Understanding China will be a major preoccupation for people in the world in the decades ahead. The Chinese with a distinctly different culture, a mass of population and an unmatched economic growth will always remain an enigma to those outside the Mandarin circle. The World cannot afford to misunderstand China as it will not just affect security but also economy and business.
The inability to dissect the processes in Beijing and Shanghai may well prove fatal for many as the recent Chinese drug scam in which a large quantum of drugs exported by China were reported to be fake and dangerous, causing deaths across the globe.
Not being able to understand China at the national level will be all the more consequential, as it would imply surrender of the initiative to an extremely disciplined, focused and aggressive people. Let us view this from the vantage point of Sino Indian relations. The Chinese have adjusted their boundaries with all states except India. The issue rests on acceptance or otherwise of the McMahon Line separating the two countries, given that Tibet Autonomous Region has been fully assimilated by the Chinese with the mainland.
China claims a large part of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh where it launched a military operation in 1962 and having pushed back the Indian forces in a disarray, retreated into own territory leaving the Indian leadership truly flummoxed. Ever since then, China is asserting its claims over this area. This issue was stressed recently with China refusing visa to an Indian Administration Service officer Ganesh Koyu, from the state panchayati raj ministry belonging to Arunachal Pradesh on the plea that since the state (Arunchal Pradesh) was a part of China, no visa was required.
This is not a new development as a former Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Gegong Apang was also denied a visa a few years ago and in April, three other officials and a legislator from Arunachal Pradesh were denied visas on similar grounds. Lack of a breakthrough during the Sino Indian border talks held recently was also an indicator that both sides were not amenable to a reasonable solution in the near future. The external manifestation of the same is now evident with denial of the visa.
China also sustains its claims over Arunachal Pradesh through a strategy of intrusions in selected areas leading an Indian Member of Parliament (MP) Kiren Rijiju from Arunachal Pradesh to claim, “There has been a Chinese incursion in our country particularly in Arunachal Pradesh. It has been continuing for a long time. The Chinese are continuing to occupy part of our territory. I have written to Government of India and raised the issue in the Parliament. The government of India is not accepting the incursion openly. But defence personnel do acknowledge that this is happening and the Chinese are occupying our land.”
The MP was referring to the area of Sumdorong Chu, which is an old disputed area, which had come into the limelight in 1986 when the Chinese reportedly occupied a few posts in the area. The issue remains contentious and ongoing talks indicate a resolution may not be forthcoming early given the increase in Sino Indian discord on Arunachal Pradesh. The intrusion has been categorically denied by the Indian Defence Secretary Shekhar Dutt saying that the area Sumdorong Chu stated by the MP is disputed land. Both China and India claim the area and have agreed to patrol it. India has built a helipad in the disputed area and both governments have agreed to share it.
In the Western sector of Ladakh, Chinese aggression in 1962 had taken place in the area from Demchok to Chushul to Spanggur Gap – Hot Springs and the Chip Chap River. Chinese troops never lose an opportunity to show aggressive inclinations in the Chip-Chap river area which they perceive to be part of their territory. While the Indian side has sparse communications, the Chinese highway cuts across Aksai Chin and all outposts in the sector are connected by roads and telephone.
Concurrently India’s External Affairs Minister Mr Pranab Mukherjee met with the Chinese Foreign Minister during the ASEM Meeting in Hamburg. The talks were said to be extremely cordial. The two leaders discussed Sino Indian Bilateral trade, which had crossed US $ 25 billion and announced that the target of US $ 40 billion was easily attainable by 2010. This was evident when the Chinese Foreign Minister said that in the first four months of 2007 bilateral trade had reached US $ 11.4 billion (56 % rise). The discussion also touched upon the boundary question and it was agreed that Special Representatives would continue with their work with the encouragement and guidance of the political leadership. No small issues to be discussed without an agenda indeed.
Therefore, what do we learn of the Chinese?
Extreme national interest rules Chinese policy in all spheres. Trade with India is important, cooperate, the boundary question with New Delhi is contentious; let it be resolved through tiresome negotiations extended over many years. These are not in the Chinese national interest, so let them be for the Chinese claimed areas that have no economic significance. The Chinese are also known to follow the same paradigm in business and personal relations.
Now maybe you understand the Chinese better.