10 Aug 2020 20:35 IST

For China, politics is also a type of war

India has to fully understand the tactical Chinese ‘guerilla’-style policy-making before taking another step

After the June 15 clash, there were signs of de-escalation at Galwan border and the Chinese troops were believed to have moved back, in both Galwan and Pangong Tso areas, as per media reportage. A preliminary verification had been done, though a more extensive double-check was underway. India should take steps cautiously now as the Chinese style of policy-making is to test the water first if it is not too deep to sail across. If difficult, buy time to plan and attack through a different route.

Referring to the images released by Maxar, a Colorado-based satellite imagery company, New York Times reported new construction activity along the Galwan River Valley, even as Chinese and Indian diplomats said that military commanders have agreed to disengage from the stand-off. Construction activity appeared on both, Indian and Chinese sides of the contested border, high in the Karakoram mountains. The images appeared to show that the Indians had built a wall on their side and the Chinese had expanded an outpost camp at the end of a long road connected to Chinese military bases, farther up from the poorly defined border, according to experts.

Eye of a tiger

The back-stabbing by the Chinese, attacking Indian forces at Galwan, is a well-crafted military and political strategy, backed by China’s legacy. China is taking this stand because of three reasons:

China is the only P-5 member country that is party to the Kashmir dispute by virtue of its deal with Pakistan in 1963 — Sino-Pakistan Frontier Agreement and Sino-Pak Boundary Agreement — as well as due to the disputed territory of Aksai Chin.

Secondly, it is well-known that China has a larger-than-life influence over Pakistan, and therefore, indirectly, is in a position to leverage the next moves by Islamabad in the Kashmir situation in practical or political terms.

Third, China can counter India’s efforts to resolve the Kashmir issue at the UN with its veto power.

Setting context

China embarked on a guerrilla warfare strategy to reap unexpected gains in a highly uncertain and threatening environment. This strategy is the outcome of the experience in joining a revolution, which had left an indelible imprint on Chinese leaders and policy makers, including Mao, Deng and Hu Yaobang, who dominated the Chinese political landscape until the early Nineties. The Maoist guerrilla approach to problem-solving stemmed from almost 30 years of incessant political and military struggles that the communists fought with an inferior military and from a seemingly hopeless position at times. It was marked by secrecy, versatility, speed and surprise.

Over the course of the revolution, continuous improvisation became a defining feature of Chinese communist tactics. Moreover, Mao made it abundantly clear that war and politics were to be played according to the same rules. As he stated in 1959: Military affairs are politics under special conditions. They are a continuation of politics — politics are also a type of war.

The guerrilla style policy-making that enabled success in the unpredictable military-combat settings of revolutionary times passed on to a dynamic means of navigating the treacherous torrents of transformative governance, even in economy management, during both the Mao era and the post-Mao era. Its core features continue to shape present day policy-making and contribute to the flexibility and volatility of Communist Party rule.

It took nearly three decades of revolutionary mobilisation and struggle to impose the Communist regime. This protracted process gave rise to this guerrilla-style policy-making approach that proved capable of generating an array of proactive sometimes even evasive tactics for managing sudden, calibrated change, and uncertainty.

Guerilla style policy-making

This policy style allowed constant adaptation to changes in the surrounding environment and justifies continual adjustments during implementation. If an action succeeds then, test and constantly push the limits of the status quo and seize every possible opportunity to change the situation to the country’s advantage.

Post-Galwan, international opinion has gone against China, especially with the way Prime Minister Modi has articulated India’s vision in a global forum. China has temporarily backtracked. Inside China, there is rampant grassroot protests revealing intense popular indignation at every thing from land grabs to environmental pollution, while top officials themselves complain about the corroding effects of materialism, cadre corruption, and income inequality.

Finally, as the National Security Law (NSL) came into effect on July 1 and under the law, “suspects” could face life-long imprisonment and face extradition to China. It shows that the “one country, two systems” promise has come to a farcical end. Hong Kong is under Beijing’s autocratic direct rule now and the freedom that people used to enjoy has vanished. Speaking the truth violates the new norm in the post-NSL era.

This situation will only get worse when the government targets prominent political activists, such as Joshua Wong. The international community continues to apply pressure on China, to urge it to fulfil the obligation of the British joint declaration. Democracy and autonomy are what Hong Kong people were promised and deserve. The compounding effect of internal unrest, death of Chinese soldiers at Galwan, PM Modi’s pressure, and Hong Kong’s complicated situation, has compelled Chinese authority to backtrack and buy time for now.

(The writer is a Professor, Great Lakes Institute of Management, Gurgaon.)

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