mikhail Gorbachev’s “new thinking” of the second half of the 1980s or the ideological principles of Boris Yeltsin and Andrei Kozyrev’s foreign policy of the early 1990s.
Fourth, the balance of power between the agencies involved in the development and practical implementation of Russia’s foreign policy has changed significantly in recent years. The role of the security forces has been growing in all its aspects since at least the beginning of 2014. Conversely, the role of diplomats, as well as that of the technocrats in the economic structures of the Russian government, has been dwindling with each passing year. It is the security forces that are the main “stakeholders” in Donbass, Syria, Libya and even Belarus today. It would be fair to say that they have had a controlling interest in Russia’s foreign policy. The oft-quoted words of Emperor Alexander III that Russia has only two allies, its army and its navy, perfectly reflect the shift that has taken place in the balance of powers between these agencies. We should add that this shift was largely welcomed and even supported by a significant part of Russian society (see the third point). Of course, the siloviki are, due to the specifics of their work, less inclined to compromise, concessions and basic human empathy than diplomats, economists and technocrats.
All these factors preventing the conceptual renewal of Russia’s foreign policy can equally be applied to its geopolitical opponents. Politicians in the West are also hoping that time is on their side, that Moscow will emerge from the crisis weaker and more vulnerable, and thus more malleable than it was before. They also believe that any unilateral steps, any demonstration of flexibility in relations with the Kremlin, will be met with an even tougher and more aggressive policy. Negative ideas about Russia have also taken root in the minds of people in the West, and foreign policy is being “militarized” there just as much as it is in Russia.
Thus, neither the coronavirus nor the economic recession will automatically lead to a détente, let alone a reset in relations between Russia and the West. We are, in fact, moving in the opposite direction, once again running the risk of an uncontrolled confrontation. However, this unfortunate situation is no reason to give up on the possibility of signing new agreements, even if COVID-19 will no longer be in our corner moving forward.
From our partner RIAC
India’s strategies short of war against a hostile China
Since India’s independence several peace and border cooperation agreements were signed between the India and China. Prominent among them was the Panchsheel Agreement signed in 1954. A majority of the agreements were signed between 1993 and 2013. Recently genuine efforts were made by PM Narendra Modi by engaging Xi Jinping at the Wuhan and Chennai summits. But China is nowhere near to settling the border dispute despite various agreements and talks at the military and civilian levels.
After the 1962 war peace was largely maintained on the Indo China border. During the Mao and Deng era consensus building was the norm in the communist party. XiJinping appointed himself as chairman of the communist party for life. Today power is centralized with XiJinping and his cabal. Through Doklam and Galwan incidents Xi Jinpinghas disowned the peaceful principles laid down by his predecessors. China’s strategy is to keep India engaged in South Asia as it doesn’t want India to emerge as a super power. After solving a crisis on the border China will create another crisis. Beijing has declining interest in the niceties of diplomacy. Under Xi Jinping China has become more hostile.
China has been infringing on India’s sovereignty through salami tactics by changing the status quo and attempting to own the border territory. At Galwan on Xi Jinping’s birthday the PLA demonstrated hooliganism by assaulting Indian border positions. China violated the 1996 and 2005 bilateral agreements which states that both armies should not carry weapons within 1.24 miles on either side of the border. India’s Foreign Minister S Jaishankar mentioned that the standoff situation with China in Galwan Valley of eastern Ladakh is “surely the most serious situation after 1962.”China is constructing infrastructure, increasing forces and deploying weapon systems on the border.
Options for India
India led by PM Narendra Modi has implemented a realist foreign policy and a muscular military policy.India ended the age of strategic restraint by launching special operations and air strikes in Pakistan. Since the Galwan incident India has increased the military, diplomatic and economic deterrence against China. India is constructing military infrastructure and deploying weapon systems like SU 30 MKI and T 90 tanks in Ladakh. India banned a total of 224 Chinese apps, barred Chinese companies from government contracts and is on the verge of banning Huawei. Other measures include excluding Chinese companies from private Indian telecommunications networks. Chinese mobile manufacturers can be banned from selling goods in India.
India should offer a grand strategy to China. India has a plethora of options short of war. Future talks should involve an integrated strategy to solve all the bilateral issues and not just an isolated resolution of a localized border incident. All instruments of military and economic power and coercive diplomacy should be on the table.
China expects other nations to follow bilateral agreements and international treaties while it conveniently violates them. India should abrogate the Panscheel agreement given China’s intransigence and hostility. China claims 35,000 square miles of territory in India’s northeast, including the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. China occupies 15,000 square miles of India’s territory in the Aksai Chin Plateau in the Himalayas. India’s primary objective is to take back territories like Aksai Chin. While the secondary issue is the resolution of the border issue and China’s support to Pakistan. India can leverage the contemporary geopolitical climate to settle all issues. India can target China’s soft underbelly characterized by issues like Taiwan, Xinjiang and the economy. China raises the Kashmir issue at international organizations. As a countervailing measure India can raise Xinjiang at international organizations and conferences.
China has been militarily and diplomatically supporting Pakistan against India. Pakistan is a rentier and a broken state that sponsors terrorism. India can establish bilateral relations with Taiwan thus superseding China’s reunification sensitivities. China has territorial disputes with 18 countries including Taiwan and Japan. India can hedge against China by establishing strategic partnerships with US, Australia, Japanand Vietnam.
An overwhelming military is a deterrence for China’s belligerent foreign and military policy. The 1990Gulf War demonstrated the capabilities of high technology weapon systems. As compared to China’s rudimentary weapons systems India has inducted 4th and 5th generation weapons like the SU 30 MKI, AH 64 Apache and T 90 tanks. The deterrence capacity of fighter aircrafts is reduced as they cannot target China’s coastlines due to their restricted range. Full deterrence can be achieved by ICBMs and nuclear powered submarines. With these weapons India can target centers of gravity like Shanghai and Shenzhen.
China is not a signatory to arms limitations treaties like Start I and Start II. China continues to expand its nuclear weapons stockpile and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) like DF 21 and DF-26B which are banned by the INF Treaty. India is a law abiding stable democracy in an unstable region with two hostile nations on its flanks. US and Russia can relax the arms control mechanism considering India’s’ impeccable record on peace and non proliferation. This will allow India to buy Russian weapon systems like Zircon and Kinzhal hypersonic missiles, Topol and Bulava ICBMs and Yasen and Borey class SSBN submarines. While US can sell SSBN submarines and C4ISR gathering platforms like RC 135 and RQ 4 Global Hawk.
China remains a security threat for Asia. As China foments instability the APAC region from South Asia to South China Sea remains volatile. The Quad can be expanded to include Taiwan, Vietnam, Philippines, South Korea and Indonesia and multinational naval exercises can conducted in the South China Sea.
The enemy of my enemy is my friend. China fought small wars with India, Vietnam and Soviet Union. Vietnam defeated the PLA at Lang Son in 1979 with advanced weapon systems and guerilla warfare. India can increase militarily cooperation with Vietnam. China attacked the Soviet Union on the Ussuri river leading to heavy PLA casualties. Historically relations between Russia and India have been close. As a result of the Indo Soviet Friendship Treaty China did not support Pakistan during the 1971 war. India can enhance its military and diplomatic ties with Russia to the next level.
Strategic partnership with US
Its time for a partnership between the world’s largest and the world’s biggest democracies. India and the US have a common objective to preserve peace, maintain stability and enhance security in Asia. India’s reiteration at leaders’ level and international forums that both countries see each other as allies for stability in the APAC region is not enough. India has to go beyond the clichés of the need for closer ties.
Due to the China threat the US is shifting its military from Europe and Middle East to the APAC region.US and India can establish an Asian equivalent of NATO as China’s destructive policy frameworks and threatening postures remain a strategic threat. India should enhance and deepen cooperation with the US intelligence community in the fields of MASINT, SIGINT, GEOINT, TECHINT and CYBINT. Both countries can form an alliance of democracies. If China militarily or economically targets one of the member country then the alliance can retaliate under a framework similar to Article 5 of NATO. Thus power will be distributed in the APAC region instead of being concentrated with China. A scorpion strategy will ensure that China does not harass its neighbors. The strategy involves a military pincer movement by India from the west and US from the East against a hostile China. India can conduct joint military exercises with the US in Ladakh. China cannot challenge Japan and Taiwan due to the US security agreements with these countries.
The world has entered the age of instability and uncertainty. The 21st century is characterized by hybrid warfare through military and coercive diplomacy. South Asia is not a friendly neighborhood where peaceful overtures lead to harmonious relations. China is a threat to India even in the context of a friendly relationship. Diplomatic niceties have no place in India’s relations with China. India can impose costs on China which can be more than the benefits offered by normalizing relations. The application of measures short of war without engaging the PLA will reap benefits. India can fulfill its national security requirements and global responsibilities through a grand strategy.
A policy of engagement and deterrence is crucial against an antagonistic China. While India attempts to develop cooperative ties with China it will need to continue to enhance and implement its military and coercive diplomatic strategies. China does not represent a direct military threat to India but at the same time one cannot deny that challenges remain.
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