China’s new law to strengthen border security is hardly any surprise given that Beijing came out with a similar legal mechanism to protect its maritime boundaries earlier this year.
Both pieces of legislation have one thing in common – they provide the country’s law enforcement agencies with a license to kill “intruders” – be it in the Himalayas or the South China Sea.
On October 23, Beijing passed a law to boost border protection that allows the use of blockades and “police apparatus and weapons” against intruders. Coming amid a protracted standoff with India along the LAC, this development sends ominous signals.
The militaries of the two nuclear-armed neighbors had a bloody faceoff along the disputed border in eastern Ladakh’s Galwan Valley in June last year, resulting in 24 casualties. Despite multiple rounds of military and diplomatic-level talks, there is no easy solution to this impasse in sight.
Earlier this year, on February 1, China’s new Coast Guard law took effect even as Beijing continues to resort to what is called ‘grey zone tactics’ to assert its claims over the South and East China seas.
This law allows Coast Guard fleets to use lethal force on foreign ships operating in China’s waters, including the disputed waters claimed by the communist country.
This essentially means that what Chinese ‘maritime militias’ have been doing all these years – to scare away fishermen, people, or entities belonging to other claimants from these disputed waters – may soon be replaced with an aggressive push-back policy against other littoral states.
China Loves Border Disputes
China shares land borders with 14 countries including India, Russia, and North Korea. The People’s Liberation Army and the People’s Armed Police Force are tasked with guarding the border against any “invasion, encroachment, infiltration, provocation”.
It also shares maritime boundaries with many Southeast Asian nations. Needless to say, Beijing loves boundary disputes. One of the hallmarks of expansionist China is to first alter its land and maritime boundaries based on some “historic” claims and then get embroiled in prolonged negotiations.
The latter is just a ploy to buy time so that it can make constitutional/legal amendments in order to protect occupied territories.
The latest land border legislation seems to be an exercise in that direction. This is the first time that the People’s Republic of China, founded 72 years ago, has a dedicated law specifying how it governs and guards its 22,000-km land border shared with 14 countries, according to Reuters.
Pertinent to note that the 13th round of military commander-level border talks between India and China ended in a stalemate on October 10, following which the two sides blamed each other.
Lessons from Chinese history have confirmed that Beijing will not shy away from military confrontation with India, a Chinese political analyst had said after the deadly Galwan Valley clashes in June 2020.
As China faces heightened tensions with the US in both the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait, political analysts believe that India decided to take a more aggressive stance on the border because New Delhi thinks Beijing will make compromises to avoid military confrontations on different fronts.
However, Chinese political analysts argued that history has shown that Chinese rulers have not usually shied away from military conflicts on different fronts because they needed to project a strong image for the domestic audience to protect the legitimacy of their rule.
“When facing domestic rebellions, the Chinese rulers would have to prove legitimacy of its rule. That is why when facing foreign enemies, they would have to take a firm stance and prove that they are the legitimate guardian of the country. That is why they can not make compromises when facing a foreign enemy like India. That is how they can maintain their domestic rule,” Ni Lexiong, a military expert at the University of Politics and Law in Shanghai, had told Sputnik last year.
This argument seems to hold water if one looks at the timing of China’s new law to strengthen security at its frontiers. How India reacts to this development in terms of its own border security mechanism is yet to be seen.