• 20 June, 2024
Foreign Affairs, Geopolitics & National Security

Strike China and Save the World: Part 1 – The Timing

Cdr Sandeep Dhawan (Retd) Thu, 28 Oct 2021   |  Reading Time: 6 minutes

Employing force to contain aggression is a well-known strategy. The timely dominance of an aggressor can save a nation from a very painful future. India has seen this first hand in the last 1000 years or so. In the recent past too, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, people thought that the concept of war had lost its relevance. However, this fallacy has been failing human beings time and again. The end of World War I & II also gave similar hopes. This notion stems from the fact that the human being is a peaceful creature. However, this fact may not stand the test of time when it comes to communism. The very existence of communism is based on violence. And before we forget, let me remind you, China is a communist country.

Thucydides Trap: It’s Between India and China Silly

Political scientist Graham Allison of John F Kennedy School of Government coined the term ‘Thucydides Trap’ in his book Destined for War. He intends to say that a rising power (China) would always confront a ruling power (the United States) and the result would be bloodshed and war. His theory was based on the Peloponnesian War fought between Athens and Sparta. This is where I differ from Graham Allison. The next competition is not between the USA and China, but between India and China.

Both Asian giants are neighbours and have huge armed forces. China’s economic growth has plummeted and population growth has stagnated. Looks like China will grow old before it will become rich. That makes China a declining power. On the other hand, India has shown all the signs of a rising power. Despite COVID-19, its economic recovery has been good and the growth rate is one of the fastest in the world. India also has strong and disciplined armed forces that make China nervous. Therefore, it is China that is threatened by rising India. Eventually, Chinese nervousness would lead to war and bloodshed. It is very clear that how much so ever we delay the war, but we can’t avoid it. 

How to Deal With a Tyrant

The war with China is a certainty. Since the initiative has been taken by China, India should not disappoint them, else they would keep coming back like a chronic disease (pun intended).

To deal with China we will consider these three principles of German-Austrian politician and statesman, Prince Klemens Wenzel von Metternich:

  • Compromise is the easy refuge of irresolute or unprincipled men. A nation’s survival is not a matter of compromise.
  • Weaker states can ill-afford merely to react to events; they must also try to initiate them.
  • We must rely for the execution of our plans on ourselves alone and on such means as we possess.

Keeping the above principles in mind, the war should be fought by India and India alone, without compromising, and with a doxastic commitment on two fronts:

  • Non-Military
  • Military

India Should Take the War to China’s Doorstep

Keeping Metternich’s principles in the mind, Indian military and civilian leadership have a lot on their plate. Until now it is China that has been bringing the war to India’s doorstep, but if India has to survive then the time has come to take the war to China’s doorstep. It would certainly need a lot of preparation and planning if it has not already begun. Non-military fronts are part of forever war, however, opening up a military front has to be timed well. The first step in that direction would be to decide the right time to attack.

The Right Time for Offensive

Timing is of essence in a war that many politicians don’t understand and military leaders should never forget.

Human beings have progressed leaps and bounds, however, they are still helpless when it comes to nature’s fury. Climate change has increased the frequency of freak and unpredictable weather. Increasingly harsh effects of the climate crisis are urging governments to commit military and paramilitary forces to firefighting, flood prevention, disaster relief, and population resettlement. China is not different. It is a large country with multiple climate vulnerabilities. It will require more assistance than most other countries. This presents a unique opportunity for India. It would be a reversal of the roles. China unleashed COVID-19 on the world and took advantage of its vulnerability. Taking advantage of the natural calamity to checkmate China would be tantamount to paying them back in the same coin.

The recent flooding of Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan is an apt example. Within three days the city was deluged. Flooding was so fierce and unprecedented that the city’s infrastructure collapsed. Over a hundred people were officially declared dead. Widespread damage to bridges, roads, tunnels, and farmland occurred.

In response, the Chinese President Xi Jinping urged senior PLA officers, “The Chinese People’s Liberation Army and People’s Armed Police Force troops should actively coordinate local rescue and relief work”. The PLA responded swiftly. Immediately over three thousand officers, soldiers, and militiamen from the PLA’s Central Theater Command were deployed in and around Zhengzhou to aid in disaster relief.

Eventually, over forty-six thousand soldiers from the PLA and the People’s Armed Police along with sixty-one thousand militia members were deployed in Henan. It is important to note that several hundred personnel from the PLA Rocket Forces, the military branch responsible for China’s nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles were also deployed.

Lessons Learned

Most modern Chinese cities have flawed designs. China has ninety-one cities with more than a million population. These are vast concrete jungles of highways, factories, malls, office complexes, and high-rise buildings. The whole countryside is covered in asphalt and concrete. There is hardly any soil left for the resulting runoff to drain into. The result is that tunnels, subways, or low-built highways often get flooded.

China’s many megacities and industrial centers, namely, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Tianjin, are located in low-lying coastal areas that are most susceptible to flooding, and sea-level rise.

During the Henan flooding, the six decades-old Chang Zhuang Reservoir near Zhengzhou was filled to dangerous levels and nearly collapsed. Had that happened then that would have caused a serious crisis. In fact, other dams in the surrounding area did collapse. PLA forces were rushed to build sandbag walls and repair dam breaches on the Jialu River, where recently a Chinese J-10 fighter had crashed.

Yihetan dam breach – Courtesy: DW

Flooding isn’t the only threat China faces. China’s west and northwest are covered by deserts. Deforestation and declining rainfall have resulted in further desertification. In the coming decades, heavily populated North China Plains would be the deadliest place on earth, engulfed in ravaging heatwaves and resultant loss of farmland.

China has 22 percent of the world population with just 7 percent of the arable land. 27 percent of China is covered in desert. The desert has crept up to within 44 miles from Beijing. The Gobi Desert is crawling south at a pace of 2 miles per year. All of China could be a big desert in times to come. If indications are to be believed then China is heading for severe food shortage and eventually a major famine.

The single most important priority of the Communist Party is to remain in power. Until now that has been possible by maintaining sufficient economic growth. The Chinese populace is loyal to the party till the time this growth is maintained. Anything that threatens growth is viewed as a vital threat to the survival of the CCP. Climate change is one such threat.

Declining opportunities, food shortages, and the draconian rule would eventually lead to civil unrest, economic dislocation, mass uncontrolled movements of populations, and regional struggle. China may look like a homogeneous society on the surface, but it is as divided as any other nation. If water, food, and other vital resources are diverted from one area of the country to another, social unrest is bound to occur.

PLA officials are aware of the climate-change threats to China’s security. They are also aware that PLA would be forced to play a leading role in dealing with any future disaster. More disasters simply mean a lesser number of forces are available in a combat role. Strangely, the Chinese state machinery and the PLA are trying to avoid the topic in all its discussions, publications, and white papers.

Indian Perspective

Is India learning any lessons from what we have just discussed? India is equally vulnerable. It has a fair share of floods and extreme climates. If city planners and rural machinery are not already thinking on these lines then they have to double down the road of changes, else in no time, it will be too late.

India can not assume that China doesn’t think on these lines. India is the only major adversary sharing a land border with China. They have demonstrated their intent clearly during the COVID-19 crisis. A crisis natural or man-made, China will utilize these vulnerabilities to its advantage. India needs to be ready for every move by China.

Time is of the Essence

Every extension of hegemony is also an extension of terror – Jean Baudrillard

In the coming years, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will be defending the nation against even more disastrous floods, famines, droughts, wildfires, sandstorms, and encroaching oceans. They may avoid the topic as much as they like but the fact is that more Chinese soldiers will be spending much more time filling sandbags to defend their country’s coastline from rising seas, strengthening dams, and fighting internal unrest in the coming decades rather than manning weapon platforms to fight Quad forces.

India and other like-minded forces have to utilize this Chinese vulnerability with utmost transparency and planning. Floods, famine, social unrest, and any other natural calamity is the right time to strike China.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has already shown his intent. Time has come for the rest of the world to show their resolve. Xi’s insatiable appetite for expansion and hegemony will not stop just at Taiwan. His aim is Han Supremacy. He will make his country pay any price to achieve his personal goals.


A veteran of the Indian Navy, Cdr Dhawan served in the Navy from 1988 to 2009. He was a Maritime Reconnaissance Pilot and a Flying Instructor. He is a geopolitical analyst and writes for various online websites and organizations.


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Mishika Raj

Nov 10, 2021
Great article! 😁


Nov 09, 2021
BRI lost its steam, Xi didn't leave China for almost 2 years, West is ganging up with locals, China is facing Natural calamities on monthly basis, China exports are hurting, there real estate (back bone of economy) is crippling. What better time than now, how worst it can get from here.

Gary H.

Nov 07, 2021
While there are numerous points of interest in this article such as land area vs population and of course the regimentation of the Chinese population by the CCP, the most relevant might be references to the incremental loss of arable land plus unpredictable consequences of climate change. What is overlooked here is the long-term, skillful propagation of Chinese technical influence throughout Asia & Africa, not to mention Belt And Road, which will provide returns far into the future in the form of trade and general good will. India cannot match this influence--not even remotely close. Further, I suspect India does not match the force, technical or logistical status compared to the PLA. Most alarming is the suggestion that a first strike against China, taking advantage of some future climate disaster, would be an appropriate measure is just the kind of saber-rattling that barely, if at all, takes into account the unpredictable economic & diplomatic costs, not to mention the lives this writer so casually believes are disposable in such a circumstance.

Harish Nayani

Nov 06, 2021
As usual, an excellently researched and thoroughly readable article by Sandeep. The recent skirmishes in the icy wastes of Galwan and Doklam have shattered the myth of Chinese invincibility and domination. They themselves seem to have realized this judging by the frenetic pace at which military infrastructure is being set up all along the LAC. While Sandeep's analysis of Xi's thirst for absolute power is spot on, the article hasn't factored in the ever present threat of the nuclear spectre. And being a communist power with a sternly unitarian rule, they (read he) will have no qualms about unleashing his sizeable nuclear arsenal IF and WHEN pushed against the wall, military or by Force Majeure. And that is what bothers the most.


Nov 04, 2021
A clever, intelligent and shrewd adversary will first consider his weaknesses before trying to capitalise on the opponents weaknesses. The weaknesses referred to in the article regarding China are very much also faced by India. And with many more other shortcomings. I feel these aspects beed to be strongly considered.


Nov 04, 2021
Looking to the present unplanned and the uncalled for fast pace of growth in almost all cities and the half hazard infra developments coupled with growth in population and fast growing economic and other disparities in India are also a grave concern and required to be considered.


Nov 03, 2021
Well articulated, Time shall decide. India too is pacing towards climate change and population Bust....with NO or poor planning of future developments in Infra and economy boom...we too shall be equally threatened.

Cdr I Aravanan (Retd)

Nov 01, 2021
Well articulated article bringing out facts. Yes, we were never an aggressor, but geo political situations are changing. Kudos to the author. Expecting more from Cdr Dhawan.

Harbir Chahal

Nov 01, 2021
Interesting take on the current scenario. Unlikely that India will be the aggressor but even a turn towards that kind of mindset can be a new chapter

Cdr K Sreenivas

Nov 01, 2021
Good analysis. Never has India been the Aggressor . Will we be one ? I doubt. We may have a Govt which is more decisive. But War costs, it costs a lot. I think the World particularly the Quad etc will choke China economically than engage in a full scale war with a mad Dragon!


Oct 31, 2021
Very nicely written article Eagerly waiting for the next one Our top echelons need to wakeup to the threat the earliest


Oct 31, 2021
Very thought provoking article, lot of research has been done by Capt Dhawan, awaiting the next part.

D'Nanda Dunham

Oct 30, 2021
As ever, Commander, a concise and intelligible consideration of the situation at hand. (If I'm not jumping ahead to another installment, where does Taiwan fit in this puzzle?) Thank you!

Cdr Deepak Singh (Retd)

Oct 30, 2021
Very good new analysis Sandeep. No compromise and essence of timing should be the Indian Defence Thinktank. No more comments as many have already discussed in details. Waiting for Part II


Oct 30, 2021
Good article. Waiting for the continuum

Niraj Garg

Oct 30, 2021
We have to calibrate our strategy in view of Sino Arabic culture who are coming together. Also West will see their interest rather of India.

Martina Ramsauer

Oct 30, 2021
Thank you for your highly interesting report, which really gives me goose-pimples! Best regards


Oct 30, 2021
I have been watching, for several decades, the undercurrent that has been created by wealthy whose sole purpose and chosen religion is acquiring control, power, and possessions. Regardless of the "form" governments take, they end up being bought, sold, by the wealthy and manipulated into supporting fascism. Fascism is the political party of the ultra rich, big business, and media. Problematic is the Fascism is always hidden within the chosen forum of each countries political system. I am unsure if any political system will represent anyone as long as politicians continue to sell themselves to the highest bidder and by doing so enable the few to rule the masses. History has shown, regardless of what ever labels we use, that the wealthy will always be controlled by greed and narcissism, few are concerned about the welfare of their fellow humans.

Rajiv Gaur

Oct 30, 2021
Good analysis and vision. China is becoming powerful but not flexible. Rest of the world especially neighbors should watch him carefully to avoid getting surprised. Situations are changing everyday Best wishes for part 2.💐

Shaurya Shandilya

Oct 30, 2021
Capt Dhawan's insight should reach every Indian. Every small step we take now, will have a collective impact later, to our advantage. Thank you Sir, for the awesome article.


Oct 30, 2021
Please someone in India with the right connections request for the US Marines to restart the Exercise SHATRUJEET that I initiated with y'all back circa 2008 or 09.


Oct 30, 2021
What is China's strategic center of gravity?

Rajesh Dhawan

Oct 30, 2021
Once again you have written a very good article on Indo China conflicts, present situation in both the countries, war strategy of China and preparations to be done by India. I take this Part 1 as an introduction and will wait for your next Part eagerly. Under present leadership India is preparing very well on all fronts against China. We come to know about it when things are put into place. Development of infrastructure all around India is also steps towards that. He is making many expressways and roads and around borders to mobilize forces and machineries faster to the last mile. He is opening airports in all big cities so that he can convert later on to military base. He is developing missiles of ranges upto all cities of China, he is successfully implementing the Mantra of Vocal for Local and Atamnirbhar and it's results are already getting surfaced. The crisis of semiconductor chips, shortage of Aluminium and other manufacturing material worldwide is because they depended solely on China for this. They learnt a bad & then a good lesson not depend on one country. That's why they are moving to India for this manufacturing base and our leader is expert to market India for this and China is worried about it. China will fight back on this very hard. But they have lost their credibility and being a reliable country. China will not try to have one to one fight with China as he is already having hostile conflicts at more than 20 borders all around their country. The friendly nations of India are watching it and will support India indirectly. Therefore, China will not have a fight in physical, hard way but will have it on different platforms like raw material, software, electronics, medical, virus and many other similar ways.

Joseph Mathew

Oct 30, 2021
Sandeep, this is a well written article with a new perspective. The threat from China is real and needs to be countered on priority and your article has broken new ground. Wonderful!!!

Thiagarajan Narayanan

Oct 30, 2021
Good insight into the situation in China & lots of research work done on its ecological state due climate change. Articulation of thoughts on when we can proactively take forward our agenda with similar consequences for us done in a candid manner. Very nice write up Sir. Waiting for Part II👍

Dhirender Gaur

Oct 30, 2021
Impeccable insights! China dominance can only be controlled by breaking it into two to three countries.


Oct 29, 2021
Dear Sandeep, very Insightful ,Intersecting and logical perspectives. 2) India should learn,prepare and be watchful. 3) The great wall of China is indicative of their resolve to expand unconditionally, undeterred in their assessment. 4) Factors highlighted by you tilt the situation in our favor provided our democracy supports us with a very strong government at the centre5) .So far it has been good going for India in Post Covid era and considering our strength in New India ,its highly probable that India can take war to China. 6) External support, even if its proxy or Psychological, can definitely tilt the results in our favor..Worldhad enough suffering from the hands of China.7)Economic war will have to precede Military war ..And the world is eagerly waiting to see some changes in Power play in this part of Globe...8)Things are looking favorable, Yes can Dare To Dare...No one should take India for granted..👍👍😊💪💪🇮🇳👍👍

Narinder Pal Singh Hora

Oct 29, 2021
Very well researched views. This is an absolutely new dimension worth pondering. Only thing is India never believes in aggressive approach. We are always firefighting or reacting to a situation. Hope we can change this and become more aggressive in our approach towards our adversary who is more stronger in number only

Ajay Sharma

Oct 29, 2021
Sandeep...beautifully analyzed and penned. Waiting for Part II.


Oct 29, 2021
Hi Sandeep. Very unique perspective. The line of thought is very inviting but I doubt if the Indian Strategic thinking would yield itself to taking on the aggressor's role. A kind of moral grandstanding is very much in our fabric . It has taken us 4 decades to kind of very round about way say that the 'No First Use' policy isn't a given. We are just at the first stage of responding to a percieved or actual act of hostility, as in Pulwama and Balakot. That's of course a major transformation from our response to 26/11. The article brings out possibility of a short sharp war and that it could be timed to exploit the other side's weakness is absolutely on target. Thanks for an incisive article. Keep it coming. Raghavan

Raman Gupta

Oct 29, 2021
Brilliant analysis, bang on timing. A great read.

Ajay Sreedhar

Oct 29, 2021
It is a wonderful article relevant and timely. Sandeep is uniquely gifted in seeing beyond the obvious and articulating it so lucidly.

Rakesh P

Oct 29, 2021
You have beautifully explained such a deep and strategically important topic, in such simple language. Hats off to you.

Wendell Bruges

Oct 28, 2021
I really got goosebumps while reading the article. How do you get to know or think of such strategies? Commendable, indeed.

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