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XI Jinping's India Visit-Reading The Chinese Tea Leaves

Mr. Bhaskar Roy, C3S Paper No. 2046

Chinese President Xi Jinpin’s visit (September 18-20) to India will be discussed for a long time here not only because Xi’s first visit as president to the country, but also because of the hype created by the Indians, expectations, disappointments and some amount of confusion. But speculating on the Chinese mind can be dangerous business.

The interpretation of President Xi Jinping’s address (Xinhua Sept. 22) in Beijing to the PLA as a war threat to India was a complete misreading by sections of the Indian media. “winning a regional war” is a military doctrine being developed for the last 15 years at least. Full mechanization and use of information technology are being emphasized by the top leadership, and on a nation wide scale must come from Xi Jinping who is the Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) in addition to being the president and head of the Chinese Communist Party.

The main target of regional war is Taiwan, which Beijing considers as a renegade province of China. The top three “core interests” of China are the ruling position of the party, reunification of Taiwan with the mainland, and Tibet as an integral part of China. Beijing is willing to wait for some time for the peaceful reunification of China, but will not hesitate to use force if Taiwan shows any real intention to declare independence.

Regional war concept basically means a short deceive strike to achieve the objective and was derived from studying the Falkland war and Israel’s strike on Iraq’s Osirak nuclear facility. After studying the two US wars on Iraq, focus turned to sophistication and informatics.

China, however, is determined to get back what it calls ‘territories’ taken away from it. But this will be done gradually and claims in the meantime will be kept alive by various means.

China, however, is not about to launch a war against any country. A war is not in its interest, and is the last resort unless something goes drastically wrong. At the moment Beijing is building on its economic and military strength as a “shock and awe” profile. Playing mind games it is trying to incrementally occupy more reefs and atolls in the South China Sea.

No doubt Xi Jinping is the strongest man in China since Deng Xiaoping. But even Deng had to bargain with the so-called “seven immortals” like Chen Yun, Li Xiannian and others. Xi also has to follow this route. It is unlikely that there will be a second Mao Zedong in China. Xi’s anti corruption drive has won him support, but must have also created strong enemies who are hiding now.

Although the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is subservient to the Party, it has an important say in territorial matters. At times some lee way has to be given to them.

There is an ongoing major anti-corruption shake up in the PLA initiated by Xi. Some big heads have rolled, and more may go the same way. Naturally there would be some disturbance in the PLA. Xi has to periodically assert his leadership and that of the party. This also not new, and his two immediate predecessors had also to do this very important routine.

The “Three Warfare” doctrine executed mainly by the PLA comprise (a) Psychological warfare (b) media warfare and (c) legal warfare. In the case of India the psychological warfare is prosecuted through the incursions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), demonstrating the PLA superiority and determination and try and dent the confidence of the Indian border forces and the army. In the meanwhile, it will try to nibble at territories like they have done in Pangong so lake in the western sector.

Media warfare is played through both warnings and cautions in the official media and foreign media and media persons they have recruited. Even the absence of any offensive or even silence in the Chinese official media are aimed to create confusion. Legal warfare in the case of India is still weak but they use historical claims.

But sometimes psychological warfare using the military can go wrong when they go for over-kill. It is, however, not yet clear in the context of Chumar and Demchok incursions. Why are the Chinese calling it a small incident when their president was on an official visit to India?

These are issues still unclear. The Indian government should give some clarity to the people how the Chinese incursions started on. September 10 and went on quite intensively when the Chinese president was in India, without strong diplomatic pressure from New Delhi?

Meanwhile, it is imperative that India build up its military power. Strengthening border defence and decision to raise a mountain strike corps has already rattled the Chinese to an extent. Successfully testing the Agni-V nuclear capable missile by India which can reach Beijing has made its point. An economically and militarily strong India will be respected by China.

At the same time, misinterpreting the Chinese does not help and bring unnecessary pressure on us. Diplomacy, the art of conducting relations with nations, needs to very carefully charted and worded.

(The writer  Mr. Bhaskar Roy  is a New Delhi based strategic analyst.  He can be reached at e-mail

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