Chinese Military Threat, US Report and India’s Knowledge Gap – Community News
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Chinese Military Threat, US Report and India’s Knowledge Gap

Each year, the United States Department of Defense (Pentagon) releases an annual report on “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China,” providing new insights into China’s growing military threat. For example, the 2021 report also addresses China’s ongoing military standoff with India over the Line of Actual Control (LAC) following last year’s clash in Galwan Valley. However, these reports, even though they are full of new facts, still fail to meet India’s requirements for comprehensive first-hand knowledge about China’s military build-up and troop deployment along the LAC and only fill our knowledge gap on the matter. naked.

Over the years, Pentagon reports have built a solid reputation for providing first-hand primary coverage of Chinese military modernization, along with authoritative assessments of strategic objectives, civil-military relations, and long-term modernization goals. In recent years, the power structure of the Chinese PLA has been dissected, theater by theater and down to the lower formations. They also take credit for highlighting the underreporting in China’s defense budget figures and forcing China to be more responsive in its defense budget management. Most importantly, the Pentagon’s reports have helped conceptualize the evolving shift in China’s grand strategy. For example, the Chinese policy of ‘active defense’ is very misleading. As the 2021 report says, it goes beyond the “combination of defense and attack.” But reports from the Pentagon are not the only modus operandi for America to indulge in information about China. The US-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC) is another institutionalized mechanism that prepares its own reports and makes periodic recommendations to Congress. Be it the Pentagon, the USCC or any number of think tanks in the US, all of them are making huge investments in tracking Chinese political and military leaders, business, academia etc apart from nurturing and disseminating the scientific community to work and report on China.

However, these reports are primarily for US consumption and fall short of expected benchmarks from India. A few examples would suffice. First, the Pentagon report began with the aim of measuring the trends of Chinese troop mobilization toward Taiwan. The focus remains that way, most evident in a special chapter on Taiwan over the years. While Indians may feel elated that the 2021 report also includes a special chapter on China’s military buildup near the LAC, do we have full details on this front? Perhaps not, as the Pentagon may still be a disinterested party in Tibet or may not have sufficient intelligence sources to extract the required information. Second, the Chinese military buildup at LAC only comes as a fringe entry in the Pentagon report. Although the PLA reform effect has been mentioned with reference to the contingency in Taiwan, such scenario building is lacking on the Indian front. Similarly, the Armed Forces balance sheet on LAC is not detailed as is done for the Taiwan Strait. While Chinese Non-Military War Activities (NMWA) against Taiwan is given a full description in the report, the same is covered in a passing reference to India. Third, the objectivity and neutrality of such reports are often subject to national interests. For example, the Pentagon report takes a neutral tone and tense in reporting the Galwan Valley incident and does not identify the true number of deaths on the Chinese side. If the Russian intelligence community could come forward with the actual number of Chinese deaths in the Galwan Valley clashes, the Pentagon report could certainly have been more objective and simpler in reporting the deaths!

It appears, therefore, that external reports have utilitarian constraints to serve India’s national interests. However, at the scientific level, Indian expertise and domain knowledge on various aspects of Chinese military modernization is limited and not of much use in shaping or even supplementing public policy requirements. Some examples would attest to this reality bite. First, the entire field of Chinese studies has fallen victim to academic ignorance, ideological one-sidedness and ultra-mediocrity. Area studies have never attracted the best talent, either at the JNU in New Delhi or elsewhere in India. Those who voluntarily enroll in Chinese studies find insufficient funding opportunities for research and field visits. Faculty members recruited in the past have not published enough. At the same time, young and bright sinologists are denied teaching and research opportunities and are hanging from one private university to another in the NCR of Delhi.

Second, there are clear rifts between the different stakeholders. For example, while the diplomatic service veterans who have first-hand experience dealing with China-related issues have some ties to think tanks, service veterans who have worked at the LAC and have valuable experience and ground knowledge are often forgotten in search of innovative and workable ideas. Their valuable insights don’t end up in the right places and certainly, the young generation of students miss out on the opportunity to benefit from their experience.

Third, some journalists have written much more extensively about Chinese military buildup and power projection than academics. But journalists are not trained for painful and time-consuming research. There are many areas of concern on the Chinese front that have not been explored. For example, what are the war probability theories between China and India in the context of the unresolved border? What could be the variable war scenarios as deception has been the hallmark of Chinese military aggressiveness? How do we deal with Chinese incrementalism at the LAC? Why do traditional theories of economic interdependence fail to explain Chinese aggressiveness on the LAC? These issues require methodical and project-based academic research, supported by data analysis. Unfortunately, no Indian university or think tank has such projects using data-based research, such as the Correlates of War Projects (CoP) that started in the US and are still ongoing.

If the scientific and strategic community is determined to support political determination toward affordable, effective and lasting relations with China, including avoiding war and building credible deterrence, it is time to build an indigenous knowledge base about China first-hand instead of fighting. on external reports such as the Pentagon report.



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