Xi Jinping

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According to open sources, “Indian and Chinese troops faced off at their countries' unmarked border in the Himalayas on Thursday [April 18, 2014] as their leaders were promising to boost economic cooperation and substantially increase Chinese investment in India's infrastructure at a rare meeting.”[1] It seems that although the two leaders were keen on promoting a message of peace and stability, “1,000 Chinese soldiers reportedly moved into Indian territory and refused to retreat, according to local sources.”[2] In a military statement, China declared that “the boundary between the two countries has not been demarcated until now and there are differing perceptions with regards to the line of actual control (LAC)” in a clear effort of trying to show that no aggressive intentions were being envisaged.[3] Xi Jinping himself seems to have told Prime Minister Narendra Modi that “he honestly did not know the details of the stand-off between Indian and Chinese troops in Kashmere.”[4] Of course, China is notorious for promoting mixed and symbolic military messages. In 2011 for example, as US Defense Secretary Robert Gates was visiting China, the PLA launched its first test flight of the J-20 homemade stealth fighter.[5] Even though such events may be coordinated by Beijing’s political elite, there are signs that some incidents may be linked to PLA’s own separate agenda.

Rogue military assets?

After returning from India, Xi Jinping called a meeting with PLA’s chiefs of staff during which the top brass was instructed to “follow the instructions of President Xi Jinping.”[6] According to Indian sources, the Chinese president told 15 top general present at the meeting[7] that “headquarters of PLA forces must have absolute loyalty and firm faith in the Communist Party of China, guarantee a smooth chain of command and make sure all decisions from the central leadership are fully implemented.”[8] Xi Jinping also underlined the fact that “Headquarters of all PLA forces should improve their combat readiness and sharpen their ability to win a regional war in the age of information technology”[9] which leads us to believe that Beijing is continuing to upgrade its informational capacities within the military branch. During the meeting, several important protocols were revised according to China’s defense Ministry.[10] The timing of the statement lead some to believe that Xi Jinping has been unaware of the PLA’s plan to put pressure on Indian soldiers during his visit to India and that the PLA is partly rogue.

Assuming control

In an effort to assume better control of the PLA, Xi Jinping recently promoted three generals that are close to him.[11] This is not a new strategy assumed by the president of China, as he has been known in the past to promote general close to him within the PLA. “Xi has been seen as among the most powerful of China's recent leaders, with strong connections with the PLA. Unlike his predecessor Hu Jintao, he served briefly with the PLA - albeit only as an aide to a former top official - and is known to enjoy close ties with several of the PLA's current top generals, including Chief of General Staff, General Fang Fenghui.”[12] According to open sources in India, since assuming leadership of China, Xi Jinping “has reshuffled the military postings of the generals loyal to him at the top and removed and prosecuted some top PLA generals for corruption.”[13] The crackdown on corruption in itself “is believed to have made Xi's position unassailable in all sections of the country.”[14] All these actions were and are aimed at reinforcing Xi Jinping’s power instruments within the country and to suggest full control of the situation. But shady events such as recent ones in Kashmere do seem to undermine the president’s attempts and cause uneasiness among regional neighbors. As open sources rightly stated “unfortunately for many of China’s neighbors, neither explanation of Chinese military behavior–be it top-down carefully planned strategy or rogue field commanders–is particularly comforting. Leaders and strategists in India, Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines, and the United States will be less interested in cracking open the black box that is the Chinese military and more interested in responding effectively to China’s increasingly assertive military behavior.”[15] With a political agenda aimed at expanding military influence in the Asia-Pacific area, Xi Jinping must step up his credibility and be sure to let the whole world know that he is in full charge of China’s military. Without such a direction, Beijing’s military plans can become an even bigger liability to the regional stability framework.

 

[1] Nirmala George, “India, China vow cooperation as troops face off”, AP, 18.09.2014, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/18/india-china-cooperation-troops_n_5844102.html, consulted on 23.09.2014

[2] Jack Morre, “1.000 Chinese soldiers cross India’s border as Xi Jinping visits region”, International Business Times, 18.09.2014, https://uk.news.yahoo.com/1-000-chinese-soldiers-cross-indias-border-xi-100934173.html#gCzVPlW, consulted on 23.09.2014.

[3] “China’s Xi Jinping demands army should be ready to win regional war”, RT, 23.09.2014, http://rt.com/news/189840-xi-chinese-army-war/, consulted on 23.09.2014.

[4] Ankit Panda, “China’s military may have gone rogue after all”, The Diplomat, 23.09.2014, http://thediplomat.com/2014/09/chinas-military-may-have-gone-rogue-after-all/, consulted on 23.09.2014.

[5] Jeremy Page, Julian E. Barnes, “China shows its growing might”, The Wall Street Journal, 12.01.2011, http://online.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748704428004576075042571461586, consulted on 23.09.2014.

[6] Ananth Krishnan, “China’s military to follow Xi Jinping’s instructions”, India Today, 21.09.2014, http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/china-military-told-to-follow-xi-jinping-instructions/1/384200.html, consulted on 23.09.2014.

[7] Saibal Dasgupta, Rajat Pandit, “Xi Jinping tells People’s Liberation Army to be ready for regional war”, The Times of India, 23.09.2014, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Xi-Jinping-tells-Peoples-Liberation-Army-to-be-ready-to-win-regional-war/articleshow/43190437.cms, consulted on 23.09.2014.

[8] “After India visit, Xi Jinping tells China army to be ready for regional war”, Firstpost, 23.09.2014, http://www.firstpost.com/world/after-india-visit-xi-jinping-tells-chinese-army-to-be-ready-for-regional-war-1725765.html, consulted on 23.09.2014.

[9] Ibidem.

[10] Ananth Krishnan, “China’s military to follow Xi Jinping’s instructions”, India Today, 21.09.2014, http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/china-military-told-to-follow-xi-jinping-instructions/1/384200.html, consulted on 23.09.2014.

[11] Saibal Dasgupta, “Xi Jinping reshuffles, scolds PLA brass amid stand-off with India”, The Times of India, 22.09.2014, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/china/Xi-Jinping-reshuffles-scolds-PLA-brass-amid-stand-off-with-India/articleshow/43167171.cms, consulted on 23.09.2014.

[12] Ananth Krishnan, “China’s military to follow Xi Jinping’s instructions”, India Today, 21.09.2014, http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/china-military-told-to-follow-xi-jinping-instructions/1/384200.html, consulted on 23.09.2014.

[13] “After India visit, Xi Jinping tells China army to be ready for regional war”, Firstpost, 23.09.2014, http://www.firstpost.com/world/after-india-visit-xi-jinping-tells-chinese-army-to-be-ready-for-regional-war-1725765.html, consulted on 23.09.2014.

[14] Saibal Dasgupta, “Xi Jinping reshuffles, scolds PLA brass amid stand-off with India”, The Times of India, 22.09.2014, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/china/Xi-Jinping-reshuffles-scolds-PLA-brass-amid-stand-off-with-India/articleshow/43167171.cms, consulted on 23.09.2014.

[15] Ankit Panda, “China’s military may have gone rogue after all”, The Diplomat, 23.09.2014, http://thediplomat.com/2014/09/chinas-military-may-have-gone-rogue-after-all/, consulted on 23.09.2014.

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