Xi and the Poor Art of War
Every expert worth his name in a TV studio or on the innumerable webinars will explain to you about the Art of War, an ancient Chinese military treatise written by Sun Tzu, a Chinese general and military strategist in the 5th century BC. The treatise teaches you all aspects of warfare and particularly how to win a War without fighting it.
Mao Zedong himself is said to have drawn his inspiration from the treatise.
Today, it looks as if President Xi Jinping has not read the book properly.
It is not that the new Great Helmsman has not received a military training. From 1979 to 1982, Xi served as secretary for his father’s second-in-command, General Geng Biao, then secretary general of the Central Military Commission (CMC); however, the present CMC Chairman should have learned better how to deal with his ‘enemies’.
When one looks at the last few months of Xi’s leadership, one can seriously doubt that his tactics will lead China to victories ‘without fighting’ and this, for the simple reason that he taken too many enemies in one go.
His predecessor Deng Xiaoping thought the best way for China to rise was: “Hide your strength, bide your time, never take the lead;” but Xi decided to pick quarrels with most nations on the planet at the same time (of course with the exception of the all-weather friend Pakistan, and Nepal who is presently under the charm of a beautiful lady-ambassador).
This was not mentioned in the Art of War.
Whether it is the United States, Japan, Australia, Canada, Vietnam, Philippines, European Union, etc, the list is long. This is without counting Hong Kong, Taiwan, or the ‘autonomous regions’ of Tibet and Xinjiang.
Since early May, India has been added; Xi has decided to fight a war in the High Himalaya. And what is the purpose of this new belligerence?
Only a couple of ‘fingers’ or a few hundred meters in the most inhospitable terrain? And is it really smart to start this at the time of the pandemic? Did Sun Tzu ever teach this? Not to my knowledge.
What will Xi win? It appears a lose-lose venture for him.
Realizing this, Xi’s clever Special Representative (SR), Wang Yi, also Minister of Foreign Affairs had a long talk on the phone with Ajit Doval, his Indian counterpart and National Security Advisor.
A communiqué of the Ministry of External Affairs stated: “The two Special Representatives had a frank and in-depth exchange of views on the recent developments in the Western Sector of the India-China border areas.”
The two SRs agreed that maintenance of peace and tranquillity in the border areas was essential and “[the] two sides should not allow differences to become disputes.” But it is Xi who created the differences.
The SRs spoke of the necessity to ensure “at the earliest complete disengagement of the troops along the LAC and de-escalation from India-China border areas.”
As usual, the Chinese statement was different from the one issued in Delhi; it should allow Beijing to play with words in the future.
Ambitious generals in Chengdu’s Western Theater Commands sold the idea to Xi to teach a lesson to the Indians and to place the PLA troops on the LAC in far better position to destroy, if necessary, the new infrastructure built by India in East Ladakh; Gen Zhao Zongqi thought that it would be easy if he took the Indians by surprise.
Unfortunately, the 14 Corps based in Leh reacted faster than expected by Gen Zhao and thereafter nothing went according to plan, particularly on June 15 (on Emperor Xi’s birth anniversary) when between 45 and 60 Chinese soldiers lost their lives in a deadly clash with Indian troops in the Galwan Valley. Of course, the totalitarian Middle Kingdom is equipped to hide the truth from their masses, while repeating that only India lost many of its jawans.
But for how long can the Chinese State keep this secret in an era when social media pervades all aspects of life?
Presently, Beijing is still controlling the information.
On July 6, on a TV program, two panelists Ruan Zongze, deputy head of China Institute of International Studies and Su Xiaohui, Special Correspondent of CNTV, discussed the recently-held third round of military talks in Chushul.
The panelists argued that Chinas’ sovereignty of Galwan valley is a fact and the Indian troops illegally crossed into the Chinese territory and violated the international laws.
The ‘experts’ further argued that the Galwan valley was earlier not disputed till India illegally moved into the area; the Chinese viewers were told blatant lies that India had built a helipad, temporary bridges, erected tents and piled up stone structures on the site.
Three years after the Doklam standoff, the Indian troops crossed again the line and started provocation against China, said the speakers, adding that China and India are important neighbours and maintaining peace at the border is in the interest of both the sides. They further complained that on July 3, Prime Minister Narendra Modi suddenly visited the Sino-Indian border and mentioned the dispute with its neighbor (China).
His visit was of no use, they concluded; it was an isolated act of provocation by India: India urgently purchased military equipments, held military drill with Japan and India banned 59 Chinese apps.
How long can the Chinese government bluff its own public and change into black what is clearly white?
The point remains that the top-most Chinese leadership knows that Xi Jinping has taken a too-big bite and that he does have the capacity to digest it.
That was not a smart move, would have thought Sun Tzu; in the meantime the present leadership has started questioning the People’s Leader, especially at a time when the pandemic is not yet over.
The ‘disengagement’ may give some breathing space to Xi and help him to temporarily save face; all the more reason for India to keep awake and not be fooled by the Chinese propaganda.
One should not forget that at the end of the month or early next month, the yearly secret CCP’s conclave will be held in the seaside resort of Beidaihe; it will provide a space to the party elders to review Xi’s leadership.
This year, the agenda will be tough for Xi; on the top of the usual issues, he will have to answer about the catastrophic economic situation …and an unnecessary war with India, for three fingers more.