While Chinese President Xi Jinping has shown that he is good at political mobilisation of the army and perfected the art of intimidating other countries, he is yet to show that his military is worth a damn in a fight, writes Gordon G Chang, author, in an article published in Newsweek.
In the piece, ‘The Chinese Army Flops in India. What Will Xi Do Next?’, Chang argues that Xi has risked his future with the recent high-profile incursions into Indian-controlled territory and both the “architect" of these aggressive moves into India and his People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have flopped unexpectedly.
According to him, the Chinese army’s failures on the Indian border will have consequences. “As an initial matter, they give Xi an excuse to pick up the pace of replacing adversaries in the armed forces with loyal elements. Heads, therefore, will roll,” Chang writes.
These failures will, he predicts, will “motivate China’s aggressive ruler—who as chairman of the Party’s Central Military Commission, is the leader of the PLA—to launch another offensive against Indian positions.”
But can the Chinese prove themselves effective in a battle? Chang says the Ground Force of the People’s Liberation Army does not have a track record of success in contested situations.
“Its last major engagement was in 1979 when, in the effort to “teach Vietnam a lesson," the Chinese launched what they called a “defensive counterattack" into Vietnamese territory and, in the process, were repelled and humiliated by their much smaller neighbour. Now, after decades of an unprecedented modernization effort, the Ground Force is far better equipped and trained, but it is apparently not much more effective on the battlefield. India is not giving the invaders the opportunity to improve. Both sides have just accused the other of violating decades-old rules of engagement by firing warning shots. It appears, however, the Chinese are the ones closer to the truth: India’s troops are displaying newfound boldness.”
India, According to Chang, has effectively ditched these rules intended to limit casualties. “The setback in the Himalayas poses problems for Xi, which means it poses a problem for everyone else.”
“China’s leader has shown he is good at political mobilization of the army and that he can spend large sums on military equipment. He has also perfected the art of intimidating other countries. Xi Jinping, however, has yet to show his military, in a fight, is worth a damn,” he writes.
“Other nations will take notice that China’s military is deficient. Why is the PLA less than the sum of its parts? It can be excessive political control of army operations—a problem in all communist militaries—or something else. Yet the failure to push around the Indian military means Xi’s ability to intimidate anyone is much reduced,” he adds.
India and China are engaged in a four-month-long standoff at the LAC in eastern Ladakh. Despite several levels of dialogue, there has been no breakthrough and the deadlock continues.
Both countries have now decided to hold their sixth round of top-level military talks within the next few days. The corps commanders - 14 Corps commander Lt-General Harinder Singh and South Xinjiang Military District chief Major General Liu Lin have not met since August 2.
A senior government officer told News18 there is a complete breakdown of trust between both the militaries. China has mobilised thousands of soldiers, tanks and howitzers within shooting distance of each other in the Pangong Tso-Chushul area.
Indian soldiers then swiftly seized tactical heights on the ridge line stretching from Thakung on the southern bank of Pangong Tso to Gurung Hill, Spanggur Gap, Magar Hill, Mukhpari, Rezang La and Reqin La (Rechin mountain pass), and other height features near Chushul to pre-empt the Chinese army activities there.
The Chinese have since made multiple attempts to dislodge Indian troops from mountain heights.
India has also found that the Chinese side has started troop, artillery and armour build-up in three sectors of the LAC — western (Ladakh), middle (Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh) and eastern (Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh).