Book Review | China’s geopolitical risks are more in southeast than west, southwest

The book tries to formulate well-researched geopolitical imperatives for China and predicts Chinese responses

What makes the ruling Chinese tick? Written by a highly qualified Mandarin speaking scholar and specialist in Chinese affairs, this book is a product of two fundamental needs lacking in works on China for the purpose of predicting any response to its geopolitical imperatives. One pertains to knowing China from the inside out, while the other concerns the metaphysical makeup of its peoples. The book fulfils these requirements. It tries to formulate well-researched geopolitical imperatives for China and predicts Chinese responses, instead of just looking at the problem that China appears to present to the world.

Reading the book, one would realise that Chinese geo-body, or China Proper, which excludes the Autonomous Regions — read forcibly captured regions — has developed from its nucleus in the Yellow River basin and is made up of a multi-geographical, multicultural and multi-ethnic fabric. So the Han nationality is just a collective psyche rather than an ethnic identity. The ruling monarchs like Yuan and Qing have also not been from China Proper. This demolishes the first impression about the impregnability of China as a uniform and monolithic civilisation.

China has land “disputes” with eight countries — India, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Tibet and Mongolia. Ten other countries with which it has maritime disputes are Taiwan, Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan, South Korea, North Korea, Singapore and Brunei.

After a detailed geospatial analysis, the book elucidates how the Chinese people’s power centre and the political power centre are poles asunder now that China Proper has grown to its present form and size. However, Hong Kong is an exception due to its different heritage.

The author explains how historically new inclusions of autonomous regions like Tibet and Xinjiang will remain a geopolitical issue due to their better identification with foreign neighbours. Although China has created an autarky for itself, it faces more geopolitical and strategic issues within its huge geography. And, therefore, China’s geopolitical imperatives emerge from within and move into foreign geo-bodies like India, Central Asian Republics and Mongolia in continuum.

China’s lacking an open sea is a major roadblock in its becoming a world power. Its resources and consumption markets being majorly concentrated in the southeast, geopolitical risks are also more in these areas. Taiwan just creates a flashpoint to manifest that weakness. The book speculates that the South China Sea will become a “Chinese lake” but that the Chinese expansion drive cannot proceed further than that.

China’s creation of asymmetrical and global lebensraums by the making of “tributary states” across the world away from itself through geo-economic means will make it a world leader in the long term. Their resources will be used to feed the Chinese population. It is, in a sense, China’s encirclement of the world.
The book also proposes that China’s geopolitical risks are more towards southeast than towards west or southwest. The military deployment of China is a clear indicator of its threat perceptions.

The course that the author recommends for India is that it must leverage its imposing geostrategic location in the Indian Ocean against any adversity from China during limited wars. Besides, during peace time, increased Chinese investments in India and India’s heavy investments in its neighbours will achieve the balancing act.

Chinese Geopolitics In the 21st Century: A Post-Pandemic Perspective

Brig. Anand Tewari (Retd)

Pentagon Press

pp. 306, Rs.1,295

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