China’s objections to the joint Indo-US military exercises conducted just 100 km from the Sino-Indian border seem to have fallen upon deaf ears. On Thursday, a spokesperson of the Indian Foreign Ministry stated that the exercises have “nothing to do with the 1993 and 1996 agreements” in place with the People’s Republic of China. “Since these were raised by the Chinese side, let me emphasize that the Chinese side needs to reflect and think about its own breach of these agreements of 1993 and 1996.” The ’93 agreement centers on maintaining peace along the Line of Actual Control. This is the area where the 2020 border clashes between Indian and Chinese troops occurred, which led to multiple deaths on both sides. So it goes without saying that the appearance of US troops in Uttarakhand and conducting exercises with Indian forces served to rub Beijing the wrong way. Defense ties between the US and India have grown strong in recent years. China’s behavior and actions have helped push together the US and Indian desire to counter and contain the PRC.
The budding military rivalry between China and India is not restricted to the Himalayas. The two Asian giants are maneuvering for influence and control in and around the Indian Ocean region. Geopolitically, Beijing’s encroachment here is motivated at least partly by China’s determination to be regarded as the ascendant leader among Great Power equals. The ‘String of Pearls’ doctrine in the IO region was intended to encircle India. By investing in ports, infrastructure and defense exports to India’s immediate neighbors China has laid the foundation for future military bases and cooperation in the event of a large Sino-Indian war.
Following the pre-G20 meeting between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, as well as Xi’s apparent diplomatic outreach at the G20, China’s defense ministry is open to meeting with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin at a gathering of ASEAN defense ministers in Cambodia set for Tuesday or Wednesday. An actual meeting between Austin and his Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe has not been officially scheduled, but it does seem likely the two defense chiefs will meet while in Cambodia. Austin and Wei have not met or communicated since China suspended dialogue with the US in August after Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. On the surface this appears to be the latest indication that relations between the US and China are moving in a more positive direction now.
Whether this holds true remains to be seen, but it’s evident that Beijing wants to at least be viewed as seeking a more productive relationship with the US and nations in the Western Pacific. For the domestic audience it portrays an image of China being treated as an equal. This has the potential to provide much needed political dividends for Xi down the line as the future of COVID-19 restrictions remains fluid. On the international stage the image of a less assertive and belligerent China should give Xi a temporary buffer and allow him to either deal with the slew of domestic matters or set the stage for the next phase of maneuvers on the geopolitical chessboard. Or both, perhaps.
It’s been a tension-filled afternoon and evening on NATO’s Eastern Flank after a Russian-made missile landed in Poland, a short distance away from the Ukrainian frontier. It did not take long for the media to assume the missile belonged to the Russian military. In the absence of facts, the media speculated, and soon the Polish government called an emergency meeting. Social media reports took over from here and it was not very long before World War III was trending on Twitter and other platforms this afternoon.
As it stands now, there has been no confirmation that the missiles were Russian, in spite of supposed remarks by a US ‘intelligence official’ that they were. The US government, as well as other Western allies are investigating but have not been able to confirm the cause of the explosion. Two Polish citizens were killed in the blast, however little beyond this is known for certain. Consultations are taking place across Europe this evening. Poland has invoked Article 4 and tomorrow NATO ambassadors will meet to discuss the matter in detail.
Russia has denied that any of its missiles had been targeted at any points in proximity to the Polish border. The incident did occur around the same time a heavy wave of Russian missiles struck power infrastructure targets around Ukraine, causing considerable damage.
As the night goes on, hopefully more solid information will become known. We’ll follow up with an update here late tomorrow morning.
Sino-US relations continue to deteriorate and storm clouds continue to gather on the horizon on the Western Pacific. To the surprise of many, the US Navy is only now starting to accept the possibility of a new Pacific War breaking out in the near future. In the same manner of Rip Van winkle, the US Navy is emerging from its extended slumber and coming to terms with a changed world and evolving threats. The reasons for the slumber are numerous and spurred by non-similar root causes ranging from a two-decade long Global War on Terror, budgetary constraints, broken-down procurement, and ship building programs. Last but hardly least is the reckless complacency that the ensconced the Navy since the end of the Cold War.
The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is growing by leaps and bounds. China has put together a navy intended to not only spearhead an effort to reclaim Taiwan, but also to challenge the US Navy and American allies on seas east of the Second Island Chain. The modern-day PLAN is a blue water navy in nearly every respect, having become the greatest threat to American supremacy of the seas in decades.
As the US Navy moves to address its current deficiencies and face the threat posed by China’s navy, it needs to keep in mind the importance of sound training centered on fighting and winning a modern war at sea. Many officers and senior NCOs cut their teeth in Iraq and Afghanistan. The lessons and experiences drawn from these conflicts are inapplicable to fighting a modern-day war against a near-peer opponent. In short, the lost art of naval warfare will need to be relearned service wide.
Designing an effective doctrine to fight and win a war against China has proved to be difficult too. This is a military-wide problem with every service branch focusing on its own role in a future war, not looking at the big picture. AirSea Battle became the grand strategy in 2010, only to be replaced five years later by Joint Concept for Access and Maneuver in the Global Commons (JAM-GC), which is the same basic doctrine. However, since 2015 scant attention has been paid to overhauling and updating the doctrine to contend with the growing power and reach of the PLAN and PLAAF. With the Navy growing more concerned about the prospect of having to fight China at some point before 2025, doctrine development needs to become a major priority for leadership.
Joe Biden and Xi Jinping will hold a face-to-face meeting on Monday in Indonesia just before the opening of the G20 summit. This will be the first in-person meeting between the US and Chinese leaders since Biden took office in January 2021 and comes at a point where Sino-US tensions are on the rise due to several issues from the war in Ukraine to Taiwan. Members of the Biden administration have said the purpose of the mini summit will be to set expectations. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters today that Biden “will get to sit in the same room with Xi Jinping, be direct and straightforward with him as he always is and expect the same in return from Xi.”
It is worth mentioning that Biden tried the same approach with Vladimir Putin in Switzerland back in the summer of 2021 and it failed miserably. Hence the Russia-Ukraine war currently raging.
For this go-around, the stakes are higher for the United States. Xi has consolidated his hold on power and appears to be chomping at the bit to confront the US should Washington decide on a policy of containment to hold back an expansionist move on the part of Xi and China. Biden placed himself and the nation in a corner when he publicly affirmed that the US will defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion. That comment, coupled with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan sent US-China relations plummeting and introduced an period of Chinese military exercises around the island-nation as well as a round of attempted coercive diplomacy by Beijing around the Western Pacific.