South China Sea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Ladakh…Is the dragon stretching itself in too many directions?


The violent clash between Indian and Chinese troops in the Galwan valley along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh has led to the death of 20 Indian troops and an unknown number of Chinese casualties.

The deaths on both sides represent the most serious incident involving the two militaries since 1967, and the shockwaves from this will reverberate far into the future. Put simply, India-China relations will never be the same again.

For the last two decades, the relationship was marked by border tensions but also a willingness to not let the situation escalate at the LAC. It’s clear that Beijing is no longer interested in telling its frontline troops to maintain a degree of restraint that is necessary to prevent any face-off from spiralling out of control. Which makes this a much much more dangerous escalation than the Doklam stand-off in 2017.

Even if there is no conflict between the two nuclear powers, trust between the New Delhi and Beijing has been given a fatal blow by President Xi Jinping’s belligerent show of strength, as far as India is concerned.

Geo-political analysts and China-watchers have two questions uppermost on their minds: “What happens next” and “Why now”.

The answer to the first question will become clear in the coming days and weeks, and will depend on a series of complex military, strategic, diplomatic and political calculations in New Delhi and Beijing.

But we may never know the precise answer to the second question – not very soon in any case. However, if one looks at China’s pattern of behaviour since the COVID-19 outbreak started in January, a few trends emerge.