It could be argued that one of the biggest challenges faced by China in invading Tibet was the poor network of roads in Tibet, because of the lack of motorable roads in Tibet it failed to act as per its scheduled time. Otherwise, the Party is known for its timely strike. In one of the letters sent to the Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in January 1959, Chinese Premier, Zhou Enlai mentioned that ‘Conditions were not ripe for the settlement of borders.’ And later it was found that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) failed to invade Tibet as per the scheduled plan because of the lack of a motorable road to bring military machinery to Tibet. The construction of the motorable road in Droklam is not an isolated plan to irritate Bhutan and India. The paper highlights the strategic importance of roads in the India-China War of 1962 and the strategic significance of the Droklam plateau. Furthermore, the paper attempts to show that the construction of the motorable road in Droklam is not an isolated event but rather a strategic move to gain long-term control over the land. This paper also examines China’s strategic thinking and behavior in the South China Sea, particularly on Mischief Reef, and compares it with its strategic behavior towards India.
Keywords: China, Belt and Road Initiative, India, Tibet, South China Sea.
Maybe for the first time in the history of the Chinese Communist Party’s existence, it failed to act as per its scheduled time. Otherwise, the Party is known for its timely strike. In one of the letters sent to the Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in January 1959, Chinese Premier, Zhou Enlai mentioned that ‘Conditions were not ripe for the settlement of borders.’ And later it was found that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) failed to invade Tibet as per the scheduled plan because of the lack of proper roads connecting Tibet to China.
Historically, empires have always given utmost importance to roads. For instance, the Assyrian empire in Western Asia began what is believed to be the first organized road-building, and continued it for 500 to 600 years. Since the Assyrian empire was trying to dominate that part of the world, it had to be able to move its armies effectively along with supplies and equipment (Sponholtz). The Roman Empire was known for its straightest and most complex network of roads in the world. The good network of roads served two purposes for the Roman Empire. During wartime with its neighboring kingdoms, it served for the quick deployment of soldiers and thus helped the Roman Empire to out-pace its enemies. On the other hand, the well-connected roads helped the empire for sending quick reinforcements and to crush rebellions in its conquered colonies (Tsultrim 2016). Both empires emerged victorious in many battles and ruled for many years. The common feature about both empires was their priorities given to the construction of roads and their efficient utilization during peacetime as well as in wartime.
The condition of transportation in Independent Tibet
In the past when transport was confined exclusively to pack animals, roads were little more than rough tracks, and there were no major bridges. Some rivers were crossed either in yak-skin boats holding ten people or in large wooden ferries carrying about thirty animals and men (Shakabpa 2010, 10). Hence in those days, there were no such proper roads for traveling across Tibet. However, there were trade routes. From Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir, a route runs to Leh, the capital of Ladakh, and thence through southern Tibet to Shigatse and Lhasa. From Lhasa, a much-used route goes to Chamdo (Bell 2000, 18). Charles Bell further clarifies that “It will be readily understood that the word ‘trade-route’ does not connote a well-made road. The tracks, along which the trade passes, are sometimes very rough” (Bell 2000, 18). Not only that, the construction of the jeep road by the British Trade Agent from Phari and Gyantse in 1930 was objected to by the local people after it was in operation for a few months.
To summarize, there was hardly any sign of good roads in Tibet except for the usual trade routes taken by the traders. In those days, depending on the needs and necessities, most of the developments took place in Tibet. For instance, as early as the 14th century, a Tibetan mahasiddha, Tangtong Gyalpo was known for his unparalleled skill as an architect, blacksmith, civil engineer, artist, writer of operas, and dispeller of epidemics (Oakley 2012).
By the end of his life, Tangtong had constructed fifty-eight iron bridges, sixty wooden bridges, and 118 ferries. His biographies mention only about a dozen of these iron bridges by name and location, but many more have survived in different regions of Tibet and Bhutan to the present day (Streans 2007, 40). One of the main purposes behind the construction of iron bridges is the number of rivers in Tibet. Hence, the bridges were necessary for the Tibetan people to cross. In other words, the construction of highways and later railways undertaken by the party-state is based on its strategic and political interests. No sooner had the PLA troops entered Eastern Tibet, that they began building roads. Strategic development continued in Tibet for more than two decades, and certainly, the most spectacular aspect of the overall development in Tibet from 1950 to 1976, has been strategic or military-oriented. Thus, it indicated the significance of roads for the Chinese army (Norbu 2008, 688). In short, the infrastructure developments in Tibet are based on the strategic and political interests of Communist China, hence it was engineered to serve the interests of Communist China.
Strategic Importance of the road network during the India-China War of 1962
During the invasion of Tibet, Mao Zedong had given strict instructions to the PLA about the construction of roads from China to Tibet. Mao ordered the PLA as it prepared to ‘liberate’ Tibet to ‘advance while building roads (J. W. Garver 2001, 83). Hence the construction of roads was given the utmost importance by the PLA. Even after the complete invasion of Tibet, the Chinese Communist Party made its biggest priority to connect all the isolated parts of Tibet for better control over the Tibetan people and its borders with the neighboring countries.
On 6 August 2014, China celebrated its 60th anniversary of the opening of the Chengdu-Lhasa highway (CCP calls it the Sichuan-Tibet highway) and Xining-Lhasa highway” (CCP calls it ‘The Qinghai-Tibet highway’). In short, the construction of these two highways were completed in 1954, much before the war with India. In a written comment which was made public on Wednesday, on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the opening of two highways, President Xi Jinping noted ‘The two highways played a vital role in Tibet’s social system, economic and social development, as well as consolidating the southwest frontiers and promoting national unity (Zhang 2014). However, in reality, the most vital thing the two highways did was to consolidate their occupation of Tibet and their vital role as military supply lines during the India-China War of 1962.
For a few years, the Indian government ignored the PLA activities in Aksai Chin located in north-western India for several reasons and gave higher priority to the development of its relations with China. However, Beijing’s announcement of its road-building activities in Aksai Chin made it impossible to continue to ignore China’s presence there. India protested and then started sending patrols to the area. The Sino-Indian boundary conflict had begun (J. W. Garver 2001, 89). The construction of the road in the Aksai Chin further heightened India’s sense of insecurity about China.
Bruce Riedel in his book JFK’s Forgotten Crisis: Tibet, the CIA, and the Sino-Indian War, states that ‘The Chinese, by contrast, had made the building of roads and other supply facilities a high priority since they entered Tibet in 1950, seeing their constructions as a means to entrench their occupation of the province.’ He further adds, ‘The building of major roads in Aksai Chin connecting the Chinese regions of Tibet and Xinjiang had been a precipitating factor in the build-up of tensions in the late 1950s’ (Riedel 2016, 91).
All the above highways later served as major supply lines and facilitated China’s plan for simultaneous attacks on all sectors of the Indian border with Tibet. R.S. Kalha, a former Indian ambassador to Iraq, was quoted in an article published in The Quint, a digital news outlet, on 5 July 2017, where he asserted that ‘The Chinese attack began simultaneously in all sectors of the border, both in the west and in the east, at the same time―5 am IST on 20 October 1962―completely synchronized as per Beijing time’ (Malhotra 2017).
Thus, it clearly shows that after the successful construction of all three roads connecting Tibet to China, the attacks carried out by China against India in 1962 were premeditated.
Strategic Significance of the Droklam Plateau
The road construction activities by the PLA in the disputed region between Tibet, Bhutan, and India are neither something new nor an isolated event. As early as the late 1950s, during the India-China war, China started claiming the Droklam plateau. Ever since 1988, PLA patrols regularly cut past Bhutan’s claim line, the Sinche La ridge, using a network of dirt tracks that lead up to Chele La post, the country’s permanent position on the Zompelri ridge, which leads westward from India’s Doka La post (Swami 2017).
Tsering Shakya, an authority on modern Tibetan history has stated that ‘The dispute is not about Dromo county, but a part of it called DrokLam, Tibetan for ‘Nomads’ Path’, which Indians call Doklam. It’s about 600 sq km, about the size of Toronto (Shakya 2017). He further adds, ‘This narrow valley was one of the important trade routes between India and Tibet and the hamlet of Dromo was the staging post for all goods entering and leaving Tibet.’ However, besides being an important trade route between India and Tibet, this route was also used by invaders from India, such as Bhaktiyar Khilji, a Muslim conqueror and Governor of Bengal under the Delhi Sultanate attempted invasion of Tibet in the 13th century from the Chumbi Valley. Later, Major Younghusband too have taken this route for an invasion of Tibet during 1903-1904. Major Francis Younghusband mentioned the vulnerability and importance of the Chumbi Valley in these very words:
Chumbi is the key to Tibet. It is also the most difficult part of the road to Lhasa. Situated in the Chumbi Valley, we should have a clear run into Tibet, for the Tang-la (pass) across the watershed is an open plain several miles wide. The Chumbi Valley is the only strategical point of value in the whole north-eastern frontier from Kashmir to Burma. It was the surest guarantee for the fulfillment of the new Treaty which we could possibly get, except the establishment of an agent at Lhasa, and the obtaining of a guarantee had from the first been placed as one of the chief objects of my Mission (Younghusband 1910, 297).
Sun Tzu (a famed Chinese general, military strategist, and philosopher) in his famous treatise called The Art of War mentioned six kinds of terrains or grounds during a battle with an enemy. From the above description given by Major Francis Younghusband, it appears that the valley in question is an ‘entangling ground’. According to Sun Tzu, ‘A ground which can be abandoned but is hard to re-occupy is called an entangling ground. From a position of this sort, if the enemy is unprepared, you may sally forth and defeat him. But if the enemy is prepared for your coming, and you fail to defeat him, then, return being impossible, disaster will ensue (Tzu 2005, 63-64).’ For instance, after marching for fifteen days Bakhtiar Khilji reached Tibet, possibly the Chumbi Valley. He started looting Tibetan villages. There was an uprising among the Tibetans who inflicted heavy casualties on Bakhtiar’s forces. Bakhtiar then decided to withdraw to Bengal but all along the escape route, the hilly forces carried on a relentless guerrilla-style attack on the Turkish army (Sengupta 2011, 63). Despite the development in science and technology, the security importance of the Chumbi Valley is still relevant. John W. Garver has elucidated the security perception of the Indian government as early as 2001:
Indian security perceptions regarding the defence of the northeast are influenced by the fact that the region is connected to the rest of India by only a narrow strip of land lying between Nepal and Bangladesh… Through that narrow corridor run the roads and rail lines between India’s northeastern states and the Indian heartland. The distance from Yadong to Siliguri is only a bit over one hundred kilometers. The Chumbi Valley is full of strong PLA bases, and the road between Yadong and Lhasa is one of two funnels through which could be poured the PLA strength normally concentrated between Shigatze and Zedang (J. W. Garver 2001, 96).
According to Tibetan historian Tsering Shakya, the narrow valley was one of the important trade routes between India and Tibet and the hamlet of Dromo (གྲོ་མོ་) was the staging post for the traders. Hence, for British India, the staging post was the Chumbi Valley, for Newar merchants from Nepal it came under the name of Sharsingma (ཤར་གསིང་མ་), and for the Chinese, Yatung, now written as Yadong. Like the narrow valley is known by different names, this valley has also served different purposes other than a trade route.
Strategic Significance of Infrastructure Developments along the Indo-Tibet Border and Its Implications
The latest road construction by the PLA in Droklam too is not an isolated incident, it was a well-planned strategy pursued by CCP to claim Droklam as its own. In an insightful paper written by Ron E. Hassner, The Path to Indivisibility: Time and the Entrenchment of Territorial Disputes, the author argues that the construction of material links (for example, roads) and symbolic links (such as temples and churches) in the disputed territory would further integrate the disputed territory in question with the occupying state. For instance, in the case of Golan Heights, to support the handful of settlers and improve the mobility of its military forces, the government initiated an extension of Israel’s road and water infrastructure into the Golan. Israel’s bus lines started serving Golan residents in 1968 (Hassner 2004). Since late 2016, the Chinese government has pushed the policy of developing “well-off villages in border areas” (边境地区小康村建设规划, bianjing diqu xiaokang cun jianshe guihua) in the Tibet as a part of its rural revitalization programme. The Tibet government’s 2017 Work Report, for the first time, mentioned “the construction of well-off villages and simultaneous relocation of Tibetans in these villages (Desai 2021, 16).
This policy has been further given a fillip in the latest China’s Five-Year Plan of 2021. Where in addition to the strategic border infrastructures like highways, railways, and airports, in its Five-Year-Plan, China included the promotion of prosperity and stability of the border and improving the work and living conditions in border areas as well as the system of cities and towns along the border which include the construction of border villages (Tibet Policy Institute 2021, 5). According to the Chinese government-affiliated website Tibet.cn, by the end of 2021, the construction of all 624 well-off border villages in the Tibet Autonomous Region has been finished. Each administrative village has got access to electricity, internet, running water, and hardened roads; the food, clothing, housing, and transportation of the masses have been greatly improved (China Tibet Online 2022).
All the above activities further strengthened the ties between the disputed territory and the occupying state. Hence, it is more difficult to compromise in the future, because the disputed territory in question has been symbolically as well as materially linked to the occupying state. Hence, the building of a border village along the Line of Actual Control by the Chinese government may further escalate the process of entrenchment (Mohan 2021). Not only this but besides entrenching their territorial claims on the disputed border areas these villages on completion, would act as border watch posts for the PLA. It would also help China in limiting cross-border Tibetan migration and, more importantly, would reaffirm the PRC’s claims on the disputed territories along the India-China border (Desai 2021, 19).
In times of conflict with India, these infrastructure developments could be effectively used. Most of the time, the Xiaokang (moderately-well-off) villages are linked to infrastructure development, particularly on India’s border. Hundreds of examples could be given. To cite one, the Pai-Metok (Pai-Mo) Highway, linking Nyingchi to Metok, north of the Upper Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh, will be opened in July 2021 (Arpi 2020). Later the above highway was opened in May 2021 (China Tibet Online 2022).
Hence, whenever there is construction work carried out along the Indo-Tibet border by China, it should not be perceived as an isolated event, because China rarely takes any steps which are isolated in nature. The construction of artificial islands and other infrastructure developments around the disputed Islands in the South China Sea is also not an isolated event. These are all related to their political and strategic objectives for the future. In the following paper, China’s construction spree in the South China Sea will be discussed.
China’s Tentacles in the South China Sea: A Sea of Constructions and Claims
In the 21st century, the South China Sea is another place, where China is undertaking a series of constructions one after another on the islands around the South China Sea. This section of the paper will focus on the Mischief Reef Incident. According to China, she has been late in the race for construction around the South China Sea. However, the kind of frenetic constructions she has undertaken so far has alarmed all the neighbouring countries around the South China Sea, including the United States of America’s strategic and geopolitics interests. The dispute involves the overlapping claims of six governments to territorial sovereignty and maritime rights, encompasses the main sea lines of communication that connect Southeast Asia with Northeast Asia, covers large fishing grounds, and may contain vast reserves of oil and natural gas (Fravel 2011). In short, the importance of the South China Sea is best described in Asia’s Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific authored by the geopolitical analyst Robert D. Kaplan:
The South China Sea functions as the throat of the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans―the mass of connective economic tissue where global sea routes coalesce…The oil transported through the Malacca Strait from the Indian Ocean, en route to East Asia through the South China Sea, is triple the amount that passes through the Suez Canal and fifteen times the amount that transits the Panama Canal. Roughly two-thirds of South Korea’s energy supplies, nearly 60 percent of Japan’s and Taiwan’s energy supplies, and 80 percent of China’s crude oil imports come through the South China Sea (Kaplan 2014, 9-10).
All the above factors have contributed to the claims and counter-claims by the countries involved, leading to a whirlpool of tense situations.
China’s Steady Policy Shift on the South China Sea from Diplomacy to the Gunboat Diplomacy
China’s strategic thinking over the South China Sea has undergone a steady shift since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949 to the current situation when China has emerged as the most powerful claimant in the South China Sea dispute. The current claims of sovereignty over the islands by the PRC (Earlier Republic of China (ROC)) are based on eight facts as claimed by China which date from 1946-1949 period (Granados 2006, 155).
During the initial period, because it was preoccupied with its internal problems and weak naval strength, China’s policy towards the South China Sea was almost non-existent. The obvious reason is that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) navy was almost non-existent; it consisted only of elements that had defected from the Nationalist navy…Most PLA soldiers did not know how to fight on the sea (Granados 2006, 162). Without the proper naval superiority, it is very difficult to patrol and control the vast area of the South China Sea. Thus, it might be one of the reasons why the PRC neglected the South China Sea. Hence, in the absence of the means to defend its maritime interests militarily, the PRC felt that it had to push its claims diplomatically, just as the ROC had done in January 1947, when it protested the French occupation of Pattle Island, and again in April 1949, when it protested against Manila’s pretensions in the Spratlys (Granados 2006, 163). Hence, the above events clearly show that, militarily, China was not in a position to secure control of the South China Sea and instead decided to push its claims through diplomatic channels. This is best elaborated by Professor Shee Poon Kim, a long-time watcher of the South China Sea dispute, in the following words:
…From 1949 to 1989, China did not formulate a coherent and long-term strategic policy towards the South China Sea, but it was subsumed under China’s overall foreign policy objectives in the Cold War era, that is, anti-hegemonism from the 1950s to the 1970s and seeking independence and peaceful coexistence in the 1980s. Therefore, for more than five centuries, from 1433 to 1987, China’s policies towards the South China Seas were to a large extent one of neglect until it began to reassert itself through the occupation of seven reefs in the wake of the Sino-Vietnamese clashes over Johnson Reef in March 1988 (Kim 1998, 370).
However, with its steady economic growth over the past many decades, China has now emerged as the next economic superpower followed by its rising military power. Hence, today, to reclaim its lost territories as claimed by China in the South China Sea, China’s foreign policies in the South China Sea and elsewhere are guided by gunboat diplomacy.
Chinese Constructions on the Mischief Reef and its Significance
However, gradually China began to change its strategic perception towards the South China Sea. In January 1995, a group of Filipino fishermen reported to Philippine military authorities that they had been detained by Chinese troops on Mischief Reef. This led Manila to discover that platforms consisting of octagonal bunker-type structures, and satellite equipment, had been built by China on the previously unoccupied reef (Storey and Yee 2002, 260). Due to this incident, a Mexican standoff prevailed around the South China Sea. Initially, for a few weeks, China denied the construction of structures on Mischief Reef. Later, China’s Foreign Minister Qian Qichen claimed that it was built by authorities of Hainan for the convenience of Chinese fishermen around the Spratly Island (Kim 1998, 370).
The Chinese occupation of the Mischief Reef marked a significant change in China’s thinking on its political, economic, strategic, and security interests in the South China Sea. Indeed, its policies towards the South China Sea have gone through three distinct phases of development: firstly, the pattern of “low profile” policy in the 1950s and 1960s; secondly, the pattern of growing concern in the 1970s; and thirdly, the pattern of growing assertiveness in the 1980s and 1990s (Kim 1998, 379). The occupation of Mischief Reef by China in February 1995 departed from its previous policy of conciliation through diplomacy. Following the incident, there was a series of diplomatic exchanges and visits of the heads of countries toward the finding of a satisfactory resolution to the Mischief Reef issue. However, despite this series of bilateral diplomacy, things were not happening as per the Philippines’ expectations. Aileen San Pablo-Baviera, a Professor at the Asian Centre, University of Philippines has made the following remarks:
Unfortunately, despite this active and reciprocal bilateral diplomacy, the Philippines was not only unable to move China towards a more satisfactory resolution of the Mischief Reef issue, but China even reinforced its presence in October 1998 by building a permanent multistory building in place of the original structures that the Philippines had wanted to be dismantled (Storey and Yee 2002, 260).
Thus, despite all the diplomatic engagements with the Philippines, China continued to upgrade its physical presence on the Mischief Reef. These structures were subsequently upgraded into a permanent military fortress in November 1998.And in May 1996, the PRC extended its baseline claims to the Paracel Islands, thereby extending its claims in the South China Sea by an extra 965,000 square miles (Storey and Yee 2002, 217). Professor Shee Poon Kim (1998) concluded that … “In this sense, the occupation of Mischief Reef was not a surprise but a rationally calculated move by Beijing, and indeed a manifestation of China’s growing nationalism, economic power, and confidence.”
Professor Kim’s statement may still apply to current China’s strategic behaviours. Similarly, in Droklam too, after 73 days of the standoff between India and China, due to the diplomatic engagements between the two countries, expeditious disengagement of border personnel at the face-off site was agreed upon on 28 August 2017 as per the statement released by the Ministry of External Affairs of India. However, on 5 March 2018, Defence Minister, Nirmala Sitharam was quoted in the Indian Express, as saying “Indian and Chinese troops have “redeployed” themselves away from the face-off site in Doklam, and China has undertaken construction of helipads, sentry posts and trenches for its army personnel there” (PTI 2018).
Despite having a series of bilateral diplomatic engagements after the 73 days of standoff, China has continued the construction works and even undertaken the construction of helipads and other military installations. Hence, there are many similarities between the strategic behavior shown by China in dealing with the Philippines and India over territorial disputes.
Hence, as per the arguments put forward by Hassner, through the process of encroachment of material links and symbolic links, one may conclude that China is trying to strengthen its claims through the construction of a series of physical structures over the islands of the South China Sea and others. This is further validated by the current eight claims made by China in the South China Sea dispute (Granados 2006, 155).
In the eight claims made by China, the following three claims are noteworthy in connection to its physical presence: 1) administrative organs were established and permanent garrisons deployed in the Paracels and Spratlys, 2) stone tablets were erected on several islands in an official ceremony, 3) meteorological stations were established in both the Paracels and the Spratlys and which China claims are internationally recognized. The construction of roads and other permanent military installations near the disputed border may become a source of future claims by China. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is another such mass construction that may create more problems than opportunities claimed by China.
The Belt and Road Initiative: an initiative for whom?
Numerous scholars and analysts share the same views about the reasons for China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Most of them view BRI’s greater advantages for China, thus getting lion’s share in the end. Economic factors have been a key influence behind the initiative. Current overcapacity in Chinese steel and construction sectors may be mitigated by the large infrastructure projects that the initiative would require. Chinese domestic development will falter without access to significant energy resources (Policy 2016, 2). Along with its economic goals, China’s several strategic goals to are being fulfilled. For instance, some projects will also support China’s ability to project military strength in the region. The development of the port of Gwadar in Pakistan will give China access to the Indian Ocean for commercial purposes and could serve as a deep-water port for its navy (Meltzer 2017). China’s Central Asian security is also strengthened better than before. If completed, the initiative will allow China to have an extensive presence in Central Asia. As a region, Central Asia faces significant security problems such as border security, terrorism, and drug smuggling (Policy 2016, 5). Thus, BRI is viewed by many as concealing China’s strategic ambitions, which scares the rest of the world. Even the project’s name has generated enough fear, compelling China to later change its name.
The present ambitious pet project of President Xi Jinping, initially called One Belt, One Road (OBOR), now officially changed its name to the Belt and Road Initiative in early 2015. The change of name was implemented because of various interpretations as well as doubts surrounding the word ‘One’ in its first original English version called ‘One Belt One Road.’ Where partner countries tend to think of ‘One’ as the availability of only one land belt and one maritime road. And also, the word ‘One’ connotes ‘China-centered institution-building (Una Aleksandra 2016). Hence, to avoid further confusion among the partner countries, the name of the project was changed after many deliberations with experts from different organizations.
After putting their heads together and consulting renowned organizations, such as the Central Compilation and Translation Bureau of the People’s Republic of China and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) came up with a new acronym BRI, better known as ‘The Belt and Road Initiative’ (Shepard 2017).
The construction of the motorable road in Droklam is not an isolated plan to irritate Bhutan and India. Through the construction of the road, China has already initiated the process of entrenchment as explained by Hassner. Hence, the process of entrenchment through material links (roads) and symbolic links (construction of temples or churches, or any other buildings with emotional and religious attachments) makes territorial disputes more difficult to settle in the future. Not only that, China’s strategic thinking and behaviors on the South China Sea remind us that the construction of physical structures is not only about irritating the neighboring countries, but a calculated plan for the creation of strong claims in the future. China had adopted this in Droklam too, where under the shadow of infrastructure development, China has started claiming the area as its own. But this time, Bhutan, supported by the Indian government objected verbally as well as militarily. In both cases, China has overtly started upgrading the military installation even after the series of bilateral diplomatic exchanges. Hence, whatever China undertakes, it is with a calculated reason for the long-term plan to achieve its ambitions. For instance, the current mega-project renamed the Belt and Road Initiative with its network of roads and railways across Central Asia, connecting Europe with China may become a future way for the Chinese people’s mass migration in the event of man-made or natural disasters.
Tim Marshall, author of Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Tell You Everything You Need to Know about Global Politics has made this educated guess, ‘If there is mass and long-term unemployment, in an age when the Chinese are a people packed into urban areas, the inevitable social unrest could be – like everything else in modern China- on a scale hitherto unseen.’
One strange thing is, on one hand, China is initiating The Belt and Road Initiative, trying to connect itself with the rest of the world through roads and maritime routes. While on the other hand, China is building a series of dams one after another mainly in Tibet, trying to divert the water instead of sharing water with the riparian countries with whom China is trying to connect through the Road Initiative. If China wants to connect, the best way is to share the water with the riparian Asian countries through ‘The Dam and Water Initiative.’ This will allow China not only to share its profit but to share future challenges and make the riparian Asian countries partners in the true sense.
Maybe, next time, China should contemplate the idea of constructing a cultural bridge based on its past cultural similarities and once and for all turn its troubled relationship with its neighbouring countries into a harmonious one.
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