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Reason behind Chinese aggressive posture

Reason behind Chinese aggressive posture

UPSC CSE Mains Syllabus: GS-2- India and its neighborhood- relations. 

  • The ongoing tensions along the Line of Actual Control(LAC)pose the biggest national security challenge to India in at least 20 years.
  • The clashes in Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakhhave claimed 20 Indian lives, the first incident of fatalities on the India-China border in 45 years.
  • China has revived its claim on the entire Galwan Valleyand has asked India to pull back from the areas.
  • Satellite images in the public domain suggest that China has set up defence positions in the valley as well as the disputed “Fingers” of Pangong Tso.
  • Both sides are engaged in a face-off at Hot Springs.
  • Despite multiple rounds of military-level talks, tensions are unlikely to ease given the complexity of the ground situation.

What led to the current situation?

  • In 2017, India and China agreed to amicably resolve the Doklam standoffthat lasted for more than two months.
  • No blood was spilt then, and no shots fired.
  • India has been very careful not to upset China’s domestic and geopolitical sensitivities.
  • However, it has made occasional joint statements issued with leaders from the U.S. and Asia-Pacific countries, reasserting India’s commitment to “freedom of navigation”( to be seen with China’s claims over the South China Sea),
  • India has stayed away from criticising China on controversial topics, whether its “de-radicalisation” camps in Xinjiangcrackdown on protests in Hong Kong, or disputes with Taiwan.

Yet China chose to increase tensions along the LAC.

Salami slice strategy:

  • One popular argument is that China’s move, driven by local factors such as India’s infrastructure upgradeand its decision to change the status of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.  
  • Several experts have claimed that the tensions on the border are driving India deeper into a strategic embrace with the U.S.
  • They may be true or it may be complex.
  • However, there is a clear shiftin Chinese foreign policy post the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • This is seen in,
  1. China’s rising tensions with the U.S., its threats against Taiwan
  2. Repeated naval incidents in the South China Sea
  3. New security law for Hong Kong
  4. Finally the tensions along the LAC.

To understand this shift, one has to get a sense of the sources of China’s conduct.

Understanding the shift:

  • Today’s China is an ambitious rising powerwhich wants to reorient the global order.
  • Unlike the Soviet Union of the 1940s(in the early stages of the Cold War), China is not an ideological state that intends to export communism to other countries.
  • But like the Soviet Union of the post-war world, China is the new superpower on the block.
  • When it was rising, China had adopted different tactical positions — “hide your capacity and bide your time”, “peaceful rise” or “peaceful development”.
  • But under President Xi Jinping, the Chinese think they have arrived.

Chinese assessment of the global scenario:

  1. The global economy in the doldrums
  2. Globalisation in an irrecoverable crisisaccentuated by the COVID-19 outbreak
  3. The U.S. under an isolationist Policytaking the most aggressive position towards China since Richard Nixon.

With all these China believes the global order is at a breaking point.

It is fighting back through what game theorists call “salami tactics” — where a dominant power attempts to establish its hegemony piece by piece. India might be one slice in this salami slice strategy.

Perception of decline:

The author says that,

  • China doesn’t see India as a ‘swing state’ any more.
  • It sees India as an ally-in-progress of the U.S.
  • Its actions were not reckless, taken at the risk of losing India strategically.
  • Its actions are a result of the strategic lossthat has already happened.

(Here it should be noted that Indian foreign policy in recent days is one of multi-alignment. India has ties with China in BRICS, SCO etc.)

Right time for China : Regional and Global condition

  • Within this broader framework there could be a host of factors —local, regional and global — that influenced China’s moves.
  • When most of the world’s big powers are grappling with the pandemic,revisionist powers such as China have more room for geopolitical manoeuvring.
  • Europehas been devastated by the virus.
  • The U.S. is battling in an election year the COVID-19 outbreak as well as the deepest economic meltdownsince the Great Depression.
  • Its global leadershipis unravelling fast.
  • The Indian economywas in trouble even before COVID-19 struck the country, slowing down its rise. 
  • Social upheaval over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), 2019, and the National Register of Citizens had weakened the Indian polity.

India’s traditional clout in its neighbourhood was slipping:

  • Tensions with Pakistanhave been high keeping the troops occupied in the border areas
  • Nepalraised boundary issues with India
  • Sri Lankais diversifying its foreign policy and China is making deep inroads into that region
  • Bangladeshwas deeply miffed with the CAA.
  • Even in Afghanistan, where Pakistan, China, Russia and the U.S. are involved in the transition process, India is out.

A confluence of all these factors, which point to a decline in the country’s smart power, allowed China to make aggressive moves on the LAC.

What India needs is a national security strategy that’s decoupled from the compulsions of domestic politics and anchored in neighbourhood realism. It should stand up to China’s bullying on the border now, with a long-term focus on enhancing capacities and winning back its friendly neighbours. There are no quick fixes this time.

Source:” The Hindu“.


Chinese aggression along the Galwan valley is not a reckless action but a well calculated strategic move. Critically examine, in light of the India’s non- alignment policy.