Opinion: China's military adventures are not in sync with its political ambition

Delhi, India Updated: Feb 19, 2018, 01:24 PM(IST)

Indian and China were engaged in a stand-off in Doklam. Photograph:( Zee News Network )

The story of China starts with economies of scale offered by the country to the western industrial world so that they could outsource their manufacturing to China. With consequent exponential economic rise, came the conceit and hubris, particularly, in absence of political opposition, prompting the Chinese polity to nurture ambitions of acquiring a status of a world power. 

While the Chinese are known for visualisation of their plans looking beyond hundreds of years, they apparently have set their eyes on world leadership role in the seemingly impractical short time span. The current Chinese leadership is obviously in hurry, prompting them to use the military to push their politico-economic agenda. As a result, they have disturbed the global geopolitical canvas, spreading negative political synergies all around.

A country like China, which is thriving on industrial production has a compulsion to seek and nurture the markets for her goods and services. In that, Chinese vulnerabilities lie in her geographical location on a distant flank with a limited communication network, energy inadequacy, and external political linkages to their manufacturing sector. Therefore, it essentially requires a secure and viable communication network for ease of logistics, cooperative approach to market competition, and mutual respect and accommodation to interests of other stakeholders. However, there is an apparent conceptual deficit as regards to all these parameters, when it comes to China.

China happens to be literally a landlocked entity with exception of the eastern flank, which opens to the high seas. Then there are a number of contentious political issues with her neighbours, primarily due to Chinese political manipulations and cultural hubris. As a result, China has to transit through circuitous and not so friendly Indo-Pacific region. Hence, they nurture deep-seated insecurities and apprehensions which have shaped Chinese political conduct. In that, they seem to have chosen to use selective coercive diplomacy and confrontationist attitude instead of cooperative accommodation to achieve their national objectives.  

Such a political brinkmanship, however, have no place in current globalised corporate culture. Somewhere in their political psyche China continues to nurture a medieval mindset, which may turn out to be a probable cause of nemesis for their ambitions.

China has embarked upon BRI scheme to take care of their economic insecurities and increase their political influence world over. Chinese military overtures in the South China Sea and “Strings of Pearls” in the Indian Ocean are operative part of their expansionist strategy.  China, in pursuit of their economic colonisation, intends investing in the improvement of logistics infrastructure as well as establish industrial and power corridors in impoverished countries of Chinese interests. 

On the Western flank, the CPEC scheme seems to be running into rough weather due to Chinese insensitivity in trespassing Indian sovereignty and security situation in Af-Pak region which happens to be the most disturbed areas as on date. Geopolitical interests coupled with the physical presence of extra-regional powers in Afghanistan have further complicated the political situation which is unlikely to be resolved in near future. Within Pakistan also, there is a political dissent in face of Chinese hegemonic tendencies. Rebellious Baluchistan and Northern Areas add to the friction areas for smooth operation of the scheme.  

On the Eastern flank, China has chosen to use military overtures in staking their claims over the South China Sea(SNS) based on unsubstantiated historical linkages. They have also refused to obey directives of international court on the law of seas at Hague. It has led to militarisation of the South China Sea with an occasional show of force and coercive military diplomacy. It surely has increased political opposition amongst the larger part of international community impinging on Chinese credibility as a responsible emerging power. 

There have been scathing diplomatic statements targeting China from various world forums in favour of a free flow of trade in international waters. Naval exercises the Malabar and Quad consisting of US, India, Australia and Japan are part of military diplomacy to convey coercive political signals to China.  

On Southern flank, though much away from their mainland, Chinese expansionist pattern is reflective in the desire to come up with a “Strings of Pearls” in the Indian Ocean region, the latest one being reported to be on  Pakistani coastline. In that, China has been exploiting small countries with a lure of economic goodies in return for permitting the establishment of Chinese military bases to safeguard their maritime interests. It has increased the military ante in the IOR as the region happens to be the link between two most frequented oceans for international trade and commerce.  

India, with her domination of the IOR, is a matter of concern for China. They see India as an impediment to their hegemonic intent of pushing their economic agenda.  Hence, a deep set of insecurities have shaped Sino-Indian relations wherein China sees India as a rival who needs to be given a punch and not a handshake.

Consequently, China has been indulging in military overtures against their regional rivals so to make them submit to their political dictates. The Doklam standoff followed by an increase in military incursions along the Sino-Indian LAC is part of their high handedness and coercive diplomacy. They keep issuing similar coercive warnings to countries in regions of the South China Sea and South East Asia.  China, obviously, wants to keep the water warm but not boiling through such a politico-military psychological warfare.  

Overall the strategic audit is indicative of Chinese failure in “team building” due to their self-centered exclusivity, insensitive conduct and absence of political social grace expected of a responsible leader in making. Therefore, the  Chinese vision does not seem to be in sync with appropriate strategic outlook. The rhythm of their ongoing political tango is not conducive towards achieving their aspirations. Hence, China needs an urgent mid-course correction. 

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)

Lt Gen Rameshwar Yadav

Lt Gen Rameshwar Yadav had been Director General of Infantry, Indian Army. He has been closely associated with force structuring and modernisation of the Army
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