The Chinese PLA: All Smoke, No Fire
It is China’s inscrutable countenance which has been predominantly responsible for rendering it's enemy nations immobile in the contemporary world due to them not being able to gauge either the intentions or the strength of a China which is consensually perceived of as ‘Machiavellian’ in nature by the world on account of their overtly expansionist ambitions. This hypothesis also tends to fall in line with a buffet of expert opinions from across the globe which claims that modern Chinese military capabilities have never truly been tested against a formidable foe and, as a result, can only be considered as a smokescreen behind which China carries out its clandestine activities.
Furthermore, if we were to objectively analyze the results of the wars of the 20th century in which the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China engaged itself, we would be compelled to come to the conclusion that the PLA does not deserve to find a mention in the pantheon of the greatest military forces which have ever walked the earth, as they lost countless numbers of times to armies which were considered to be far inferior to them. They lost to an underdeveloped India both in 1967 at Nathu-La and Chola and again in 1987 at Sumdorong-Chu Valley in Arunachal Pradesh. They lost to the Vietnamese in 1979. Their military spreadsheet goes on to further showcase losses registered in the Korean War during the 1950s and multiple times against the Soviet Union (modern day Russia) in the earlier half of the 20th century. Therefore, does it not seem unwise now to categorize the PLA as a fright-inducing bludgeon?
In fact, there are certain reports and instances from past years which need to be re-invoked in order to bring to light the truly degraded and debauched state of the PLA. In August of 2017, Lia Eustachewich of the New York Post wrote an article claiming that, “Excessive Masturbation is Hurting China’s Military.” She cited a report from the BBC which stated that 56.9 percent of PLA candidates failed their physicals owing to a variety of reasons - one of which was from “sitting too much.” The article then went on to state a few of the PLA’s recommendations to their candidates, which included - exercising more, cutting out fizzy drinks and booze, limiting computer games, drinking clean water, and curbing masturbation, among more.
Now, does the aforementioned sound like the kind of advice which befits the feared army of a powerful nation, or does it resemble something along the lines of what a worried guardian teacher would say to degenerate from a decadent fraternity in college? Shockingly, the embarrassment for China does not end here, as another report by the BBC from 2016 states that the PLA released a (ludicrous) rap video (whose lyrics would cause a global laugh riot if they ever gained the requisite traction) the same year in order to lure in Chinese citizens into voluntarily joining their ranks.
Unfortunately, there are more examples. In 2011, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was caught with its pants down when it tried to dupe the global public by showcasing footage from the classic 1986 American military flick “Top Gun” as a clip from its own air force’s training exercises. It was quite the scandal. Designated members of the CCP and China Central Television (CCTV) - the state broadcaster of China which aired the story – went into hiding as reporters from global media houses started hounding them for bytes and interviews.
On a more serious note, as recently as in 2015, the PLA again stood true to its image as that of being a paper tiger in front of the entire world. In Juba, South Sudan, the PLA, as part of the UN’s peacekeeping forces, was entrusted with the responsibility of protecting one civilian site from the effects of a growing regional turmoil which had ensued due to conflict between the troops from the government’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), loyal to the president Salva Kiir, and opposition forces of his rival Riek Machar. The street battles between the two sides were responsible for eliminating large swathes of civilians from the region. The PLA -in typical fashion- chose to stay hidden inside of their bases instead of venturing out into the chaos where they were needed. However, despite them opting not to go out looking for a fight, the fight was brought to them. After encountering gunfire in the bases in which they were stationed, two of their soldiers were killed which frightened the PLA into scurrying and abandoning their posts in such haste that they even left their weapons and ammunitions behind – which no self-respecting force ever does.
Then asked to take charge of the situation were the men from the 7th battalion of the Kumaon Regiment from the Indian army under the moniker of ‘INDBATT II’ as part of the UN’s peacekeeping forces. INDBATT II not only managed to secure the perimeter which was lost by the PLA but also tossed out the Sudanese militias who were previously encroaching upon it. We saw a similar picture unfold again in Doklam in 2017. After much aggressive posturing, the PLA had to retreat and halt construction of its illicit roads in the disputed territory with Bhutan after the Indian Army decided to interject and stand ground on behalf of Bhutan.
Now, in relation to the violent clashes which occurred between the Indian Army and the PLA in Galwan Valley of Ladakh on the intervening night of 15th-16th June, it was first reported that 20 brave Indian soldiers attained martyrdom while defending their soil. However later, America’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) confirmed that a massive number of 35 PLA soldiers were also killed in the violent confrontations although now, sensational reports have come in from people with close links to the CCP. Jianli Yang, son of the former leader of the CCP, said, “More than 100 Chinese troops were killed in the dreadful conflict between Indian and Chinese soldiers on the night of 15th June. But the Chinese regime is hiding this information from the Chinese people. President Xi Jinping is worried that if the information regarding the soldiers, killed in Galwan Valley, is disclosed, the serving as well as the retired soldiers could revolt. Not only this, but there could be a rebellion within the Communist Party as well.”
I concede that on the face of it, this claim does appear to be outlandish. However, when one takes a more diligent approach in trying to understand the feasibility of this claim, it stops appearing to be baloney. Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, paid a surprise visit to a forward post in Leh in Ladakh on 3rd July and called on the inscrutable countenance (bluff) of China by basically reading out the riot act, just 16 days after the clash had originally occurred in the region. Experts predicted that Modi’s unprecedented show of aggression will be reciprocated with added interest by the Chinese. But on the night of 5th July, reports came in stating the disengagement of the PLA troops from the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
This was unusual because China, a secretive communist regime which always plays close to its chest and considers the global perception regarding its might as a key factor in deciding how to move forward in relation to their expansionist agenda, after being openly challenged by one of the most popular global leaders in crystal clear words, backtracked. This raises numerous questions.
Why did the PLA backtrack after PM Modi’s strong showing in the open? Did the PLA genuinely lose 100 men against a significantly outnumbered Indian Army in Galwan Valley which forced China into seriously contemplating the feasibility of a war with India? Does China not have faith in its soldiers? Is the PLA scared? What are the facts? What does the cumulation of all of these instances, mentioned from top to bottom in this article, signify?
I will leave that for the reader to decide, but here is what I will say, “Those who roar, don’t pour. Those who pour, don’t roar.”
Indian citizens should rest easy because tigers are standing guard for them waiting to pounce on anyone who dares cast an evil eye.
(The author is in a Post Graduate Diploma Programme In Communication (PGDPC) and a Master Of Arts (M.A) from The Delhi School of Communication. The views expressed are his own.)