Could China’s Current Developments Create Concerns For Cultivating World Peace?

In recent times, tensions are at an all-time high between China and India owing to the stand-off at Doklam in Bhutan. In an effort to prevent the Chinese from building a road through the Doklam plateau (and therefore through Bhutan), India’s Modi-led administration has sent troops to the region to face Chinese operations upon Bhutan’s request, to the aid of the latter. India’s actions demonstrate a break from its traditional confrontation-averse strategy.

So far, no violent exchange has taken place between Indian and Chinese troops in the region. However, according to Meghnad Desai, an Indian-born United Kingdom economist and politician, there is a foreboding possibility of the two Asian giants engaging in war if they cannot confine the mounting conflict diplomatically. Desai warns that if this conflict ensues, it threatens to engage other States to the disadvantage of China for “it will be a US-China war, with India on the US side.” Disturbingly, Desai wishes and hopes that India is “prepared for a very tough war which may last for a long time.”

According to Nitin Gokhale, an Indian security analyst and author: “If China gets access into Bhutanese territory through the Doklam plateau, through the road that they are trying to construct, then the Chinese forces have easy access to the Indian narrow corridor which connects the Indian mainland to its seven northeastern States, so strategically it’s very sensitive for India to stop forces coming into that area.” Gokhale claims that India wants to solve this concern “diplomatically through negotiations” and that its actions are justifiable since China violated the 2012 Border Defense Cooperation Agreement (BDCA), of which both nations are signatories. Under the BDCA, a signatory cannot alter the status quo from the ground until other signatories are consulted. On the other hand, China contends that India is in breach of the BDCA, for it “trespassed” Bhutan without obtaining its approval of the same.

For the first time, China held a military parade outside Tiananmen Square in Beijing. According to Hong Kong newspapers, this activity “differed from previous events in its heavy emphasis on combat and field operations.” It is estimated that 40% of the weaponry on display had not ever been seen before. This comes as the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) marked its 19th anniversary at the Zhurihe Combined Tactics Training Base in Inner Mongolia. On this occasion, the Chairman of the Central Military Commission Xi Jinping delivered an address to the PLA and Zhurihe (China’s largest and most advanced military base), stressing the need to prepare for battle and to defeat “all enemies that dare to offend” China.

In relation to the aforesaid event, Chinese military officials ceremoniously launched China’s first foreign military base, a naval “support” facility in Djibouti, next to the Mandeb Strait which overlooks the Indian subcontinent from the west. This base can house in excess of 10,000 personnel and includes new berths for large warships. Notwithstanding the deployment of military personnel and warships, China maintains that this base is not for military purposes. Notably, this Chinese military base lies within close proximity to the American, French, Saudi, and Japanese bases in the region.

It is clear that under the Modi-led administration, India has been able to strengthen its ties with other States, particularly with the United States of America, Israel, and Japan.  India’s strategic partnership with the United States of America and the expansion of its diplomatic and military affiliation with Japan, Australia, and Vietnam may be seen as a direct threat by China. In contrast, as discoursed in my last article titled: “Three Terrorist Attacks Kill 62 and Injure Approximately 100 People in Pakistan,” China has seemingly become closer with Pakistan – a historic rival of India. Relevantly, fueled with anger by the India-China standoff, yoga guru Baba Ramdev has gone public to say that “China is openly supporting the terrorists of Pakistan.”

Indeed, China has been placed in quite a difficult situation for it is experiencing a lot of political pressure and criticism from Western nations, such as the United States of America, with respect to the management of its affairs with North Korea. According to Graham Allison, a prominent American political scientist and a professor at Harvard University, “China wants to be accepted as China, not as an honorary member of the West.” Hence, the recent development in Chinese artillery and military personnel, in conjunction with the position of new strategic alliances, may signal the birth and growth of something far more perturbing than the India-China standoff, which at worst may indicate a movement towards another World War.

According to James Mattis, a military advisor to Trump, if a second Korean War befalls, it will be the “bloodiest war anybody will have ever seen in their lifetime” and that the “[United States] can win that war and eliminate Kim Jong-un, except if China enters the war.”

Ironically, at the 19th anniversary of the PLA, Chairman Jinping reflected on the current state of global affairs, proclaiming that “the world under heaven is not at peace, and peace needs safeguarding.” He stressed the need to move “closer than ever to realizing China’s great dream of national revitalization and building a strong people’s army.” The illogicality lies in the following question: can Chairman Jinping truly speak of fulfilling China’s great dream of expansion and maintenance of world peace whilst its threat to go to war with rivals that “dare to offend” China stands? The solution, as Allison points out, may be for all the nations so concerned in this dilemma to primarily work on resolving their own [national] concerns, just as the Athenian politician Pericles devised a 30-year peace treaty to depress the tension between Athens and Sparta.

Sarfraz Khan