Understanding the Chinese Psychology
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 09 Jul , 2017

“Know your enemy, know yourself; you need not fear the outcome of 100 battles” -Sun Tsu, a Chinese philosopher

Before enforcing their claims on the neighbours’ territory, the Chinese ‘nibble’ at it gradually. They have tried it at number of places earlier in Ladakh and other places on our border. Lately, they have done it at Doklam (renamed by the Chinese as ‘Doglong’) near the Tri-junction of Bhutan, Tibet (China) and India (Sikkim) borders and have started constructing a major road in the Bhutanese territory.

As per our treaty obligations with Bhutan, we have rightly intervened in trying to stop the road construction in that tiny kingdom’s territory. This has led, apart from jostling between the Indian and the Chinese troops in that area, to a big war of words between the two countries with the Chinese reminding us of the humiliating defeat they had inflicted on us in 1962 and threatened India with worse consequences. The Indian side has responded appropriately though guardedly.

Whether we like it or not China is our neighbour, and a giant one at that. Before adopting a policy and grand strategy of dealing with China it is imperative to know how that giant’s mind works, so that we can guard our interest accordingly.

The Chinese have a tremendous sense of superiority. To safe guard her from the barbarians, the Chinese constructed over generations, a 4000 Km long wall, world’s greatest endeavour in the entire human history. Coupled with the ‘China Wall’, surrounding oceans and mountains / deserts, China was guarded from foreign invasions and resultant disruption of their way of life and developed a great civilization. Even though they had periods of internal turmoil, but those did not adversely affect their ‘Civilisational’ advancement.

Most of the inventions /discoveries in the ancient and medieval period like, silk, tea, ink, paper, gun powder, rockets, hot air balloons (Chinese Lanterns), magnet and its use in navigation ; all originated from China . She considered herself the ‘Centre of the World’, the ‘Middle Kingdom’ as the greatest civilization. It was due to this sense greatness of their civilization that Chinese have a great sense of superiority. Until forced open by the Europeans in the 19th century, China was unaware of advances in science and technology after the European renaissance and industrial revolution. Even in their decay in the 19th century, they treated rest of the world with contempt. This aspect of their (perceived) sense of superiority needs to be factored in all our calculations while dealing with China.

The Chinese have a tremendous sense of ‘Shame’ but no sense of ‘Guilt’. Due their great civilisation, the Chinese, like all highly cultured people have great sense of shame. They would go to any extent to ‘Save their Face’. There is a saying to the effect that a Chinaman would not mind losing his head to save his face. While they have a tremendous sense of shame, they have no sense of guilt. This lack of sense of guilt emanates from their feeling of utter ‘Superiority’. Having convinced themselves of being superior to all other races, they perceive that they can do no wrong and hence have no ‘Sense of Guilt’.

About 100 Million Chinese perished due to famines, social upheavals and cultural revolution during the Mao era, yet there was no remorse or guilt amongst the rulers. If needed, the Chinese are temperamentally capable of blowing up the whole of globe without feeling a wee bit of ‘Guilt’. We should remember this aspect also. (The Nazis, due to their so-called sense of ‘Superiority’ had no sense of guilt for sending six million Jews to gas chambers either).

Psychologically, the Chinese think in terms of aeons, ages and eras rather than in some specified units of time e.g. years or even decades. This concept of ‘Time’ gives them a tremendous sense of patience and ‘Time Tolerance’. They thus can show abnormal tolerance to resolve their problems and just do not get worked up even if there are enormous delays. That is why they are not in hurry to resolve border dispute with us and can wait indefinitely for an opportune time to give them the visualized advantages. It was this concept of time that enabled them to construct the Chinese wall (mentioned earlier) spreading over hundreds of years.

While they have great patience and can wait endlessly, yet they never lose their ‘focus’. Its most recent example is the focus they showed in developing their country through ‘Four Modernisations’ viz, ‘Agriculture’, ‘Industry’, ‘Science & Technology’ and ‘Military’, introduced by Deng Xiao Ping in late 1970s. They have not wavered a bit since then. Even though they want to develop trade and other relations with us, they have never lost focus on our territory and keep on reiterating their claims even on most inopportune times and on most frivolous occasions. Even the most innocuous occasion of the proposed visit by 107 strong team of Indian officials visit China some years back, was used to deny visa to an Arunachal Pradesh born IAS officer on the grounds that Arunachal Pradesh was part of China (claimed by her as South Tibet ) and that being a Chinese citizen he did not need a visa to visit her. It just proves China’s “Focus” for their claims on our territory.

Their great ‘Civilisational’ background, ‘Sense of Focus’ and ‘Concept of Time’ (patience) has made the Chinese great ‘Strategists’ and past masters in ‘State Craft’, right from ancient days. The Chinese always created buffer states between them and the ‘barbarians. They also ensured that the ‘Barbarians’ were always kept busy fighting amongst themselves, so that the Chinese we left alone . It is their ‘Sense of Strategy’ that has made China to create a nuclear-armed proxy in the form of Pakistan, to bleed us white (making the ‘Barbarians’ fight among themselves), thus keeping us weak . The Chinese have tried to almost encircled us in form of ‘Pearls’ (Naval Bases and out posts) around us (to strangulate our neck).

The Chinese know that their major oil supply route passes through the Malacca strait which India, during hostilities, can interfere with. Hence they are trying to neutralize India’s geo-strategic advantage by linking their Sinkiang province with Gwadar port in Pakistan by road and pipeline, named as China Pak Economic Corridor (CPEC). The CPEC is another act of encircling India. It would enable China to militarily strengthen her proxy (Pakistan) and even directly launch an attack against our North Western borders . Sun Tsu’s treatise on planning, preparation and conduct of warfare is not only masterly but is still valid despite mind boggling modern technological advancements . The Chinese seem to follow him, whereas, we appear to have forgotten our very own Chanakya.

The Chinese think BIG and act accordingly to actualise their thinking as is evident from the construction of 4000 Km long Great Wall and in ancient times . In the modern times they have abolished absolute poverty in just one generation, have constructed big cities, bullet trains, built huge dams, brought railway and pipe lines right up to our borders, whereas our achievements in the infrastructural building are nowhere near theirs. They are sending containers by rail right up to western Europe. Their launching of the CPEC across seemingly insurmountable Himalayas is an other example of their thinking and acting big. The Tibetan plateau does not get much rain as the monsoons cannot cross the Himalayas. One Chinese general suggested that the Himalaya’s height be reduced using nuclear blasts and crate a gap of over 200 miles to let the monsoons into Tibet from the Indian ocean. It may look laughable today but who knows, in some distant future they might do so or invent some other method to cause rain in dry Tibet. All this reflects the bigness of the Chinese thinking.

The Chinese’ strategy is to contain and keep on weakening us so that we are not able to develop our full potential and pose any competition, whatsoever, to them in economic, military, diplomatic and other spheres.

A clash of interests with China is a certainty, which can only be ignored at our own peril. Keeping their psychological makeup and other capabilities in mind, we MUST prepare for this eventuality in ALL fields including economic, military, diplomatic and others .To safeguard us from the Chinese onslaught before it fully manifests itself, we must launch our version of economic, technological and military modernizations. We must have our own ‘Pakistan’ against China and Vietnam can fulfill this role admirably. However do we have the WILL and VISION to do so? That my dear countrymen is a billion Yuan question.

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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.

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4 thoughts on “Understanding the Chinese Psychology

  1. General Govindan is back. So according to him, the Brigadier who penned this article had no calibre. I condemn his style of writing while at the same time pointing out that there are factual errors in the comment. It is G-20, not G-22 meeting that took place in Hamburg. And how does this Govindan know what was the mood in G-20? The leaders exchanged a few words, no doubt, but that hardly proves his point. Govindan don’t expose your ignorance by stating that “the Majority of Indians including war veterans do not have calibre or for sights to find out the real reason behind the present Chinese action.”

  2. Yes, as I continue my journey on the psychology of China for last few years, the dictum of Sun Tzu , ..” Know your enemy and know yourself ……”, I find it more interesting to compare the Indian psyche of business and Chinese economy potential of farsighted enterprise coupled by un-presumed energy with patience a zeal to expand to fulfill their focused mind … Although Indian mind too is much superior no doubt , needs to be trained out of the stream of thought process of its ‘ Jagadgurudome’ logic … Beautifully explained by the author about the psychology of Chinese ….

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