As China continues to apply sustained military pressure on India’s borders in the midst of visits exchanged between the two countries’ leaders and senior officials, China’s official media continues to publicise articles intended to caution India that China retains the option of initiating military hostilities. The number of articles stating that China will have to resort to military force to settle outstanding border disputes has increased since 2010, with the intensification of the disputes in the South China Sea and especially with Japan. They coincide with the ‘rise’ in China’s economic and military might. Interestingly, Chinese officials routinely advise their Indian counterparts to rein in the Indian media whose ‘jingoistic’ tenor apparently imposes strains on India-China relations.
In this backdrop the Hong Kong-based daily, Wen Wei Po, published an article in June this year captioned ‘Six Wars to be fought by China in the next Fifty Years’. It was re-posted on a Hong Kong website around mid-September. While the author’s background is not yet known, the article’s layout suggests he has been briefed by some Chinese analysts with extreme nationalist views.
The Wen Wei Po is owned by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and its editor-in-chief is a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) cadre who is often also a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). It is part of China’s tightly controlled propaganda apparatus. The CPPCC is headed by one of the seven members of the ruling Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC).
Asserting that China can wipe out past humiliations and regain dignity only once it achieves national reunification, the article avers that China will have to fight six wars in the next 50 years to achieve this. It lists these as for the: “unification” of Taiwan which will be fought between 2020-2025; “reconquest” of the Spratlys which will occur between 2025 and 2030; “reconquest of Southern Tibet” which will take place between 2035-2040; “reconquest” of Diaoyu Island and Ryukyu Islands between 2040 and 2045; “unification of Outer Mongolia” between 2045 to 2050; and taking back of the “lands lost to Russia” for which a war will be fought between 2055 and 2060.
The article is confident that China will be victorious, noting additionally that the war for unification with Taiwan will be the first for “New China” and will test the development of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in modern warfare. It states that China will emerge as the real world power by the mid-21st century. It views the role of the US and Japan as important in determining the duration of the wars to be fought, but assesses that the US will be reluctant to overtly intervene in any military hostilities with Taiwan or Japan. The scenario envisages Japan and Russia as on the decline, the US and India as stagnant, and Central Europe as on the rise consequent to the integration of Europe. It recommends this period as ideal for the “reconquest” of the Diaoyu and Ryukyu Islands.
Relevant for India is the so-called third war for the “reconquest of southern Tibet” projected to take place between 2035-2040. The article states that after taking back Taiwan and the Spratly Islands by 2030, China’s military power would have increased substantially in army, navy, air force and space warfare. China will then be a power second only to the US and India will, therefore, lose this war.
Describing “southern Tibet” as the only point of conflict between the two countries, the article observes that India has for long imagined China as an enemy. It takes note of India’s close military and economic ties with the US, Russia and Europe, adding that the attitude of Indian officials and media is more friendly towards these countries and “repellent or even hostile” to China. It emphasises that though after 20 years India will lag further behind China in military power, it will nevertheless still be one of the few world powers. If, therefore, China uses military force to “conquer Southern Tibet” then it will have to suffer some losses.
The article recommended that the best strategy and first option for China is to incite India’s disintegration. China should try its best to incite Assam and Sikkim to fight for independence. The second option is to export advanced weapons to Pakistan thus helping it to conquer the southern Kashmir region in 2035 and effect the unification of Kashmir. While India and Pakistan are busy fighting each other in Kashmir, Chinese forces should initiate a ‘blitz’ attack to “conquer southern Tibet”. Unable to fight a two-front war, India will lose both. China can then retake Southern Tibet easily, while Pakistan can control the whole of Kashmir. If this plan cannot be adopted, the final and least preferred option is to take direct military action to take back “southern Tibet”.
While this article is unlikely to have emanated from high levels in China’s military establishment, it does reiterate a theme often articulated in the official Chinese media that China will have to finally resort to the use of armed force to settle outstanding border disputes. Such articles have been appearing after China completed the review of its Asia policy in 2011. A publication of the official CCP mouthpiece in November 2011, for example, recommended that “China adopt new approaches in dealing with its neighbours”. It said “goodwill that is one-sided may not bring about harmony with our neighbours” and “sometimes certain altercations (with the neighbours) are appropriate and can foster the return of peace.”
Jayadeva Ranade is a member of the National Security Advisory Board and former additional secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India The views expressed by the author are personal.