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2025 – End Game China: War a Certainty – Part I ; By Cdr Sandeep Dhawan

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Article 22/2020


China draws heavily from two famous historical military bluffs and Sun Tzu’s teachings, in its day-to-day life. The legendary stories revolve around Li Guang and his 100 horsemen (144 BC), and Zhuge Liang and the Empty City (228 AD).

The legend has it that Li Guang(nicknamed The Flying General by his Xiongnu enemies) and his 100 horsemen were once surrounded by thousands of Xiongnu. His soldiers got scared and wanted to run, however, Li Guang asked them to take off the saddles and pretended to settle down. The Xiongnu were puzzled, they thought Li Guang was waiting to ambush them in the darkness. They soon withdrew. Li and his 100 horsemen survived.

Zhuge Liang was a formidable strategist, but once he got stuck in a fort with a limited number of soldiers while his arch-enemy Sima was approaching with his forces. Zhuge wanted to withdraw to a more defensible position and needed to buy time. So he threw the gates of the fortress open, with no one but himself atop the main gate calmly playing a zither. Sima suspected a trap. He took his time to strategize, that gave time to Zhuge and his forces to withdraw. Zhuge was able to beat Sima in their next encounter.

Finally the teachings of Sun Tzu and Chairman Mao. During China’s surprise attack on India in 1962, Mao had stated, ”We are not going to invade India, we will not destroy India. We are just going to follow the proper techniques of Sun Tzu: You don’t use force to crush the enemy, you use it to intimidate and nudge them back to the negotiating table”.

Such fables and Sun Tzu’s theories are leading China astray. By bullying its neighbours and resorting too often to deception, China is suffering the shortcomings of ancient strategic concepts. These methods have provoked anti-China sentiments. China’s leaders greatly admire these ancient strategic ideas, however, in reality, it just induces a greatly mistaken sense of superior skill. China’s history is full of defeats. If the subtlety, complexity, and tricks of these kinds of literature were for real, China would not have been under foreign rule in most of the last 1,500 years. The age-old Chinese problems and disputes with all its neighbours have not gone away and rather have compounded in 2020.

China’s shenanigans and fetid behaviour have given rise to anti-China sentiments, across the globe. The US graph shows how post-COVID China’s approval rating has fallen in the United States. The other graphs of India, Japan, South Korea, and Vietnam are from 2002 to 2019, showing a continuous decline in China’s rating. The rating would have declined drastically post-COVID. These are important neighbours of China. China’s relations are imploding with 12 out of 14 land neighbours and all 7 maritime neighbours.


China wants to push for the concept of ’Pax Sinica’ at any cost. Almost a decade ago, Qiushi Journal, the official publication of the ruling CPC said ”We must send a clear signal to our neighbouring countries that we don’t fear war, we are prepared at any time to go to war to safeguard our national interests. What is especially unbearable to us is how the US blatantly encourages China’s neighbouring countries to go against China. We cannot completely blame the US, as flies do not stare at seamless eggs(a statement from the book ’Secret Tales of Shenque Palace’).  China’s neighbouring countries need China’s international trade more than China needs them, therefore, they, but not China, will suffer greater damage by antagonizing China. China should make good use of these economic advantages and strategic power. We must evolve a counter-strategy, the idea of pursuing a strong policy against neighbours joining the US alliance. If required, we must even attack a nearby enemy and form anti-US alliances in Latin America, and Africa.  It further stated that China should launch a public opinion war by making effective use of free media in the US and other democracies.

China has followed every word written in the CPC journal to a ’T’. Why did world leaders choose to ignore these open threats given by the CPC? It is beyond every logical thinking or maybe they believe that ‘logic is a limited level of thinking’.


The CPC journal makes complete sense in the present situation. India is leaning towards the United States and China is keeping its word of attacking the neighbours who do not toe its line. The Chinese intrusions in Ladakh have been a regular feature in the past, however, the present intrusion into the Indian territory is not a regular one. What are the objectives of China this time around? Let us consider the following points:

India: India has achieved many feats in the recent past, which it had not done in decades –

Built a 255-km Darbuk-Shayok-Daulat Beg Oldie (DS-DBO) road.

Daulat Beg Oldie is the highest airstrip in the world, where India can land C-130 J aircraft boosting strategic airlift capability.

Finished the bridge over the Galwan River, which is about 7 km from the LAC, in addition to 36 more bridges.

  1. Creating a network of feeder roads connecting the DS-DBO road.

  2. Indian soldiers managed to reach ‘Finger 8’(the Indian claim line) during last summer, using an alternate route, which shook PLA top brass.

  3. China:

  4. Chinese decisions and actions are deliberate and not inadvertent trespassing.

  5. DBO is the Easternmost point of the Karakoram Range located about 8 Km South of Chinese border and 9 Km North West of Aksai Chin LAC.

  6. The Karakoram Pass lies to the North West of DBO at a distance of approximately 17 Km.

  7. China has a strong objection to Indian infrastructure projects, even though they are on the Indian side of LAC.

  1. The area between Karakorum Range and Kunlun Range including the area of Gosthana(Aksai Chin is a relatively recent Chinese sponsored Uighur name. Ladakhis & Tibetans called it by the Sanskrit name ’Gosthana’=place of the cows) is very vital to China.

  2. Gosthana is essential to Chinese control of not only Western Tibet but the whole of Tibet.

  3. To maintain its gains next Chinese arm twisting would come in Arunachal Pradesh followed by Indian Ocean Region.

  4. Chinese think tanks have been making swap offers – They are pressing India to recognize the Chinese occupation of Gosthana(Aksai Chin) and in return, China will give up its claim on Arunachal Pradesh.

  5. They have convinced some Indian strategists to think on these lines. China is an untrustworthy nation and India should not fall for such offers.

  6. In coming days China would also lay claims on

  7. Galwan Valley – Access to Gosthana(Aksai Chin).

  8. Gogra/Hot Spring Area – Secondary access to Gosthana.

  9. Demchok Area – Threat to Ngari Aiport in Tibet(50 Km).

  10. The buzz on the foreign intelligence circuit is that China should weaken India’s position in Siachen Glacier by denying India access to Shyok and Nubra valley and eventually cut off India from Siachen. This would redraw the LAC south of Saser La and cut off DBO completely from India.

  11. This would facilitate the proposed road connecting Tibet with Gilgit-Baltistan in POK, without Indian interference.

  12. The modification of LAC would also secure the CPEC project very dear to Xi Jinping.


A greedy father has thieves for children.’~ Serbian Proverb

  1. China has no option but to go to war. It has never learned how to face issues holistically. It got used to using sharp power so often and blatantly that it forgot how to deal with self-created challenges, and there are plenty of them staring at China:

  2. Credibility Challenge – Accountability for COVID-19.

  3. Diplomatic Challenge – Sino-US, Sino-India, Sino-Maritime Neighbors.

  4. PR Challenge – Threat to Australia on trade, India for PPEs, mask diplomacy with EU, and ill-treatment of African nationals during the peak of the pandemic.

  5. Financial Challenge – Claims of financial compensation from various quarters.

  6. Economic Challenge – De-sinicization of the world supply chain, impact on exports, and mounting unemployment.

To counter these challenges Xi Jinping addressed a CPC meeting some time back. He reminded them of a “bottom-line thinking,” calling on China to make mental and physical preparations for changed conditions, black swan, and grey rhino events. He cautioned them that the external domains would remain disturbed due to the pandemic and the situation would last for a long period of time. Xi’s bottom-line thinking indicates that China will not be cowed down, rather it is ready for a long haul, will fight force with force, and confront severe challenges with retribution. In the post-pandemic time, the world is likely to come to a new normal marked more by all-around clashes than cooperation. Sun Tzu had usefulness in intra-Chinese politics, but he did not prepare China well for the world.

China has an important lesson to learn, which Sun Tzu did not teach them: ’the real problems of the world do not come from the insane, but the sane’. And Xi Jinping is a sane man. Keeping in mind the happenings in and around the country, Indians also have a lesson to learn, and that is: ’Never confuse emotivism for critical thinking skills’.


(Cdr Sandeep Dhawan was a Maritime Reconnaissance Pilot and a Qualified Flying Instructor. He served in the Indian Navy between 1988 – 2009 ( PMR) with vast experience with Indian Air Force and Indian Coast Guard. He has been a civilian pilot since 2009 flying for commercial airlines with King Fisher, Spice Jet, Jet Airways and Indigo. The views expressed are personal and does not reflect the views of C3S.) 

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