A Peek Into Everyday China : The Geostrategic Forays by Lt Gen P R Shankar (R)

In my last two editions of  A Peek Into Everyday China : Dragon on a Drip , Part 1 and 2,( @ and I had outlined the economic difficulties which China was facing. One person commented on the articles and felt that I was ‘over optimistic’. However these articles are about getting the mood inside China based on Chinese analysis. It is not my imagination that I am reproducing but Chinese views with referenced links. Be that as it may, there is no doubt China is facing a real problem which will get compounded as time progresses. On that there is very little doubt. Will it collapse? NO! Will it deter it from seeking its worldwide ambitions? NO! The very essence of the CCP is to present a different face to the outside world and hide its internal problems. We need to understand that China has been most troublesome to the world when it was facing severe internal problems. When China was facing its worst famine with millions dying of hunger, Mao was busy with wars with India and USA . So girdle up. We are going to see an overtly aggressive China in the decade ahead till the aging factor catches up. I have already written about that earlier. Accordingly, in the recent past, China has made forays outside its immediate periphery. These have been reported in their media extensively. A look at the issues as reported in the South China Morning Post gives one an idea at the scale at which China has undertaken its forays in the recent past. It is opening the strategic chessboard.       


Head Line : Russia’s urban warfare struggles in Ukraine ‘a key lesson for China’ in possible Taiwan conflict


Excerpts : A mainland Chinese military magazine says the mountainous terrain and the problem of fighting in cities are among the main challenges in attacking Taiwan

The analysis also warns against repeating Russia’s mistakes, adding that the US and NATO may also try to help the island if it was under assault. A key lesson mainland China has learned from the Ukraine war is how to conduct urban warfare that might one day be used in a conflict with Taiwan, a leading Chinese military magazine has said…An analysis of Russia’s military operations published in Naval and Merchant Ships said this was a particularly important issue for China…“Ukraine has exploited Russia’s weaknesses … and successfully forced Russia to change its strategies,” the article said. “How this success was achieved can hardly exclude factors such as NATO and the United States. And it’s not difficult to imagine that Taiwan would receive guidance, plans, intelligence, experience and training [from NATO and the US] too.”


Comment: The tone of Chinese has changed. A few months back the news was generally that attacking Taiwan was a matter of time and a done deal. The Ukraine conflict has brought them to mother earth. Now there are lot of self-doubts. They are realising that attacking an Island across a 200 km waterway is more complicated than imagined. One needs to remember that PLA  has no experience in Urban warfare, amphibious operations or mountain warfare. Taiwan poses challenges on all three forms of warfare. What would happen if a couple of big PLAN ships go down? What happens if the Chinese offensive gets bogged down like in Ukraine? The Chinese will be seriously thinking, if the regime change does not happen in Taipei, it could happen in Beijing! The day when a cross strait operation will occur is only going farther away and not nearer.


Headline: Chinese PLA bombers carry out night raid drills around Taiwan and East China Sea   


Excerpts : More than 10 bombers took part in six-hour training exercise, Eastern Theatre Command said. Drills come as PLA steps up mobilisation and strike practice in the region amid warming Taiwan-US ties it has labelled ‘collusion’


Headline: PLA aircraft put on show of force as US delegation lands in Taiwan@


Excerpts : Nine types of planes, including two Su-35s, enter the island’s air defence zone as part of the biggest mainland patrol in four months. Sorties come on the same day as Senator Tammy Duckworth starts a three-day trip to Taiwan. Taiwan reported a record nine types of PLA aircraft – including a rarely seen jet – entering its air defence zone on Monday as a US delegation made an unannounced visit to Taipei...According to Taiwan’s defence ministry, 30 PLA aircraft made sorties into the area, the highest daily total since January 23 when 39 aircraft made similar flights…The aircraft included two Su-35 fighters, which have rarely taken part in the patrols to put pressure on the island.


Comments: All these flights are part of the routine scare tactics China uses.  One day, there will be a mishap and China’s true colours will come out. The actual signal is that China is prepared to be an aggressor and one should be wary of that issue. It will not hesitate to take the first step. The trick is ensure that the first step is wrong. My hunch is that USA has realised this and is provoking China into a misstep. It is the same playbook which it used against Russia successfully. 


Headline : Beijing urges US to cut military ties with Taiwan after defence chief Lloyd Austin’s remarks


Excerpts : Beijing has always firmly opposed US arms sales to the island ‘which seriously infringe on China’s sovereignty’. China has hit out at remarks by the US defence chief suggesting the United States is willing to expand arms sales and military training to Taiwan, the self-ruled island that Beijing claims as its own. US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin told Nikkei Asia that ‘the United States will make available to Taiwan defence articles and services necessary to enable it to maintain a sufficient self-defence capability commensurate with the Chinese threat’. Austin made the remarks in an interview with the news outlet published on Wednesday, ahead of a trip to Asia next week.


Comment : The Ukraine experience has given the USA a very clear road map to deter China. Just as USA was prepared to defend Ukraine to the last Ukrainian, they are going to defend Taiwan till the last Taiwanese. They are going to arm and train them so that China bleeds very heavily if it attempts a cross strait action. The Taiwanese have found a new meaning in defending themselves the Ukraine way and are preparing themselves accordingly. The Chinese know it and  are clearly perturbed. In this context, maturing of the QUAD is a worrisome factor for China.     


Headline : China responds to Pacific island rejection with paper on ‘mutual respect and common development’


Excerpts : Pacific nations failed to reach consensus on a Chinese deal that reportedly included cooperation in law enforcement and cybersecurity. Fijian PM says geopolitical point-scoring means little to anyone whose life or livelihood is threatened by rising sea levels, the pandemic or rising prices. There was no mention of security or policing cooperation when China released its position paper on its relations with Pacific island countries after it failed to win endorsement for a regional deal. The document – “China’s Position Paper on Mutual Respect and Common Development with Pacific Island Countries” – was published hours after a virtual summit on Monday between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his counterparts from 10 Pacific nations, as part of Beijing’s latest push for greater influence in the strategically important region. However, in a setback to Beijing’s efforts, the Pacific island nations failed to reach consensus over the Chinese deal that reportedly included cooperation in law enforcement and cybersecurity.


Comment : When the world was looking at Ukraine, China made a foray into the Pacific Islands group. It was a typically Chinese move. They did it in Eastern Ladakh also when we were grappling with Covid. However, they got their comeuppance when the Pacific Islands rejected their proposal. The world is now wise that any Chinese initiative will benefit China alone and that others will be left high and dry. 


Headline: Do China’s Africa ambitions include a second military base? @


Excerpts : Washington unconvinced by Beijing’s denials of plans to expand its presence on the continent, but the move would align with global power aspirations. Equatorial Guinea and Namibia are believed to be the most likely locations for any new base, as they would give the PLA a foothold in the Atlantic. A second military base in Africa would align with Beijing’s global power ambitions but observers are divided on whether China is actively planning such a move. The US remains unconvinced by Beijing’s continued denials of reports it may build a base on either the Atlantic or Indian Ocean coasts of Africa, and observers point out there were similar rebuttals over its first overseas base in Djibouti – until work started in 2016. Washington has warned a new PLA naval base on either side of the continent ‘would threaten US national security’, with particular concerns over potential locations in Equatorial Guinea and Namibia.


Comment : After a deal with Solomon Islands,  It was only a matter of time that China starts making a foray into the Atlantic. The fact is that China is making efforts to somehow pose a threat to the US main land through a base either side of it. There are also reports that China is seeking a base in the Comoros Islands. This is to secure its interests in the Western IOR.    


Headline : What’s behind China’s crackdown on the political rumour mill?


Excerpts : Beneath the pledges of loyalty and unity, rumours are flying of disagreements among the top leadership on how to deal with an economy ravaged by zero-Covid. Speculation of a schism ran so rife that the party has banned retired officials from gossiping about politics – but will it be enough to silence the whispers…Are China’s top leaders split over how to respond to a sharp economic slowdown that’s been exacerbated by Covid-19 lockdowns and the fallout from the war in Ukraine?…Since late April, rumours have been swirling about a crack appearing in the seemingly impregnable facade of unity the Chinese leadership has so assiduously maintained. The table talk seems to dwell, in particular, on whether President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang see eye to eye on the economy’s overall direction and how to promote growth…That isn’t to say such disagreements are being had out in the open. On the contrary, the official propaganda apparatus is in full swing, hailing Xi’s speeches and achievements daily on all manner of subjects – a selection from the past week included the youth, family virtues and human rights – as officials at all levels now begin every speech with a pledge of loyalty to the party leadership, with Xi at its “core”.


Comment : All is not well at home. There is a slight shake in the CCP political structure. How it will play out is to be seen.


Overall Comments


Very clearly, the Chinese are pushing back. Their recent forays are indicative of their larger designs. It appears that they will follow parallel paths of establishing overseas bases and simultaneously chip away at annexing Taiwan. The day they are able to establish overseas bases and annex Taiwan, we will be looking at a real superpower. However the journey is still far away even if the intent is clear. Historically, limits of Chinese expansion have come mostly as a result of internal havoc. This is what I have analysed in my article @ . When seen from an overall point of view, the road is getting tougher for China. Interesting times ahead. 


Let me leave you with a different thought. USA’s best times were when it was consolidated and not extended. That is their history. Have we again entered a phase where a consolidated USA is drawing out its prime competitors and ensnaring them? It assumes significance that the USA is doing it through second party methods. Against Russia it is a remilitarising EU and NATO on the frontline. Against China it is that QUAD, AUKUS and IPEF which are in the trenches.


Who is the marionette? Who is the string? Who is the puppeteer? That makes interesting thought.      


One response to “A Peek Into Everyday China : The Geostrategic Forays by Lt Gen P R Shankar (R)”

  1. Sir, the biggest lesson for China from the UKR offensive will be to go in full firepower right from the beginning instead of the milky-toast approach the Russians took in the first month or so of the war. Considering the difficulty or river-crossings, leave alone an invasion across an open sea, it would be suicidal for China to try and put boots on the ground. Related question, if China starts hitting Taiwan with ballistic & cruise missiles instead of an outright invasion, how will Taiwan retaliate ? Target Shanghai and other coastal cities ? And for how long ? Don't see US swinging into action in this scenario.

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