By Barun Das Gupta
The defensive or offensive capability of an army is determined not merely by the number of troops it has, the type of weaponry it has and the skill of the men in the army, navy and air force and to handle their weaponry to the best advantage. It also depends on the industrial base of the country, its economy (because war makes a heavy demand on a country’s resources) and finally, on the mood of the people: how enthusiastically they are supporting their government in conducting the war and the extent of social unrest prevailing in the country.
That there is considerable social unrest in “communist” China is a fact that can no longer be suppressed by the Chinese rulers. An interesting fact, officially admitted, is that in 2011 the Chinese Government spent more on “internal security” than on defence. The amount spent on internal security was $111 billion against $106 billion on defence. In normal times a strong and authoritarian government can effectively prevent social unrest from spilling over and burst into large scale violence. But public support for the government becomes a crucial factor in times of war. It is here that there is a marked difference between India and China. In India, despite all the opposition to the BJP Government’s policies and politics, all political parties, all sections of people, are firmly against China’s attempts to grab Indian land and its leadership’s generally hostile attitude to India.
The Chinese rulers are distrustful of their people. That is why every effort is made to prevent people from knowing what other countries are writing or speaking about Chinas. Free access to Internet is one thing that Xi Jinping and his supporters do not want. There is a sophisticated internet censorship. Criticism of government policies and the political system is taken as disaffection and retribution follows swiftly.
As far as the standard of living and the quality of life of the Chinese people are concerned, the official position of the Chinese Government is that it seeks to build a “moderately prosperous” society. Unlike Russia, the Chinese leadership has always claimed that its goal was to build socialism with “Chinese characteristics.” What these “characteristics” are, the Chinese Communist Party has never cared to define or explain. Lenin and his comrades never talked of building “socialism with Russian characteristics” before or after the October Revolution. Attributing “national” characteristics to socialism – which is an international movement and the goal of every society — is a thinly veiled attempt to justify and rationalize every departure from the known and accepted principles of communism.
That is why the CPC leadership wants to achieve a “moderate” level of prosperity for its people while its aim remains world domination and replacing United States as the world hegemon in not-too-distant a future. It wants to make China a strong (if not the strongest) military power in the world.
It is precisely here (the military superiority of China over India) that the Chinese leadership has been jolted by a shock in the Ladakh sector. The Indian army responded to the first Chinese incursions on May 5 with great alacrity and in no time presented the Chinese with a formidable strength matching theirs. The Galwan clash of June 15 in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed and an unknown number (China has still not revealed the number) of Chinese were killed or maimed came as another shock for China.
Subsequently, the Chinese were outwitted and out-manoeuvred when the Indian troops took possession of most of the hill tops in the Pangong Lake area, giving them vantage points to mount constant surveillance on the movement of Chinese troops. The Chinese made several desperate attempts to dislodge the Indians from the hill tops they had occupied, but each time they failed. This failure is the background to the meeting of the defence ministers and foreign ministers of the two countries in Moscow on the sidelines of the SCO meet. Each time, the initiative for talks with India came from the Chinese side.
Now the world knows about the failure of the Chinese army to achieve its strategic and tactical objectives in the Ladakh sector. It is being widely commented upon by the foreign press. Even Chinese strategic experts are grudgingly admitting the military might of India. In a recent article. Huang Guozhi, editor of the Chinese magazine Modern Weaponry has written: “At present, the world’s largest and experienced country with plateau and mountain troops is neither the US, Russia, nor any European powerhouse, but India.”
The Indian political and military leaderships have sent a clear message to Beijing: India does not want a war with China. But if the Chinese choose to engage in a military misadventure against India, the Indian armed forces are in ready to rebuff and repel the Chinese in a way to dissuade them from making similar ventures in future.
China’s economy is not in the pink of health now. Its dazzling economic success is a story of the past. The economy has been steadily slowing down for the past five years. That is why the Chinese are most reluctant to put in public domain the facts and figures that will give an exact picture of its economic condition. China’s industrial output is growing very slowly since mid-2002. A war against India will put further strains on its economy and consequently social unrest will become more intense. Can China afford to fight a two-front war: one against India and another against its own people? (IPA Service)