The Galwan Valley incident marks a new low in recent times in bilateral relations between India and China. While the details of the incident are still unfolding and both sides are engaged in high-level military talks, there are clear signs that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) wants to deter India from reacting and accept illegal encroachments in the Galwan Valley and Pangong Tso area.
The CCP government and quasi-government mouthpieces are featuring numerous articles comparing the economic and military strengths of India and China and warning the Indian side of ‘consequences'.
India has been singular in its requirements — a restoration of the status quo ante and the reversion to established mechanisms for the management of differences.
The CCP, however, has a different agenda. Having surreptitiously seeking to alter the status quo, it is attempting to bully India into accepting the changes in the ground situation, but it ignores the overall context at its own peril.
Numerous claims have been made by the CCP's mouthpieces about the advantages the Chinese side enjoys in terms of economic and military power.
The Global Times has been especially shrill with an article on 22 June titled "India knows it can't have war with China".
A report published last week on the English language CGTN, formerly known as CCTV-9 and CCTV News and part of the state-owned China Media Group, sought to blame India for its infrastructure development closer to the Line of Actual Control and that was projected as the provocation for the present conflict.
It quoted N.C. Bipindra, editor of Defence Capital, on the infrastructure game that China plays on the LAC. The quote itself was stolen by CGTN from an article of Nikkei Asian Review published in June and cited without context and reference or credit to the original source of the quote.
"This was clearly China's unscrupulous propaganda at work. The Chinese media do not follow any ethics on their content and steal content from others to cite them to support its point of view. We can't expect any fairness from either China or its mouthpiece media," said Bipindra told IANS over the phone regarding the controversy involving his quote being stolen by the Chinese state-owned media.
"They have been doing it as information warfare for long now, taking a cue from Xi Jinping who served in CCP's information warfare department for 15 years, and it has become more explicit during their military face-off with India and during the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests," said Bipindra, who is also the chairman of New Delhi-based Law and Society Alliance think-tank.
To buttress the point, the Delhi-based journalist and law professional also gave the example of a video of Chinese police targeting journalists covering the protests in Hong Kong that originally belonged to a journalist Ryan Ho Kilpatrick but stolen by another state-run media People's Daily of China.
"It seems that the history of warfare is lost on the Chinese. Since time immemorial and despite Napoleon's assertion that 'God is on the side with biggest battalions', history is replete with examples where smaller but better trained, experienced and better-led forces have been the nemesis of larger armies," said a senior government officer.
In fact, the Chinese would do well to recall their own 'Battle of Mu' in 1046 BC, wherein a much smaller Zhou army defeated a much larger Shang army; or the Battle of Fie River in 383 AD wherein Qin forces were routed by much smaller army of Eastern Jin.
"If economic logic and statistical comparisons were the determining factors, surely these would not have come to pass," he said.
Therefore, the CCP's assertion of economic and military advantage is good propaganda if it's directed to its own troops.
"It might raise their morale, but on the offside, will also lead to a quick collapse if the early victory that they anticipated does not come. Events in 1967, and more recently in Galwan Valley, should provide ample proof to the CCP that comparing numbers will neither lead to victory nor deter the battle-hardened Indian Army."
"China may have a larger economy; so did the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) as compared to Finland, in 1939.
"China may have a larger modern military but so did the USA as compared to Vietnam in the 1960s. We know how those conflicts ended. China would do well to heed the lessons of history and take cognizance of what a determined, motivated, well-led and well-trained adversary can do," the officer said.
Further, the much-touted Chinese economic and military advantage may be a myth. China will soon have to come to terms with a world order that is hugely antagonistic.
This will impact business sentiment and except for a few crony states such as Pakistan and North Korea, not many will be willing to do business with China. Of course, it will take time for alternative supply chains to be built up, but the process has already begun.
The CCP's overreach in Belt and Road Initiative and exposure of its debt diplomacy is already beginning to have effects. The strategic gains that CCP hoped for are fast dwindling and only liability countries such as Pakistan remain firmly in its camp. The post-Covid economic scenario will not be much to CCP's liking and Chinese economic advantage will soon start to wither away. And if the Chinese would like to provoke India into a conflict, it surely will not add to their goodwill or their business prospects.
"As far as the much-touted military advantage goes, it is an illusion, to say the least," another government official said. "The Indian military is one of the most experienced in the world with the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force having tremendous experience in high-altitude operations."
PLA may flash its 'Chinese-made' toys, but reviews of those toys from users in other countries are not great. PLA has not had combat experience, definitely not of the type that the Indian Army has had in the recent past. And of course, the human element will play a role.
On one hand, will be an all-volunteer army of a democratic nation and on the other will be a soldier who is still confused whether he is fighting for the person, the party, or the nation.
The Chinese have also revealed that despite their much proclaimed naval build-up, they remain a continental nation. They have ignored that the majority of their oil passes through the Indian Ocean region under the watchful eyes of the Indian Navy.
Before China chooses to force a conflict on their land borders, they would do well to cast an eye on the fuel tanks and aircraft and wonder how long it will last in war.
"China and its mouthpieces should, therefore, give up the act. India will not be deterred by fanciful writing. If China truly desires peace, it must restore the status quo on the LAC and revert to established mechanisms for managing border issues.".