CHINA’S STRATEGIC MISCALCULATION: WAR AVOIDANCE TO WAR EMBRACEMENT - The Daily Guardian
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CHINA’S STRATEGIC MISCALCULATION: WAR AVOIDANCE TO WAR EMBRACEMENT

From Deng Xiaoping’s strategy of war avoidance, China has switched to Xi Jinping’s model of expansionist unrestricted warfare. Will China exhaust itself in Xi’s multi-domain wars?

LT GEN PR SHANKAR (Retd)

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In 2001, I was working on my dissertation during my Higher Command course. I came upon this farsighted thought of Deng Xiaoping. He had said in 1984, “We hope that for at least twenty years there will not be a war, and hope even more for no war in the next seventy years. Then we can have the time calmly to carry out our socialist four modernistions… If we truly have twenty years, thirty years without war, no war in fifty years, then this war has the possibility of being avoided.”

This statement contains China’s aspirations and strategy: War avoidance as a route to superpower status. I personally felt that it was a great vision for China. Deng had probably foreseen that the Western powers would exhaust themselves in wars. By the time the West would be exhausted, China would have risen. In 2001, what Deng had said was already coming true. Thirty years since 1984 puts you in 2014. The period of break-up of USSR, Gulf Wars, Afghanistan, War on Terror. Let us also not forget Grenada, Panama, Libya, Bosnia, Kosovo, Somalia, Haiti, and more such campaigns. As the West was exhausting itself, China was gaining strength under the carpet. It had started undermining the WTO, UN and other international institutions. It had quietly infiltrated porous democracies for its advantage. By 2014, glimpses of superpower status were appearing just over the horizon. Perfect.

Come 2012 and Xi Jinping arrives. He talks of the China Dream and rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. He launches the BRI. He announces that he will build the greatest military on earth. Barack Obama’s US looks away when he grabs the islands in the South China Sea. He advances all time lines. Theories of Mao’s Palm and Five Fingers and the Six Inevitable Wars China Must Fight start appearing in the media. He signals military intent. Donald Trump senses things slipping away from the US and launches the Trade War in his inimitable style. However things are still under control. China seemed to be purring into superpower status. Unstoppable.

The Wuhan virus struck. China panicked. The strategic opportunity was squandered.

Think back. When the Wuhan virus broke, there was a lot of international understanding for China. All China had to do was agree to cooperate with the world and be transparent even if it did not intend to do so. The virus would have spread anyway and created the chaos it did. The chaos would have led the US to take its eye off the ball as it actually panned out. At that time, no one thought militarily. Taiwan was lying virtually undefended when all three aircraft carriers of the US were non-ops with the pandemic. Up for grabs. The ‘One China’ and ‘Unification of the Chinese People’ dream would have probably been realised if China had stuck to its primary aim as enunciated in its white paper. What does China do? Diplomatically it unleashes its wolf warriors, becomes aggressive, hides the origins of the virus and starts diverting blame to others. Politically it usurps Hong Kong. Militarily, it sinks a Vietnamese fishing boat and starts a military campaign against India to settle the LAC as per its perception. However, as a national obsession, it cannot let Taiwan go. Hence it threatens an invasion of Taiwan also. By then the US is back in action. China also weaponises the virus through mask and vaccine diplomacy. It touts that its authoritarian system is better than democracies in controlling the virus. It berates the EU in Europe. It goes into an economic punishment mode with Australia. In essence, Xi Jinping has gone into unrestricted war with the world through multiple domains. The world reacts and China is now fully in the strategic dock. Xi Jinping has done the opposite of Deng’s formula. Complete strategic miscalculation? Let us examine it.

Apart from the virus-related issues, China has gone back or violated most of its international commitments. It was to maintain the special status of Hong Kong as per its treaty with the UK. It was not to militarise the South China Sea as per its own promises. Any change in the LAC status with India was to be bilateral. The significant emergent feature is that China is untrustworthy in international relations. Its expansionist tendency and world domination through communist ideology has bubbled up. If its debt trap diplomacy is added to the mix, its reputation worsens. The degree of Chinese untrustworthiness is unprecedented. Is that a major strategic loss? I think so.

China will face blame for the origin of the Virus whether it likes it or not. It is a matter of public conviction and opinion. Xi’s and CCP action has only compounded it. This blemish will endure. In influential nations and major economies, Chinese reputation has taken a severe beating. In addition, leaks reveal that the CCP has infiltrated multiple systems and institutions in democracies. This will have a rebound on Chinese people. Every Chinese individual risks being viewed as a CCP spy. Whether China likes it or not, it is entering into a period of international anti-Chinese McCarthyism and being shunned. It might not be overt but will happen. It also implies that western education and technology will be guarded against Chinese poaching by coercion or undermining. Anti-Chinese theft laws will come into being where none existed.  It is inevitable. China’s isolation will be far more deeper than normally imagined. The strategic effect on China which places a lot of importance on ‘face’ will be greater.

Having resorted to military methods to settle issues, all that China has gained is sinking a fishing boat and gaining a few square km of barren territory. In Eastern Ladakh it is in a military stalemate with India. Loss of the Kailash Range to India opens vulnerabilities which were non-existent till date. Which means that PLA has to be defensively oriented and cannot vacate the area in a hurry. It is a new commitment of geo-strategic capital and resources. China’s actions have led to Taiwan reinforcing its defences with US assistance. Hence Taiwan will be an Island too far. It can only be usurped through debilitating military action. That too is doubtful. Japan is also militarising itself with additional budgets. A non-existent Quad has seen fresh life breathed into it. Most importantly the PLA ‘halo’ has been broken and its limitations severely exposed. PLA cannot prevail against India on land and cannot overcome the US at sea. PLAN does not have the capability to stray far from Chinese shores. PLA has emerged to be a fat man with short reach. Long way to go before it is feared. There is another major military flaw which has emerged. China has a stated aim to achieve complete mechanisation of PLA. In which battle field will a completely mechanised PLA fight? If one examines issues in detail, it emerges that there is a complete mismatch between the way PLA is modernising and China’s own threat perceptions. Even more importantly, the PLA’s lack of experience is a huge issue which experienced forces will exploit. There is one finality which has emerged. One can talk of ‘multi-domain’ warfare and ‘winning without fighting’ very slickly on paper in an academic analysis by armchair strategists. However, in reality, battles have to be won on ground after shedding blood and guts. China is short on this. 

Internal fissures and instabilities have emerged or sharpened. There is an increased international focus on Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong and Inner Mongolia. The Tibet related issues which were almost buried have got a fresh wind with the US taking lead by enacting a law. Sooner or later, India will change its stance and that will be big trouble for China. Human Rights issues which were often overlooked till date are being linked increasingly with China in all matters. These issues can be stonewalled to an extent and no more. Equally, China will have to internalise. Any internalisation will be at the cost of external focus. There are also internal political factors which keep cropping up. They will add to the internalisation of China. 

Much is being made of Chinese economic recovery. While China is the one major economy which has best recovered, there are flaws which have emerged. Chinese state media keeps flaunting increased exports. Internal consumption is still stagnant as per other reports. It proves that China remains an export driven economy. Overall, its dual circulation strategy, which presupposes enhanced internal consumption, is unlikely to succeed. There is no doubt that consumer nations are still importing from China. However, as they recover from the virus effect, their imports from China will either go down or stagnate. Even if 20% supply chain relocation takes place away from China, it is troublesome. Further, ‘aging of China’ as a dampener and future drain on the Chinese economy is looming bigger by the day. It cannot be wished away. This issue figures in CCP discussions these days. Every second article has ‘aging population’ as an important limiting factor in the Chinese scenario. This will cap the Chinese economy in its time. It is unavoidable. It is mathematical. I foresee Western economies going into a ‘Deny China’ mode in future. 

Another major chink in the Chinese strategy has surfaced. China is a resource deficient nation which has opened too many fronts in too many domains. At some point of time issues will resonate and China could be in trouble. Also, the chances of countries exchanging notes to handle China jointly are not out of context. For instance, there are reports that some cities are short of energy and are facing blackouts in winter. This is due to China’s ban on Australian coal imports. Further China has gone through unprecedented floods in its economic heartland. There are credible reports of food shortages. What if coal and food supply to China is deliberately interrupted through multiple methods post the next heavy floods? Internal instability? Too many vulnerabilities have popped out of the Chinese cupboard which can be exploited.

To think that China is on a great ascendancy is being off the mark. Also, its idea of globalisation as per Chinese rules is not acceptable to anyone. The sum total of the argument is that China is fighting a multi-domain war against too many opponents simultaneously without allies of note. If your only allies are Pakistan and North Korea, you are not in a great position. From Deng’s strategy of war avoidance, China has switched to Xi’s model of expansionist unrestricted warfare. In my opinion, prematurely and likely to be a drag. The question is: Will China exhaust itself in the multi-domain wars of Xi Jinping? Is it the great leap backwards all over again?

Lt Gen P.R. Shankar was India’s DG Artillery. He is highly decorated and qualified with vast operational experience. He contributed significantly to the modernisation and indigenisation of Artillery. He is now a Professor in the Aerospace Dept of IIT Madras and is involved in applied research for defence technology. His other articles can be read on www.gunnersshot.com.

Come 2012 and Xi Jinping arrives. He talks of the China Dream and rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. He launches the BRI. He announces that he will build the greatest military on earth. Barack Obama’s US looks away when he grabs the islands in the South China Sea. He advances all timelines. Theories of Mao’s Palm and Five Fingers and the Six Inevitable Wars China Must Fight start appearing in the media.

Having resorted to military methods to settle issues, all that China has gained is sinking a fishing boat and gaining a few square km of barren territory. In eastern Ladakh it is in a military stalemate with India. Loss of the Kailash Range to India opens vulnerabilities which were non-existent till date. Which means that PLA has to be defensively-oriented and cannot vacate the area in a hurry. It is a new commitment of geostrategic capital and resources. China’s actions have led to Taiwan reinforcing its defences with US assistance. Hence Taiwan will be an island too far. It can only be usurped through debilitating military action.

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Defence

‘ARMY CAN MEET ANY CHALLENGE TO SAFEGUARD COUNTRY’

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The Army is fully prepared to meet any challenge like the use of drones and social media by adversaries to safeguard the country, said Commandant of Chennai-based Officers Training Academy (OTA) Lieutenant General M K Das. Lt Gen Das, who is also the colonel of the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry (JAKLI) regiment, said the situation in J&K is getting better with the Army and other security agencies working together to stamp out terrorism. Speaking to media on the sidelines of the maiden attestation parade of 460 new recruits of the 126th batch after a successful 40-week training period at Dansal here, he said the Indian Army is aware of the challenges and prepared to give a befitting response to the enemies of the nation.

Talking about the need to introduce special training courses for soldiers in the aftermath of the developments in Afghanistan, he said, “Our training is very contemporary as it caters for all the contingencies and unforeseen situations. My young soldiers, who have taken the oath to defend the constitution and the country, will live up to all the challenges. One of the unique things of this regiment (JAKLI) is all our troops hail from J&K and Ladakh. They have ingrained quality to be security conscious much more than others.” Lt Gen Das said, “All the situations unfolding in the country or in our neighbourhood, the JAKLI regiment will continue to excel and be the lead agency in the fight against terrorism.” Asked about the challenges posed by the use of drones to hit targets and deliver weapons and narcotics from across the LoC and International Border, he said a capsule course on anti-drone measures has been introduced. “On Army Day on 15 January, our chief took the threat seriously and our soldiers are being prepared to deal with the challenge in a better way.” During recruitment training, Lt Gen Das said that besides the arms handing and exercises, thrust is also given on science and technology, cybersecurity and other new challenges. He said the misuse of social media by “anti-national” elements is a reality and the new recruits are being trained in cybersecurity during their basic and orientation courses.

On attempts by Pakistan to mislead the youth of J&K, Lt Gen Das said, “The youth of J&K is showing keenness to be a part of the regiment which is a message to those who think they can mislead our youth. Joining the regiment is the best way to serve the nation, the youth live like a family and there is complete communal harmony.” He said the regiment is increasing the number of local youth from Ladakh and would also go for recruitment in J&K to provide an opportunity to the local youth to become part of this regiment. Asked about his message to the misguided youth, he said, “J&K is the crown of India but if I focus as a soldier, I feel they (misguided youth) have not understood their country… the situation has not gone out of hand and the Army has kept its window open to allow them to surrender and join the national mainstream.”

He added, “We have a unit of 162 Infantry Territorial Army who are former militants but have become upright soldiers.” Lt Gen Das said the Army and other security agencies are working in close coordination and the situation in J&K is getting better and the “day is not far when this region will make our country proud.”

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Defence

SOUTHERN NAVAL COMMAND OBSERVES INTERNATIONAL COASTAL CLEAN-UP DAY IN KOCHI

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The Southern Naval Command observed International Coastal Clean-up Day on Saturday with a focus on mangrove plantation and clearance of plastic/non-biodegradable waste along with waterfront areas in and around Kochi, said a press release from the Ministry of Defence.

Pursuant to the global campaign of keeping coastlines clean, more than 600 Naval personnel and the families of Southern Naval Command undertook clearance of plastic and non-biodegradable waste at different locations spread across the city, coastal areas such as Fort Kochi beach, Thevara waterfront, Willingdon Island, Cherai beach, Bolgatty and around 2 km stretch of the Venduruthy channel while restoring around 1 lakh sqm of mangroves to the pristine condition. In addition, 80 mangrove saplings were also planted along the Venduruthy channel. Similar coastal cleanup drives and lectures/webinars/competitions emphasising protection of the coastal and marine environment were undertaken with the enthusiastic participation of the Naval community at other outstation Naval units located at Lonavala, Jamnagar, Chilka, Coimbatore, Goa, Ezhimala and Mumbai.

Being the Training Command of the Indian Navy, the Southern Naval Command has always been at the vanguard in promoting environmental conservation activities both at the Command Headquarters, Kochi as well as at Naval stations spread across the country.

Mandated to oversee naval training, the Southern Naval Command has conceptualised and implemented a variety of green initiatives. Keeping environmental preservation as one of the Key Result Areas, the Command has constantly endeavoured to motivate young officer and sailor trainees of the Indian Navy to imbibe the habit of protecting mother nature as part of their grooming efforts in preparing them to become responsible future Naval leaders and dependable citizens of India.

Particular attention has also been given to create more awareness among the families and more importantly the children.

During the last three years, the Command has adopted a multi-dimensional approach towards conservation of the environment and implementation of energy conservation methods.

To highlight a few, the personnel of the Command were actively involved in the rejuvenation of 4.5-km-long Venduruthy Channel near Kochi Naval base, creating awareness in and around Naval establishments.

Efforts were undertaken to enhance green cover by conducting mass plantation drives which included planting more than 75,000 trees, using the fast-growing Miyawaki forestation method. In addition, regular coastal clean-up drives, mangrove plantation drives, in-house handling and recycling of bio and non-biodegradable waste, adopting efficient energy and water-saving methods etc were also undertaken. The Command has also earnestly endeavoured to continue all the efforts for protecting and conserving the environment and natural resources. Towards achieving the same, the Command has implemented a Green Initiative and Environment Conservation Roadmap with a prime focus on Carbon footprint reduction.

With the personal involvement of Vice Admiral Anil Kumar Chawla, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Naval Command is committed to creating a clean, green and healthy environment in line with the visionary environment conservation policies of the Govt of India. On the occasion, Adv M Anilkumar, Mayor, Kochi Municipal Corporation and staff also participated in Kochi.

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IAF TO HOLD AIR SHOW OVER DAL LAKE IN SRINAGAR ON 26 SEPT

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An air show will be held here on 26 September where IAF’s skydiving team Akash Ganga and Suryakiran Aerobatic and Display Team and paramotor flying will manoeuvre the skies over the famous Dal Lake, officials informed on Saturday.

The air show will be organised by the Air Force Station Srinagar and the Jammu and Kashmir administration as part of the ongoing celebrations commemorating ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’, they said. The main aim of the exercise—under the theme ‘Give Wings to Your Dream’—is to motivate the youth of the valley to join the Indian Air Force (IAF) and to promote tourism in the region, the officials said.

The event will be flagged off Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha at the Sher-e-Kashmir International Conference Centre (SKICC) overlooking Dal Lake.

More than 3,000 college and school students are expected to participate in the programme to witness the impressive manoeuvres of the IAF, which will motivate them to dream about a career in the force and in the aviation sector, the officials said. “The show will also develop passion among the students to give wings to their dreams. Along with the students, 700 teachers will also be present at the venue,” they added.

During the demonstration, students will also be familiarised with the new technological advancements achieved and incorporated by the IAF while flying aircraft in the sky over the world-famous Dal Lake, the officials said. Stalls will be established at SKICC where students will be familiarised with the achievements of the Air Force, employment opportunities in the IAF, recruitment rules and eligibility criteria, they added.

Srinagar-based PRO Defence Col Emron Musavi said the display will include flypast by various aircraft of the IAF. The spectators would also get to witness paramotor flying and IAF’s skydiving team Akash Ganga in action. ‘Ambassadors of IAF’, Suryakiran Aerobatic Display Team, will be performing in the valley after a gap of 14 years, he said. Col Musavi said the symphony orchestra of the IAF would also be performing at the event. The event would also consist of a photo exhibition depicting the history of the

IAF, he said. 

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ARMY ORGANISES EXHIBITION IN JAIPUR TO COMMEMORATE INDIA’S VICTORY IN 1971 WAR

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JAIPUR : South Western Command of the Indian Army on Saturday organised an exhibition showcasing defence equipment at Chitrakoot Stadium in Jaipur to mark the 50th anniversary of India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war.

Speaking to ANI, an Indian army official said, “We have displayed the defence equipment in this exhibition to make people aware of the Indian army achievements. We want to motivate the youth by showcasing these types of equipment.” “Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, these events had been started to make people aware of Indian Arm Forces. So, we are also continuing the move by organising these kinds of events,” he added.

Further, he said that India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war is memorable for all the Indians, so, every citizen should be aware of this war.  

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BRO makes history, appoints woman Army officer in-charge of road construction unit

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The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has appointed a woman Army officer for the first as the Officer Commanding of its 75 road construction company (RCC) in Uttarakhand, the Defence Ministry said on Sunday.

The three platoon commanders under Major Aaina, Captain Anjana, AEE (Civ) Bhawana Joshi and AEE (Civ) Vishnumaya K became the first women RCC. The appointments were made on August 30.

BRO on Sunday recalled the list of women officers who were assigned higher leadership roles in the organisation in the current year.

According to a statement issued by the Defence Ministry, BRO has inducted a large number of women into its workforce over the years, right from officers to the level of commercial pilot license holders. “In this regard, a General Reserve Engineer Force (GREF) officer EE (Civ) Vaishali S Hiwase took over the reins of 83 Road Construction Company on April 28, employed on an important Indo-China road connecting Munisairi-Bughdiar-Milam, in an area full of adversity and challenges. The lady officer has taken control and is leading the charge with meticulous execution of her tasks,” the statement said.

“The BRO created history again on 30 August when Major Aaina of Project Shivalik took charged as Officer Commanding, 75 Road Construction Companies (RCC) at Pipalkoti in Chamoli district in Uttarakhand. She is the first Indian Army Engineer Officer to command a road construction company. Not only this, all three platoon commanders under her, Captain Anjana, AEE (Civ) Bhawana Joshi and AEE (Civ) Vishnumaya K are lady officers and they have together created a first-ever women RCC. The Border Roads plans to make four such all women-led RCCs, two each in North Eastern and Western Sectors.”

As India celebrates 75 Years of Azaadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, it also celebrates the ongoing efforts of our Nation towards women empowerment. Women today have started assuming their rightful, equal place as the frontrunners in nation-building and representatives of our strong national character, the statement read.

Over the last six decades, in a graduated and steady manner, the BRO has increased the number of women employed in various roles and duties of road construction. A consolidated effort is being made to empower them by giving them authority and responsibilities to undertake work independently. These women have become symbols of Nari Shakti in their respective areas.

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IN FIRST FOREIGN VISIT AFTER TAKING OVER AS CDS, GEN BIPIN RAWAT TO VISIT RUSSIA, US

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In his first visit abroad after taking over as the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Bipin Rawat will be visiting Russia and the US.

Rawat took over his new office as CDS on 31 December 2019, and since then has been declining foreign invitations for focusing on the new assignment of integrating the defence forces as a combined fighting force. “There is a conference of the CDS-rank officers of the Shanghai Cooperation Agreement member countries. China and Pakistan are also part of this grouping,” senior defence officials said.

The CDS conference would be focusing on addressing the regional security issues and Afghanistan is also likely to come up for discussion, they said.

The CDS would also witness the activities of the respective armed forces taking part in the SCO peace mission drills being held in Russia. Indian Army and Air Force are also taking part in the exercise there.

The visit will take place in the coming week and soon after return from Russia, Rawat would be leaving for the US for meeting his counterpart and other American military leadership at the Pentagon.

The two countries have been coming closer militarily in the last few years and have been holding multiple military exercises and hardware cooperation.

The Indian military saw a major change in senior-level structures under the Narendra Modi government as the focus is now on the theatrisation of the fighting forces and bringing in more capabilities and jointness among the three services. 

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