China´s expansionism: After Ladakh and Kashmir: Pashmir

China´s expansionism: After Ladakh and Kashmir: Pashmir

The latest analysis of Indo-Sino conflict in the Himalaya from German´s most influential foreign policy think tank SWP (Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik/ German Institute for International and Security Affairs) is a little bit biased, sinophile and mostly blames India for the conflict:

„The current confrontation in the western sector of the Ladakh region, which belongs to Kashmir, differs in several ways from earlier ones. Firstly, this time there are ter­ri­torial violations not just in one, but in five places. Secondly, it appears that far more Chinese troops are involved than in previous incidents. Thirdly, China is now claiming areas, such as the Galwan Valley, that were previously not disputed. The current confrontation seems to be due to a mixture of regional factors, such as the Kashmir conflict and growing geostrategic tensions between China, the United States, and India in the Indo-Pacific.(…)

Many Indian experts see the Modi govern­ment’s decision in August 2019 to dissolve the state of Jammu and Kashmir as a trigger for the current crisis. In the course of the reorganisation of Kashmir, two new union territories were created – including Ladakh – which are administered from New Delhi. In addition to Pakistan, China had protested against this decision at the time and had pushed through an informal meeting of the United Nations Security Council on the In­dian decision. China sees its interests being threatened in the Aksai Chin region, which belongs to Kashmir (see map). The People’s Republic has occupied this region, which contains an important access road to Tibet, since the border war of 1962.

Since August 2019, India has continued to expand its military infrastructure in Ladakh, while at the same time reaffirming its historical claim to the whole of Kashmir. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the largest single project of the Chinese Silk Road Initiative, also runs through the Paki­stani part of Kashmir. The Chinese terri­torial violations can thus be seen as a reac­tion to Indian policy in Kashmir in recent months.“

That the assessment of Chinese expansionism and incremental encroachment is much more realistic, is evidenced by the fact that after Beijing tries its five finger strategy against India, it is now also reaching out to Pashmir in Tajikistan as an article by the Jamestown Foundation describes:

Beijing Implies Tajikistan’s Pamir Region Should Be Returned to China

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 17 Issue: 112

By: Paul Goble

A major scandal has broken out between China, on the one hand, and Tajikistan and Russia, on the other, regarding alleged Chinese claims on the Pamir region. This past month, official outlets of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) repeatedly republished an article by Chinese historian Cho Yao Lu, who says that the entire Pamir region belonged to China at one time and consequently, he implies, Tajikistan should now or in the future return it to Beijing. Of course, such a territorial concession would dramatically change the geopolitical balance in this corner of Eurasia, affecting not only the position of the Central Asian countries but also those of neighboring Afghanistan and Western powers like the United States, whose military forces are deployed there.

Dushanbe has demanded that Beijing renounce this article and stop publishing others like it, and Russian outlets have sharply criticized what they suggest is an effort by the Chinese to test the waters regarding potential future border changes (, July 27;, July 20; Lenta, July 24;, July 25). The offending article, albeit written on a historical theme, has aggravated Tajikistani and Russian concerns that recent Chinese moves involving security and economic development in Tajikistan have been anything but altruistic. Increasingly, Dushanbe and Moscow view the PRC’s construction of border posts and airports in the Pamir region as well as its involvement in the gold mining industry there to be elements of a larger Chinese plan to eventually annex this area. Such an outcome would put China in a position to fully dominate a rump Tajikistan and northern Afghanistan as well.

In an article with the provocative title “Tajikistan Initiated the Transfer to China of Its Land and the Lost Mountains of the Pamir Were Returned to Their True Master,” Cho Yao Lu writes that, under pressure from Russia and the United Kingdom, China lost these territories in the 19th century but was able to reclaim a portion in 2010. That year, Dushanbe and Beijing agreed on a new border that required Tajikistan to hand over to China 1,158 square kilometers of territory in the mountainous Pamir region (see EDM, January 24, 2011; see China Brief, July 29, 2011)

That Chinese expansionism in the Far East of Russia and Central Asia could lead to a change of perception of the close Sino-Russian relations by Moscow is what John Mearsheimer and the Carnegie Foundation see as a midterm to longterm perspective for a Western- Russian cooperation if Beijing is getting too assertive and too powerful.

The South China Morning Post published an article about Russian fears about Chinese colonization and take over of its Far East and Siberia, on the one side pointing out that those fears could be exaggerated and overblown at the moment, on the other side claiming that this development might be a „geopolitical time bomb“ if Moscow cannot transfer enough Russians and resources to its Far East:

„Recent meetings between Beijing and Moscow – at the Belt and Road Forum last month and at a two-day summit last week in Russia – are the latest in a string of efforts to strengthen Sino-Russian ties, especially along the border. However, like many nations, Russia has found that working with China can be a double-edged sword.

Sino-Russian relations are “at their best time in history”, Chinese President Xi Jinping told Russian media attending the summit – words that were backed up with the announcement of a US$10 billion fund for cross-border infrastructure projects.

But for all the fanfare surrounding the fund, Chinese investment in the region is helping to fuel tension, raising fears of China’s growing presence in the Russian Far East. A side effect of Beijing’s investment – an influx of Chinese migrants – is often perceived by locals as an expression of China’s de facto territorial expansion. Some Russian political groups and media outlets have tapped into this anxiety and deliberately sensationalised it. An apocalyptic film China – a Deadly Friend (in the series “Russia Deceived”) became an instant internet hit after its release in 2015. In the film, we are told China is preparing to invade the RFE in its quest for global dominance and that Chinese tanks could reach the centre of the city of Khabarovsk within 30 minutes. Just 30km from the Chinese border, Khabarovsk is the second largest city in the RFE after Vladivostok and the region’s administrative centre.

The fear-mongering notwithstanding, the scale of migration is actually not that large. According to Russia’s census of 2010, the number of Chinese residing in the country was just 29,000, down from 35,000 in 2002 – no more than 0.5 per cent of the total population of the RFE.

Other estimates, however, put the number of Chinese in Russia at 300,000 to 500,000. (…)

The scale of the Chinese presence in the RFE is still comparatively small. In the coming years it is likely to grow – not dramatically, but at a moderate pace.

Economic interests of both sides are complementary, not conflicting. The RFE needs Chinese labour resources, money and technologies. China needs RFE’s land, natural resources and markets. This will foster stronger economic links, and this is a plus-sum game.

That said, there is a risk that those stronger links may also raise anxieties and tensions, especially on the Russian side, and may amplify nationalistic and xenophobic sentiments. To address this challenge, both governments have to aptly prioritise their economic agendas while neutralising the potentially negative impact on public opinion.

Russia will have to accommodate, step by step, more and more Chinese, providing a comfortable working and living environment, making them abide by their rules, and at the same time explaining to the RFE residents that their fears are exaggerated.Interaction with the Chinese will be productive only if more Russians choose to live and work in the RFE, drawn in by improved infrastructure and new industries. Otherwise, as President Vladimir Putin put it, the majority of Russia’s population there will speak Chinese, Japanese or Korean… but first of all Chinese, no doubt. The issue of the Chinese in the RFE is definitely manageable, but only if Russia is able to attract more Russians to the region. If not, then the growing Chinese presence may become a geopolitical bomb. „

Ivan Tselichtchev is a professor and faculty dean at the Niigata University of Management in Japan and author of China Versus the West: The Global Power Shift of the 21st Century

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