Monday, October 16, 2017

The Indian government might well be asking, 'what will China do next?'

My article The Indian government might well be asking, 'what will China do next?' appeared in Mail Today/Daily Mail (UK).

Here is the link...

Post-Doklam, many observers, whether in the defence services or government circles, have been thinking “what could China do next to put India’s in its place.”
Of course, Luo Zhaohu, the Chinese Ambassador in India, spoke of ‘turning the page to a new chapter’. Can India believe him?
In an oped in a national newspaper, Luo says that the outcome of the August BRICS Summit in Xiamen (China) went beyond his expectations: “An important consensus has been reached to enhance mutual trust, focus on cooperation, and manage differences.” Luo even quotes the Chinese President: ‘the dragon and elephant should dance together’.
Mr Luo is lucky that the Indian media is Alzheimerish and has already forgotten the nasty words used by Chinese officials against Indian leaders during the Doklam episode, because Delhi did not allow mighty China to build a road on Bhutan’s territory.

Chinese woman
 Incidentally, how could Beijing have engaged in this misadventure without a sort of ‘clearance’ from its man on the spot (in India)?
On its part, China has not forgotten the standoff on the ridge near the trijunction; while the Ambassador speaks of ‘turning a page’, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) cancelled the ceremonial border personnel meetings (BPM) to mark China's National Day on October 1.
Several times every year, the PLA and the Indian Army meet at five designated Border Personnel Meeting (BPM) points along the 3,488-km long Line of Actual Control (LAC); in Ladakh (Chushul and DBO), in Arunachal (Bumla and Kibithoo) and in Nathu-la in Sikkim.
Local commanders (usually the brigade commanders) meet their Chinese counterparts to sort out differences on local issues, but also to get know each other. This is an excellent confidence building measures during which ‘gifts’ such cigarettes, liquors, etc are exchanged. The fact that it was not held on October 1 shows that the PLA is not ready to close the chapter.
India Today commented: “the suspension of scheduled confidence-building measure between the two militaries comes at a time when China appears to be reaching out to India to normalise relations after the Doklam stand-off.”
But that is not all: the annual joint exercise between the Indian Army and the PLA will not be held in 2017.
Called ‘Hand-in-Hand’, it was held in Pune last year. The Indian and Chinese troops simulated counter-terrorism scenarios and worked together during a couple of weeks. Again a good CBM cancelled. In March 2017, Delhi wrote to Beijing to start the initial planning process; no answer from China.
China has also not provided data for the Sutlej and the Yarlung Tsangpo, as per the agreement signed by the two countries. Some vague excuses have been given for not doing so.
In this morose context, an incident took place in Dharamsala, the hometown of the Dalai Lama in Himachal Pradesh.
On October 1 (incidentally, the Chinese National Day), a Chinese woman, a long-term guest in India, holding a US passport, physically assaulted a Tibetan woman “hurling verbal abuses and also vandalizing a part of the photo exhibition set up by our NGO near the Dalai Lama’s Temple, in McLeod Ganj,” according to the Police complaint.

Physical assault
 A Dharamsala-based Tibetan NGO called Gu-Chu-Sum, started by former Tibetan political prisoners, had organized a photo exhibition to mark the 30th anniversary of 1987 Tibetan unrest in Tibet. The exhibition was held at proximity of the main Temple.
According the complaint: “While hundreds of other foreigners, Indian tourists and local people visited the exhibition, this Chinese woman, Ms Zhu Wenqi, 44, objected to the photo exhibition saying that she was angry with these photo exhibits. She was visibly restless and beyond control. Ms Wen shouted verbal abuses against all Tibetans saying that these photos insult China.”
She attacked Namgyal Dolkar Lhagyari, a Member of the Tibetan Parliament and Gu-Chu-Sum president, when the latter tried to pacify her; the correspondent of Voice of America (Tibetan language) who was filming the scene, was hit in the face and thrown on the floor by Zhu.
The NGO told the police “We fear she may unleash more such violent abuses. Her presence in here is clearly a threat to the peace and tranquility of Dharamsala.”
Though there is no proof that the Chinese lady is linked to the regime in Beijing, the attack however raises serious issues.

Troop movement
 First for the Dalai Lama’s security: Zhu recently appeared on a photo with a group of Chinese inside the Cathedral. Are all the followers/students of the Tibetan leader properly screened?
Second, how did Zhu get a five-year visa to ‘study’ in India? Who provided the guarantee for her visa?
Even presuming that she was a genuine ‘student’ at the time of application, is there a way to keep a tab on all ‘Buddhist’ and other seekers gravitating around Dharamsala? How far is the Himachali town infiltrated by the Chinese intelligence? All these questions need to be answered.
For the past fifty-five years, the Tibetan refugee community has been an exemplary and peaceful community in India. This should remain so and the Tibetans should not be disturbed by unwarranted elements.
Whatever the results of the enquiry, Delhi needs to realize that the Chinese ‘answer’ to Doklam may not be visible on a mountain ridge in Arunachal Pradesh or Ladakh, but may be ‘asymmetric’.
Today, it is obvious that the Doklam page has not been turned; for example, as Indian Foreign Secretary landed in Paro to take stock of the relations with Bhutan, there are persistent rumors that the PLA has massed troops in the Chumbi valley, north of Doklam.
Delhi needs to remain fully alert and ready to tackle any situation, military or otherwise.

Monday, October 2, 2017

New infrastructure developments in Tibet

Lhasa-Lhoka Express Highway
Yesterday the Lhasa-Nyingchi (or Nyingtri in Tibetan) High Grade Highway was opened for trial operations.
Quoting from the TAR’s transportation department, Kangba TV reported: “except Songduo Tunnel and Milashan Tunnel, Lhasa-Nyingchi High Grade Highway has been well prepared and begins trial operation from October 1.”
The four-lane Lhasa-Nyingchi High Grade Highway is 398 km long; it is designed for a 80 km/h speeed.
According to the Chinese media: “The operation of Lhasa-Nyingchi High Grade Highway shortens the travel time between Lhasa and Nyingchi from 10 hours to four hours, which can greatly improve the traffic condition of the golden tour line as well as boost local economy development.”
The train on the same route should follow in a couple of years.

The Rongme Ngatra tunnel
Another project, termed as the world's highest highway tunnel, was also recently opened to traffic.
The China Daily wrote: “The Que'ershan Tunnel, stretching 12.997 kilometers on National Highway No.317, in Ganzi, Sichuan province, opens to traffic on September 26, 2017. It is said to be the world's highest tunnel on a highway. The tunnel, whose highest point is 4,378 meters above sea level, was completed 15 years after the launch of the project.”
Que'ershan  is the Chinese name for the Rongme Ngatra is the highest peak of the Chola Mountains in the Kham region (today’s Sichuan).
According to the press release: “With the opening of the tunnel, it takes only 10 minutes to pass through the perilous and steep Que'ershan Mountain that stands 6,168 meters above the sea level. The project is projected to become a new impetus to help drive the economic and social development of the remote Tibetan region.”
The project is part of a highway (NH 317) between Nagchu and Chengdu.
Chengdu, Sichuan via Garzi (756 km), Dege (960), Jomda (1070), Chamdo (1298), Riwoche (1403) Dengchen (1546) Bachen (1782), Sog (1812) and Nagchu (2043).

The Tibet-Nepal Road
On August 29, 2017, the Kyirong-Nepal border post was reopened for foreign travelers.
The Middle East North Africa Financial Network reports: “It not only saves the expensive flight cost but also offers a superb overland landscape along the driving trip.”
Located in the Kyirong County, Shigatse, Kyirong border post is a vital landport between Tibet and Nepal.
Kyirong border is located 85 km away from Nepal's capital Kathmandu; from China-Nepal highway section, Kyirong docking distance is only about 30 km.
Interesting, the article mention that it is the terminus of the National Highway 216 (Xinjiang-Tibet Highway second line). I mentioned earlier about this extremely important development ('A new road between Tibet and Xinjiang').

The website gives the historic background of Kyirong border post:
  1. In 789 AD, according to legend, when Nepal's Princess Bhrukuti married the Tibetan King Songtsan, she followed the trekking route to Tibet via Kyirong Border. Kyirong border was the main channel of the political and cultural communication between China and Nepal, but also the traditional border trade market. Tibetan people main export sheep to Nepal.
  2. In 1972, China's State Council has approved Kyirong Border become a national second-class land port and set up the departments such as customs and commodity inspection department. But trade market and the departments in Kyirong Border were closed later because of the prosperity of Zhangmu port.
  3. In 1987, China's State Council has approved Kyirong Border for the national first-class land port. Except for barter transactions, Nepalese currency, and RMB is also as a means of payment.
  4. In 2014, China government decided to expand the opening in Kyirong Border.
  5. However, in 2015, the road to the Kyirong border has been severely damaged by the heavy earthquake in Nepal. Therefore, the Kyirong border was closed for foreign travelers. Besides, in June 2016, heavy monsoon rains along the Kyirong border caused severe damage to the roads.
  6. On August 29, 2017, Kyirong border in Tibet was reopened for foreign travelers.
In April 2017, I posted this article, also on the infrastructure

Bridge over the Tsangpo
Last week, Xinhua announced the construction of a new 'scientific' observation station in Metok, north of Upper Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh: “The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) will build a new observation station in Tibet, to assist research and monitoring of the ecological system in the southeast of the Autonomous Region,” said an official release.
The station is located in Deshing village of Metok County, north of the McMahon Line.
It will cover 2,600 square meters and will be completed by October 2017.
Zhu Liping, a researcher with Qinghai-Tibet Plateau Research Institute (under the CAS) explained: “Rich in bio-diversity, Metok plays a special role in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau ecosystem."
It is also one of the most strategic places on the plateau.
Officially, it will be not only used for observing vegetation, glaciers, lakes and atmosphere, but also researching and monitoring bio-diversity and its impacts on climate change.
It is too close to India to believe that it will only observe wild animals and glaciers; specially when one knows that this area, the lowest part of the plateau, has very few glaciers.
The CAS also affirmed that the station is the latest of a series of observatories located in places such the Namtso lake, north of Lhasa and Mount Chomolangma (Everest).
The observatory may be watching birds, but let us not forget that any infrastructure development on the plateau has a dual use (civil and military).
It will certainly take a look at the 'birds' in Tuting Circle of Upper Siang too.

A Bridge over the Yarlung Tsangpo
Around the same time, Kangba TV announced the construction of a bridge at Mingze, (Mingtse?), near Tsetang on the way between Lhasa and Nyingtri (Nyingchi).
On March 25, the first bridge over Yarlung Tsangpo River on the Lhasa-Nyingchi Railway line was completed.
A press release said that: “as the first completed bridge among the 16 ones over Yarlung Tsangbo River, it has accumulated valuable experience for bridge construction on high altitude areas.”
It is crucial portion of the 435 km Lhasa-Nyingchi Railway which is estimated to be finished in 7 years (as it started in November 2015, the line should be completed in 2022).
The train will run at a speed of 160km/h; in 2022, it will take less than 3 hours to travel (or bring troops) from Lhasa to Nyingchi.
The 3,376 m Mingze Bridge is one of key projects of Lhasa-Nyingchi Railway. It has 105 pier bodies, out of which 44 are on the Yarlung Tsangpo.


Lhasa-Lhoka (Shannan) Express Highway
Apart from the railway line, China is building a Lhasa-Lhoka (Shannan) Express Line (Highway), also part of the Lhasa-Nyingchi Highway.
On March 6, 2017, China Tibet News published some pictures of workers on the Lhasa-Lhoka Express Line driving an engineering vehicle. The news agency commented: “At present, the Lhasa-Shannan (Lhoka) Express Line project goes well. This project started on August 26, 2016. The whole line is 47.46 kilometers with bidirectional four roadways. [It is] designed speed is 80 kilometers per hour. The project can not only bring the benefits of development to both Lhasa and Shannan [Lhoka], but also has a positive significance to improving people’s livelihood and driving the accelerated development of the whole region’s economy industry chain.”
The highway will run in parallel to the train.
Both will have dual use.

New terminal opens at Nyingchi airport
But that is not all.
Xinhua announced the second-largest airport terminal in Tibet has started its operations in Nyingchi: “The new terminal, the sixth to open in Tibet, is located at Nyingchi Mainling Airport. It covers an area of 10,300 square meters and will be able to handle 750,000 passengers and 3,000 tons of cargo throughput annually by 2020.”
It is said that it will allow the airport to open new air routes, for example to Xi'an, Shaanxi Province. This will allow to greatly increase the traffic on the existing routes to Lhasa, Guangzhou, Kunming, Chongqing and Shenzhen.
Nyingchi is located at an average elevation of 2,950 meters above sea level.
Xinhua says: “The city has attracted more visitors in recent years thanks to tourist attractions such as its peach blossom festival.”
More than three millions according to Chinese statistics.
Incidentally, the Bayi Township owned by the People’s Liberation Army and located nearly is also served by the same airport.
The Indian border will be provided a good access to the PLA …in case.

The Lhasa-Nepal Railway
The other railway line from Lhasa/Shigatse to Kyirong on the Nepal border has been delayed by the 2015 earthquake whose epicenter was near Kyirong.
The area is fast recovering and according to Xinhua the total volume of trade at the border port of Kyirong hit 3.4 billion yuan (490 million U.S. dollars) in 2016, a 4.5-fold increase year over a year.
The magnitude 8.1 earthquake on April 25, 2015 had forced the closing of Zham and Kyirong ports. In October 2015, Kyirong was reopened for trade.
Slowly, Kyirong should take over Zham’s trade function, which used to clear about 90 percent of land-borne trade between China and Nepal before the earthquake, says the official Chinese news agency.
Yin Weifeng, deputy director of the Lhasa customs indicated: “Gyirong port is expected to become a major route for trade between China and Nepal.”
Nepal seems very keen on this.

Wu Yingjie and Nepal's Prime Minister
Nepal Prime Minister visits Tibet
On March 28, Wu Yingjie, Tibet’s Party Secretary met with visiting Nepalese Prime Minister Prachanda. The chairman of the Standing Committee of the Autonomous Region People's Congress, Lobsang Gyaltsen and Che Dralha, the head of the Tibetan government were in attendance.
Wu Yingjie extended a warm welcome to Tibet to Prachanda: “The Nepalese government has always firmly adhered to the One-China policy and does not allow foreign forces to use Nepal's territory to engage in anti-China activities,” affirmed Wu.
Wu Yingjie pointed out that throughout the history, Chinese and Nepalese have been like 'lips and teeth’, like brothers.
Prachanda Prime Minister was on his way back from the annual Boao Forum for Asia; he had later stopped over in Beijing to meet President Xi Jinping and Vice Premiers Zhang Gaoli and Wang Yang. “The visit has achieved fruitful results”, according to Xinhua.
During his encounter with Wu, Prachanda said that Nepal highly appreciates the Chinese philosophy of fraternity, honesty, gratitude, and tolerance, and Nepal would continue to firmly adhere to the One-China policy and would not allow any forces (read Tibetan refugees) to engage in any anti-China activities in Nepalese territory.
On March 29, Prachanda returned to Nepal after spending some hours visiting the Tibetan capital.


Thursday, September 28, 2017

Chairman Xi shuffles his pack as China begins to analyse the Doklam incident

My article Chairman Xi shuffles his pack as China begins to analyse the Doklam incident appeared in Daily Mail (UK) and Mail Today.

Here is the link...

While the Doklam incident is over and many still rejoice that India 'won' the battle, some uncertainty remains. And if corrective measures are not taken from the Indian side, it is clear that similar incidents will happen again with a different outcome the next time.
There is no doubt that China has started analysing the incident too. In this context it is interesting to look at the changes which have taken place in the Chinese defence forces since an agreement was found between Beijing and Delhi on Doklam.
First, it is obvious that China may remain belligerent for some time, partly because China had to withdraw from the Bhutanese territory without being able to build a road.
For example, the Communist media, particularly The Global Times, has gone ballistic against the Indian Army Chief: 'Rawat has such a big mouth that he could ignite the hostile atmosphere between Beijing and New Delhi. He not only turns a blind eye to international rules, but also made us see the arrogance probably prevailing in the Indian Army.'

Attack
For Beijing, attack remains the best form of defence, but vital changes have taken place within the People's Liberation Army (PLA).
On the positive side, some officials in Beijing seem to realise that aggression can lead China nowhere.
Maj Gen Qiao Liang, one of the best known military strategists and the co-author of Unrestricted Warfare, a book which created waves in strategic circles in the West, wrote in The Global Times: 'We should spare no efforts to avoid pushing the country into a war as peace is the best outcome.'
Qiao continued: 'Road construction in this area is not a matter of right and wrong, but we need to understand that it's not always right to do something right at any time.
'Only doing the right thing at the right time is correct… resorting to war is irresponsible. Whenever there may be a way to solve a conflict without war, war should be avoided.'
At the same time, Xi Jinping, the Chairman of the all-powerful Central Military Commission (CMC), has undertaken an overhaul of the defence forces.
A few weeks before the Party's 19th Congress (scheduled to start on October 18), new faces have appeared on the scene; a massive reshuffle of the PLA's generals, not only at the Group Army (Corps) level but also at the top of the hierarchy, is ongoing.
Analysts believe that Xi is promoting his favourites to PLA's top posts to gain absolute control over the military; in the process, two top generals got sacked hardly a month before retiring.
Gen Fang Fenghui, the equivalent of the US Chief of Defence Staff, was replaced as Chief of the PLA's Joint Staff Department by Gen Li Zuocheng, a Xi protégé.
Fang and Gen Zhang Yang, another CMC member, will not even participate in the forthcoming Congress.
The rumour mill said that they were being 'investigated', a term not usually auguring well for the targeted person.
This may indicate bad days ahead for the generals.

Impermanence
By mid-October, out of 11 members of the CMC, only two may remain, the Chairman and Gen Xu Qiliang, one of the two serving vice-chairmen.
Note that in China, unlike democratic India, there is no fuss about 'seniority'; superseded generals have only to learn the meaning of 'impermanence'.
Remember the case of Lt Gen Yang Jinshan, a former Deputy Commander of the former Chengdu Military Region (MR), who served several years in Tibet. He was a rising star of the PLA; in 2012, he was even promoted to Central Committee, the Party's top heaven; at that time, he was senior to his direct boss, Li Zuocheng, who then commanded the MR.
Today, Yang Jinshan is languishing jail, being 'investigated' while Li Zuocheng is the powerful Chief of the Joint Staff Department. On September 1, Gen Han Weiguo, only 61, was appointed commander of the PLA Army and Gen Ding Laihang, 60, commander of the PLA Air Force (PLAAF).
Gen Han served in Fujian in the 1980s at the time Xi was Deputy Mayor of Xiamen, while Gen Ding's career also overlapped when the latter was Governor of Fujian Province.

Surprises

The recently-released list of PLA's delegates to the 19th Congress had some surprises. The 303 'elected' members belong to 31 different units, compared with 19 in 2012; one example, the new PLA Rocket Force is now represented.
More than 90 per cent of those 'elected' will be first-time attendees, representing a new generation of officers who will owe their rise to Chairman Xi only.
Further, according to The Asia Times, the ethnicity factor still plays a negative role in promotions: 'While sweeping military change is on the cards at China's upcoming communist party Congress, few expect ethnic minority officers from unstable regions to make top brass.'
Though there is a slight rise in the number of 'ethnic' delegates (6 per cent of the delegates are ethnic minority officers, from 4.6 per cent in 2012), their number is relatively small and they don't occupy important post.
The Asia Times noted: 'The Manchus and Tibetans will each send three delegates, while the Uyghur, Hui and Tujia will each put forward two. The Zhuang, Xibe, Korean, Qiang, Bai and Naxi ethnicities will each send one delegate to the Congress.'
This remains the PLA's Achilles' heel.
The future of the relations between India and China is undoubtedly linked to the outcome of the seismic changes in the PLA.
India should not only watch carefully, but also get its acts together, particularly in the field of border infrastructure.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Tibet: China moving the West ...and the South

In the recent months, rapid developments have taken place in Western Tibet.
This will be the object of several posts.


Banning Foreign Tourists 
As the 19th Congress approaches, China is nervous.
The Chinese authorities have banned foreigners to travel to Tibet from October 18 to 28.
During this period, the crucial Congress will be held in Beijing.
On September 22, Radio Free Asia (RFA) asserted: “The ban was announced by telephone about ten days ago”.
A Tibetan working in a travel agency in Xining (in Qinghai province) told the radio’s Tibetan Service: “During this period, it is not just foreigners but also Tibetans living in the Amdo region of Qinghai who are not allowed to travel in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).”
Agence France Presse confirmed: “During the sensitive, high-level talks, Tibet will close its borders to foreigners, while visitors traveling the country during that period will likewise be required to leave by October 17.”
Usually, foreign visitors and Tibetans living in the Chinese western provinces are not allowed to visit Tibet in March, at the time of the Two Meetings and the anniversary of the Tibetan uprising on March 10.

Demonstration of Force
Incidentally, on September 26, the TAR held the Ninth Regional Congress in Lhasa.
According to the Chinese media: "Police officers and civilians, armed police and soldiers and other involved in the keeping the stability of the region participated. There was a parade ‘to inspire the people’, during which the police vowed to keep a fearless fighting spirit and dare ‘to win the powerful momentum’".
The slogans were: “Loyal to the party, keep in mind the mission, fight terrorist violence, governance for stability, strong base solid, cohesion, advocate honor, dare to win.”
The participants pledged to the Party to maintain the security during the Congress. “Raise right fist, take collective oath.”

A New Highway in Shigatse
In the meantime, a new 40-km highway was opened which should shorten the journey from an hour to 30 minutes between Shigatse airport and the city centre.
According to The Global Times: “Experts believe the development will enable China to forge a route into South Asia in both economic and defence terms.”
It is not clear how 40-km of road could 'link' the plateau to South Asia; it looks more as a propaganda exercise to ‘scare’ India.
The Chinese tabloid says: “The road runs parallel with the Shigatse-Lhasa railway line linking the 5,476 kilometre G318 highway from Shanghai to Zhangmu on the Nepal border.”
Zhao Gancheng, a so-called expert and director of the Centre for Asia-Pacific Studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, who was one of the Chinese hardliners during the Doklam incident, told The Global Times: “It can link with the future cross-border Sino-Nepali railway. …The Sino-Nepali railway, which passes through the Chinese border town of Zhangmu and connects with routes in Nepal, will be the first railway by which China enters South Asia.”
Zhao has it probably wrong: the only railway ever mentioned is crossing to Nepal near the landport of Kyirong.
The new railway is apparently part a deal signed when Nepal Deputy Prime Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara visited China in early September.
The People’s Daily wrote: “The railway includes two lines: one connecting three of Nepal’s most important cities and two crossing the border.”

A New Road?
RFA also mentioned the project of a new road affirming that Chinese soldiers and civilians who are building a road linking Southern Tibet to Nepal, set up a banner at the border, inviting Nepalese citizens on the other side to help them extend the road farther into Nepal.
Apparently the troops arrived at Nepal’s border near Kyirong on September 1: “they distributed food and clothing to the Nepalese, promising to help them with the roadwork and other construction projects in Nepal if permission can be obtained from government authorities in Kathmandu.”
It is rather strange that Chinese soldiers have started pressurizing Nepali local villagers to get the permission to continue the railway to Kathmandu.
RFA’s source said: “The Chinese began building a road from the Tibetan side of the border up to the Nepalese side about two years ago, and they have now finally finished that work. …Now, a group of Chinese military and civilian officials have appeared at the border, raising a banner and the Chinese national flag to win the hearts and minds of the people on the border.”
The fact is the road was greatly delayed due to the earthquake epicentered in Kyirong.
The railway line will probably follow the same route as the highway.
I have often mentioned on this blog, the new road (as well as the railway) which will link Nepal and Tibet.
The PLA soldiers carried a banner urging ‘loyalty to the Chinese motherland’ and calling for ‘harmonious living’: “This is a new development, and the local Nepali residents are concerned and have mixed feelings about China’s distribution to them of free goods,” said RFA.
The entire episode is strange but it denotes the Chinese authorities’ will to develop Western Tibet (Ngari Khorsum for the Tibetans) on a grand scale and open up on Nepal. It could be the beginning of a flood of goods and people onto the erstwhile kingdom.

Thre railway lines in Nepal?
Last year The Kathmandu Post had reported that four Chinese companies had shown interest to conduct feasibility study for Kathmandu-Rasuwagadhi railway line.
Kathmandu had asked China to conduct a survey and a detailed project report (DPR).
The Nepali newspaper noted: “Once the proposed railway is constructed, it will establish direct railway connectivity with Chinese railway which is expected to arrive in Kyirong, a bordering town of China across Rasuwagadhi, within a few years.” It was said that Sinohydro, China Railway Fist Survey and Design Institute Group, China Engineering Oversees Group (COVEC) and China Railway Construction Corporation Limited (CRCC) applied for conducting the survey.
The Post added: “The Chinese proposals follow Nepal’s request to China to provide financial and technical support for the feasibility study and the preparation of the DPR of the proposed Rasuwagadhi-Kathmandu and Kathmandu-Pokhara-Lumbini Railway Project. The request was made during former prime minister KP Sharma Oli’s visit to China in March. During the visit, it was agreed that the relevant authorities of both sides would exchange ideas and proposals on constructing cross-border railways and rail network in Nepal, and support enterprises to start related preparatory work as soon as possible.”
This was during Oli’s times; it is clear that Beijing is putting pressure on the new government in Kathmandu to continue with the project.


Photo taken in 2012
The Strategic Importance of Shigatse
During the Doklam episode, Chris Biggers mentions in Bellingcat the strategic importance of Shigatse: “Commercial imagery acquired during July and August has shown up to eight PLAAF J-10 multi-role fighters parked on the apron [of Shigatse]. They likely arrived between March and April after at least five Shenyang J-11, a modified and locally produced variant of the Russian Su-27SK, departed the airfield.”
There is usually a rotation of the war planes between Shigatse ‘Peace’ and Lhasa Gongkar airports.
The article continues: “Similar to Gongkar, the fourth generation aircraft were also joined in late June by a rotation of MI-17 or MI-171 HIP, the latter an improved variant. At least two of the four HIP [NATO code name] had weapons racks or winglets attached suggesting they could perform combat or transport roles. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force and the PLA Aviation Corp operate the platform.”
Further on August 6 says “we saw the first known deployment of a drone to the airbase. A single CH-4 medium altitude long endurance UAV, joined the HIP on the western parking apron. A primary satellite link was also located at a leveled support area north of the runway. The presence of the satellite link suggests the UAV is piloted from the airbase. This is the first drone deployment at a forward airbase observed since the Doka La crisis was triggered.”
The author concludes: “Bottom Line – Despite SAM [Surface-Air Missile] assets on alert throughout July, fighters deployed to Shigatse remained within baseline for the airbase. However, additional platforms deploying to this location should be watched closely as the PLA operationalizes its new theater commands and tensions remain with India.”

A crucial hub
There is no doubt that in the future the Shigatse airport will become a crucial hub.
This seen with the rapid development of the infrastructure (highway, railway line, ‘oil’ road) in Western Tibet, it is something that India should take into consideration.
I shall come back to this in forthcoming posts.

Photos of the Parade in Lhasa on September 26
 
 
 

Monday, September 25, 2017

Tibet's Representation at the 19th Congress

Can Cui make it to the Central Committee
China has ‘elected’ 1,909 civilian delegates for the 19th Party Congress to be held in October.
They are representing Central Departments working under the CCP Central Committee (CC), Central State organs, Central Enterprises and China’s provinces and centrally-administered Municipalities.
How they were ‘elected’ is not clear.

Jayadev Ranade of the Center for China Studies and Analysis explains: “The Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC) members are, as per practice, all Delegates to the 19th Party Congress. Pertinently and possibly because of the focus this year on poverty alleviation, all PBSC members represent the poorer provinces. Xi Jinping is the Delegate from Guizhou, Li Keqiang from Guangxi, Zhang Dejiang from Inner Mongolia, Yu Zhengsheng from Xinjiang, Liu Yunshan represents Yunnan, Wang Qishan is the Delegate from Hunan and Zhang Gaoli from Shaanxi.”
Ranade quotes the Hongkong media: “at least eight prominent omissions from the list of Delegates to the upcoming Congress. All are either Full or Alternate members of the 18th CCP Central Committee and all are, interestingly, past members of the Communist Youth League (CYL). They are also eligible in terms of age."
The eight losers are:
  • Qin Yizhi - Head of the CYL; CC Member; 51 years.
  • Zhao Yang - Deputy Director of General Administration of Sports; Alt Member CC; 54 years.,
  • Deng Kai – Deputy Party Chief of the All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU); Alt Member CC; 57 years.
  • Liu Jian – Chairman, State Development and Investment Corporation; Alt Member CC; 47 years.
  • Zhang Zhijun – Director Taiwan Affairs Office; CC Member; 64 years.
  • Nur Bekri – Director, National Energy Administration; CC Member; 55 years. Yang Yue – Vice Governor, Jiangsu Province; Alt CC Member; 49 years.
  • Wang Anshun - Head, State Council Development Research Centre; CC Member; 59 years.
The PLA list
More interesting perhaps are the changes in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
The list of representatives of the PLA and People’s Armed Police Force (PAP) has also come out. The PLA has a total of 253 delegates, while the PAP has 50 representatives.
A massive reshuffle of the PLA’s generals, not only at the Group Army (Corps) level, but at the top of the hierarchy too, is taking place and two top generals got the sack hardly a month before retiring.
Gen Fang Fenghui, the equivalent of the US Chief of Defence Staff, was replaced as Chief of the PLA’s Joint Staff Department by Gen Li Zuocheng, a Xi protégé and former Commander of the Chengdu Military Region (under which Tibet used to come).
Fang and Gen Zhang Yang, another CMC member will not even participate in the forthcoming Congress. The rumour mill said that they were being ‘investigated’, a term not usually auguring well for the targeted person. This may indicate bad days ahead for the generals.

The Lessons of Impermanence
Reading these lists is a teaching about impermanence.
Remember the case of Lt Gen Yang Jinshan, a former Deputy Commander of the former Chengdu Military Region (MR), who served several years in Tibet. He was a rising star of the PLA; in 2012, he was even promoted to Central Committee, the Party's top heaven; at that time, he was senior to his direct boss, Li Zuocheng, who then commanded the MR.
Today, Yang Jinshan is languishing jail, being 'investigated' while Li Zuocheng is the powerful Chief of the Joint Staff Department.
But in this game, connections are important, not to say vital.
On September 1, Gen Han Weiguo, only 61, was appointed commander of the PLA Army and Gen Ding Laihang, 60, commander of the PLA Air Force (PLAAF). Gen Han served in Fujian in the 1980s at the time Xi was Deputy Mayor of Xiamen, while Gen Ding’s career also overlapped when the latter was Governor of Fujian Province.

Other Surprises
The list of PLA’s delegates has some other surprises. The 303 ‘elected’ members belong to 31 different units, compared with 19 in 2012; one example, the new PLA Rocket Force is now represented.
More than 90 per cent of those ‘elected’ will be first time attendees, representing a new generation of officers who will owe their rise to Chairman Xi only.

Ethic Representations

Though there is a slight rise in the number of ‘ethnic’ delegates (6% of the delegates are ethnic minority officers, from 4.6% in 2012), their number is relatively small and they don’t occupy important posts, except for one Tibetan who is said to be a Major General.
Asia Times noted: “The Manchus and Tibetans will each send three delegates, while the Uyghur, Hui and Tujia will each put forward two. The Zhuang, Xibe, Korean, Qiang, Bai and Naxi ethnicities will each send one delegate to the Congress.”
Tibet is represented by a senior officer, Thupten Trinley alias Tidan Dan (土旦赤列), a Deputy Commander of the Tibet Military Region and two ladies, Kaslang, alias Gesangba and Sonam Dolma. Their qualification or designation is not mentioned.
Lt Gen Xu Yong (许 勇), the Commander of the PLA Tibet Military Region is also present in the list.
A Chinese lady, Zhang Aiying (张爱英), a communication officer and instructor posted in the Tibet Military Region has also been ‘elected’.
That is not much.
One can also note the absence in the list of Lt Gen Diao Guoxin (Political Commissar, Tibetan Military District), Maj Gen Song Baoshan (Commander, People's Armed Police, TAR) and Lt Gen Xiao Tang (Political Commissar, People's Armed Police, TAR).
Lt Gen Peng Yong (Commander of the Xinjiang Military District) has also disappeared from the radars.
[Please read the corrections sent by a reader, posted below]

The civilian list
The civilian list is posted below.
Noticeable is the absence of the most senior Tibetan official, namely Pema Thinley, alias Padma Choeling, an out-going member of the CC (and the only Tibetan in the CC).
Is Choeden La a wrong spelling for Che Dralha, the head of the TAR Government.
[Please read the corrections sent by a reader posted below. Some of the errors are due to the spelling mistakes in the list available to me.]
Lobsang Gyaltsen, the Governor of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) and an Alternate Member of the CC is in the list, making illegible for a seat in the CC.
In the list of 29 delegates, one finds six out of 13 or 14 members of the Standing Committee of the Regional Communist Party (Wu Yingjie, the TAR Party Secretary, Lobsang Gyaltsen, Ding Yexian, one of the TAR Party Deputy Secretary, Wang Yongjun and two relatively junior Tibetan cadres, Pema Wangdue and Penpa Tashi).

Will Cui represent Tibet?
Apart from Lobsang Gyaltsen, a possibility is that Cui Yuying, one of the few ‘ethnic’ Tibetans who today serves in a senior position in the Central government in Beijing, could become the ‘Tibetan representative’ in the CC.
Born in 1958 in Changle County of Shandong Province, she joined the Communist Party in 1980, and graduated from Tibet Agricultural and Animal Husbandry College with a Bachelor Degree in 1982. After occupying different junior posts in Tibet, she served as the Director in the Publicity Department of CPC’s TAR Regional Committee from 2006 to 2011.
In December 2011, she was transferred as Deputy Director of the Central Office for Overseas Publicity in Beijing; from 2012 to 2015, she became Deputy Director of the Information Office of the State Council.
In February 2015, she became Deputy Director of the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee, a ministerial level post.
Will she make in the CC? The bets are opened!
I will mention in a separate post the Tibetans ‘elected’ in the Qinghai, Yunnan and Sichuan delegations.

The list of the delegates to the 19th Congress has been published.

In red, members of the Standing Committee of the TAR Regional Party

1 Ding Yexian Han TAR SC
2 Ma Shengchang Han
3 Wang Yongjun Han TAR SC
4 Ba Zhen  Tibetan Female
5 Pema Yangchen Memba Female
6 Pema Wangdue Tibetan TAR SC
7 Nyima Dangqu  Tibetan
8 Penpa Tashi  Tibetan TAR SC
9 Penpa Tashi  Tibetan ChaThongMon
10 Da Boer Lhoba
11 Zhu Zhongkui Han
12 Ren Houmin Han
13 Xiang Batashi  Tibetan
14 Xiangba Pincao  Tibetan Jampa Phuntsok?
15 Choedon la  Tibetan Could it be Che Dralha?
16 Tsering Paldon  Tibetan Female
17 Tsering Yangchen  Tibetan
18 Xu Chengcang  Han
19 Wu Yingjie Han TAR SC
20 Zhang Yanqing Tibetan
21 Abu  Han
22 Lhatso  Tibetan Female
23 Sonji Tashi  Tibetan
24 Lhopon Dhondup Tibetan Is it Norbu Thondup, TAR SC?
25 Lobsang Gyaltsen Tibetan TAR SC
26 Yao Chi  Tibetan Female
27 Tan Haiyu  Han Female
28 Ceng Wanming Han Probably Zeng Wanming, TAR SC
29 Jampa Dolma Tibetan Female

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

China’s Strategic thinking: yesterday and today

This article was published in the Journal of the Army War College

Introduction
'Strategic Leadership' often does not mean ‘Morals and Ethical leadership'. One of the best examples is Mao Zedong.
In Problems of War and Strategy, the Great Helmsman noted: “Some people have ridiculed us as the advocates of omnipotence of war. Yes, we are: we are the advocates of the omnipotence of the revolutionary war, which is not bad at all, but good and is Marxist.”
The moves of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in the early days of the revolution are a testimony that Mao was one the great strategists of the 20th century, though an extremely amoral leader.
On October 1, 1949, the new People's Republic of China was proclaimed; Mao told a million Chinese assembled on the Tiananmen Square. “The Chinese people have stood up, long live the Chinese Communist Party.”
In the following months, the new regime never missed an opportunity to tell the world through the Chinese media that China would soon ‘liberate’ large areas at the periphery of the Middle Kingdom.
On the other side of the Asian chessboard, Jawaharlal Nehru, the Indian Prime Minister was an idealist, not to say a dreamer or a romantic, and for him, the means more than the goal to be achieved, were of supreme importance. At Mao’s opposite end, he did not see the importance of the Army and believed that India could be the peacemaker of the planet; the Indian Prime Minister had little inkling about ‘strategy’ while Mao was a master, as the story of the long March shows.
We shall take two examples, the annexation of Xinjiang and the occupation of Tibet, to see how Mao acted as a great strategist, once he had chose his objectives.
A comment from the Communist Party’s Chairman speaks a lot about Mao’s mindset: “People may ask if there is contradiction to abandon a territory gained by heroic battle. Does it mean that the heroic fighters shed their blood in vain and to no purpose? This is to put the wrong question. Does one eat to no purpose simply because he relieves himself later? Does one sleep in vain because one wakes up and goes about? I do not think the questions should be asked thus; rather one should keep on eating and sleeping or fighting. These are illusions born out of subjectivism and formalism and do not exist in real life. ”
Mao, the great strategist, never forgot what his final goal was; the fact that Nehru and his collaborators later talk about ‘surprise’ and ‘betrayal’ showed their lack of strategic culture.
In the second part of this article, we shall look at today’s strategic policies of the Communist regime.

Military Annexation of Xinjiang
On February 4, 1949, during a meeting with Soviet Foreign Trade Minister, Anastas Mikoyan, Mao Zedong raised the issue of Xinjiang and pointed to the Northwestern district of Iili district, where China had noted an independence movement, as well as the presence of a communist party. Mikoyan told him that he did not know about the existence of a communist party, but was aware of nationalist forces in the district: “This movement was triggered by the incorrect policy of the Chinese government, which does not want to take into account the national specifics of these nationalities, does not present rights of self-rule, does not permit the development of the national culture.”
He added: “If the nationalities of Xinjiang were given autonomy, the soil for the independence movement would likely remain [sic]. We do not stand for the movement of independence of the Xinjiang nationalities and do not have any claims on Xinjiang territory, considering that Xinjiang is and must be a part of China.”
After Mao had the green light he needed, he explained that China was planning “giving Xinjiang autonomy, in the same manner as for Inner Mongolia, which is already an autonomous region.”
Interestingly, he was interested “in whether there is a lot of oil in Xinjiang or a little.” He also suggested the construction “a railroad connecting the Chinese railroads with the Soviet railroads through Xinjiang. This would have great significance for joint defense in case of a new war.”
The above discussion is interesting; first, Mao gets the Soviet green light to annex Xinjiang (later in the year). While showing his interest in oil and trade with Central Asia, then under Soviet Union.
Three months after this discussion, Mao instructed the PLA to ‘liberate’ the entire country, which included Xinjiang and Tibet. “A History of the Counter Attack War in Self-Defence along the Sino-India Border” which relates the annexation of Xinjiang, says: “The PLA rapidly advanced towards the East, South-middle, Southwest and Northwest China with the power of toppling the mountains and overturning the sea.” While, during the following months, the remnants of the Nationalist forces were slowly and systematically annihilated in the mainland, in Xinjiang, Mao used two tactics: sending a large number of troops in two different directions, while inducing the surrender of the Nationalist forces. He had already the assurance from the Soviets that they would not only, not interfere, but would also support the annexation.

A Swift Strategic Move
By swiftly taking over the Western Dominion, as Xinjiang is called, the Communists would be controlling the Western borders of the Middle Kingdom; access the trade with Central Asia; block any possibility of Soviet advance in the region (in case they change their mind later) and come closer to the Indian frontiers, particularly in the Aksai Chin area.
During the Second Plenum of the Seventh Party Congress, Chairman Mao Zedong gave the task for the liberation of Xinjiang to the Commander of 1 Corps of the 1 Field Army.
On September 8, the 1 Field Army was ordered to advance towards Xinjiang, while the 6 Army was to remain stationed in the Northern Xinjiang till further orders and the 2 Army was instructed to advance in Southern Xinjiang.
By the end of September 1949, a large contingent of Communist troops started moving towards the Western Dominion where a 70,000 strong Nationalist force was still stationed.
following the Hexi Corridor , the PLA advanced toward Urumqi which was ruled by a coalition comprising the Nationalists (KMT) and representatives of the former Second East Turkistan Republic (ETR), supported by the Soviet Union. The ETR sympathizers were particularly strong in the three districts in northwestern Xinjiang, where they had retained some autonomy, while the KMT controlled most of Southern Xinjiang.

The Second Step, the Nationalists become Communists
After having obtained the Soviet support, the second phase saw the Nationalists turning coats. On September 25, Tao Zhiyue, the Nationalist Commander-in-Chief of the Xinjiang garrison and Burhan Shahidi, the Political Commissar, announced the formal surrender of the Nationalist forces in Xinjiang to the Chinese Communists. Several Kuomintang generals joined the PLA and began serving the Communists; those who refused to surrender fled to Taiwan or Turkey.
A second victory for Mao …without fighting!
Later the five ETR leaders who were to negotiate with the Communists died in an air crash in Soviet airspace over the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic; it was rumoured that there were murdered. Anyway, the way was opened for Mao’s troops.

The Two Pronged Advance

Starting from Yumen , east of Jiuquan, the Communist troops went through indescribable harsh terrain, deep gorges, cold desert, “they started a massive advance of forces towards Xinjiang along North and South of Tian mountain,” says the Chinese account.
The 6 Army (comprising 16 Division, 17 Division and troops of the 18 Division) under the leadership of Army Commander Luo Yuanfa and Political Commissar Jianyue marched “towards various places in North Xinjiang continuously adopting various tactics for air transportation, mobilization of forces, advances, etc.”
The Chinese account says that the 2 and 6 Armies had been motivated by the slogan given by their Political Commissars: "Not be afraid of any sacrifice, don't fear any difficulties, bravely advance and hoist the five star red flag on the plateau of Pamir”.
On October 12, 1 Army HQ left Jiuquan by road.
On the same day, the 2 Army also advanced towards South Xinjiang. Wang Enmao, a veteran of the Long March who later governed China's Muslim-dominated Xinjiang Province for three decades was the Political Commissar.
Two days later, supported by a tank Regiment, the main forces of 4 and 5 Division of the 2 Army reached Hami . Ten days later , the 4 Division ‘liberated’ Qarqan , where the troops stayed a couple of weeks to recover from the quick advance march.

A New Headquarter in Urumqi

With particularly poor communications, the advance of Communist forces into Xinjiang was extremely difficult and risky; the distances were long, from Jiuquan  to Urumqi it was 1,253 km and from it was 2,547 Km from Kashgar: “In order to overcome the communication and transportation difficulties, Soviet Union came for assistance with 40 transport planes so as to quickly transport soldiers from Jiuquan towards Urumqi,” notes the Chinese account.
On November 5, a forward battalion reached Urumqi by air. Two days later the PLA commanders met with the Nationalist Army and Tao Chuyue troops at three places; on the same day, a People's Government was set up, formalizing the Xinjiang province’s accession to Communist China.
The next day, the HQ of the 1 Corps was airlifted to Urumqi.
From November 20 to 26, the PLA took over most of Southern Xinjiang and Kashgar where the HQ of the 2 Army was established on December 1, had fallen by then; the annexation of Xinjiang was complete.
The PLA had to cross deserts, walk over high snow-capped mountains, suffer starvation; indeed, the Communists realized an unbelievable military feast. Marshal Peng Dehuai and Xi Zhongxun  praised and encouraged the troops in a telegram: "You have created an unprecedented record of the advance of forces".
The PLA walked some 3,000 kms in six months, to complete their mission “the main force, in more than two month's time, successively liberated each important town and city in the North and South of Xinjiang, pinned down uprising launched by reactionaries of Nationalist Party at many.”
Strategically, Communist China was at the Gate of Tibet …and of India; a couple of years later, the construction across the Indian territory in the Aksai Chin area started.
Retrospectively, nearly 70 years later, one understands the importance of the annexation of Xinjiang with its the natural resources such as oil, but also the trade routes such as One Belt One Road initiative or the China Pakistan Economic Corridor.

The ‘Liberation’ of Tibet
In his study on Communist China and Tibet, Ginsburg gives a strategic definition of the plateau: "he who holds Tibet dominates the Himalayan piedmont; he who dominates the Himalayan piedmont, threatens the Indian subcontinent; and he who threatens the Indian subcontinent may well have all the South-east Asia within his reach, and all of Asia.”
Mao the strategist knew this well (so did the British before him).
For China, it was necessary to establish a de facto suzerainty over Tibet; iIt was also the first step towards the South, and possibly the sub-continent, particularly areas such as Ladakh, Bhutan or Sikkim.

The First Warning
On December 31, 1949, the Government of India hurriedly pushed through the recognition of the Communist regime in Beijing. The next morning, a broadcast of the New China News Agency proclaimed: "the task for the PLA for 1950 are to liberate Taiwan, Hainan and Tibet... Tibet is an integral part of China. Tibet has fallen under the influence of the imperialist."
Who were the ‘imperialists’? Was it the few Indians posted in Tibet?
Brushing aside India’s interests in Tibet, Mao prepared detailed plans for a military operation to ‘liberate’ Tibet. During the following months, China never missed a chance to assert that Tibet was part of China's territory and it was "China's sacred duty to liberate Tibet." Very few understood the message in Delhi.
In the meantime, the Indian Government was torn between two sentiments: on the one side Tibet was a small  independent nation with rich and deep cultural and religious bonds with India and on the other side Nehru and some of his colleagues had an immense admiration for the new People's Republic, which like India, had to struggle against colonial powers to gain her freedom.
In early August 1950, Marshal Liu Bocheng again reiterated: “[The] People Liberation Army will soon march towards Tibet with object of driving out the British and American aggressive forces so as to make Tibetans return to the Great Family of the Peoples Republic of China. As soon as the Liberation Army enters into Tibet they will carry out the Programme of National Regional Autonomy, religious freedom …. The military and political systems prevailing in Tibet now will remain as they are and will NOT be changed; various ranks of officials and men will work as usual; the present Tibetan Army will become a part of the National Defence Force of the Peoples Republic of China.”
The plans were clear.
For months KM Panikkar, the Indian Ambassador in China regularly put the blame on the Tibetans for refusing to ‘negotiate’ with China. However for Mao, it was clearly a two-phase strategy; first a military take-over of the Chamdo area and then a ‘peaceful liberation’ after the Tibetans had been militarily defeated and forced to sign an agreement with the ‘Central Government’, i.e. the Communist regime in Beijing.
On August 23, 1950, the Chairman cabled the CPC Southwest and Northwest Bureaus: "If our army can capture Chamdo in October, this will urge the Tibetan delegation to come to Beijing for negotiation for peaceful settlement."
So much for the peace-loving Panikkar who for months tried hard avoiding putting the blame on Mao for Tibet’s invasion.
Even though the Indian government was informed in August via Hong Kong of the war preparations, he had refused to believe it.
Mid-October, Chamdo the capital of Kham Province fell and on October 17 Ngabo Ngawang Jigme, the Governor of Kham capitulated without fighting and ordered the Tibetan army to surrender to the Chinese troops.
The four-direction attack on Tibet was a well-prepared military operation. The Chinese propaganda managed to put to sleep Delhi while the war preparations were going on full-swing.
The attached sketch shows how masterfully were executed the military operations (phase 1), which lasted hardly two weeks.
The history of Mao's China is a tale of well-planned and well-executed moves. All the events from 1949 onwards have been unfolded in a perfectly calculated sequence: the invasion of Tibet in 1950; after a very vague protest by the Indian Government and the adjournment of the Tibetan Appeal to the UN (at India's instance), the 1951 Sino-Tibetan ‘Agreement’ (forced on the Tibetans under duress); then the 1954 ‘Panchsheel’ Policy (neutralizing India under the Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai bluff); the first incursions on Indian soil at the end of the fifties; the crushing of the Tibetan uprising in 1959, and finally the ‘teaching of a lesson’ to India in October 1962 for having given asylum to the Dalai Lama and his followers in March 1959.

The Situation in 1953
On February 13, 1953, AK Sen, the Indian Consulate General in Lhasa sent a report to the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi assessing the advances of the PLA troops in the plateau. It gives a clear idea of the determination of the Chinese strategic planners to advance towards the Indian borders. The ‘Liberation’ of Tibet was just a pretext.
The report first discuss the total strength of Chinese troops stationed on the plateau. It is estimated to be between 20,000 and 25,000; these figures exclude the road workers: “The Chinese admit it was their plan to have a force of 60,000 troops but the supply position forced them to abandon it for the time being although they said the present strength was NOT enough to guard the borders,” writes AK Sen.
For centuries, the Indo-Tibet border did not need any troops to guard its borders and all a sudden, a force of 25,000, with all the attendant problems (such as food shortage) is not ‘enough’ for the Communists.
Does it mean that the Southern neighbor, i.e. India has become aggressive or is Delhi planning to ‘invade’ Tibet?
The report does not go further in the analysis, it just notes: “with the completion of the Chamdo-Lhasa Road within the next two years, more troops would be brought in.”
The two main axes, namely the Tibet-Qinghai and the Tibet-Sichuan highways, would be completed in December 1954, less than two years after the report was written.
The Consul General notes: “concentration at the outposts cannot be considered to be heavy. They are well scattered in small detachments and are kept frequently on the move.” The figures however show that the deployment is quite massive, as the map shows.
Mobility was part of the usual PLA tactics: “This mobility would enable them to be concentrated at any place in an emergency with ease.”
Is it different today, when most divisions bank more on the excellent infrastructure than the sheer number of troops on the plateau?
More than sixty years later, the main change is the incredible improvement of the infrastructure in Tibet, especially since the arrival of the railway link in Lhasa in July 2006 and subsequent development towards the Indian border.

Modern Strategic Thinking
Let us jump nearly 70 years in history and come to the recent Two Sessions of the National People's Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) which took place in Beijing in March. The Sessions are always an occasion to take stock of the new directions in which Beijing plans to go. While presenting his government’s Work Report, Premier Li Keqiang gave a comprehensive idea of China’s objectives in the defense sector; he asserted that “China will strengthen its maritime and air defense as well as border control amid efforts to safeguard its sovereignty and security,” adding that China would continue “to deepen military reforms, while upholding the absolute leadership of the Communist Party of China over the armed forces.”
Li also remarked that Beijing will ensure the organization of important operations related to countering terrorism, safeguarding stability, international peacekeeping, and providing escort in high seas, while China would “enhance its capacity of innovation in defense-related science and technology and step up development of advanced logistics and equipment …military-civilian integration will be intensified.”
These were the great lines of the strategic choices of today’s China.

PLA’s budget increase
A day before the NPC’s opening, a 7% military budget increase was announced. In an interview with China Military Online, Maj Gen Chen Zhou, Deputy Commander of the Military Strategy Department of the PLA Academy of Military Science explained the rationale of the increase during a press conference.
When asked how the incremental military budget would be used, Gen Chen said that it would support the national defense and the military reforms; he also spoke of updating China's military equipment, improving the training, the working and living conditions for grassroot-level troops, and cultivating high-caliber military talents.
He mentioned the in-depth military-civilian integration, dear to Chairman Xi Jinping. Gen Chen Zhou further explained that the military budget was “based on objective and rational judgment. China won't change the scope of increase simply because of sudden changes in external factors unless there is a large-scale war.” He added: “For a very long time to come, China doesn't face the threat of a large-scale war,” though he admitted that China could face local “warfare and armed conflicts caused by external factors.”
He described the military budget as consisting of two parts: “the need of national defense and the suitability with national economic development level. …China's military budget is coordinated with the growth of GDP and fiscal deficit and revenue.”
Giving an indication of the strategic choices confronting the People’s Republic, Gen Chen explained that the China’s armed forces still remain “an Army-based, defensive and labor-intensive military, and China's geopolitical environment requires it to maintain a strong army. …However, with the deepening of reform and the changes in China's security environment and the form of warfare, China needs to intensify the construction of other services too, including the Navy, Air Force, Rocket Force and Strategic Support Force.”
These are the new strategic changes.
Accordingly, the Central Military Commission (CMC) has decided to downsize the Army and phase out some troops while increasing the strength of the PLA Navy (PLAN): “China has set the strategic goal of building a maritime power, which is why the PLAN has developed so rapidly recently.” When questioned about China’s second aircraft carrier, he answered that it is “a benchmark in China's naval development. The Liaoning [the first Chinese carrier] has performed superbly both in testing and training. The second aircraft carrier is also in smooth progress and equipment is being installed on it."
He concluded by saying that China would continue to adhere to the peaceful development path and uphold the defensive national defense policy: “China's naval development and military development will be limited and appropriate," Chen Zhou emphasized, reiterating the main lines of the 2015 White Paper on Defence.
Let us look at the main strategic changes recently undertaken by the PLA.

Increase of the Marine Corps
On March 13, The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported an increase of the size of the PLA Marine Corps (PLAMC), working under the PLAN, from 20,000 to 100,000.
According to unnamed PLA insiders, part of the expanded Marine Corps would be stationed abroad, including Djibouti in the Horn of Africa and Gwadar in southwest Pakistan.
The Mission of the PLAN has been expanding from conducting operations in China’s coastal areas — including defending Chinese ‘assets’ in the East and South China Seas — to play a larger role and prepare for a possible amphibious assault on Taiwan.
The SCMP explained “The PLA marines will be increased to 100,000, consisting of six brigades in the coming future to fulfill new missions of our country”. The size of the navy would grow 15 per cent from its estimated size of 235,000 personnel.
Two combat brigades have already been transferred to the PLAMC, increasing the size from about 12,000 to around 20,000. Each PLAMC brigade has two marine battalions and an armored regiment equipped with ZBD05 Tracked Amphibious Infantry Fighting Vehicles and ZLT05 Tracked Amphibious Assault Guns. This shows the rapid expansion of the Chinese interests beyond its coastal areas.

China to Reduce Army Reserves
The Global Times announced that Beijing planned to reduce its Army (PLAA) reserve while increasing reserves for other services. General Sheng Bin, the head of the National Defense Mobilization Department stated “while the army reserve will be reduced, the reserves of other military services including the navy, air force and the rocket force will be increased in a bid to keep up with China's military buildup.”
The structure of the reserve forces would have to adapt “to information warfare from traditional combat-oriented and mechanized ones,” he said.
A new structure is being established, the CMC would take care of the overall administration of the PLA, the People's Armed Police (PAPF) and the militia and reserve forces, while the five Theater Commands would focus on combat preparedness.
China had already announced a cut of 300,000 troops by the end of 2017 to build a more efficient military. In The Global Times, Major General Chen Zhou of the PLA Academy of Military Science is quoted saying that many officers would retire and be assigned to new positions; the CMC would “step up efforts on the national level to help retired servicemen resettle to civilian life by adopting a series of laws and regulations.”
It may be easier say than done.

Improved Military Training

An important aspect approved by the CMC is the military training. China Military Online reported that “the Training Management Department and the Discipline Inspection Commission of the CMC have jointly issued a notification of punishments for 28 cases of violations of military training regulations.”
The PLA and Armed Police Force have been urged “to conscientiously implement the important instructions of President Xi Jinping and the strategic decisions made by the CMC, and execute the combat effectiveness standards in the whole process of military training.”
It is obvious that the PLA has suffered of laxity and corruption in the recent past; this is not the case anymore under the Chairmanship of Xi.
The notification says: “In order to push forward the real combat-oriented military training, related departments of the CMC will conduct supervision over the implementation of the interim provisions on strengthening real combat-oriented military training in the PLA and Armed Police Force.”
And this applicable at all levels.
‘Training’ is the new leitmotiv of the Chinese armed forces.

Xi underlines innovation in military upgrading
On March 12, 2017, President Xi Jinping ‘joining’ a panel discussion with the PLA deputies at the NPC, called “for deepening military-civilian integration, while highlighting sci-tech innovation as the key to military upgrading.”
Xi said that efforts should be made to provide greater science and technology support for the PLA. He added that since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, “historic breakthrough in national defense and military reform has been made, significant progress in combat readiness has been achieved, and crushing momentum in fighting corruption has been realized.”
Xi spoke about one of his favorite topics, ‘military-civilian integration’ for national defense technology and military equipment. He emphasized strengthening military and civilian cooperation by training high-quality military personnel.
The CMC Chairman also said that “civil technologies should better serve military purposes, and defense technologies should be adapted and applied well for civil use.”
He noted that the Party’s decision to establish a central commission for integrated military and civilian development whose objective is to reinforce centralized and unified leadership.

Conclusion

Though it is not possible to compare the ‘strategic’ skills of Mao Zedong with those of his successors, particularly the present CMC Chairman, Xi Jinping, it is obvious that Beijing, today like yesterday, masters a clarity of goals to achieve for the revival of the Chinese nation; and it never hesitates to use the necessary means to materialize this vision. In strategic terms, the swift actions in Xinjiang and Tibet are still paying rich dividends, more then 60 years later.


Friday, September 15, 2017

The Division of Heaven and Earth

My book review of The Division of Heaven and Earth titled The Tibet factor appeared in The Statesman.

Here is the link...

The Division of Heaven and Earth: On Tibet's Peaceful Revolution 
1st Edition
by Shokdung (Author), Matthew Akester (Translator)
ISBN-13: 978-1849046770
ISBN-10: 1849046778 


The Division of Heaven and Earth not only relates to the struggle of the courageous Tibetan people who took part in a large-scale uprising in the Spring of 2008 on the Tibetan plateau, but it also brings a different perspective on the tragic fate of the Land of Snows.
Though Tagyal, writing under the pseudonym Shokdung, has lived his entire life under an authoritarian regime, he is convinced about some positive aspects of the Marxist revolution.
On 2 May 1999, on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the 4 May student revolution in China, he published an article in Qinghai Tibetan News, titled Blood-letting to kill the tumour of ignorance, using the Marxist theory to argue that “the new cannot be established without destroying the old”. For him Tibetan society and culture were backward, and in order to evolve further “the ingrained influence of Buddhism on Tibetan attitudes must be wiped out.”
At that time, the article provoked a fierce debate in Tibetan society.
But when The Division of Heaven and Earth was published in China, the government was displeased; it immediately banned the book and Shokdung was arrested. As the preface puts it, “But now that he has antagonised the Chinese state and Tibetan society in different ways, this book can be seen as a milestone marking his move into political opposition.”
This makes Shokdung’s work all the more interesting. An important issue, which has been ignored by most students of history of the 1962 India-China War, is the Tibetan factor, which greatly hampered a longer conflict with India. In early 1962, the population of the high plateau had begun showing strong signs of discontent. It was manifested by a 70,000-character petition sent by the Panchen Lama, then the most senior Lama in Tibet, to the Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai in April 1962.
In September, one month before the war, during a CCP Conference, Mao denounced the “poisonous arrow” sent by the Lama and called him “an enemy of our class”. Tibet was in a state of unrest and that certainly shortened the war.
Already on 11 March 1959, the entire population of Lhasa had revolted to protect the Dalai Lama who had been “summoned” by the Chinese General commanding the PLA in Lhasa to attend a play inside the Chinese camp “without his escort”.
A week later the Dalai Lama, escorted by a band of some 200 brave Khampas, took the road to exile in India. In September 1987, a few days after the Dalai Lama presented his Five Point Peace Plan to the US Congress in Washington DC, riots erupted again in the Tibetan capital.
Unrest continued sporadically during the following two years, to deteriorate further in March 1989 after the massacre of more than 400 Tibetans near the Central Cathedral on 6 March. Martial law was subsequently imposed for a year. The Chinese State learned its lesson; it installed sophisticated video cameras strategically all over Lhasa and other large cities in Tibet.
That did not stop 500 monks of the Drepung monastery, commemorating the 49th anniversary of the 1959 uprising, to demonstrate on 10 March 2008. Shokdung analysed this important event using historical examples to argue his views.
At the end of the 1940s, “Finally the Tibetans, who seek spiritual perfection for all living beings, became aware of the rest of the world, and arranged to send a delegation abroad. …The land and people of Tibet appeared to stand for nothing and no one in particular, like a fox riding on a tiger’s back, at which anyone could aim a kick, and so it has remained until now: a country of nobodies, sitting idle after banging the drum in celebration of their own defeat.”
He has strong words for the prevailing political system at that time, “a history of repeated capitulation, sectarian conflict, priestpatron alliances and closure to the outside world.”
While the world around spoke of “liberation”,“the Tibetans were stuck in their pursuit of religion, and through seeking protection in the political sphere, failed to secure their own political interests.”
The authoritarian system imposed by China and the Tibetan “aspirations” eventually led the author to jail.
His ideas are unusual for an outside reader – “our large-scale peaceful revolution …is a sure sign of a new awareness of nationality, culture and territory.This revolution … was like a stone thrown into a pond, sending ripples out in all directions.”
He sees the spontaneous 2008 uprising as a waking up of the Tibetan nation to its own identity, which was earlier centered on Buddhism alone. Shokdung claimed that for a thousand years, the Tibetan people had been taken in by the “Non-Self” doctrine of Buddhism, thereby losing their own “Self”, “Therefore, unless the engrained influences of the Buddhist ‘Non-Self’ on the Tibetan psyche were erased, they would never realise the ‘Self’ of imperial territoriality and ancestry.”
The Communist regime was obviously not pleased by this hidden nationalism, but interestingly his beliefs are also far away from the discourse of the Tibetan diaspora.