With the aim to expand its territory in South China Sea, Beijing is aggressively building many new villages in disputed borderlands in the Himalayas, according to a report published in The Japan Times.
Brahma Chellaney, professor of strategic studies at the New Delhi-based Center for Policy Research, in an article, titled ‘China’s Himalayan salami tactics’ said, “China is aggressively building many new villages in disputed borderlands to extend or consolidate its control over strategically important areas that India, Bhutan, and Nepal maintain fall within their national boundaries.”
Chellaney wrote that the strategic implications of China’s drive to populate these desolate, uninhabited border areas is its major buildup of new military facilities. The new installations range from electronic warfare stations and air defence sites to underground ammunition depots.
“China’s militarised village-building spree has renewed the regional spotlight on Chinese President Xi Jinping’s expansionist strategy at a time when, despite a recent disengagement in one area, tens of thousands of its troops remain locked in multiple standoffs with Indian forces. Recurrent skirmishing began last May after India discovered to its alarm that Chinese forces had stealthily occupied mountaintops and other strategic vantage points in its northernmost Ladakh borderlands,” he wrote.
He further stated that Xi’s regime advanced its South China Sea expansionism through asymmetrical or hybrid warfare, waged below the threshold of overt armed conflict. This approach blends conventional and irregular tactics with small incremental territorial encroachments (or “salami slicing”), psychological manipulation, disinformation, lawfare, and coercive diplomacy.
The Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post, citing a Chinese government document, recently reported that China intends to build 624 border villages in disputed Himalayan areas.
“In the name of “poverty alleviation,” the Communist Party of China (CPC) is callously uprooting Tibetan nomads and forcing them to settle in artificial new border villages in isolated, high-altitude areas,” Chellaney said while adding that the CPC has also sent ethnic Han Chinese party members to such villages to serve as resident overseers.
By building new border villages and relocating people there, China can now invoke international law in support of its claims. Effective control is the sine qua non of a strong territorial claim in international law. Armed patrols don’t prove effective control, but settlements do, wrote Chellaney.
He added that China’s construction of villages and military facilities in the borderlands threatens to wreak havoc on the ecologically fragile Himalayas, which are the source of Asia’s great rivers. Environmental damage is already apparent on the once-pristine Doklam Plateau, claimed by Bhutan, which China has transformed into a heavily militarized zone since seizing it in 2017.