How China Fights: Lessons From the 1962 Sino-Indian War

Yusuf

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The rest of the world may have forgotten the anniversary, but a neglected border war that took place 50 years ago is now more pertinent than ever. Before dawn on the morning of Oct. 20, 1962, the People's Liberation Army launched a surprise attack, driving with overwhelming force through the eastern and western sections of the Himalayas, deep into northeastern India. On the 32nd day of fighting, Beijing announced a unilateral ceasefire, and the war ended as abruptly as it had begun. Ten days later, the Chinese began withdrawing from the areas they had penetrated on India's eastern flank, between Bhutan and Burma, but they kept their territorial gains in the West—part of the original princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. India had suffered a humiliating rout, and China's international stature had grown substantially.


The blitzkrieg sent crowds of men, women, and children running for sanctuary. (Larry Burrows / Time & Life Pictures-Getty Images)
Today, half a century after the Sino-Indian War, the geopolitical rivalry between the world's two main demographic titans is again sharpening, as new disputes deepen old rifts. Booming bilateral trade has failed to subdue their rivalry and military tensions, and China has largely frittered away the political gains of its long-ago victory. But the war's continuing significance extends far beyond China and India. By baring key elements of Beijing's strategic doctrine, it offers important lessons, not only to China's neighbors but also to the U.S. military. Here are just six of the principles the People's Republic of China relied on in attacking India—and will undoubtedly use again in the future.

SURPRISE China places immense value on blindsiding its adversaries. The idea is to inflict political and psychological shock on the enemy while scoring early battlefield victories. This emphasis on tactical surprise dates back more than 2,000 years, to the classic Chinese strategist Sun Tzu, who argued that all warfare is "based on deception" and offered this advice on how to take on an opponent: "Attack where he is unprepared; sally out when he does not expect you. These are the strategist's keys to victory." The Chinese started and ended the 1962 war when India least expected it. They did much the same thing when they invaded Vietnam in 1979.

CONCENTRATE China's generals believe in hitting as fast and as hard as possible, a style of warfare they demonstrated in their 1962 blitzkrieg against India. The aim is to wage "battles with swift outcome" (su jue zhan). This laser focus has been a hallmark of every military action Communist China has undertaken since 1949.

STRIKE FIRST Beijing doesn't balk at using military force for political ends. On the contrary, China has repeatedly set out to "teach a lesson" to adversaries so they will dare not challenge Beijing's interests in the future. Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai explained that the 1962 war was meant to "teach India a lesson." Paramount leader Deng Xiaoping used the same formulation in 1979 when he became the first Chinese Communist leader to visit Washington and told America's then-president Jimmy Carter that "Vietnam must be taught a lesson, like India." China invaded its Southeast Asian neighbor just days later. (India's foreign minister happened to be in China at the time of the invasion, seeking to revive the bilateral relationship that had been frozen since 1962.) China ended its Vietnam invasion and withdrew from Vietnam after 29 days, declaring that Hanoi had been sufficiently chastised.

WAIT FOR IT Choose the most opportune moment. The 1962 war was a classic case: the attack coincided with the Cuban missile crisis, which brought the world to the brink of nuclear Armageddon and thereby distracted potential sources of international support for India. No sooner had the U.S. signaled an end to the face-off with Moscow than China declared a unilateral ceasefire in its invasion of India. During the war, the international spotlight remained on the U.S.-Soviet showdown, not on China's bloody invasion of a country that then had good relations with both the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

The pattern has persisted. After America pulled out of South Vietnam, China seized the Paracel Islands. In 1988, when Moscow's support for Vietnam had faded and Afghanistan had killed the Soviets' enthusiasm for foreign adventures, China occupied the disputed Johnson Reef in the Spratlys. And in 1995, when the Philippines stood isolated after having forced the U.S. to close its major military bases at Subic Bay and elsewhere on the archipelago, China seized Mischief Reef.


Caught napping by the invasion, India frantically began training new recruits. (Terry Fincher / Express-Getty Images)
RATIONALIZE Beijing likes to camouflage offense as defense. "The history of modern Chinese warfare provides numerous case studies in which China's leaders have claimed military preemption as a strategically defensive act," the Pentagon said in a 2010 report to Congress. The report cited a long list of examples, including the 1962 war, 1969 (when China provoked border clashes with the Soviet Union), the 1979 invasion of Vietnam, and even 1950, when China intervened in the Korean War. Beijing called its 1962 invasion a "defensive counterattack," a term it subsequently used for the invasion of Vietnam and the seizure of the Paracel Islands, Johnson Reef, and Mischief Reef.

DARE Risk-taking has long been an integral feature of Chinese strategy. Willingness to take military gambles was evident not only under Mao Zedong's zigzag helmsmanship but even when the rigorously pragmatic Deng invaded Vietnam, disregarding the possibility of Soviet intervention. And the risk-taking paid off each time. The past success may give Beijing confidence to take even more chances in the future, especially now that China has second-strike nuclear capability and unprecedented economic and conventional military strength.

The 1962 war took place at a time when the People's Republic was poor, internally troubled, and without nuclear weapons. But it showed the world how China's generals think. And it helps explain why Beijing's rapidly growing military power is raising serious concern.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/newswe...ction_ref_map={"10151268271146413":"article"}
 

sesha_maruthi27

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If INDIRA was the PM then the Chinese would have tasted their own medicine of strategy and preemptive attack with full force in reactive manner from the INDIAN SIDE. As the NEWTONS' LAW which says "EVERY ACTION HAS AN EQUAL AND OPPOSITE REACTION"........

Nehru is a coward and always downplayed the use of ARMY and its preparedness. Let this be the KASHMIR ISSUE OR THE 1962 WAR WITH CHINA........
 

Maharana

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A nice read. Provides a peek into the camouflaged Chinese way of dealing with its adversaries but I think most of its present & potential adversaries are vary of that be it Japan, India, US or the south-east Asian countries.

The question is how to prepare oneself in advance, to counter these policies. The topic must have two parts, 'How China Fights' & 'Lessons From the 1962 Sino-Indian War.'

The author, Mr. Chellany did a good job in telling us 'How China Fights' but there is no mention of the lessons learnt from Indo-Sino War.

If INDIRA was the PM then the Chinese would have tasted their own medicine of strategy and preemptive attack with full force in reactive manner from the INDIAN SIDE. As the NEWTONS' LAW which says "EVERY ACTION HAS AN EQUAL AND OPPOSITE REACTION"........

Nehru is a coward and always downplayed the use of ARMY and its preparedness. Let this be the KASHMIR ISSUE OR THE 1962 WAR WITH CHINA........
IMO Nehru ji was a diplomat, not a strategist. Even during the struggle for freedom, Gandhi ji was the icon of freedom, the leader to set examples but the brain work was pretty much Sardar Patel's job. A big reason why he was the first Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of India.

Indira ji was a brilliant strategist too. She made sure the tide rests with India and guaranteed the win for us by making East Pakistan so porous through Mukti Bahini even before she let the Indian Military lose to hunt down the Pakistani Army. Of course, the military mind of Sir Manekshaw and Col. JFR Jacob was with her but nobody can deny the capacity of Political planning & execution she had.
 

sesha_maruthi27

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INDIA lacks a leader like INDRA GANDHI in this present scenario of this present greedy world..........
 

Srinivas_K

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Even Chinese dare to attack they cannot capture the Indian Land since the lkogistics are a big problem and the terrain is mountaneous. A guerella strategy by Indian forces will make China leave the Land and go back from where they came.
 

no smoking

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If INDIRA was the PM then the Chinese would have tasted their own medicine of strategy and preemptive attack with full force in reactive manner from the INDIAN SIDE. As the NEWTONS' LAW which says "EVERY ACTION HAS AN EQUAL AND OPPOSITE REACTION"........
I don't think Indira can perform better than her father on this issue. In 1962, India army was not a force matching PLA which just upgraded itself in korea war.

Nehru is a coward and always downplayed the use of ARMY and its preparedness. Let this be the KASHMIR ISSUE OR THE 1962 WAR WITH CHINA........
Nehru is not a coward. No coward would initiated "forward policy" which was an action of war. He was just stupid enough to believe that Chinese would just run away in front of indian military pressure.
 

bhramos

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ANGRY MOB BEAT UP NEHRU AFTER 1962 WAR!
CONGRESS NEVER TALKS ABOUT THIS FACT!!!
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IN THE NEXT ELECTIONS OF 1967, CONGRESS PARTY LOST POWER IN ALL THE ASSEMBLIES OF ENTIRE NORTH INDIA AND IN THE LOK SABHA CONGRESS WON JUST 20 SEATS ABOVE THE MAJORITY MARK.
---------------------------------------------
PEOPLE DO NOT TOLERATE WRONG RULE! BE IT NEHRU OR BE IT ANYONE!!!!
 

bose

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Nehru was a big mouth fool, One have to know its own strengths & weakness before going out for any actions. It is the Nehru and in his time the Indian military was neglected and no proper strategy was in place to enhance the military capability. Yet Nehru put the unprepared Indian Army into this difficult position.

From Indian point of view Nehru did a blunder and he deserved to be criticized.

I am sure Indira would be better than Nehru and have done a proper calculation before any action.
 

Kunal Biswas

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To fight China, One must not think about fighting China only but any adversary from US to Russia..

1. We should get what we need from inside out not the other way around..
2. We should know our weakness and admit it and rectify it..
3. We should improvise where we need too..
4. We should be per-planned in our approach with relation to tactical objectives..
5. We Should think about victory, nothing else..
6. We Must have a end game plan..
 

no smoking

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Nehru was a big mouth fool, One have to know its own strengths & weakness before going out for any actions. It is the Nehru and in his time the Indian military was neglected and no proper strategy was in place to enhance the military capability. Yet Nehru put the unprepared Indian Army into this difficult position.

From Indian point of view Nehru did a blunder and he deserved to be criticized.
It would be the fault of whole india system at the time rather than Nehru's individual problem. India was just 15 years after its independence, most of its gov organization were newly created and full of unexpereinced staffs. Most importantly, most of india's senior officers in the army used to fight under the command of Britishs, they lack the experience of managing a war.
India intellegence was even worse: they didn't know how to carry some basic jobs.

With such terrible support, I don't think anyone can make proper calculation.

I am sure Indira would be better than Nehru and have done a proper calculation before any action.
It is not that Indira is better. Instead, the key difference is the whole system which had been improved greatly since 1962.
 

bose

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It would be the fault of whole india system at the time rather than Nehru's individual problem. India was just 15 years after its independence, most of its gov organization were newly created and full of unexpereinced staffs. Most importantly, most of india's senior officers in the army used to fight under the command of Britishs, they lack the experience of managing a war.
India intellegence was even worse: they didn't know how to carry some basic jobs.

With such terrible support, I don't think anyone can make proper calculation.


It is not that Indira is better. Instead, the key difference is the whole system which had been improved greatly since 1962.
India learned a lesson from 1962 a need for credible military force is absolute necessary, only big mouthing Utopian ideas does not cut anymore... It was indeed a multiple failure of intelligence gathering and leadership for some key individuals.

I would say Indira was more receptive and calculative in nature than Nehru, may be a fall out of the 62.

Although Off topic: I would go on to say the 1962 disaster and the 1965 war has open India's eyes and these two events have turned India more pragmatic and need to understand one's strength and weakness.
 

captonjohn

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To fight China, One must not think about fighting China only but any adversary from US to Russia..

1. We should get what we need from inside out not the other way around..
2. We should know our weakness and admit it and rectify it..
3. We should improvise where we need too..
4. We should be per-planned in our approach with relation to tactical objectives..
5. We Should think about victory, nothing else..
6. We Must have a end game plan..
History indicates that before making any attack on any country China works on exit policy. Chinese do have the exit policy and surprise is their key strategy. They will attack suddenly and then will run away. China may attack in very quick and sudden way and will retreat when they will find that she has gave enough harm to Indian Army and now IA is capable of dealing with Chinese aggression.

Fighting inside our territory won't help until we change our policy to fight inside Chinese land. In this way we won't leave chinese if they retreat after attack and push them inside their territory.
 

W.G.Ewald

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[PDF]http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/conf_proceedings/CF145/CF145.chap8.pdf[/PDF]
 

W.G.Ewald

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The Jamestown Foundation: single[tt_news]=31711
An article in the April edition of the Far Eastern Economic Review, written by two senior Chinese academics, reveals that China would go to war to secure its energy needs [1]. For the past few years, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) has reorganized the army into combined arms battle groups in order to perform this mission, which it has labeled the doctrine of "active defense." The PLA is being organized and equipped to fight its battles deep inside an enemy's territory, rather than on the periphery or in the Chinese hinterland as envisioned by the "people's war" theory, which Mao himself acknowledged creates a large amount of infrastructure destruction.
 

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[PDF]http://www.defensegroupinc.com/cira/pdf/doctrinebook.pdf[/PDF]
 

W.G.Ewald

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China's Nuclear Forces: Operations, Training, Doctrine, Command, Control and Campaign Planning
Recent books and journal articles published in China provide new insights into nuclear doctrine, operations, training, and the employment of the People's Liberation Army's (PLA) strategic rocket forces. The major insights come from exploiting sections of a doctrinal text published for PLA institutions of higher military education by the Chinese National Defense University, A Guide to the Study of Campaign Theory (Zhanyi Lilun Xuexi Zhinan). In the view of many in the PLA, the military power of the United States, the potential to use that power to coerce or dominate China, and the ability to threaten China's pursuit of its own its interests, presents a latent threat to China. Additionally, China's own threats against democratic Taiwan, and the fact that PLA leaders believe that the United States is likely to come to Taiwan's assistance in the event of Chinese aggression in the Taiwan Strait, magnifies the threat that PLA officers perceive from the United States. This perceived threat drives the PLA to follow U.S. military developments more carefully than those of other nations and to be prepared to counter American forces. The PLA is mixing nuclear and conventional missile forces in its military doctrine. Also, some in China are questioning whether the doctrine of "no-first-use" of nuclear weapons serves China's deterrent needs.
 

W.G.Ewald

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PLA Doctrine and Strategy
This chapter explores the evolving doctrine and strategy of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) as it prepares for a potential military conflict with the US over Taiwan. It argues that the PLA's main concerns are using force to prevent separation of Taiwan and addressing the US as a potential regional and global security adversary.
PDF download from link.
 

W.G.Ewald

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PLA Strategy
The single most concrete and important suggestion I can offer to the new NDU Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs is simple: sponsor a large project to systematically translate into English, and make publicly available, a wide variety of Chinese language books and journals about the PLA. There are many other important and worthy missions for the new Center—including stimulating and helping to coordinate the field of contemporary Chinese military studies; building an unparalleled library and documentation center of primary language and translated materials; holding conferences, seminars, and policy dialogues; sponsoring exchanges with specialists of the PLA, and in the PLA; and creating an in-house permanent research staff whose research skills and scholarly objectivity are of the highest caliber possible—but perhaps none is more important than what the Center can do to drastically expand the data base upon which the entire field of PLA studies crucially depends.

Data is the lifeblood of all research. Without an adequate empirical data base, analysts—be they scholars, journalists, or intelligence analysts—have no alternative but to fall back on inference, subjectivity, hunches, and even ideologically-driven and politically-motivated approaches. Without hard data, the field of Chinese military studies would quickly be prone to these less-than-empirical methods.

Of what data do I speak? Unfortunately, there persists an enduring yet inaccurate shibboleth in the study of the PLA, which is also widely held in policy circles and perpetuated by some media—namely that the PLA is not transparent. This is simply not the case. While I readily acknowledge that the PLA does intentionally try to hide considerable information from foreigners (as well as the Chinese population), and is somewhat successful in doing so (particularly with regards to weapons development programs, budget and expenditure, strategic intentions and perhaps deployments), the vast majority of information a specialist/analyst would want to know about the PLA is readily available."¦"¦"¦"¦"¦in Chinese.
 

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