Changing China

Issue 26 - May 2009

D S Rajan

The PLA is fast becoming a professional and apolitical army, with entry into it of qualified persons in engineering and science and technology. Its cyber warfare and space units are being strengthened with specialists. Politicians have less presence in the PLA and the level of military representation in top-level party units has come down considerably. For instance, there is no PLA member in the nine-member Politburo Standing Committee. Gone are the Long March days, when the military dominated the high political posts. There is also presently a large turnover in the PLA representation in the party gatherings, apparently as part of efforts to prevent emergence of strong military leaders capable of challenging the political leadership at some stage. The old system of having both ‘red and expert’ cadres in the party, army and state, seems to be fast giving way to one disconnecting the two.

The gap between the party and army appears to be increasing day by day in practice. The question in the coming years is whether or not a ‘state army’ will emerge, replacing the present ‘party army’ model.

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D S Rajan is director of the Chennai Centre for China Studies. A version of this article appeared on the South Asia Analysis Group’s website (

Stop blaming China for India’s lapses

Nitin Pai
Quite often, alarm and indignation comes from a sense of entitlement. Surely, the argument goes, India’s size and geographical location entitles it to a pre-eminent maritime status in the Indian Ocean, so how dare China intrude and construct a “string of pearls” around India?

To be sure, the emergence of China as a regional maritime power is the big story of our times. Over the past two decades, China has methodically developed basing arrangements (the ’string of pearls’), invested in a submarine fleet designed to counter the US Navy’s aircraft carrier groups and, is now working on a surface fleet (including six aircraft carriers) whose purpose is to project power. This worries Indian strategists, because some of China’s accretion of power will come at India’s expense. While China certainly seeks to contain the expansion of Indian power, the object of its grand strategy is to counter the United States. And it is getting there: not by matching renminbi-for-dollar and getting into an arms race, but largely by methodically developing capabilities that exploit United States’ weak points.

So at a time when China seeks to play in the same league as the superpower of the day, it is to be expected that it will try to extract advantageous positions in the Indian Ocean region at India’s expense. The big scandal is not that China is securing bases in India’s neighbourhood by shoring up nasty regimes and abetting their outrageous policies; but rather, India does not even show any sign of doing what is necessary to protect its interests.

So Home Minister P Chidambaram criticised China for fishing in troubled waters by backing the Sri Lankan government to the hilt in its war against the LTTE. So what else does Mr Chidambaram expect it to do? If the UPA government couldn’t find the resolve to shape a bold Sri Lanka policy that would promote India’s interests, why should he hold it against China for doing so? Similarly, if the UPA government found itself immobilised over its Nepal policy, why should China be blamed for promoting what it sees as its own interests? Surely, the likes of Pranab Mukherjee and A K Anthony didn’t think that China should be held to the statements they made about there being enough space in Asia for two powers to rise simultaneously? (Even as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Mr Chidambaram did gruesome damage to the pace at which India could rise in the first place).

Let’s face it: unless the next government—regardless of whether it is the UPA, NDA or a Ghastly Numbered Front that comes to power—firmly resolves to ensure that India’s strategic frontiers are not rolled inwards, strategic containment is assured. Those who take recourse to fatalism and declare that coalition politics doesn’t allow an assertive foreign policy, especially in India’s neighbourhood, better not express indignation when they spot a Chinese aircraft carrier group a few hundred nautical miles from Kochi or Mumbai. Actually, coalition politics has been offered as an excuse for gross mismanagement of neighbourhood policy—but other than during the election season, coalition partners limit their foreign policy demands largely to rhetoric. It stands to reason, therefore, that a central government that can’t stand up to pressure from its coalition partners can’t stand up to pressure from Beijing.

Nitin Pai is editor of Pragati and blogs at The Acorn (

3 Replies to “Changing China”

  1. emptyoceans

    Fabulous article and I said it in a same same but different way on my blog that power comes with economic growth. So if the Indian politicians are caught up in internal politics and arent serious about the economy, China is going to power ahead and all our neighbours are gonna drift towards them.

    But the catch is that China is eventually an evil empire, consider what it did to Tibet and plans to do to Taiwan and what it is constantly doing to its own people (Tienanmen square). Not to forget that it gave nuclear weapons to a terrorist state, Pakistan from where they spread to other states courtesy A.Q. Khan

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