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Unmasking the Dragon: Exposing The Chinese Military

In recent years, the narrative of the Chinese military’s invincibility has been widely propagated, painting the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) as an unstoppable force. This perception, is further propagated by state-sponsored propaganda. However, beneath this lies a different reality. In this article we will busting the myths surrounding the PLA’s capabilities, exposing the gaps and weakness.

We will also expose the height of Chinese hypocrisy, revealing how their actions frequently contradict their proclaimed principles. Additionally, the article will also discuss about China’s recent reactions to the Indian elections, offering look on how Beijing perceives and responds to democratic processes of India. We start by discussing the violation several border agreements by China.

India-China Relations: Border Disputes and Agreements

After the independence of both countries, India’s first Prime Minister Nehru sought good relations with China. From 1949 through 1955, Nehru strengthened and expanded Sino-Indian relations by mutual support in critical areas of national, regional, and international importance. With this in mind, India and China signed the Panchsheel Agreement in 1954, which had principles regarding cooperation between the two countries. Later on, China ended up violating every single clause of these agreements. I won’t be going into detailed clauses of every agreements, but here are the list of agreements signed between India and China regarding the management of border tensions and beyond.

  • Panchsheel Agreement Between India and China (1954)
  • The 1988 Border Agreement Between India and China
  • The 1993 Agreement on the Maintenance of Peace and Tranquility along the Line of Actual Control in the India-China Border Areas
  • The 1996 Agreement on Confidence-Building Measures in the Military Field Along the Line of Actual Control in the India-China Border Areas
  • Declaration on Principles for Relations and Comprehensive Cooperation (2003)
  • Agreement on the Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for the Settlement of the India-China Boundary Question (2005)
  • Agreement on the Establishment of a Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (2012)
Picture Credit: Foreign Policy

Here is crux of these agreements, these have agreements established mechanisms like the Joint Working Group (1988) and Special Representatives (2003) to discuss and resolve boundary issues through peaceful consultations. They emphasized strict respect for the Line of Actual Control, reduction of military forces, and measures to build mutual trust and understanding. However, despite these agreements, there have been violations by China, notably the construction of the highway in Aksai Chin by China, which directly violated the principles of the Panchsheel agreement and it also contributed to the 1962 Sino-Indian War.

Subsequent agreements in 1993 and 1996 further focused on maintaining peace and confidence-building along the border, while the 2005 and 2012 agreements aimed at creating a framework for a final boundary settlement and a working mechanism for border affairs, respectively. In the 2020 standoff and subsequent Galwan clash with India, China breached the 1996 Agreement on Confidence-Building Measures in the Military Field along the Line of Actual Control. This agreement explicitly banned the use of firearms and explosives near the border. Despite this, Chinese troops used unconventional weapons, such as sticks embedded with nails and clubs wrapped in barbed wire, that resulted into death of our 20 bravehearts and more than 40 chinese soldiers.

Another example is the CPEC. China has violated India’s sovereignty through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a key part of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The CPEC connects Pakistan’s Gwadar and Karachi ports to China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region but controversially passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), a disputed territory between India and Pakistan. India opposes the CPEC, arguing it infringes on its sovereignty and territorial integrity, as international conventions prohibit construction in disputed territories without mutual consent. By continuing CPEC in PoK without India’s agreement, China openly showed its disregard to India’s sovereignty.

The Chinese hypocrisy doesn’t end here, over the years China has objected to India efforts develop infrastructure on its side. Here we will be discussing the China’s objections to India’s infrastructure development specially after 2014.

Border Infrastructure

Picture Credit: The Economic Times

China has significantly developed its infrastructure near the Indian border, enhancing its strategic and military capabilities. This includes the construction of hundreds of villages, which often feature military and dual-use facilities to assert its territorial claims. Between 2018 and 2022, 624 such villages were built. Additionally, China has upgraded military bases along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), extended runways, constructed new heliports, and developed underground facilities in the Aksai Chin area. Expanding airports and heliports in Tibet and Xinjiang, along with new roads and railways like the Sichuan-Tibet and Xinjiang-Tibet railways, further enhancing the China’s logistics and rapid deployment capabilities.

In response, India has initiated several border infrastructure projects to secure its territory and enhance rapid troop mobilization. These projects include roads, bridges, tunnels, and airfields, such as the Nechiphu tunnel in Arunachal Pradesh and the Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldie (DSDBO) road. India also inaugurated 75 infrastructure projects along the LAC in October 2022, including essential bridges, roads, and helipads for swift military deployment.

China often portrays its extensive infrastructure development near the Indian border as routine construction on its side. However, similar developments by India are labeled as provocations. For instance, China’s incursions into Indian territory in May 2020 coincided with India’s accelerated infrastructure projects, such as the DSDBO road, which Beijing perceived as a threat.

In this part here we will be discussing the capabilities of PLA in mountains to that of the Indian Army.

Mountain warfare

Picture Credit: Prime Video

Experience and Specialized Training

The Indian Army has a long history of mountain warfare, with extensive experience in high-altitude operations like those in Siachen and Kargil. Our soldiers, who often spend much of their careers in mountainous regions, continually refine their skills and strategies. Institutions/Schools like the High Altitude Warfare School (HAWS) produce highly skilled soldiers through rigorous training tailored to the unique challenges of high-altitude combat, ensuring the Indian Army remains exceptionally well-prepared for mountain warfare.

The Indian Army’s capability in mountain warfare is recognized globally, with troops from Western countries regularly coming to India to train in high-altitude warfare. This international collaboration underscores the Indian Army’s expertise and leadership in this specialized field.

But the PLA has limited experience in high-altitude conditions, with many Chinese soldiers originating from lower-altitude regions, making rapid adaptation to high altitudes challenging. Despite efforts to enhance their training, the PLA’s programs lack the depth and specialization of the Indian Army’s. The PLA’s training initiatives, while improving, still fall short of the comprehensive and prolonged training that the Indian Army soldiers receive, leaving the PLA at a disadvantage in high-altitude warfare.

Acclimatization and Physical Performance

The Indian Army benefits significantly from the natural acclimatization of many of its soldiers, who hail from high-altitude regions such as Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, and the North East. This inherent advantage enhances their physical performance and endurance in mountainous environments. Additionally, the Gorkha regiments are renowned for their exceptional skills and bravery in high-altitude terrain, further adds strength to Indian Army’s capability in mountain warfare.

Moreover the PLA faces substantial challenges with acclimatization and physical performance in high-altitude areas. Chinese soldiers often struggle with altitude sickness, experiencing symptoms such as headaches, vomiting, fatigue, and dizziness, which severely impair their combat effectiveness. Furthermore, PLA soldiers, originating from various parts of China specially mainland China, encounter significant difficulties in adapting to high-altitude environments, adversely affecting their overall combat readiness and operational efficiency.

In ability of the PLA to operate in high altitude can highlighted by the fact that Chinese soldiers stationed in the high-altitude regions of the Himalayas near the Indian border are using various technologies and strategies to cope with the harsh conditions.

  • Well-Oxygenated Tents: To combat the effects of low oxygen levels at high altitudes, Chinese troops are living in well-oxygenated tents. These tents are designed to provide a stable supply of oxygen, helping to prevent altitude sickness and other health issues related to hypoxia​.
  • Drones for Food Delivery: Drones are being utilized to deliver food and other essential supplies to the troops​​.
  • Robots for Transport: In addition to drones, robots are used to carry supplies. These robots can transport loads of equipment and provisions.

Though the Chinese soldiers in the Himalayas are benefiting from advanced logistical and technological support, such as well-oxygenated tents, drones for food delivery, and robots for carrying supplies, however, these facilities could become primary targets in a conflict, potentially disrupting Chinese operations.

Strategic Advantage

The Indian Army commands a substantial strategic advantage in high-altitude combat with its 13 mountain divisions and over 200,000 troops, making it the largest and most experienced mountain fighting force in the world. This extensive force structure, combined with the Indian Army’s deep operational knowledge, provides a formidable edge in mountainous warfare.

In contrast, the PLA is still in the developmental stage of its mountain warfare capabilities. Despite recent efforts to improve, the PLA lacks the extensive practical experience and specialized training that the Indian Army possesses. This developmental lag places the PLA at a significant disadvantage in high-altitude combat, as they continue to build and refine their strategies and operational readiness for mountain warfare.

Not just in mountain warfare, even physically our troops demonstrate Superior Physical Strength. Our soldiers has consistently showcased their exceptional physical strength, endurance, and teamwork in various international competitions, underscoring a significant advantage over the Chinese PLA in these areas. Here are some of the examples proving the its might.

Picture Credit: Hindustan Times

Cambrian Patrol Exercise:

  • The Indian Army’s 4/5 Gorkha Rifles (Frontier Force) secured a gold medal at the renowned Cambrian Patrol Exercise held in the UK. This event, known as the “Olympics of military patrolling,” is a rigorous test of human endurance and team spirit. Our team excelled in the harsh terrain and inclement weather of Brecon, Wales, demonstrating their superior physical resilience and tactical proficiency.
  1. Tug of War Against Chinese Troops in Sudan:
    • In a remarkable display of strength and competitive spirit, our troops deployed in Sudan as part of a UN Peacekeeping mission emerged victorious in a Tug of War contest against their Chinese counterparts. This event highlighted the Indian Army’s superior physical conditioning and camaraderie.
  2. Airborne Africa Special Forces Competition:
    • The Indian Army’s 10th Para SF team achieved first place in the Exercise Airborne Africa, competing against 28 army teams from various countries. Our team excelled in the ‘Endurance, Navigation, and Evacuation’ event, emerging as overall winners and securing most of the individual medals. This victory showcased their outstanding physical endurance and navigational skills.

This highlight the Indian Army’s superior capabilities in various challenging scenarios, including mountain warfare, endurance patrolling, and competitive events like tug of war.

Also Read, Chinese Navy: Mighty Dragon Boat or Paperboat?

Propaganda Tactics of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Against the Indian Army

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been engaging in various propaganda activities aimed at discrediting the Indian Army and influencing public perception. Here are some notable examples:

Picture Credit: Times Of India

1. Video Manipulation and Misrepresentation

The PLA has been accused of editing and misrepresenting videos to portray the Indian Army in a negative light. One significant example is a video circulated on the Chinese social media platform Weibo, which depicted a border clash between Chinese and Indian soldiers. However, it was later revealed that the video footage was from an old clash, but shot from a different angle, misleading viewers about the timing and context of the incident.

2. Propaganda Videos

The PLA frequently produces propaganda videos designed to intimidate India and display their military prowess. For instance, Chinese official TV media have released videos showcasing their tanks and artillery guns in action. These videos aim to project an image of overwhelming military strength, serving both as a morale booster for Chinese citizens and a psychological weapon against India.

However the incident involving Chinese peacekeepers in South Sudan, where they were accused of abandoning their posts during a violent clash in Juba, show the reality about their commitment and effectiveness. During the Battle of Juba in July 2016, reports indicated that Chinese peacekeepers with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) withdrew from a civilian protection zone after being attacked, leaving innocent civilians vulnerable. This action was heavily criticised, showing the reality of the PLA soldiers in fulfilling their duty towards protecting civilians​​.

In contrast, our Indian peacekeeping forces are known for their bravery and commitment. Indian peacekeepers have a reputation for their courage and dedication to protecting civilians, often at great personal risk. This commitment to their service is deeply embedded in the ethos and traditions of the Indian Army, staying up to their moto of “Service Before Self.” Our peacekeepers have consistently demonstrated their willingness to go above and beyond in fulfilling their duties, earning them respect and admiration not only of the people but also worldwide​.

3. Use of Balloon Equipment

Another propaganda tactic involves the use of balloon equipment to fake the weapon deployment against India. This deceptive strategy is intended to create the illusion of a more significant military presence and preparedness than actually exists.

4. Hiring Actors

In some cases, the PLA has hired actors to participate in propaganda videos. These actors are depicted as soldiers unfurling the Chinese flag, creating staged scenarios to mislead viewers about the PLA’s activities and operations along the border.

5. Social Media Propaganda

The PLA has also leveraged social media platforms to spread misinformation and propaganda. A notable example is a social media handle named Clash Report, which claimed to show a new video of a clash between the PLA and Indian soldiers. The report falsely suggested that Chinese soldiers were beating Indian soldiers, whereas, in reality, it was the PLA that was overpowered and chased away by the Indian Army. This tactic of spreading false narratives is part of a broader strategy to manipulate public opinion.

6. Simulated Attacks

The PLA’s propaganda efforts extend beyond India, targeting other countries as well. For example, the Chinese Air Force released a propaganda film showing nuclear-capable H-6 bombers conducting a simulated attack on an American military base. This action is part of their psychological warfare strategy, aiming to create fear and demonstrate their military capabilities.

The PLA’s use of propaganda against the Indian Army highlights the ongoing psychological warfare between the two nations. The PLA aims to undermine the Indian Army’s image and morale while projecting their own strength and superiority. Understanding these tactics is crucial in countering misinformation and there lot of work that needs to be done in this field.

Also Read, What If India Takes Back Aksai Chin? Possible Implications

Chinese reaction On Indian Elections

Picture Credit: Foreign Policy

China’s reaction to the recent Indian elections, in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party BJP did not secure an outright majority, can be interpreted through the lens of ongoing border tensions between the two countries. The reduced majority is seen by China as potentially limiting Modi government ability to push aggressive policies that could exacerbate border disputes.

Chinese media, particularly the state-run Global Times, highlighted that Modi’s diminished political strength might hinder his ambitious plans to boost India’s manufacturing sector and challenge China economically​. This perspective suggests that a less dominant Modi could lead to a more cautious approach in India’s foreign and defense policies, including those related to the border tensions with China.

But despite the BJP not securing an outright majority in the recent Indian elections, the continuity in key ministerial appointments indicates that the Modi 3.0 government will likely maintain consistent policies, particularly in defense, security, and foreign affairs. Key portfolios such as finance, defense, foreign ministry, and commerce have been assigned to the same ministers, suggesting no substantial shift in these areas​.

Experts argue that Modi’s economic reforms will continue, as most significant reforms in India have historically been implemented during coalition governments. The Modi government focus on economic growth and infrastructure development remains strong, with ambitious plans to make India a USD 5 trillion economy by 2027-28 and to establish it as a manufacturing hub​.

Foreign policy under Modi 3.0 is expected to stay the course, with a continued emphasis on positioning India as a significant global player. Modi has successfully transformed India’s image on the world stage. The overall approach is likely to remain same and robust as in previous term under leadership of MEA S Jaishankar, building India’s strategic partnerships with like minded partners for advancing our national interests​​.

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Bheemanagouda M Patil

Hi, I'm Bheemanagouda Patil, currently I'm pursuing Mechanical Engineering (3rd year) from Dayanand Sagar College Of Engineering. I write on topics related defence and geopolitics.

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