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China’s Himalayan border aggression unrelated to pandemic

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Los Angeles, California – As the China-India military standoff along their disputed land border heads into its third month, questions and theories continue to swirl about Beijing’s motivation for taking such aggressive action at this time.

Since the violence began in early May, China has reportedly amassed thousands of troops with armored vehicles and towed artillery at multiple points near the Line of Actual Control (LAC) where the Indian union territory of Ladakh borders Tibet — representing the most significant military escalation in border tensions in over a half century.

But why now? There are many potential explanations, ranging from Chinese disgruntlement over Indian infrastructure upgrades near the LAC, to anger at India’s rejection of the "Belt and Road" initiative (BRI), to retaliation for New Delhi’s decision to limit Chinese investment in India, among others.

One potential explanation that certainly has gained currency in mainstream media is that Beijing is attempting to exploit the ongoing coronavirus pandemic for geopolitical gain. The theory fits well in the overall narrative of rising Chinese assertiveness since the start of the pandemic, including against Taiwan, Hong Kong and maritime counterclaimants in the East and South China Seas, which is probably why it has become so popular.

However, as I have previously argued, the story simply does not hold up. Beijing had already been increasingly threatening the Indo-Pacific region pre-pandemic. Instead, what we are witnessing nowadays is more likely a continuation of an ongoing trend rather than a departure from it. This is also true in the Himalayas, where Chinese violations of the LAC are a regular occurrence. What is striking this time around is the scale of Beijing’s military action and the tragic results to date — at least 20 Indian deaths and an unknown casualty count on the Chinese side.

For most observers, China’s mobilization of thousands of forces near the LAC strongly implies substantial preparation and thus top leadership authorization. That........

© The Japan Times