Strategic Isolation

The Chinese President asked his military folks last week to prepare to win a “regional war”. He did that soon after returning from his trip to India, which got spoiled because of the stand off between the two armies in Arunachal Pradesh.

Is that stupid ? it appears to be.

Apart from the commotion caused by the belligerent approach of China towards its illegal claim on ownership of the entire South China Sea, it is also fighting over islands near Japan and the Philippines. It almost went to war with Vietnam recently.

No country in South East Asia likes the strong arming by China when it comes to South China Sea, and no country really honoured its air defence identification zone.

As China matures into a global leadership position, it cannot hope to buy loyalty or votes in the United Nations by investing in far away countries such as South Africa or South American nations. While that may be needed to secure access to natural resources, China should also want to be liked by other countries. Not throw its weight and demonstrate its military might by increasing its military budget. And, constantly threatening and reminding other countries in South East Asia and Japan specifically that it would not tolerate incursions in its territories.

So, let us take a look at the quick enemies it is creating by its actions – Vietnam, the Philippines, Japan, Taiwan……..the list keeps growing. And China cannot forget the fact that the U.S. will respond in a forceful manner to any attack on its close allies such as Japan.

So, it is not clear where the President of China is intent on taking China. While military might is critical, he should also realize that when it comes to India he is facing a strong leader with a strong popular mandate in Mr Modi. The whole idea of his visit recently was to establish China as a strategic investment partner for India, as opposed to Japan. But that initiative did not get far with the Chinese troops intruding into Indian territory across the Line of Control when the Chinese President was visiting India !

China needs to tone down its “power” demonstrations and its rhetoric. Real power does not flow that way. And China is only getting isolated more and more. It needs friends, and it has to work on a suitable strategy towards creating large friends in countries like India.

I am sure President Xi will learn this soon.


Vijay Srinivasan

29th September 2014


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