China Now Has the Military Power to Alter Territorial Status Quo
by C. Raja Mohan
. . . China is on a bold and ambitious drive to expand its control over the disputed waters.
Let us start with gathering tensions over the territorial dispute between Beijing and
To talk of a territorial dispute between two countries so far apart from each other
seems strange. But distance is no guarantee of an escape from territorial problems with
Beijing, at least in the South China Sea. To be sure, Jakarta says it has no territorial
dispute with Beijing in the South China Sea. But there is a problem nevertheless.
Neither Jakarta that is scrupulously non-aligned nor Manila that was ready to break its
alliance with the US has been spared from Beijing's current muscular approach to China's
While intellectuals can argue about the sources of Chinese conduct, peasants with their
common sense can point to answers lying in plain sight. One is that China has
long-standing claims, right or wrong, on the territories of its neighbours. The other is
the dramatic shift in the regional power balance in favour of China. Unlike in the past,
China now has the military power to make good its claims and alter the territorial
status quo, if only in bits and pieces. This is what China is doing in the South China
Sea. And the situation may not be any different in Ladakh.
[The toll the war inflicted on China is still being calculated, but conservative estimates number
the dead at 14 million at least (the British Empire and United States each lost over 400,000 during
the Second World War, and Russia more than 20 million)--Rana Mitter, "Forgotten
Ally: China's World War II, 1937-1945," Mariner Books; Reprint edition (September 2, 2014), p. 5]
[In 1997, roughly 20 years after China emerged from the isolation of the Mao years, the
Economist bemoaned the popularity of a quote attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte. "Let
China sleep," he allegedly pronounced, "for when she wakes she will shake the world."
From 1977 to 1997, China's GDP more than quadrupled, its foreign policy grew more
confident, and in 1995, in a show of aggression, Beijing fired missiles across the
Taiwan Strait to intimidate the government in Taipei. "To observers of China, dazzled by
its startling economic growth and ever-increasing power," the Economist wrote,
"Napoleon's aphorism has seemed irresistibly apposite. . . .
Whether Beijing manages to maintain social stability, build a sustainable economy, and
appease a population of 1.4 billion will determine how China affects the rest of the
world."--Isaac Stone Fish, "Crouching Tiger, Sleeping Giant,"
Foreign Policy, January 19, 2016]
[Rather than unseating the United States as the world's premier superpower, Chinese
foreign policy in the coming decade will largely focus on maintaining the conditions
necessary for the country's continued economic growth.--Gordon Watts, "Enter
the dragon and the rise of China's 'empire'," asiatimes.com, November 26, 2019]