'China Becomes Red' (Part 1)
by Claude Arpi (Author of The Fate of Tibet)

Before entering into the events of 1950, 'the Fateful Year' and the upheavals which followed that changed the map of Asia, it is interesting to look at the players, their motivations, their characters and the cards in their hands. The end of the forties saw the entry of a new player in the Great Game of Free Asia: Red China. To set the tone of the year to come, a commentator in the World Culture of Shanghai wrote in September 1949: 'The India of Nehru attained dominion status only two years ago and it is not even formally independent in the fullest sense of the word. But Nehru, riding behind the imperialists whose stooge he is, actually considers himself as the leader of the Asian peoples. Into his slavish and bourgeois reactionary character has now been instilled the beastly ambition for aggression, and he thinks that his role as a hireling of imperialism makes him an imperialist himself. He has announced that Bhutan is an Indian protectorate, and now proceeds to declare that 'Tibet has never acknowledged China's suzerainty in order to carry out his plot to create an incident in Tibet.'

Under the long standing influence of British imperialism, the bourgeoisie of India, of whom Nehru is the representative, have learned the ways of imperialists and are harbouring intentions against Tibet and Sikkim as well as Bhutan. Furthermore Nehru, to carry favour with his masters, the Anglo-American imperialists, is placing himself at their disposal, and shamelessly holds himself as the pillar of the anti-Communist movement in Asia.

He concludes that: 'Nehru has already been made the substitute of Chiang Kai-shek by the imperialist.'
The above article summarised in communist terms some of the beliefs and convictions of the Chinese Communist leaders. First, Nehru wanted to be the leader of Asia, and his actions in the following years would show that Nehru did everything to play this role. Second the Chinese goal was to bring Communism to Asia and at a later stage to the whole world in accordance with the Marxist theory of spreading the Revolution. The 'struggle' was between Capitalism and Socialism, and the Chinese leaders were convinced that to attain their goal, Nehru was an obstacle. Thirdly, it was clear that Tibet was strategically and ideologically a very important base to achieve Mao's ideal socialist world.

October 1, 1949 the Chinese Communists proclaimed the new People's Republic of China (PRC). Under the chairmanship of Mao Zedong and with Zhou Enlai as the first Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister of the new Republic, the Communists had taken over the most populous country in the world. 'The Chinese people have stood up, long life the Chinese Communist Party' Mao told the million Chinese assembled on the Tiananmen Square. Dr Li, his future doctor who had just come back after completing his studies abroad later wrote: 'I was so full of joy my heart nearly burst out of my throat, and tears welled up in my eyes. I was so proud of China, so full of hope, so happy that the exploitation and suffering, the aggression from foreigners, would be gone forever.'

In months following the take over, the new regime never missed an opportunity to tell the world through Radio Beijing and the Chinese Press, that they were going to be the liberators of Asia. Mao Zedong himself in a message to the Indian Communist Party stated in October 1949: 'I firmly believe that relying on the brave Communist Party of India and the unity and the struggle of all Indian patriots, India will certainly not remain long under the yoke of imperialism and its collaborators. Like free China, free India will one day emerge in the socialist and People's Democratic family; that day will end the imperialist reactionary era in the history of mankind.'

After the 1962 war, many Indian leaders spoke of the 'Chinese Betrayal', but we shall see in the following pages that in fact the Chinese Communists never 'betrayed' anything: right from the moment they came to power they announced clearly their goals and objectives and they were always determined to take all necessary actions including when needed to bluff, to appease, to use blatant lies and if necessary the barrel of the gun to achieve their objectives.

In the fifties, Zhou Enlai played the game of 'Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai' perfectly with India. It was part of the gamble: the Chinese Government had to prepare its military actions (in particular build the necessary infrastructure in Tibet) to materialise their declared mission. Regarding Tibet, there is no doubt that the Government of India knew about the Chinese plans, because as early as August 1950, while the Tibetan delegation was waiting for the newly appointed Chinese Ambassador in New Delhi to start negotiating the fate of Tibet, Zhou Enlai told Panikkar that the liberation of Tibet was a 'sacred duty'.

Though he promised that the Chinese would 'secure their ends by negotiations and not by military action,' troops were massed in Sichuan on the other side of the Yangtse river. On one side of the chessboard was the Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru who was an idealist, not to say a dreamer or a romantic and for him the means more than the goal to achieve were of supreme importance. Zhou and Mao viewed the world differently: only their goal was important and the ways and means to reach their final destination were not relevant. Two opposite world views were confronting each other!

Unfortunately for India, one of the few pragmatic leaders, Sardar Patel, would soon pass away. It was a great misfortune for India. Nehru, thereafter alone on the Indian political stage was not able (or wanting) to grasp the Chinese mind. His advisor, Panikkar, the so-called 'Asian' expert was a mere loud speaker for the Chinese regime. He was too enamoured of the new regime in Beijing and his own idea of the 'resurgence of Asia', to be able to clearly analyse the developing situation. Frank Moraes wrote: 'Watching Panikkar, I could not help feeling that his sense of history had overwhelmed him. He saw himself projected into the drama of a great revolution, and his excitement had infected him.'

Nobody better than Pannikar could carry the Chinese propaganda to the Indian leadership during the following years. To come back to the Communist Chinese motivations, we should listen to what Mao declared after the 1962 attack on the Indian garrison in NEFA and the subsequent withdrawal without apparent reasons. The Chairman said something which says a lot about the Chinese mentality: 'People may ask if there is contradiction to abandon a territory gained by heroic battle. Does it mean that the heroic fighters shed their blood in vain and to no purpose? This is to put the wrong question. Does one eat to no purpose simply because he relieves himself later? Does one sleep in vain because one wakes up and goes about? I do not think the questions should be asked thus; rather one should keep on eating and sleeping or fighting. These are illusions born out of subjectivism and formalism and do not exist in real life.'

It was clear that illusions and subjectivism and formalism did not interest Mao, he dealt with 'real life' only. For him and his comrades, the only thing which mattered was their final goal. This was discovered too late by the Indian leaders. Many years later, the Intelligence Chief, BN Mullik, a Nehru loyalist wrote in his book the 'Chinese Betrayal': However, in everything that Mao Zedong does there is a purpose and a method, and, whilst keeping the main aim always before him, he often makes compromises in the details to prepare conditions for the next step forward. It is a pity that the Director of Intelligence Bureau did not understand this earlier.

A very practical example demonstrates the difference of attitude and mentality between the Indians and the Chinese on the question of maps. When they took over China, the Communists had ready maps showing large parts of Korea, Indochina, Inner Mongolia, Burma, Malaysia, Eastern Turkestan, India, Tibet, Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan as part of China. Nehru himself admitted in the Indian Parliament: 'China in the past had added vast territories to her empire and her maps still showed that she included portions or the whole of many present-day independent countries to be within that empire. While China was engulfing half of Asia in her maps, in March 1950, the Government of India published a 'White Paper on States.' It was an authoritative document, which has been cited in the Supreme Court of India. In an annexe to this Paper was a map of India showing the boundary of the entire western sector of the Tibeto-Indian border as 'UNDEFINED.' In the 'middle sector' of the boundary, up to the trijunction of the Nepali-Indo-Tibetan border, the map was still marked as 'UNDEFINED.' However, on the same map, the McMahon Line (between NEFA and Tibet) was clearly defined.

This map published by the Ministry of States two months after the Indian Constitution was promulgated had been drawn by the Survey of India. It was only after Nehru's visit to China in 1954 that a new map was printed by the Survey of India with the western and central Indo-Tibetan boundary clearly defined. At that time the Chinese were working at full steam on the Tibet-Sinkiang Highway through Indian territory (Aksai Chin). For India, it was already too late and she was in any case swimming in the euphoria of the Five Principles of Indo-Chinese 'friendship.' Zhou Enlai later cleverly used these maps (of 1950) in a Letter to the Leaders of Asian and African countries on the Sino-Indian Boundary Question in November 1962 to show how India was an expansionist country.

Recently, Lui Liang Guang, a Chinese scholar, reiterated the familiar Chinese thesis (at a seminar in Colombo) of Indian 'expansionism' and 'hegemonism' towards its smaller neighbours. He said 'Nepal, Bhutan and Sikkim denied even breathing spell, were placed under Indian umbrella overnight' after the British left India.

Still today, the Chinese do not recognise Sikkim as a part of India and disregard India's strategic interests and special bonds with Nepal and Bhutan. More farcical, Gegong Apang, the former Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh was recently refused a visa to visit China on the ground that as a resident of Arunachal, he was a Chinese national. Amusing Chinese logic! Communist China basically remained an expansionist empire and for India with her idealist and 'friendly' foreign policy doctrines, it was practically impossible to oppose her giant neighbour. What can happen when one player is bluffing with good cards, while the other one is shying away with no cards? In fact if one studies the history of India, one sees that India never had expansionist tendencies while China whatever the colour of the regime in Beijing always had very strong imperialist tendencies.

To take an example on the Indo-Tibetan border, once in 1943, the Tibetan Government claimed Walong a small estate in NEFA as theirs. Though the matter was later settled through discussions between Hopkinson, the Political Officer in Sikkim and the Tibetan Foreign Office in Lhasa, one of the first places attacked by the PLA in the late fifties was Walong. It had become a Chinese territory just because it had once been claimed by the Tibetan Government. Unfortunately, the new leaders of independent India were not able to see through the game. For India, the spirit of attachment to her territory and the need expansion has never existed traditionally. To quote Sri Aurobindo, the great sage and nationalist leader, in his Foundation of Indian Culture: At no time does India seem to have been moved towards an aggressive military and political expansion beyond her own borders, no epic of world dominion, no great tale of far-borne invasion or expanding colonial empire has ever been written in the tale of Indian achievement. The sole great endeavour of expansion, of conquest, of invasion she attempted was the expansion of her culture, the invasion and conquest of the eastern world by the Buddhistic idea and the penetration of her spirituality, art and thought-forces. And this was an invasion of peace and not of war, for to spread a spiritual civilisation by force and physical conquest, the vaunt or the excuse of modern imperialism, would have been uncongenial to the ancient cast of her mind and temperament and the idea underlying her Dharma.

To take an example on the Indo-Tibetan border, once in 1943, the Tibetan Government claimed Walong a small estate in NEFA as theirs. Though the matter was later settled through discussions between Hopkinson, the Political Officer in Sikkim and the Tibetan Foreign Office in Lhasa, one of the first places attacked by the PLA in the late fifties was Walong. It had become a Chinese territory just because it had once been claimed by the Tibetan Government. Unfortunately, the new leaders of independent India were not able to see through the game. For India, the spirit of attachment to her territory and the need expansion has never existed traditionally. To quote Sri Aurobindo, the great sage and nationalist leader, in his Foundation of Indian Culture: 'At no time does India seem to have been moved towards an aggressive military and political expansion beyond her own borders, no epic of world dominion, no great tale of far-borne invasion or expanding colonial empire has ever been written in the tale of Indian achievement. The sole great endeavour of expansion, of conquest, of invasion she attempted was the expansion of her culture, the invasion and conquest of the eastern world by the Buddhistic idea and the penetration of her spirituality, art and thought-forces. And this was an invasion of peace and not of war, for to spread a spiritual civilisation by force and physical conquest, the vaunt or the excuse of modern imperialism, would have been uncongenial to the ancient cast of her mind and temperament and the idea underlying her Dharma.'

'China Becomes Red' (Part 2)


Claude Arpi is a French dentist tuned Tibetologist living in India. He is also the author of 'The Fate of Tibet' and an advisor to Friends of Tibet (INDIA)

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