China prevails in Doklam standoff, but India attempts to distort public opinion

By Shen Yi Source:Global Times Published: 2017/9/3 17:43:39

The settlement of the Doklam standoff was undoubtedly a victory for China after it pressured India into ending its speculative tactical intervention in the border region via military, diplomatic and other means. It was a comprehensive demonstration of China's major-country strategy, and the wisdom and the ability of the Chinese leadership. It is no less significant than the armistice of the Korean War (1950-53), or the conclusion of the 1979 China's self-defense war against Vietnam, especially given its peaceful resolution.

Soon after the two sides withdrew their troops - at the same time, New Delhi claimed - Indian media immediately began to imply that New Delhi had acted on its own initiative after realizing its strategic goal of blocking a Chinese road construction project. Chinese media released their statement on the matter a couple of hours later, losing the initiative in the war of public opinion.

When repeatedly asked by reporters about the withdrawal, a spokesperson from the Chinese side hesitated to answer, allowing unnecessary room for interpretation. Because of this, many media opted to side with India's stance, taking on board India's inferred logic rather than see it from the perspective of China international strategy.

Yet the fact is, India did not achieve its original aims of maintaining the standoff until heavy snows sealed off its mountain border with China. China should therefore have been more confident of claiming the result as a victory for its military and diplomatic might.

India believes in the West's concept of power logic. Hence China must communicate with India in a way that prevents it from copying the example of the Doklam standoff to find fault with China in the future. Since New Delhi has a tendency to buckle under hardball tactics, we cannot allow it to misinterpret China's restraint and forbearance as weakness in order to make political gains.

In this instance, China's concerns that playing tough with India could have jeopardized the BRICS Summit, may instead have bolstered New Delhi's arrogance and paved the way for it to create a scene for China at the summit.

There were two versions of the standoff settlement. The Indian foreign ministry claimed that the two sides withdrew at the same time, while the Chinese foreign ministry said India pulled back its troops under China's on-site supervision. While the Indian version of events was released first, some Chinese media took it at face value without checking the facts, showing typical disregard for our national interests. Such mistakes must be avoided in the future.

 Despite the victory, the Chinese side must prepare itself for a more long-term, comprehensive struggle to win over public opinion. The very fact that China did not expel Indian border troops in the first place or counter the incursion militarily, must have confirmed India's belief that China dare not resort to tactical force during a period of military reform or when hosting a major political event.

The standoff ended after India had completed a comprehensive evaluation of China's overall strength and decided it wasn't ready for a fight with China. China therefore cannot take this settlement as a complete resolution of issues regarding the Sino-Indian border, or drop its guard in case that India launches another similar intervention.

China is forming its national strategic capability that enables it to resolve crises and disputes by exerting comprehensive influence rather than resorting to force. The peaceful settlement of Doklam standoff is a typical example of the strategic battle between China and the US under the Trump administration, given that India's sudden fit of radicalness must have received US backing.

Surely given Uncle Sam's lack of strategic wisdom, the US made a superb job of doing its utmost to drive a wedge between China and India. But China did not fall into the trap. It neither got into a lasting confrontation or damaging friction with India, nor did it enter into a border war at this critical point. In this sense, the Doklam settlement is China's victory not only in the tactical game with India, but in its wider strategic battle with the US.

It's clear that China's strategic rivals, both regionally and globally, don't want to view China's rise from a kind perspective. They choose to provoke and stir up China from time to time while maintaining interdependent and complex economic and trade activities with the country. This represents not only a test but also an opportunity for China to realize its interests peacefully while demonstrating its political will and ability to break the deadlock.

The author is associate professor with the School of International Relations and Public Affairs at Fudan University. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn



Posted in: ASIAN REVIEW

blog comments powered by Disqus