China's strategic Mind And Method: "Long-Term Planning" Behind Country's Geo-Political Moves
ANURADHA & KAMAL CHENOY
The terrible and provocative assault by Chinese armedforces along the Line of Actual Control, which killed and injured many Indian soldiers is a complete violation of a series of historical Sino-Indian Agreements. This is a reprise to the 1962 attack by China on Indian soil. Many analysts are writing on this conflagration but this article, looks at long term planned Chinese methods and compulsions which guide its vicious and threatening assaults.
Chinese Geo-Political Method:
1. China acts on the basis of its own historical memory re-constructed to current geo-strategic contexts. It never acts in haste, but has a long term, multi-pronged, flexible strategy that is thought through, planned and executed over years, even decades.
This is made possible with centralized, command and control Communist Party of China -CPC structures. The Chinese leadership (Xi Jing Ping) has control over the military (PLA) and information/ technology systems across China. They use a number of experts from military analysts, commanders, academics and others to formulate strategy. The Chinese authoritarian structures of policy formulation and execution are backed by state capitalism and availability of forced financial surplus.
The CPC leadership is able to plan and execute power, influence citizens and carry out policy implementation internally and then project its power and influence in the international system and global political economy. Its vision and purpose are clear, long term and can be executed in a multifunctional way. (Ai Weiwei, 2020)
2. China does not acknowledge its own transgressions on laws, treaties, borders, seas, (Unless it suits Chinese interests) and claims territories and marine areas to be part of Chinese territory or naval rights. China has a slippery conceptualization of its rights and boundaries. For domestic legitimacy, Like many xenophobic nationalisms, China traces a continuity with its glorious past in the 'Middle Kingdom' (feudal period) incorporating myths as facts. At the same time, China has settled its border disputes with several states like Russia, etc.
3. China speaks of its 'peaceful rise', as opposed to the militarism/ imperialism of the West. But its rise is linked to rise of Chinese mercantilism and finance capital and the way it is embedded in global political economy. China's 'core interests' stem from their understanding of re-constructing Chinese role and assertion both as an Asian and International power and player. The US sees China as a major threat and China will make alliances to protect itself, even while they know that they cannot replace the US as a global power.
4.China is clear that they cannot match either US or Western 'soft power' or even compete with the legitimacy India had as a functioning democracy and India's cultural influence, tolerance and empathy that had made India an acceptable model to much of the Third World in the past. This Indian influence is waning with several old allies because of India's domestic policies and China is well aware of India new ideological shifts.
5. China's rise was hastened by the process of globalization enabled it to become a major manufacturing centre and increase the force of its finance capital in the last decades. This capital is safeguarded by an increasingly powerful modernized military and naval force. And with a nuclear strategy since the 1960's as a currency of power.
6. China will not give up its territorial claims- whether in Taiwan and Hong Kong, but also Tibet and along the India- China border. Similarly in the South China Sea and even the border between China and some Central Asian States like Kazakhstan and Kyrgzstan. This is a principle and core interest, which can sometime be shrouded in pride, nationalism, territorial claim, changed maps. But the principle will not shift. International outcry does not matter to them. (See Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei, Interview, Indian Express, June 14, 2020). China claims equal partnerships with smaller states and 'win-win relationships', but has a clear division between principles, 'core national interests' and partnerships. China would like to reproduce the US 'hub and spokes' principle with its allies.
7.China talks of its 'peaceful rise', as opposed to the militarism and colonialism of the West. President Xi asserts that while China did not follow the path of expansionism and colonialism, it would not part with: “Any inch of territory down from ancestors cannot be lost while we want nothing from others”. (Nagai and Nagasaki, 2018). However China has a slippery conceptualization of its territorial and maritime boundaries, tracing its nation to the myths of 'Middle Kingdom'. There are ongoing legal disputes on the International laws of the Sea.
8.China uses a variety of threats and small tactical actions like incursions; gun boat scares; occasional press articles to confuse the international community. Essentially they practice pressure, retreat, pressure principles. For example, in May-July 2019 it sent its oil rigging ships and military patrol boats near Malaysian rigs; Philippine reefs; Vietnamese coastal waters in the Vangaurd Reef; near Indian-Russian rigs; Port of Colombo (only Vietnamese patrol boats reacted, while others registered diplomatic complaint).
Similarly stray and multiple intrusions in the border territories especially India but also Bhutan, Nepal, India, Myanmar, Central Asia. These steps appear isolated, piecemeal, and insignificant in the larger geopolitics. Several states believe that these 'small steps' by the Chinese do not warrant retaliation. (Mahalingam, 2019).
These 'small steps' do not cause concern to the international community. However, these small actions are designed to set precedent; become major strategic challenges and ultimately alter the status quo in China's interests. China 'tests' its strategy several times, as it has done with India, to check out their response, their partnerships, alliances etc.
9.Chinese roads, ports, BRI etc. being built across the Indian and Pacific Oceans have multiple use: For example, Hambantota Port in Sri Lanka, where Sri Lankan Government has signed a 99 years lease agreement, similarly to the ports built in Pakistan (CPEC) proposals include production of military hardware and joint production. China's first military base in Djibouti is backed by naval ships and hardware. China's encroachment of the 3200 acres in the Spratly and Paracelsus Islands have transformed to military bases. All other countries from Russia, to the Pacific Rim countries have had to accept this.
10.Geopolitics between USA, Russia and China, India and other regional powers is militarizing and threatening the Asian region. Even as several countries try to leverage one major power against the other. Philippines cancelled the Visiting Forces Agreement with the US and then again revived it. Nepal and Sri Lanka are balancing between India and China to get advantages. The ASEAM negotiates trade agreements with China, as the US is erratic towards them. Such steps confirm their strategy of gradual militarization and simultaneous pressure points. They are using financial pressure to build 'semi-client states like foreign investment starved Pakistan, Philippines, Nepal etc.
11.China has consistently tried to pressurize smaller states to ensure Chinese core interests. For example, Chinese asserting its security interests in Tajikistan, where this CAS shares a 1,300 km border with Afghanistan, dominates the economy. They use Pakistan as a front towards Afghanistan. They use Russia as a front in West Asia. At the same time, small states leverage their relations between the multiple actors in Asia for gain.
China is developing several client states in the Asian region. They have increased their influence over Nepal in recent times in multiple ways, from providing them with transit, so they do not remain dependent on India; engaged in Nepal infrastructure. In recent times, Nepal has agreed to make Mandarin learning compulsory in schools, since China has agreed to pay the salaries of school teachers in Nepal.
This is Chinese material power as opposed to soft power of culture and temples.
12.China's 10th white paper (2019) on national defense asserts its right to defend its core interests, and protecting its inalienable territories in East China Sea, South China Sea and with India. China is building world class military in keeping with its international status.
13. China is clear it cannot compete with the US and others on soft power. But they know the use of financial and material power, and have increased their influence by diverse financial deals, technology and R&D. China focuses on state relations, and has little interest in people, or environment, civil society. For example, in Pakistan before CPEC only 1% of fuel used was coal, now after Chinese investment in the Thar desert, there is an increase by 70% coal use. BRI is being used for exporting excess capacity in old inefficient and carbon heavy industries of China. (Duara, 2019) Chinese policies remain non transparent. Many countries have become indebted from Kenya (Port Mombasa), Sri Lanka, and others to China.
What India needs to do:
1.Build on its strengths and acknowledge its weakness: Build a common security network with allies and not alienate its neighbors. Support the idea of strategic autonomy and non- alignment. Link with Asian countries in their goals for growth and development, including, re-building alliances with smaller states on the basis of equality and empathy since they are more vulnerable to great power interventions. This should be proposed without targeting any other power. India has to further strengthen its relations with Russia.
2.Focus on strengthening regional organizations and their secretariats.
3.Strengthen its standing in key multi-lateral and international institutions.
4.Ensure its respect by safeguarding its hard won democratic freedoms and protection of rights of all people.
5.Mobilise the UN; expose the internal assaults on Uighers, Tibetand and minorities in China; expose Chinese hegemonic politics in Hong Kong, etc. This can be done by contrasting India with policies of magnanimity, so Chinese do not get a chance to indulge in 'whataboutery'.
In conclusion we argue, that analyzing foreign policy as a silo or as an international chess game cannot yield success. Internal politics have become globalized, more so after globalization.
Professors Anuradha and Kamal Chenoy were formerly faculty with Jawaharlal Nehru University.