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ASSESSING CHINA’S
ENGAGEMENT IN THE
INDIAN SUBCONTINENT
A framework to assess China’s approaches in
the Indian subcontinent by looking at China’s
motivations, enablers and constraints.
PREPARED BY
Anirudh Kanisetti
Hamsini Hariharan
Manoj Kewalramani
A Takshashila Discussion
SlideDoc March, 2018
2 of 24
What is China’s strategy in
the Indian subcontinent?
China’s growing footprint in the Indian subcontinent is one
arc of an overarching strategy to expand its global presence
and influence. This study unpacks the underlying drivers of
China’s policy in the region and examines the enabling and
constraining factors. Based on these, it identifies a repertoire
of ongoing measures and long-term policy approaches that
China can and is employing.
Ongoing Measures
Long Term Approaches
•	 Control over resource streams
•	 Display of aggressive intent by Chinese armed forces
•	 Control over flows of people and ideas
•	 Denial/Provision of support at international fora
•	 Investing in multi-purpose projects
•	 Interfering in domestic affairs of other states
•	 Providing strategic support to non-democratic regimes
•	 Expanding hard power reach
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
How and why China engages
the Indian subcontinent the
way it does.
3 of 24
How to read this slidedoc
This Slidedoc uses a funnel
framework to describe China’s
engagement in the Subcontinent.
China’s Motivations are funnelled
through Factors to understand its
Approaches, which is reflected in
the design of the slides.
The purpose of this framework is
to provide insights into China’s
behaviour and provide various
alternative policies that China
may consider. An underlying
assumption is that China is
modeled as a rational actor in
this framework.
1.	 China’s Motivations in the				 		
	 Indian Subcontinent
2.	 Factors Modulating China’s 	 		
	Approach
3.	 China’s Ongoing Measures
4.	 China’s Long-term Approaches
4 of 24
China’s Motivations in the Indian Subcontinent
Building Support
for Core InterestsMaintaining Growth
Momentum
Enhancing Military
Footprint
Securing Trade Routes
and Energy Supplies
Securing the Periphery and
Protecting Overseas Assets
Competing with the US
5 of 24
China’s global rise is predicated on the remarkable economic growth that the country
has witnessed. Over the years, China’s economic model has shifted from being an
export-oriented model to an investment driven model. This has, however, led to a
structural problem of industrial overcapacity. As China now undertakes reforms to
rebalance its economy, it is seeking to address overcapacity by encouraging Chinese
enterprises to invest overseas - especially in the Indian subcontinent, where there is
tremendous demand for infrastructure and investment.
Maintaining
Growth Momentum
A defining feature of China’s diplomacy is its demand that countries respect what
it terms as its “core national interests”. These are a broad set of issues, including
territorial integrity, the One-China policy and the Chinese party-state governance
model among others, that Beijing considers its bottom line. In addition, as Beijing
pursues a greater global governance role, it is keen to expand international support for
its normative prescriptions on issues like cybersecurity, climate change, trade, etc. A
key rallying point for this support is through its engagement in the subcontinent.
Building Support
for Core Interests
China's Motivations
in the Indian
Subcontintent
6 of 24
China’s global rise is predicated on the remarkable economic growth that the
country has witnessed. Over the years, China’s economic model has shifted
from being an export-oriented model to an investment driven model. This has,
however, led to a structural problem of industrial overcapacity. As China now
undertakes reforms to rebalance its economy, it is seeking to address overcapacity
by encouraging Chinese enterprises to invest overseas - especially in the Indian
subcontinent, where there is tremendous demand for infrastructure and investment.
Securing the periphery and
protecting overseas assets
A defining feature of China’s diplomacy is its demand that countries respect what
it terms as its “core national interests”. These are a broad set of issues, including
territorial integrity, the One-China policy and the Chinese party-state governance
model among others, that Beijing considers its bottom line. In addition, as Beijing
pursues a greater global governance role, it is keen to expand international support
for its normative prescriptions on issues like cybersecurity, climate change, trade, etc.
A key rallying point for this support is through its engagement in the subcontinent.
Securing trade routes
and energy supplies
China's Motivations
in the Indian
Subcontintent
7 of 24
Xi Jinping’s military modernisation drive comprises three broad elements:
Expanding exports of arms, testing of new weaponry and military-to-military
cooperation with India’s neighbours are crucial to achieve this goal.
Enhancing
Military Footprint
Xi’s “Chinese Dream” of national rejuvenation envisions “China moving closer to
center stage and making greater contributions to mankind.” This is an explicit
expression of a desire to further legitimise the Chinese governance model while
competing with the US and allied powers and the regional power, India, for
political influence on issues of governance, trade and norm setting. Such strategic
competition, however, does not preclude specific cooperation in areas of common
interests.
Competing with the US
•	 structural reorganisation of the different PLA forces;
•	 building hardware and capacities; and
•	 expanding the defense industrial complex with private sector participation.
China's Motivations
in the Indian
Subcontintent
8 of 24
Factors Modulating China’s
Approach to the Subcontinent
These amplify
China’s involvement
Positive Ambivalent Negative
These can amplify or restrict
China’s involvement
These restrict
China’s involvement
Military Capacity
Strategic Capacity
Diplomatic Capacity
Multiple Chinese Actors
Decline of the Liberal
International Order
Demand for alternative
in region
Economic Strength
Control of Narrative
India’s regional dominance
Political System
Political Volatility
Geography
Less developed countries
in the region
Energy Constraints
Fear of Growing Footprint
Competition from
Other Countries
9 of 24
The Chinese military is the largest military
in the world and is also focused on using
technology for its advancement. While
China’s power projection in the Indian
Ocean remains limited, the country is
focused on building this and outclassing
other militaries operating in the region.
Military Capacity
As a recognised nuclear power,
China has proven its ability to build
nuclear warheads and transfer
technology to other countries like
Pakistan and North Korea. This
area gives China an additional set
of options to engage with select
nations in the subcontinent.
Strategic Capacity
China’s position in the UN Security
Council, and the scale of its foreign policy
establishment in terms of autonomy,
size, training, budgetary allocation,
and presence in multiple regional and
international fora allow it to engage
flexibly with a variety of regional actors
on a wide spectrum of issues.
Diplomatic Capacity
Government bodies and state
owned enterprises (SOEs) are
easily galvanised to meet the CPC’s
political and strategic aims. Private
companies are also beginning
to play an active role in overseas
markets, investing massively in the
subcontinent.
Multiple Chinese Actors
Factors modulating
China’s approach to
the Subcontinent
Positive Factors
10 of 24
With the relative decline of the US as a global superpower, the weaknesses
of international norms and values have become even more apparent. This has
created an opportunity for China, which presents itself as having its own set of
values as a successful alternative model.
Decline of the Liberal International Order
China positions itself as a reliable alternative to both India and the US. Smaller
states find it in their interest to hedge China off against India and the US in
order to leverage maximum gains from both sides.
Demand for alternative in region
China is able to channel its fiscal strength, the availability of capital and
economic resources into projects with smaller countries. China is a very
important trading partner for all countries in India’s neighbourhood. This gives
China the ability to inflict serious economic damage in the event of a trade
dispute while suffering disproportionately little in return.
Economic Strength
Factors modulating
China’s approach to
the Subcontinent
Positive Factors
11 of 24
China is projecting its rise as a return to
the natural order, tianxia (天下), where the
Middle Kingdom takes precedence over
all other countries. This narrative is used
domestically to rally nationalist sentiment.
The narrative is susceptible to puncturing
and a significant setback to this narrative
could cause serious domestic unrest.
Internationally, it would also rupture the aura
of inevitability around the rise of the PRC.
Control of Narrative
In recent years, India’s foreign policy has been unable to meet all the demands of its small neighbours,
and this has created opportunities for China. Also, as China does not share major land borders with
countries in South Asia, it will bear little externalities from any disturbance in the region, unlike India
which is directly affected. Geographically, India has the ability to project power in multiple theatres in
its neighbourhood, and remains a major trading partner for many countries. India’s longer-standing ties
also gives it a say in negotiations.
India’s Regional Dominance
Factors modulating
China’s approach to
the Subcontinent
Ambivalent Factors
While democracies are often messy, China’s party-
state governance model coupled with a lack of
democratic accountability gives it additional strategic
options - such as faster and quieter mobilisation -
which are not necessarily available to many countries
in South Asia. Xi Jinping’s centralisation of power and
the party-state nexus also makes the regime brittle
and sensitive to tangible and reputational damage
that democratic regimes can weather. Against this
backdrop, a disastrous military adventure could cause
a catastrophic political backlash.
Political System
12 of 24
China’s geographical position grants it direct land
access to most of Central Asia and Himalayas. As
an upper riparian state, dam-building is a source
of leverage, especially over India and Myanmar.
While China has extensive presence across land
borders, it does not have the same capacity over
sea borders. Owing to the distance involved,
China does not yet have the logistical capability
to mount long-term operations in and around the
Indian Ocean region.
Geography
Smaller states that have often faced
international opprobrium and difficulties in
securing investment due to human rights
violations, authoritarian coups, and other
issues now welcome the entry of China,
which purportedly cares little for the regime
in power. Political volatility and forces of
nationalism could also cause short-term
reverses if an anti-China figure comes to
power.
Political Instability
The relative lack of economic development and demand for growth and infrastructure creates huge
opportunities for Chinese companies and investors. On the other hand, this very lack of development
hinders the ability of these countries to repay loans and deliver returns on investment.
Less developed countries in the region
Factors modulating
China’s approach to
the Subcontinent
Ambivalent Factors
13 of 24
China’s growing strategic and economic footprint has made many of its neighbours,
including India, uneasy. This has made them more likely to seek support from powers
such as the US, which constrains China from being as assertive in its foreign policy as
it would otherwise be.
Fear of Growing Footprint
The demand for energy in China makes it vulnerable, as it is dependent on
imports through the Straits of Malacca, a strategic chokepoint. In order to reduce
dependence, China is building ports and pipelines in countries like Pakistan and
Myanmar, while also investing in renewable energy. But the surety of these supplies
and their economic viability remain in question.
Energy Constraints
India is not the only rival for China in the region. The US and Japan also have
considerable economic and strategic interests, with the US in particular enjoying
an unrivalled ability to project hard power. This prevents China from effectively
ramping up military strength, while also giving it the position of an alternative
power in the region.
Competition from other countries in the region
Factors modulating
China’s approach to
the Subcontinent
Negative Factors
14 of 24
China’s Ongoing Measures
in the Indian Subcontinent
Display of aggressive intent
by Chinese armed forcesControl over resource streams
Control Over People and Ideas
These are “carrots” and “sticks” deployed pragmatically in
order to support China’s long-term approaches.
Denial/Provision of support
at international fora
•	 Control of water
•	 Control of financial systems
•	 Specific sanctions/dumping
•	 Incursions and encroachment
•	 Hot pursuits
•	 Military signalling
•	 Tourism flows
•	 Visa denials
•	 Propaganda & media signalling
•	 Opportunistic support
•	 Opportunistic denial of support
15 of 24
China is reaching a position of power that
will allow it to exercise control over systems
that it can deny to other countries in case of
differences. These control measures will be
used as bargaining chips depending on the
issue at hand.
One way China can do this is through control
of water. As an upper riparian state in South
Asia, it controls water flows of the Indus,
the Brahmaputra, the Ganges, the Mekong,
the Yangtze, Salween and the Yellow River.
Through dam-building activities, China can
inflict damage on countries through which
these rivers pass, by either withholding water
or even causing flash floods.
China is also setting in structures that will
allow it to control other countries’ financial
Control over Resource StreamsChina's Ongoing
Measures in Support
of Long-Term
Approaches
systems. This could be done by investing
huge amounts of capital, extending risky
loans to countries that cannot repay them,
and fostering a trade relationship whose
balance is in China’s favour. Therefore, if the
need arises, China can use this control to
influence the country’s policy.
China is already the major trade partner for
many countries in the Indian subcontinent
and many of these trade relationships are
skewed in its favour. It can impose specific
trade barriers on particular items of import
that could hit the exporting country hard.
Alternatively, China can also resort to
dumping, which could deeply affect the
domestic economies of the countries and
injure local industries.
16 of 24
Military measures are a knob that China
uses to put pressure on or convey a
particular message to countries in the Indian
subcontinent.
China uses incursions as a tool for
negotiating or projecting power with
countries it shares a land border with. As
the border with India and Bhutan remains
under dispute, China can choose to escalate
tensions between the two countries to
either rally domestic sentiment in Bhutan
or flex its muscle. China also encroaches
into the territories of other countries to
show its superior power and lack of respect
for the other country’s sovereignty. China
is also known to use these incursions and
encroachments during state visits of foreign
leaders for political signalling.
Display of aggressive intent by
Chinese armed forces
China may also employ its military to
crackdown on illegal activities or insurgents
who share fraternal links across the border.
For example, in North Myanmar, the Chinese
military could briefly conduct operations on
foreign territory under the purport of going
after terrorists.
Another measure that the Chinese military
employs is signalling through military
exercises near the Himalayan border. It also
conducts naval exercises in conjunction
with countries from the Indian subcontinent
or in the waters of the Indian Ocean. Port
calls and training exercises are also other
military signals that China employs.
China's Ongoing
Measures in Support
of Long-Term
Approaches
17 of 24
China seeks to exert considerable control
over people and ideas to support the
narrative that it wants to project. This is done
in a number of ways, primarily targeting
citizens of other countries.
Chinese tourists have become a major
source of revenue for developing countries
that depend on tourism for their economy.
Chinese tourists are the largest in number
in the Maldives and the second largest in
Sri Lanka. By issuing a travel advisory or
banning its citizens from going to visit these
countries, China can easily signal political
displeasure that will have a significant
bearing on the recipient country.
Control Over People & Ideas
China also refuses to provide visas to people
visiting China - particularly if they are known
to have taken a stand that is perceived to
be antithetical to the CPC’s core interests or
interacted with people from Tibet or Xinjiang
as these are considered sensitive topics.
Finally, by holding a tight rein over Chinese
media, China is able to use them for
purposes of propaganda or signalling.
Whether it is to indicate Chinese positions,
its objections to others’ or to dictate the
tone on particular issues, China uses media
signalling to construct a narrative of its own
liking.
China's Ongoing
Measures in Support
of Long-Term
Approaches
18 of 24
As one of the permanent members of the
United Nations Security Council, China
has significant clout it can use in favour
or against a country. This also stands true
for other international institutions or
multilateral organisations where China is
a stakeholder. China is also building new
institutions where it hopes to sit at the head
of the table.
China provides opportunistic support to
countries with which shares close ties, or
to relatively unfriendly countries in order
Denial/Provision of support at international fora
to build support. China could also deny
support when the opportunity arises. These
actions allow China to dictate terms on
which it engages with countries, even using
this support as a bargaining chip for a quid
pro quo on other issues. China’s support for
Pakistan in the Wassenaar Arrangement and
denial of support for India’s candidature into
the Nuclear Suppliers Group are examples of
how it has used its diplomatic positioning in
the past.
China's Ongoing
Measures in Support
of Long-Term
Approaches
19 of 24
China’s Long-Term Approaches
to the Indian Subcontinent
Interfering in the domestic
affairs of other statesInvesting in multi-purpose projects
Providing strategic support to
non-democratic regimes
These are used to ensure that states remain broadly aligned
with Chinese interests over the long term.
Expanding Hard Power Reach
20 of 24
China’s Long-term
Approaches to the
Indian Subcontinent
China provides loans, grants and foreign
direct investments that are competitive
and attractive. In addition, SoEs and private
enterprises strategically export excess
capacity into infrastructure projects that
countries in the subcontinent desperately
need. Some of these, such as oil and natural
gas pipelines are invaluable to China too.
The funding is not presented as “aid,” but
as a transaction between equal partners,
albeit with specific conditions that benefit
Chinese contractors and can lead to
ballooning debts for recipient states.
China’s Approach
Investing in multi-purpose projects
This approach provides China the
leverage to demand additional
concessions such as strategically vital
ports and bases in the region in case
the loans are not repaid or returns on
investments do not materialise. This can
stoke nationalistic sentiments and even
retaliation from non-state actors.
Finally, China controls large parts of the
financial systems of countries such as
Pakistan, and the growing presence of
yuan-based transactions will provide
momentum and legitimacy to the
Chinese economy.
Economic Strength
Multiple Chinese Actors
Less developed
countries in the region
Energy Constraints
Competition from
Other Countries Positive Factors: amplify
China’s involvement
Ambivalent Factors: can amplify
or restrict China’s involvement
Negative Factors: restrict
China’s involvement
Maintaining Growth
Momentum
Securing Trade Routes
and Energy Supplies
China’s Motivations
21 of 24
China’s Long-term
Approaches to the
Indian Subcontinent China tries to project itself as a reliable,
long-standing partner to secure its
strategic and economic interests in
the region, juxtaposing it to chaotic,
argumentative democracies like India and
the US.
As part of this strategy, it has expanded
diplomatic engagement and sought to
serve as a broker in regional disputes. In
doing so, it seeks to cultivate the impression
of being a regional partner as opposed to a
predatory external power. China also takes
care to cultivate constituencies across the
political spectrum of India’s neighbours.
China has also gradually normalised its
China’s Approach
Interfering in the domestic
affairs of other states
own right to comment on the internal
affairs of other countries - such as visits
by the Dalai Lama to Arunachal Pradesh
- while making it clear that reciprocal
action would be a red line. These
comments are made through both
unofficial and official media outlets
and spokespersons, making the actual
position deliberately vague.
The expansion of soft power through
scholarships and Confucius Institute
programmes has also helped China
monopolise the position of the
principal source of historical, cultural
and civilisational narratives.
Diplomatic Capacity
Multiple Chinese Actors
Fear of Growing
Footprint
Demand for alternative
in region
Geography
Building Support
for Core Interests
Securing the Periphery
and Protecting
Overseas Assets
Securing Trade Routes
and Energy Supplies
Positive Factors: amplify
China’s involvement
Ambivalent Factors: can amplify
or restrict China’s involvement
Negative Factors: restrict
China’s involvement
China’s Motivations
22 of 24
While China has shown a willingness to
engage with any regime in power, it is
evident that it provides strategic support for
non-democratic regimes.
This does not tie China down normatively
and promotes its image of being politically
indifferent. This approach leverages
corruption, reaching out to sub-national
leaders, the provision of political funding
and the promotion of norms that go
against the liberal international order.
In addition, China provides diplomatic
shielding on the international stage to
such regimes pragmatically, to strategically
China’s Approach
Providing strategic support to
non-democratic regimes
increase their dependency on it. This
can be seen through their actions in the
2018 Maldives Constitutional Crisis.
China’s engagement with Pakistan is an
interesting example of this approach.
China has proven equally willing to
engage with the civilian government
and the Military-Jihadi Complex. China
provides diplomatic cover on a long-
term basis, but is not averse to imposing
modest costs, as evident during the
FATF meeting in Paris in February 2018.
China’s Long-term
Approaches to the
Indian Subcontinent
Diplomatic Capacity
Competition from
Other Countries
Political Volatility
India’s regional
dominance
Political System
Competing with the US
Building Support
for Core Interests
Securing the Periphery
and Protecting
Overseas Assets
Positive Factors: amplify
China’s involvement
Ambivalent Factors: can amplify
or restrict China’s involvement
Negative Factors: restrict
China’s involvement
China’s Motivations
23 of 24
China’s Long-term
Approaches to the
Indian Subcontinent
China has been attempting to increase its
coercive power in the subcontinent. A key
element of this has been through strategic
infrastructure deals, specifically securing
key ports such as Hambantota, Gwadar, and
Jiwani.
In addition, military-military engagement,
including port calls, joint exercises,
humanitarian assistance and disaster relief
drills and counter-terrorism and anti-piracy
operations also normalise the presence of
Chinese forces in the region.
China’s Approach
Expanding Hard Power Reach
Arms deals and other bilateral military
exchanges (which could include nuclear
technology if Pakistan is considered)
also extend China’s footprint, as do
intelligence sharing agreements.
Competition from
Other Countries
Political Volatility
Geography
Diplomatic Capacity
Military Capacity
Enhancing Military
Footprint
Competing with the USBuilding Support
for Core Interests
Positive Factors: amplify
China’s involvement
Ambivalent Factors: can amplify
or restrict China’s involvement
Negative Factors: restrict
China’s involvement
China’s Motivations
End.
Discussions with Andrew Small, Lt. Gen. Prakash Menon, Nitin Pai, and
Pranay Kotasthane helped in the development of this Slidedoc.

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Takshashila Discussion SlideDoc: Assessing China's Engagement in the Indian Subcontinent

  • 1. ASSESSING CHINA’S ENGAGEMENT IN THE INDIAN SUBCONTINENT A framework to assess China’s approaches in the Indian subcontinent by looking at China’s motivations, enablers and constraints. PREPARED BY Anirudh Kanisetti Hamsini Hariharan Manoj Kewalramani A Takshashila Discussion SlideDoc March, 2018
  • 2. 2 of 24 What is China’s strategy in the Indian subcontinent? China’s growing footprint in the Indian subcontinent is one arc of an overarching strategy to expand its global presence and influence. This study unpacks the underlying drivers of China’s policy in the region and examines the enabling and constraining factors. Based on these, it identifies a repertoire of ongoing measures and long-term policy approaches that China can and is employing. Ongoing Measures Long Term Approaches • Control over resource streams • Display of aggressive intent by Chinese armed forces • Control over flows of people and ideas • Denial/Provision of support at international fora • Investing in multi-purpose projects • Interfering in domestic affairs of other states • Providing strategic support to non-democratic regimes • Expanding hard power reach EXECUTIVE SUMMARY How and why China engages the Indian subcontinent the way it does.
  • 3. 3 of 24 How to read this slidedoc This Slidedoc uses a funnel framework to describe China’s engagement in the Subcontinent. China’s Motivations are funnelled through Factors to understand its Approaches, which is reflected in the design of the slides. The purpose of this framework is to provide insights into China’s behaviour and provide various alternative policies that China may consider. An underlying assumption is that China is modeled as a rational actor in this framework. 1. China’s Motivations in the Indian Subcontinent 2. Factors Modulating China’s Approach 3. China’s Ongoing Measures 4. China’s Long-term Approaches
  • 4. 4 of 24 China’s Motivations in the Indian Subcontinent Building Support for Core InterestsMaintaining Growth Momentum Enhancing Military Footprint Securing Trade Routes and Energy Supplies Securing the Periphery and Protecting Overseas Assets Competing with the US
  • 5. 5 of 24 China’s global rise is predicated on the remarkable economic growth that the country has witnessed. Over the years, China’s economic model has shifted from being an export-oriented model to an investment driven model. This has, however, led to a structural problem of industrial overcapacity. As China now undertakes reforms to rebalance its economy, it is seeking to address overcapacity by encouraging Chinese enterprises to invest overseas - especially in the Indian subcontinent, where there is tremendous demand for infrastructure and investment. Maintaining Growth Momentum A defining feature of China’s diplomacy is its demand that countries respect what it terms as its “core national interests”. These are a broad set of issues, including territorial integrity, the One-China policy and the Chinese party-state governance model among others, that Beijing considers its bottom line. In addition, as Beijing pursues a greater global governance role, it is keen to expand international support for its normative prescriptions on issues like cybersecurity, climate change, trade, etc. A key rallying point for this support is through its engagement in the subcontinent. Building Support for Core Interests China's Motivations in the Indian Subcontintent
  • 6. 6 of 24 China’s global rise is predicated on the remarkable economic growth that the country has witnessed. Over the years, China’s economic model has shifted from being an export-oriented model to an investment driven model. This has, however, led to a structural problem of industrial overcapacity. As China now undertakes reforms to rebalance its economy, it is seeking to address overcapacity by encouraging Chinese enterprises to invest overseas - especially in the Indian subcontinent, where there is tremendous demand for infrastructure and investment. Securing the periphery and protecting overseas assets A defining feature of China’s diplomacy is its demand that countries respect what it terms as its “core national interests”. These are a broad set of issues, including territorial integrity, the One-China policy and the Chinese party-state governance model among others, that Beijing considers its bottom line. In addition, as Beijing pursues a greater global governance role, it is keen to expand international support for its normative prescriptions on issues like cybersecurity, climate change, trade, etc. A key rallying point for this support is through its engagement in the subcontinent. Securing trade routes and energy supplies China's Motivations in the Indian Subcontintent
  • 7. 7 of 24 Xi Jinping’s military modernisation drive comprises three broad elements: Expanding exports of arms, testing of new weaponry and military-to-military cooperation with India’s neighbours are crucial to achieve this goal. Enhancing Military Footprint Xi’s “Chinese Dream” of national rejuvenation envisions “China moving closer to center stage and making greater contributions to mankind.” This is an explicit expression of a desire to further legitimise the Chinese governance model while competing with the US and allied powers and the regional power, India, for political influence on issues of governance, trade and norm setting. Such strategic competition, however, does not preclude specific cooperation in areas of common interests. Competing with the US • structural reorganisation of the different PLA forces; • building hardware and capacities; and • expanding the defense industrial complex with private sector participation. China's Motivations in the Indian Subcontintent
  • 8. 8 of 24 Factors Modulating China’s Approach to the Subcontinent These amplify China’s involvement Positive Ambivalent Negative These can amplify or restrict China’s involvement These restrict China’s involvement Military Capacity Strategic Capacity Diplomatic Capacity Multiple Chinese Actors Decline of the Liberal International Order Demand for alternative in region Economic Strength Control of Narrative India’s regional dominance Political System Political Volatility Geography Less developed countries in the region Energy Constraints Fear of Growing Footprint Competition from Other Countries
  • 9. 9 of 24 The Chinese military is the largest military in the world and is also focused on using technology for its advancement. While China’s power projection in the Indian Ocean remains limited, the country is focused on building this and outclassing other militaries operating in the region. Military Capacity As a recognised nuclear power, China has proven its ability to build nuclear warheads and transfer technology to other countries like Pakistan and North Korea. This area gives China an additional set of options to engage with select nations in the subcontinent. Strategic Capacity China’s position in the UN Security Council, and the scale of its foreign policy establishment in terms of autonomy, size, training, budgetary allocation, and presence in multiple regional and international fora allow it to engage flexibly with a variety of regional actors on a wide spectrum of issues. Diplomatic Capacity Government bodies and state owned enterprises (SOEs) are easily galvanised to meet the CPC’s political and strategic aims. Private companies are also beginning to play an active role in overseas markets, investing massively in the subcontinent. Multiple Chinese Actors Factors modulating China’s approach to the Subcontinent Positive Factors
  • 10. 10 of 24 With the relative decline of the US as a global superpower, the weaknesses of international norms and values have become even more apparent. This has created an opportunity for China, which presents itself as having its own set of values as a successful alternative model. Decline of the Liberal International Order China positions itself as a reliable alternative to both India and the US. Smaller states find it in their interest to hedge China off against India and the US in order to leverage maximum gains from both sides. Demand for alternative in region China is able to channel its fiscal strength, the availability of capital and economic resources into projects with smaller countries. China is a very important trading partner for all countries in India’s neighbourhood. This gives China the ability to inflict serious economic damage in the event of a trade dispute while suffering disproportionately little in return. Economic Strength Factors modulating China’s approach to the Subcontinent Positive Factors
  • 11. 11 of 24 China is projecting its rise as a return to the natural order, tianxia (天下), where the Middle Kingdom takes precedence over all other countries. This narrative is used domestically to rally nationalist sentiment. The narrative is susceptible to puncturing and a significant setback to this narrative could cause serious domestic unrest. Internationally, it would also rupture the aura of inevitability around the rise of the PRC. Control of Narrative In recent years, India’s foreign policy has been unable to meet all the demands of its small neighbours, and this has created opportunities for China. Also, as China does not share major land borders with countries in South Asia, it will bear little externalities from any disturbance in the region, unlike India which is directly affected. Geographically, India has the ability to project power in multiple theatres in its neighbourhood, and remains a major trading partner for many countries. India’s longer-standing ties also gives it a say in negotiations. India’s Regional Dominance Factors modulating China’s approach to the Subcontinent Ambivalent Factors While democracies are often messy, China’s party- state governance model coupled with a lack of democratic accountability gives it additional strategic options - such as faster and quieter mobilisation - which are not necessarily available to many countries in South Asia. Xi Jinping’s centralisation of power and the party-state nexus also makes the regime brittle and sensitive to tangible and reputational damage that democratic regimes can weather. Against this backdrop, a disastrous military adventure could cause a catastrophic political backlash. Political System
  • 12. 12 of 24 China’s geographical position grants it direct land access to most of Central Asia and Himalayas. As an upper riparian state, dam-building is a source of leverage, especially over India and Myanmar. While China has extensive presence across land borders, it does not have the same capacity over sea borders. Owing to the distance involved, China does not yet have the logistical capability to mount long-term operations in and around the Indian Ocean region. Geography Smaller states that have often faced international opprobrium and difficulties in securing investment due to human rights violations, authoritarian coups, and other issues now welcome the entry of China, which purportedly cares little for the regime in power. Political volatility and forces of nationalism could also cause short-term reverses if an anti-China figure comes to power. Political Instability The relative lack of economic development and demand for growth and infrastructure creates huge opportunities for Chinese companies and investors. On the other hand, this very lack of development hinders the ability of these countries to repay loans and deliver returns on investment. Less developed countries in the region Factors modulating China’s approach to the Subcontinent Ambivalent Factors
  • 13. 13 of 24 China’s growing strategic and economic footprint has made many of its neighbours, including India, uneasy. This has made them more likely to seek support from powers such as the US, which constrains China from being as assertive in its foreign policy as it would otherwise be. Fear of Growing Footprint The demand for energy in China makes it vulnerable, as it is dependent on imports through the Straits of Malacca, a strategic chokepoint. In order to reduce dependence, China is building ports and pipelines in countries like Pakistan and Myanmar, while also investing in renewable energy. But the surety of these supplies and their economic viability remain in question. Energy Constraints India is not the only rival for China in the region. The US and Japan also have considerable economic and strategic interests, with the US in particular enjoying an unrivalled ability to project hard power. This prevents China from effectively ramping up military strength, while also giving it the position of an alternative power in the region. Competition from other countries in the region Factors modulating China’s approach to the Subcontinent Negative Factors
  • 14. 14 of 24 China’s Ongoing Measures in the Indian Subcontinent Display of aggressive intent by Chinese armed forcesControl over resource streams Control Over People and Ideas These are “carrots” and “sticks” deployed pragmatically in order to support China’s long-term approaches. Denial/Provision of support at international fora • Control of water • Control of financial systems • Specific sanctions/dumping • Incursions and encroachment • Hot pursuits • Military signalling • Tourism flows • Visa denials • Propaganda & media signalling • Opportunistic support • Opportunistic denial of support
  • 15. 15 of 24 China is reaching a position of power that will allow it to exercise control over systems that it can deny to other countries in case of differences. These control measures will be used as bargaining chips depending on the issue at hand. One way China can do this is through control of water. As an upper riparian state in South Asia, it controls water flows of the Indus, the Brahmaputra, the Ganges, the Mekong, the Yangtze, Salween and the Yellow River. Through dam-building activities, China can inflict damage on countries through which these rivers pass, by either withholding water or even causing flash floods. China is also setting in structures that will allow it to control other countries’ financial Control over Resource StreamsChina's Ongoing Measures in Support of Long-Term Approaches systems. This could be done by investing huge amounts of capital, extending risky loans to countries that cannot repay them, and fostering a trade relationship whose balance is in China’s favour. Therefore, if the need arises, China can use this control to influence the country’s policy. China is already the major trade partner for many countries in the Indian subcontinent and many of these trade relationships are skewed in its favour. It can impose specific trade barriers on particular items of import that could hit the exporting country hard. Alternatively, China can also resort to dumping, which could deeply affect the domestic economies of the countries and injure local industries.
  • 16. 16 of 24 Military measures are a knob that China uses to put pressure on or convey a particular message to countries in the Indian subcontinent. China uses incursions as a tool for negotiating or projecting power with countries it shares a land border with. As the border with India and Bhutan remains under dispute, China can choose to escalate tensions between the two countries to either rally domestic sentiment in Bhutan or flex its muscle. China also encroaches into the territories of other countries to show its superior power and lack of respect for the other country’s sovereignty. China is also known to use these incursions and encroachments during state visits of foreign leaders for political signalling. Display of aggressive intent by Chinese armed forces China may also employ its military to crackdown on illegal activities or insurgents who share fraternal links across the border. For example, in North Myanmar, the Chinese military could briefly conduct operations on foreign territory under the purport of going after terrorists. Another measure that the Chinese military employs is signalling through military exercises near the Himalayan border. It also conducts naval exercises in conjunction with countries from the Indian subcontinent or in the waters of the Indian Ocean. Port calls and training exercises are also other military signals that China employs. China's Ongoing Measures in Support of Long-Term Approaches
  • 17. 17 of 24 China seeks to exert considerable control over people and ideas to support the narrative that it wants to project. This is done in a number of ways, primarily targeting citizens of other countries. Chinese tourists have become a major source of revenue for developing countries that depend on tourism for their economy. Chinese tourists are the largest in number in the Maldives and the second largest in Sri Lanka. By issuing a travel advisory or banning its citizens from going to visit these countries, China can easily signal political displeasure that will have a significant bearing on the recipient country. Control Over People & Ideas China also refuses to provide visas to people visiting China - particularly if they are known to have taken a stand that is perceived to be antithetical to the CPC’s core interests or interacted with people from Tibet or Xinjiang as these are considered sensitive topics. Finally, by holding a tight rein over Chinese media, China is able to use them for purposes of propaganda or signalling. Whether it is to indicate Chinese positions, its objections to others’ or to dictate the tone on particular issues, China uses media signalling to construct a narrative of its own liking. China's Ongoing Measures in Support of Long-Term Approaches
  • 18. 18 of 24 As one of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, China has significant clout it can use in favour or against a country. This also stands true for other international institutions or multilateral organisations where China is a stakeholder. China is also building new institutions where it hopes to sit at the head of the table. China provides opportunistic support to countries with which shares close ties, or to relatively unfriendly countries in order Denial/Provision of support at international fora to build support. China could also deny support when the opportunity arises. These actions allow China to dictate terms on which it engages with countries, even using this support as a bargaining chip for a quid pro quo on other issues. China’s support for Pakistan in the Wassenaar Arrangement and denial of support for India’s candidature into the Nuclear Suppliers Group are examples of how it has used its diplomatic positioning in the past. China's Ongoing Measures in Support of Long-Term Approaches
  • 19. 19 of 24 China’s Long-Term Approaches to the Indian Subcontinent Interfering in the domestic affairs of other statesInvesting in multi-purpose projects Providing strategic support to non-democratic regimes These are used to ensure that states remain broadly aligned with Chinese interests over the long term. Expanding Hard Power Reach
  • 20. 20 of 24 China’s Long-term Approaches to the Indian Subcontinent China provides loans, grants and foreign direct investments that are competitive and attractive. In addition, SoEs and private enterprises strategically export excess capacity into infrastructure projects that countries in the subcontinent desperately need. Some of these, such as oil and natural gas pipelines are invaluable to China too. The funding is not presented as “aid,” but as a transaction between equal partners, albeit with specific conditions that benefit Chinese contractors and can lead to ballooning debts for recipient states. China’s Approach Investing in multi-purpose projects This approach provides China the leverage to demand additional concessions such as strategically vital ports and bases in the region in case the loans are not repaid or returns on investments do not materialise. This can stoke nationalistic sentiments and even retaliation from non-state actors. Finally, China controls large parts of the financial systems of countries such as Pakistan, and the growing presence of yuan-based transactions will provide momentum and legitimacy to the Chinese economy. Economic Strength Multiple Chinese Actors Less developed countries in the region Energy Constraints Competition from Other Countries Positive Factors: amplify China’s involvement Ambivalent Factors: can amplify or restrict China’s involvement Negative Factors: restrict China’s involvement Maintaining Growth Momentum Securing Trade Routes and Energy Supplies China’s Motivations
  • 21. 21 of 24 China’s Long-term Approaches to the Indian Subcontinent China tries to project itself as a reliable, long-standing partner to secure its strategic and economic interests in the region, juxtaposing it to chaotic, argumentative democracies like India and the US. As part of this strategy, it has expanded diplomatic engagement and sought to serve as a broker in regional disputes. In doing so, it seeks to cultivate the impression of being a regional partner as opposed to a predatory external power. China also takes care to cultivate constituencies across the political spectrum of India’s neighbours. China has also gradually normalised its China’s Approach Interfering in the domestic affairs of other states own right to comment on the internal affairs of other countries - such as visits by the Dalai Lama to Arunachal Pradesh - while making it clear that reciprocal action would be a red line. These comments are made through both unofficial and official media outlets and spokespersons, making the actual position deliberately vague. The expansion of soft power through scholarships and Confucius Institute programmes has also helped China monopolise the position of the principal source of historical, cultural and civilisational narratives. Diplomatic Capacity Multiple Chinese Actors Fear of Growing Footprint Demand for alternative in region Geography Building Support for Core Interests Securing the Periphery and Protecting Overseas Assets Securing Trade Routes and Energy Supplies Positive Factors: amplify China’s involvement Ambivalent Factors: can amplify or restrict China’s involvement Negative Factors: restrict China’s involvement China’s Motivations
  • 22. 22 of 24 While China has shown a willingness to engage with any regime in power, it is evident that it provides strategic support for non-democratic regimes. This does not tie China down normatively and promotes its image of being politically indifferent. This approach leverages corruption, reaching out to sub-national leaders, the provision of political funding and the promotion of norms that go against the liberal international order. In addition, China provides diplomatic shielding on the international stage to such regimes pragmatically, to strategically China’s Approach Providing strategic support to non-democratic regimes increase their dependency on it. This can be seen through their actions in the 2018 Maldives Constitutional Crisis. China’s engagement with Pakistan is an interesting example of this approach. China has proven equally willing to engage with the civilian government and the Military-Jihadi Complex. China provides diplomatic cover on a long- term basis, but is not averse to imposing modest costs, as evident during the FATF meeting in Paris in February 2018. China’s Long-term Approaches to the Indian Subcontinent Diplomatic Capacity Competition from Other Countries Political Volatility India’s regional dominance Political System Competing with the US Building Support for Core Interests Securing the Periphery and Protecting Overseas Assets Positive Factors: amplify China’s involvement Ambivalent Factors: can amplify or restrict China’s involvement Negative Factors: restrict China’s involvement China’s Motivations
  • 23. 23 of 24 China’s Long-term Approaches to the Indian Subcontinent China has been attempting to increase its coercive power in the subcontinent. A key element of this has been through strategic infrastructure deals, specifically securing key ports such as Hambantota, Gwadar, and Jiwani. In addition, military-military engagement, including port calls, joint exercises, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief drills and counter-terrorism and anti-piracy operations also normalise the presence of Chinese forces in the region. China’s Approach Expanding Hard Power Reach Arms deals and other bilateral military exchanges (which could include nuclear technology if Pakistan is considered) also extend China’s footprint, as do intelligence sharing agreements. Competition from Other Countries Political Volatility Geography Diplomatic Capacity Military Capacity Enhancing Military Footprint Competing with the USBuilding Support for Core Interests Positive Factors: amplify China’s involvement Ambivalent Factors: can amplify or restrict China’s involvement Negative Factors: restrict China’s involvement China’s Motivations
  • 24. End. Discussions with Andrew Small, Lt. Gen. Prakash Menon, Nitin Pai, and Pranay Kotasthane helped in the development of this Slidedoc.