By Rakesh Krishnan Simha
About the Chinese it is said that they hate the West (its former oppressor), fear Japan (its ancient conqueror) and despise India. The key reasons for hating India are that according to the Chinese, Indian troops had taken part in the sacking of the Summer Palace, and Indian business houses had supplied opium to the British who were trying to convert the Chinese into opium addicts. This contempt for India is counter-intuitive because both events happened during the colonial period when Indians were under British rule. Such irrationality is typical of communists who see non-communists as “running dogs of imperialism” who are fit to be put down like a mad dog. Lately, this historical hatred has intensified because of several factors:
*China does not consider India an equal. In order to prevent India’s rise and box it within South Asia, the Chinese have for the past six decades propped up Pakistan as India’s rival. But in recent years, India’s growing economy and increasing geopolitical clout have unnerved the communists.
*The arrival of Narendra Modi in 2014 corrected the lopsided imbalance in the India-China equation. The Indian Army’s aggressive push back in Doklam 2017 was the first signal that Modi’s India was different from Nehru’s India. The Chinese were rattled like never before.
*Galwan 2020 exposed the weakness of the Peoples Liberation Army, which lost at least 35 soldiers in a punitive Indian attack after the Chinese treacherously killed 21 unarmed Indian soldiers. An Indian Army raid a few weeks later captured land that had been under Chinese control for 58 years. The entire world had a ringside seat to China’s humiliation.
*The growing India-US relationship threatens to become a nightmarish scenario for China which is now faced with a two-front war for the first time in its history. According to Yun Sun, the director of the China programme at the US-based Stimson Center, “For China, the prospect of facing the American military at sea and the Indian military along its southern border and in the Indian Ocean becomes much more real and dangerous with defence cooperation between the United States and India.”
With China harbouring deep-rooted grouses against India, it can be safely assumed that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will not stop trying to weaken and destroy India. Since China has been supporting Pakistan in its jehad against India, there’s no reason for India to offer the hand of friendship to Beijing. Only the geopolitically naïve believe the Dragon can be trusted. In the backdrop of a diehard communist bully that is dedicated to India’s destruction, India’s political and military leadership needs a strategy to cut the dragon down to size. Here’s what India can do.
Surround China with a Grand Alliance
In the Arthashastra, Chanakya (the great strategist of the Mauryan Empire which ruled nearly all of India 2,300 years ago) lays out a theory of the international system called the Rajamandala – Circle of States. According to this theory, hostile states are those that border the ruler’s state, forming a circle around it. In turn, states that surround this set of hostile states form another circle around the circle of hostile states. This second circle of states can be considered the natural allies of the ruler’s state against the hostile states that lie between them. In India’s case, the natural allies are the US and Japan. On this front, India’s integration into the US war machine has rattled China. One of the results of this informal alliance is that the US, Japan and India are able to jointly track Chinese submarine activity all the way from the moment they leave their bases in the South China Sea, pass through the narrow Malacca Straits and enter the Indian Ocean. All three nations also jointly conduct mock combat exercises. The next step should be to have joint tri-nation forces stationed in the Himalayas, the South China Sea and Japan.
The US pivot to the Pacific has transferred the bulk of American warplanes, warships and intelligence gatherings close to China’s shore. With its ancient enemy Japan rapidly arming and developing advanced weapons platforms after 70 years of self-imposed isolation, the pressure on China in the east is immense. If India can ramp up the pressure in the west by increasing the number of troops, building new air bases, equipping troops with large numbers of BrahMos cruise missiles, adding long range radars and extended range air defence missiles, the Dragon will enter panic mode and you can expect Beijing to become unhinged and enter a costly arms race that it can’t win. What happened to the Soviet Union during the Cold War will happen to China.
The tangle with India has created a huge dilemma for the communists. The US, not India, is China’s primary adversary so the bulk of the PLA Army, Air Force and Navy are concentrated on the Pacific. Because India is a secondary adversary, China could afford to station fewer troops and equipment in Tibet. But for India, it is China that is Enemy No.1, and India is concentrating its military resources at the Himalayan border. Therefore, China, which is facing an American Pivot to the Pacific, will now have to live with an Indian Pivot.
China had decided a long time ago that it wouldn’t enter into an arms race with the US but with India and Japan rearming, that option is closed. Like India, the Chinese military must feel the pain of preparing for its own two-front war. This would be payback for China’s “String of Pearls” strategy that aims to surround India.
Boost the defence budget
India’s defence budget is US$66 billion or just 1.5 per cent of GDP. While many will be aghast if India doubles its defence budget to, say, US$132 billion, the reality is that securing the country is not a casual matter; it’s an existential issue which deserves to be dealt with. Since the mid 1990s, India has faced a low-intensity war waged by Pakistan with support from China. Like it or not, we are at war and our soldiers are dying. In this scenario, increasing the defence budget to at least three per cent – or ideally five per cent – of GDP is like taking out a large insurance on your home.
Currently, the Indian strategy versus Pakistan is to launch a blitzkrieg attack from the get go. But against China, India is in defensive mode, with the strategy being to stop a large-scale land and air attack by the Chinese. Doubling the defence budget will flip this equation – it will allow the Indian Army to take the battle into Tibet and the Navy and Air Force to conduct strikes at the Han heartland on China’s coast. This will require additional Mountain Divisions, a larger fleet of attack submarines and long range bombers, and all this will cost money. The Chinese must realise that India is prepared to hit hard if attacked.
A large hike in defence spending will certainly impact some development projects in India but the massive impetus it will give to the country’s military industrial sector will compensate for the losses.
Make China Poor Again
China’s biggest advantage is its manufacturing sector, which has become a leviathan due to massive investment from the US, Europe and Japan. Take away this advantage and you can make China poor again. Now that India has dumped the baggage of socialism and is integrated into the Western economic and military ecosystem, it is a credible alternative to China as a manufacturing base.
The portents are favourable for India. US President Donald Trump has taken concrete steps to bring jobs back from China to the US, and that process could accelerate. For instance, Apple is now manufacturing iPhones outside China. Other American allies are taking Trump’s lead. Furious over China’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, Japan has decided it’s time to pull out component manufacturing from China. In the wake of Trump’s imposition of tariffs on Chinese imports, a growing number of Asian manufacturers producing items ranging from memory chips to machine tools are moving to shift production from China to other factories in the region.
For jobs to relocate to India, Make in India has to work. Indian companies in cutting-edge sectors must be nurtured and supported with subsidies and tax breaks so they are able to grow into large enterprises that can compete with Chinese manufacturers. The political leadership must restrict the entry of Chinese products but without violating the spirit of the World Trade Organisation. Japan grew into a technological giant because its people supported Japanese products when Made in Japan had the same connotations as Made in China. India’s leadership must inculcate such feelings among Indians so they support Indian brands – and boycott Chinese products, apps and services.
Recall the Mandate of Heaven
The Mandate of Heaven is a traditional Chinese philosophical concept concerning the legitimacy predicated on the conduct of the ruler in question. The Mandate of Heaven postulates that heaven would bless the authority of a just ruler, but would be displeased with a despotic ruler and would withdraw its mandate, leading to the overthrow of that ruler. The Mandate of Heaven would then transfer to those who would rule best.
The Mandate of Heaven is a well-accepted and popular idea among the people of China, as it argues for the removal of incompetent or despotic rulers, and provided an incentive for rulers to rule well and justly. The concept is often invoked by philosophers and scholars in ancient China as a way to curtail the abuse of power by the ruler, in a system that otherwise offered no other check to this power. The Mandate of Heaven had no time limitations, instead depending on the just and able performance of the ruler. In the past, times of poverty and natural disasters were taken as signs that heaven considered the incumbent ruler unjust and thus in need of replacement.
It is clear that a significant number of Chinese citizens are hurting under the despotic rule of the Chinese Communist Party. The Party is basically a mafia – a dishonest organisation that lies to its people and the world. As the Coronavirus episode showed, Chinese scientists and doctors who tried to provide the world with the true picture of the pandemic were silenced – possibly forever. Ordinary Chinese are treated like lab rats. People are thrown in jail for organ harvesting.
To quote communism’s evil muse Vladimir Lenin, “Yesterday was too early tomorrow too late. The time is today.” If there’s anything good that has come out of the pandemic, it is that China’s perfidious nature and its systemic weaknesses have been exposed in front of the entire world. It has recently come to light that Beijing has all along been lying about the biggest success story of the 21st century – the Chinese economic miracle. In a paper published in March 2020 by the Brookings Institution, four economists (Wei Chen, Xilu Chen and Michael Song of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, along with Chang-Tai Hsieh of the University of Chicago) say China has been over-reporting its growth rate by an average of 1.7 percentage points every year. After looking at hard to fake data, they found that China’s official 2018 GDP is US$13.4 trillion but the actual figure is US$11.1 trillion or lower.
The Brookings paper squares with an assessment made over a decade ago by John Lee of the Centre for Independent Studies in Sydney that China is in more trouble than the world realises. For example, the Chinese government deals with an estimated 124,000 instances of “mass unrest” each year, and that number is rising. “The country’s civil society and institutions are weak, corruption is worsening and Beijing finds it almost impossible to effectively implement policies in the majority of its provinces and administrative zones.”
Unlike India’s open-source, free-thinking society, China is a closed communist regime where the ordinary people are treated like serfs. The country is a plutocracy in which more than 90 per cent of the country’s 10,000 richest individuals are Communist Party members. China has become the most unequal country in Asia according to this measurement.
Lee Kuan Yew, the late Prime Minister of Singapore, had observed that China has more handicaps going forward and more obstacles to overcome than most observers recognise. “Chief among these are… cultural habits that limit imagination and creativity, rewarding conformity; a language that shapes thinking through epigrams and 4,000 years of texts that suggest everything worth saying has already been said, and said better by earlier writers; a language that is exceedingly difficult for foreigners to learn sufficiently to embrace China and be embraced by its society; and severe constraints on its ability to attract and assimilate talent from other societies in the world.”
The Chinese economy is often described by the left-liberal media as a giant steamroller that will flatten everything else in its path. This has created an aura of invincibility around China. India must take the lead in exposing China’s systemic weaknesses to the Chinese people. Because news in China is censored, and Facebook, Twitter and Google are banned, most of the population depends on hearsay.
The need of the hour is to broadcast TV and radio programmes, with an Indian spin, to Chinese audiences. An excellent template is available in the form of Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty which the US has founded to beam broadcasts into countries such as Russia and Iran. Since Indian movies enjoy considerable popularity in China, Bollywood studios can be roped in to produce content that subtly conveys anti-communist messages. Intelligence agencies such as RAW and the IB can secretly pay producers to include anti-communist messages in Indian films.
The art of propaganda is as old as war. In fact, it was perfected by Indians. In the Arthashastra, Chanakya explains how to wage a “silent war” or Gudayuddha against an opponent. Tactics discussed include using both spies and diplomats to willfully spread misinformation and false rumours about an opposing ruler among other royalty, government officials or entire populations.
The power of a state is determined by how well it is prepared to eliminate its rivals. Unfortunately, India allowed the ogre of a jehadi state to grow into a nuclear power on its western periphery. It could have gone nuclear in 1961 (a year before the Chinese attack) when US President John F. Kennedy offered the atomic bomb, but in a decision that borders on the suicidal, Nehru rejected the offer. Nehru was adamant that Beijing posed no threat to India. Three years later, China exploded a nuclear bomb.
It should not have taken Indians 70 years to realise that the CCP is a malevolent force that is opposed to India’s benign Dharmic world view. Throughout its existence the CCP has been working on India’s breakup and Balkanisation. When dealing with such an evil entity, India must set in motion efforts that will lead to the collapse of China. Only when China becomes a rump state, with rebellious provinces such as Tibet and Xinjiang breaking free, will the Chinese be forced to abandon their delusions of Balkanising India.
Breaking China won’t just ensure peace on the border and reduce its vassal Pakistan to insignificance, it will be an act of mercy on the 1.4 billion Chinese people who are trapped in the world’s largest prison.
-The writer is a defence analyst. His work has been quoted extensively by leading Think Tanks, Universities and Publications world-wide. The views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of Raksha Anirveda