Over the past month I covered the rising tensions caused by a military standoff occurring between two of the world’s foremost Superpowers. A situation that just a few weeks ago had China threatening nothing short of the total annihilation of the Indian army if they didn’t back down. Now though there is nothing but silence from the two nations, who seemingly couldn’t shut up for the past three months. While we should all be glad that the situation seems to have resolved itself, the fact neither country seems keen to explain just how it was resolved poses some interesting questions.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Photo: Reuters
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Photo: Reuters

It has now been just over two weeks since the Indian and Chinese armies stood down and agreed to disengage from their 73 plus day military standoff. In that time however, neither Beijing nor New Delhi have been considerate enough to share with the rest of the world just what suddenly changed.  In the absence of even an attempt at an official story true or not, conspiracy theorists have taken it upon themselves to come up with plausible answers.

The most popular by far arguing that it was China who metaphorically blinked first. Agreeing to sack a recently appointed hawkish senior General, who many believe was to blame for the situation getting so out of hand in the first place.  This theory has been backed by respected sources as well including Brahma Chellaney, a Professor of Strategic Studies based out of New Delhi.  He states “the mutual withdrawal deal was clinched just after Chinese President Xi Jinping replaced the chief of the People Liberation Army’s joint staff department.”  A position that is the equivalent to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff here in America. This leaves the question though; why would Chinese President Xi opt to look weak and fire one of his own generals much to the seeming pleasure of India?

Brahma and other experts on China agree this move was likely actually a win-win situation for the Chinese president. Xi has been struggling recently with an ascendant Chinese military, whose clout and political influence has been growing in recent years much to the alarm of the President. Firing a high ranking General like this was a chance for Xi to both prevent a costly international incident or even war, and reaffirm his authority and control over the Chinese armed forces. In fact, just this past summer during a military parade honoring the 90th anniversary of the modern Chinese army, the president made a speech repeatedly demanding “absolute loyalty” from the military. As Chellaney writes, “Had civil control of the army been working well, would Xi repeatedly be demanding ‘absolute loyalty’ from the military or asking it to ‘follow his instructions?”

Chinese President Xi Jinping stands on a military jeep as he inspects troops of the People's Liberation Army during a military parade in July 2017
Chinese President Xi Jinping Gives His Forces A Speech On Absolute Loyalty

While the continued signs of a fracture between the Chinese armed forces and their alleged civilian leadership are certainly worrying.  Not everyone remains fully convinced by this explanation for the newfound peace between the two nations. Some even arguing that Chellaney and proponents of this theory are looking at things from an obvious personal Pro-Indian bias. Noting that more than having anything to do with the Indian situation this firing may have simply been part of standard Communist party purges in China. Especially with Xi currently working to consolidate his leadership position ahead of the upcoming 19th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party scheduled to be held here in October.

For now the soonest we might hope to gain a clearer picture of at least the Chinese side of events is probably this same upcoming Communist Party Congress. As the President will most likely be forced to address the situation, and explain to his party why Chinese forces agreed to back down after months of fiery rhetoric. What he says here will be especially important as the actual border dispute that caused this situation is by no means resolved. We are simply back to the political standoff over the area we had for years instead of the military one from the past few months. With tensions still high though, if something doesn’t change soon its not all that unlikely we will soon see the guns coming back out rather quickly.


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