by Dr Lin Cheng
At its centenary, the Chinese Communist Party has transformed into an individual-centric party with centralisation of power in President Xi Jinping. In the recent years, Xi has tightened his grip over the party, eliminating space for any political freedom and possible second rung leadership. The centralisation of power has come through purging senior officials not only within the CCP but also the Peoples Liberation Army. The purging of officials is also aimed at nurturing his own set of loyalists both in the CCP and PLA, resulting in greater dissatisfaction among their senior members. A leading Chinese dissident and scholar from the Party School, Cai Xia, has stated: ‘Communist regime is much weaker than it looks’.
Xi’s overly suspicious behaviour and self-imposing approach has manifested into increased repression, highlighting his insecurity and fragility. Under him, China, though seems to be politically and economically powerful, is riven with contradictions. Simmering political differences and the failure of China to offload its excess capacity have left the Chinese economy stagnant. This has become more pronounced during the COVID-19 with Xi showing signs of his political insecurity through increased repression and media censorship.
The current phase of Beijing’s assertiveness on a number of fronts, including against India is consequent to Xi’s insecurity given his domestic concerns and propensity to take risk at times of domestic crises.
This has been exhibited in the PLA’s belligerent attitude against the Philippines, its increased military activity in the vicinity of Taiwan, Xi’s ranting during the 100th Anniversary of the CCP and continued aggressive behaviour against India. These activities of the PLA are part of a larger scheme, pointing towards Beijing’s aggression even while there is emerging evidence against China on its role in the spread of Coronavirus.
In context of India, Xi, to ward off his internal distractions, could carry out hostile activities possibly in the Eastern Sector (Arunachal Pradesh) bordering Tibet. This has to be seen in the backdrop of the following:
An increase in the PLA’s activities in its Tibet Military Region. The PLA has carried out about 100 military exercises since January in Tibet including a recent one in June, wherein, it carried out a multi-dimensional exercise involving integrated operations between its aviation and ground forces.
The PLA is developing military logistics facilities in the TMR including in Xigatse to improve mobility of its troops for operations in the Eastern Sector. The Xigatse site includes an upgraded airport linked with rail. Besides, a surface to air missile site, logistics support complex, a POL depot and an underground missile storage facility are also being constructed there.
With the Lhasa-Nyingchi section of Sichuan-Tibet rail line becoming operational (June 25), the PLA’s 77th Group Army stationed at Chongqing and Sichuan and affiliated to the Western Theatre Command can be mobilised for deployment to carry out offensive operations on Indian border, whenever required.
Creation of a network of more than 600 ‘Border Defence Villages’ by China on border with India in Arunachal Pradesh Sector. This network would provide logistical support to the PLA and is also aimed to bolster China’s territorial claim over Arunachal Pradesh.
Deployment of militiamen from ‘Special Tibetan Army Unit (STAU)’ by the PLA in Yatung County in TAR for the purpose of carrying out subversive activities against India. The militiamen have been enrolled for infiltration behind the Indian defence positions to support the PLA’s operations.
Besides, they would also support Chinese forces by conducting reconnaissance and sabotage in the enemy territory. This deployment of STAU personnel assumes greater significance when seen in context of military drills carried out (June 2020) by the PLA involving night infiltration operations behind the enemy lines.