Lengthening Malevolent Chinese Shadow
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Issue Vol 25.4 Oct-Dec 2010 | Date : 07 Jun , 2014

China is not All-powerful

Chinese are very good at image projection. Their image projection of their comprehensive national power, nuclear and space capability makes most of the world believe, specially us Indians, that China is a giant and we are no match to it. China has its own problems. Internal stability today is the most critical component of China’s national security paradigm. The salient internal imbalances of China are:-

Five of the worlds most polluted cities are in China. Problem of acid rain is getting worse and total farmland has declined by 20 per cent.

Xinjiang-Uighur Autonomous Region. Xinjiang region has been one of the major flash-points. Over the years, Uighurs and other Muslims have continued to nurse their grievances against issues like re-settlement of Han Chinese in Xinjiang, restrictions on the mosque building activities and population control measures. By revising their historical linkages to Central Asian Republics on the basis of religious identities, Muslim unrest in Xinjiang has revived. In the wake of Beijing Olympics, two major terrorists related incidents took place in Xinjiang claiming around 20 lives.

Tibet. While Tibet’s ties with India involved cultural and commercial interactions, the interface with China was primarily of military and administrative nature. Dalai Lama’s asylum in India and Sino – Indian War in 1962 made China highly skeptical of India’s intentions in Tibet. While Tibet has been largely peaceful, but for the monks initiated unrest in early 2008, it has a very strong political voice in Dalai Lama.

Taiwan. In 1949, as a sequel to the successful communist revolution, Kuomintang leadership set-up itself in Taiwan. President Richard Nixon’s visit to China, in 1972, paved the way for normalization of relations between the two countries. Thereafter, Taiwan no longer enjoyed formal recognition as a sovereign state by any major nation. In 1984, Deng Xiao Ping spoke of “one country, two systems” implying greater flexibility towards reunification with motherland, an issue which remains high on Beijing’s political agenda.

Uneven Regional Development – East vis-à-vis West. The inter-provincial economic gap in China has been growing at a rather fast pace. Western China remains land-locked and shares borders with countries that are unstable. Deng Xiaoping’s “get rich fast” policy resulted in faster growth of China’s coastal belt. Of the FDI actually invested in China, its Western Region has received only three per cent of it. China has taken a series of measures to rectify the imbalances by giving impetus to the development of Western region to bridge the East-West divide.

China’s most serious challenge in the 21st Century is that of securing enough energy resources. With large reserves, China is predominantly dependent on coal as the primary source of energy. This has raised serious environmental concern internationally.

Floating Population and Migration. China today has changed into a highly mobile society, which has been partly forced by the inherent requirements of a rapidly growing industrial economy. This floating population, estimated around 150 million, while in a way integrates China’s deprived sections, but it also exposes them to rapid development. Measures have been put in place to regulate the movement and employment of migrants.

Environmental Challenges. China currently has an “enormous environmental footprint” with regards to polluted air and water. The major challenge to China’s drive toward modernization is environmental degradation and its related problems. Five of the world’s most polluted cities are in China. Problem of acid rain is getting worse and total farmland has declined by 20 per cent. Environmental degradation in China is also contributing to mass internal migration.

Growing Energy Demand. China’s most serious challenge in the 21st Century is that of securing enough energy resources. With large reserves, China is predominantly dependent on coal as the primary source of energy. This has raised serious environmental concern internationally.

Demographic Clock. China has an ageing population which can impede its growth after 2025. While the numbers of people over 60 years i2000 were 123 million, this number is expected to swell to 350 millions by 2030. By 2065, 54 per cent of the population will be over 60. Unless the Government modifies its current one child policy, the ageing population will be a major constraint. As per Barry Naughton “China will grow old before it has had the opportunity to grow richer.

What Should be the Way Ahead?

  • Assert your self respect. Ask China to vacate 36800 Sq Km of our territory occupied by it in Aksai-Chin and further West. Tell China categorically that border talks will only start once status quo ante as existed on 15 Aug 1947 is restored.

India’s strong points against China are its air force and navy.

  • Stop justifying Chinese intrusions into our territory and do not give excuse of perception difference. In any case our perception of Line of Actual Control in Ladakh is an old Chinese claim line and not any line laid down by us. It is shameful for us to say that only 242 intrusions have taken place and that it is ok.
  • Take immediate and urgent steps to improve our infrastructure in border areas. Force deployment and force projection is not possible unless you have the infrastructure in place.
  • Concentrate on improving your Strategic Capability i.e. Missile/Nuclear and Space vis a vis China.
  • India’s strong points against China are its air force and navy. Give priority for their modernization.
  • Take urgent and required steps to improve our relations with our smaller neighbours. Do not neglect this aspect by only concentrating on relations with the US. Do not go running to the US to pull your chestnuts out of fire. They will not do it.
  • Do not fall all over yourself to get a dialogue going with Pakistan. It makes no difference if we completely stop Indo-Pak dialogue. We must understand that Pakistan will never give up its terror card against us.
  • We have never asked Pakistan to vacate PoK and Northern Areas in accordance with UNCIP Resolution of 13 Aug 48 and UN Security Council Resolution of Jan 1949 to which Pakistan had agreed. Do it on a daily basis. This automatically includes Shaksgam valley illegally ceded to China by Pakistan in 1963. The ball must be firmly put in their court.
  • If you don’t have the courage to say that Tibet is a Chinese colony, at least do not parrot the line that Tibet is an integral part of China. Wait for reciprocity.
  • All dealings with China and all talks must be in the public domain. Do not take cover under the fig leaf of national security.
  • We need to use our leverages vis a vis China whether it is Dalai Lama, co-operation with Japan, increased economic interaction with Taiwan and strategic partnership with the US. We should not be coy about expressing our displeasure over Chinese intrusions, its visa policy in J&K and its complete disregard for our sensibilities on practically every issue that concerns us.
  • Media must not go hysterical about Chinese intrusions and other anti India actions. It only puts under pressure on the political leadership. It has to be objective and pragmatic.
  • And finally policy of Chinese appeasement must stop.


It would be foolhardy on our part to believe that our problems with China, including the border problem are nearer solution. China is not interested in solving the border issue since it keeps India anxious and unhinged. We need to quietly build our military strength, improve infrastructure in the border areas and concentrate on our strategic capability. We should also not hesitate to use our leverages. The need is to look the Dragon straight in the eye and not flinch. Remember what Winston Churchill said “Do not bend your knees before insolent might”.


  1. The Washington Quarterly. 31.3 pp 125–141.
  2. US Department of Defence annual Report to Congress – Military Power of People’s Republic of china 2009.
  3. M. Taylor Frovel – The Evolution of china’s Military Strategy.
  4. India’s China War – Neville Maxwell.
  5. Zhang Quanqui – Jiang Jemin’s Thought on National Defence.
  6. Dennis. J. Blasko – The Chinese Army Today : Tradition and Transformation for 21st Century.
  7. M. Taylor. Frovel – Security Borders: China’s Doctrine and Force Structure for Frontier Defence.
  8. Cariappa – His Life and Times – Brig CB Khanduri.
  9. Chinese Projects in PoK and Northern Areas – Manu Pubby – Indian Express.
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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Maj Gen Sheru Thapliyal, PhD

served in the Regiment of Artillery and was awarded a Doctorate for his research & thesis on "Sino-Indian Relations".

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2 thoughts on “Lengthening Malevolent Chinese Shadow

  1. Pakistan got freedom from british gov not indian gov and 2nd there is no same race live in Pakistan and india and 3d there is no same language(even Urdu is not mother tongue of any Pakistani raciel group) means>india was never partioned(Pakistani land was never part(by race, by religion) valley of ganga and Jumna)>indian handi speaking hinduuos and barhamns life propaganda and to do corrupt things.

  2. It would appear, that Aksai Chin was a part of the P. O. K., and Nehru, in judgment, felt that questioning the occupation of Aksai Chin, by Chinese troops, would mean that the region had been ceded to China, and India and Pakistan, had agreed to the partition of India, but not to the partition of Kashmir. It seems, that the idea of Mountbatten giving the go ahead, of Indian troops advancing in Kashmir, was an Indian govt. decision, and had nothing to do with the British agreeing that Kashmir was Indian territory.
    The significant point is, that if Kashmir, was divided, like India was, between India and Pakistan, it wasn’t documented, perhaps, that Aksai Chin was ceded to Pakistan. Also, there are Chinese troops in Kashmir, today. I mean, in the precincts of what was previously Pakistan positions. Has this been ceded to China? Would India attack China, because Pakistan has ceded these areas to China? Or, would India attack Pakistan, or both nations?
    We aren’t helping the situation, perhaps, because the issues remain, and when we sentiment bonhomie, we forget, until we have differences again.

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