The South China Morning Post (June 17) quoted a source close to the PLA as saying that Beijing was “very sensitive” about military casualties, saying all numbers had to be approved by President Xi Jinping, who heads the Central Military Commission, before being released. He said Beijing was also concerned as to how the clash might be seen by Washington ahead of a key meeting between China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday in Hawaii, adding “China certainly wants to de-escalate the situation ahead of the Yang-Pompeo meeting, but if other countries want to take advantage of [the border dispute] ... our troops will react accordingly.” A second source, also close to the PLA, said Beijing was being especially cautious because the clash happened in the Galwan valley, which was one of the key battlefields of the 1962 Sino-Indian war in which more than 2,000 people died. “As in India, the nationalist sentiment in China is escalating, with some social media platforms belonging to the military-political departments pledging to safeguard Chinese territory by all means,” the person said. Wang Dehua, an expert on India at the Shanghai Municipal Centre for International Studies, said Beijing did not want a fight with Delhi. He said “The border dispute between China and India also affects relations between India and Pakistan, China and Pakistan, and [US President] Donald Trump’s Indo-Pacific Strategy. China doesn’t want to fight India, but that doesn’t mean it’s scared to go to war. The PLA is prepared for the worst.” Zhou Chenming, a military expert based in Beijing, agreed, saying the recent increase in high-altitude military exercises by PLA troops was intended as a warning to India that they are ready for combat. He said “Indian troops said they would not tolerate aggression from China as it was no longer 1962, but do they realise that today’s Chinese army is not the one that fought in 1962? China was able to defeat India then and could do so again.” Sun Shihai, an expert on Indian affairs at Sichuan University, said he believed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be keen to work with Xi to de-escalate the tensions as he understood the importance of peace to the country’s long-term economic development.

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