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A Geopolitical View of the World [Copy link] 中文

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Post time 2015-5-14 20:05:15 |Display all floors
This post was edited by proudcolonel at 2015-5-14 20:20


This is a translation of a Chinese thread on international politics, which I find immensly enlightenning.

I introduce this thread for three reasons: first, its approach is mainly analytical and diagnostic; second, it focuses on relatively objective factors, namely geography and its impact on human thoughts and behaviors; third, because of the previous two reasons its insight is of great value.

I am impressed not only by the author's insight but his perseverance as well. He started the writing in 2009, and to this day he is still writing. It is this very civilian fondness  and pursuit of knowledge that makes me intensely proud of this country and has eventually inspired me to attempt translation of his work.

It is usually boredom that prompts us to roam online, but boredom is far from the only contribution we can make to this virtual world. I am aware that many people come here simply for fun and catharsis, a justifiable motive given the pressure in life. I only hope that my translation is not too much of a joy-killer. And I would appreciate it if anyone pointed out my mistakes, such as Chinglish,  in translation or told me what is confusing. If by any chance some of you find this interesting or meaningful and thus want to join me in the tranlation, I will be delighted to work with you. After all, it is an onerous undertaking, and I have a full-time job to handle and a loan to pay back. I will try to maintain a pace of one chapter per week and please understand if I default because bread-winning comes first.

Since I am not the original author, technically I am in no position to answer questions except for those related to my translation. But I can be a liaison and submit them to the author, hopefully he will deliver a quick reply. As many would agree, translation is essentially a process of re-creation, so if you swish to read the original Chinese version, please go to I add to the orginal text some footnotes, which I hope will prove helpful to the reading. Also I remade the illustrative maps in English so that the ideas of author is better appreciated.

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Post time 2015-5-14 20:22:13 |Display all floors
This post was edited by proudcolonel at 2015-5-14 20:38


The idea of analyzing international relations from a geopolitical point of view wassparked by a flash of inspiration that India and China seem to share quite abit of resemblance in their geopolitical structures, and thus the post – Comparison on the Geopolitical Features ofIndia and China. Many friends think this is a good place to start, anencouragement that has prompted me to expand my vision from around China to aroundthe world, hence the title DI YUAN KAN SHI JIE – A Geopolitical View of the World.

No countries are identical with regard to their geopolitical structures, so it isonly natural that the parallel between India and China has engendered heateddebate. I have to admit that my initial intention to start this topic wassimply for fun; those topics that follow, however, have all undergone carefulstudy from a technique perspective.

I do not dare imply that my views are the truth. What I am offering is merely amethodology, a paradigm by which to analyze and understand internationalrelations. In fact, analysis of international politics from a geopoliticalperspective is widely practiced by many experts and professionals. What I do isnothing more than a rudimentary study and answering questions of some friends.It is like everyone knows one plus one equals two, but some people may beinterested in why the result is not three.

For the title A Geopolitical View of theWorld, the discussion in fact is largely a view of the world from Chineseperspective, or in other words mainly exploring geopolitical issues pertainingto China, including the geopolitical orientation of China in the world, thegeopolitical structures of China’s home region, and their geopolitical relationsto China.

After completion of the above topics, focus will be shifted to such regions as Europeand North America in hopes of a more comprehensive understanding of the worldand a better fit for the title. Having spent quite a few years on the WorldOutlook (a sub-forum on TIAN YA Forum, the biggest and most influential forumwebsite for Chinese-speaking people), I find out that plenty of people haveacute interest in our nation’s rise and fall with too much passion but toolittle rationality. Do not get me wrong! I have always appreciated passion,without which a nation would be lifeless, but I presume that more acquisitionof fundamental knowledge won’t do us any harm. Before turning to aninternational stage more overwhelming and tumultuous, it would be necessary tounderstand the geopolitical composition of China. As the saying goes “Rome wasnot built in a day”, the China we see today by no means takes its form with asingle strike of hammer.

The chapters on China can be divided into two parts: Part I can be understood as A Geopolitical Blueprint for China’s Revival; Part II, a chronological interpretation of the formation of China tracing fromits current state back to its infancy with history as the guide, can beperceived as The Evolution of the MiddleKingdom. There are two points for doing so: first, it enables us to attaina deeper understanding of our home country; second, the laws of geopoliticsdeduced from numerous historical precedents are conducive to a more insightfulperception of today’s world. For those who love history, these two parts mayalso be guidance for interpreting part of Chinese history and even provide keysto some questions you possibly have in mind.

It is my habit to put up maps for illustration. If you happen to find them usefulin some way, feel free to make use of it, no strings attached. Due to the sheervolume of information, errors are hardly avoidable, and I would appreciate itif any one pointed them out. As for the reliability of historical sources,conclusive information is favored the most. History before Zhou Dynasty,however, thanks to the dearth of definite records, is less truth thaninference, which is best taken as a possible reference. The entire post is infact nothing more than one school of thought, so there is no need to give more creditthan it deserves, or to peruse every single chapter.

There will be synchronized interpretations about latest events with geopoliticalbackground, but they will be brief and focused on basic analysis. As forprediction or judgment, I believe everyone will have his/her own formed throughanalysis. Admittedly, it will be easier to write comments or reviews that areusually way more provocative and exciting, but since many professionals arealready doing this, I would be a fool to compete with them. My strength, atleast I think, lies in the elementary things.

On News Reviews

Many people ask me why for all the abundant sources and interested audience I amreluctant to write news reviews. It is essentially a matter of perspective andimpetus. After all, these articles are geopolitically oriented and center onthings that are fundamental and strategic. Both geopolitics and strategy arerelatively constant notions, least susceptible to time, thus more reliable andworthy of study.

It is of course not mandatory to interpret events solely from a geopolitical pointof view. Some friends of mine have often hoped that I adopt a more comprehensiveapproach to interpretation of events on a regular basis. I appreciate theirfaith in me, but I decline to act in this way even though doing so brings moreimmediate attention. One reason for this is that I do not wish to interpret forthe sake of interpretation. The thinking pattern for news reviews today is, toa very large extent, homogenized or stereotyped: based on a Cold War mentality,and a wishful premise that the world is polarized as China and U.S., everythingunder the sun, including certain events that are purely accidental or personal,are part of Sino-US contest. Taking this argument to its logical extreme, wewill easily draw a conclusion that lauds the vision and resourcefulness ofChinese leaders in fighting against U.S. greed and vice under a Sino-philia atmosphere,and a contrary one that extolls U.S. endeavor to dispel the ubiquitous threatsfrom evil China under an Anglo-philia climate.

The fact is that securityand interest is the first and foremost motivation of a nation’s policy-makingand in direct proportion to its involvement. Most countries at most times simplyengage in act-and-react mode, adopt a flexible approach to changes of events,and adjust tactics with the attitude of pragmatism and expediency. Not everymove is oh-so far-sighted and prescient. Therefore, intentionally provocative newsreviews on a regular basis are highly prone to hyperbole in language and stereotypein thinking paradigm, which usually encompasses such “indispensable” factors asoil, finance, religion, partisanship, freemasonry, dichotomy, etc. Then all thesefactors will invariably be connected by the panacea of conspiracy to explainwhat is happening. For this very reason, I am strongly inclined to focus onless sensational elements, the more objective ones. If by any chance you findthis enlightening, then I will be most flattered.

The Age of Undercurrent War

Apart from the logical fallacy of doing A for the sake of doing A, that Ihave my own opinion of the Post-Cold-War era is another reason for myreservation about writing regular news reviews. As has been noted, thedichotomy of China and U.S. on the basis of Cold War mentality oversimplifiesreality, and thus looks convenient to me. In terms of the complexity of game,it is much easier in a two-party game to locate the core issues than in amulti-party one. The truth is, however, that the Iron Curtain separating theworld was torn apart in 1990; the mode of game in this new era is no longer anantagonistic one. If a term must be coined to our time, it is the Age ofUndercurrent War.

Each age displays features different from the ones before it. Take theCold War for example: its most distinctive trait is the means which U.S. andSoviet Union employed – arms race – as a replacement of the old horrid way –war – to settle disputes. That this “progress” was able to come true is largelyattributable to the birth of nuclear weapons. In terms of military game, suchweapon with its devastating impacts reduces any nation’s strategic depthimmensely, straining its war capacity and chances for survival. No country withnuclear weapons would therefore risk mutual annihilation with an opponent ofthe same sort. However ironic this may seem – the most deadly arms of humanhistory keeps the world in peace – it is an unassailable fact, only if suchhorrible bombs are kept to a few.

Now let’s see in what ways our age of Undercurrent War is different fromthose before it.

First, multi-lateral rivalry has replaced bilateral one. The dominantmentality of friend or foe duringWWII and the Cold War is no longer the characteristic of our time. AlthoughU.S. still presides over world affairs, E.U., Russia, China, and even Indiahave emerged as major players in geopolitics. Some may see a return to “ColdWar” with the ongoing alliance of U.S. and E.U. on one hand, the back-to-backstrategic approach of Russia and China on the other. In fact E.U. for its owninterests is drifting away from U.S. and India has learnt that a maximizationof profit comes from a seeming aloofness to any form of affiliation with themajor powers, so in this sense no “Iron Curtain” has been drawn. Now with beliefin pragmatism, all countries, big or small, do not assume that they cannotcooperate in one particular field just because they have fights in another.

Second, economy has replaced military as the chief gauge of a nation’sstrength. Based on Nuclear Weapon Paradox, the major powers have eventually cometo recognize how absurd it is to indulge in arms race when one cannot afford todestroy the other. This is not to say that it is unnecessary to possessmilitary deterrence; only it has to be commensurate with one’s economic power.

Third, cooperation has replaced confrontation as the theme ofinternational relations. While the ultimate goal for countries to collaborateand form alliances before our time was to destroy the opponents, today the goalis to gain more control in competition. Such change technically derives fromthe globalization of economy, which has made major powers inter-dependent and ultimatelyshaped this age of Undercurrent War. In respect of international relations, themost prominent quality of our time is the “hypocrisy”: maintenance of peace andproclamation of cooperation are necessary on the surface despite the inevitable,sometimes rather bitter rivalry that lies below. If current situation evolvesto a phase when major powers rip off their pretense and openly accuse eachother of peace-breaking, then a new age befalls.

On Geopolitical View

Many who first read my article will get the impression that it is allabout geographical determinism or popularizing geography. The truth of courseis nothing like this. Geography is undoubtedly a vital force, but man assumes the paramount importance inthe study of geopolitics. That is, geopolitics requires not only analysis of physicalenvironment but also man’s role in it. The ultimate purpose is to achieve abetter policy-making based on a better understanding of how all these factorsinteracted to shape human history.

Contrasted with the elites, the traditional focus of historical andpolitical study, the men studied by geopolitics are the common people,collective in nature. By zooming out on the peoples, we will begin to see fromthe course of history the various attributes that distinguish them. Molded bydistinct physical surroundings and human interactions, these attributes –races, ethnicities, religions, languages, writing systems – become part of geopoliticsthat are forced to be reckoned with. If need be, we will certainly examine thenatural environments from which these attributes arise.

Whether an attribute displayed by a certain group of people is a noteworthygeopolitical factor is dictated by a simple rule, i.e. whether or not it hassurvived time. By this rule, a quintessential idea in studying geopolitics ofChina is by no means the alleged “sweeping” pop cultures of Korea and Japan,but that of home, a universal feeling of the Chinese for their homeland,originated from the agrarian cultures of several millenniums.

Having understood all the elements in geopolitics, we are now ready to apply them toall sorts of fields: politics, economy, culture, military, etc. Because thefactors are all relatively constant, the interpretations thus deduced tend tobe unsurprisingly strategic. For instance, by geopolitical analysis, we cantell which cities in China are potential regional or “international financial”hubs, or what the radius of their direct influence can be. To realize theseprospects, however, requires far more than geopolitical study.

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Post time 2015-5-14 20:41:07 |Display all floors
This post was edited by proudcolonel at 2015-5-14 20:42

Part I   A Geopolitical Blueprint for China’s Revival

Chapter I   A Comparison on the Geopolitical Features ofIndia and China

There have been numerous articles about India from various perspectives:military, political, ethnical, and so on. Honestly I have never been to thatcountry, but I enjoy reading history and studying maps. So I would like toinitiate a discussion on India’s geopolitical status quo from a geographicpoint of view, with maps made by myself to aid in understanding.

The parallel of India and China evokes worldwide fascination; indeed,numerous are the topics for comparison: ages-old civilizations, hugepopulations in billions, shared traumas of foreign invasion, and now inrevival. There are generally two schools of thought: one believes that India ismore promising; the other holds that China enjoys late-mover advantage. Animportant reason for the Indians’ optimism is their country’s superior locationto that of China. Like U.S., the Indian subcontinent has direct contact withthe ocean on both sides; on the contrary, China is very much contained by thefirst chain of islands in East and South-East Asia. However, I do not sharethis view. From the viewpoint of sea power, China’s maritime breakthroughindeed faces formidable challenges, which fortunately also confer an easydefense, a status in line with the strategic tradition of China forconsolidation, so long as it does not challenge U.S. maritime supremacy. India,on the opposite, has a wide open door convenient for not only itself going out,but others coming in as well, like the terrorists that shocked Bombay. Indiamust be feeling terrible headache, seeing other countries’ fleets, includingthat of China of course, roaming about in the Indian Ocean as if it were theirown backyard, all in the “noble” name of combating the pirates of Somalia.

Geographic condition in fact plays a decisive role in human history, andthe geopolitics thus derived is categorically the prime deciding force ininternational relations. A panorama of Indian modern history reveals to us notonly striking geopolitical similarities between the two countries but a moredangerous situation for India than for China.

To fully understand this, we need to have an overview of both countries’current geopolitical statuses. First, let’s focus on China. Objectivelyspeaking, the geopolitical status quo of China is at its best in the past twomillenniums. Though opinions differ on which dynasty in Chinese historycontrolled the largest territory, the largest, judging by the effective operationof centralism, is undoubtedly Qing Dynasty, whose control over Xizang (Tibet),due to the absence of permanent defense forces, however was rather weak. TheP.R.C. generally inherited the territory of Qing (except for Outer Mongolia)and fully exerted centralism all over China for the very first time. The landunder the jurisdiction of the central governments in Chinese history –ChinaProper – was largely in line with the south of The Great Wall, while the NortheastManchuria (I don’t like this word, but it’s more proper a term for discussinginternational politics), the North Mongolian Steppe, the Northwest Xiyu(Western Frontier), and the West Qing Zang Gao Yuan (Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau)have always been the culprit of the empire’s instability. When China Proper wasthriving and powerful, these places were able to be bridled by economic andpolitical means1; when it was feeble, they would rebel. Now that allsurrounding regions are brought under the direct control of the centralgovernment, China’s defense depth has seen a giant advance, effectivelysecuring its heartland.

An exception, as mentioned previously, Outer Mongolia officially gainedits independence from China in 1945, a ramification mostly out of securityconcerns between major powers – the need for a buffer zone large enough forboth sides to feel safe on the otherwise too-long borderlines between Russia(then the Soviet Union) and China. The painful truth about this is that we instead of the Russians had to spitout large tracts of land for the northern Russia-China border. The problem,however, was never fully resolved until about four decades later the Russianshad to contribute all together at once five Central Asian nations as bufferstates for the northwestern border of Russia and China, a delayed justice,given that the Russians made the same attempt2 in Xinjiang as inMongolia, but failed. Since the fall of Soviet Union, both countries have hadsufficient warranty for security. The remaining border dispute in the northeastalso came to a quick end.

Now back to India. Before independence in 1947, India was larger than itis now, with Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Myanmar (Burma) under its directmanagement (precisely under the East India Company), Sri Lanka, Nepal, andBhutan as its protectorates. This means that the entire Indian Subcontinent wasa unity, but from 1948 on, all these regions took to independence. Comparingthe relations of these nations to India with those of China’s peripheral zonesto China Proper, we will see many resemblances. The difference is that most ofthe potentially independent regions in China have been retained while those ofIndia have all evolved into modern nations.

The India in the following discussion refers to a notion in a geographicsense, i.e. the Greater India or simply South Asia.

1. Pakistan vs Xinjiang

It is nearly impossible to analyze India by ethnicity other than byreligion because the peoples there are way too diverse and, however ironic thismay seem, the constitution of India does not acknowledge the existence ofmultiple ethnicities. Just as the Han people are the majority of China, theHindus are the dominant people in India, both countries with Muslims as thedisturbing factor in their Northwest. China scores when it adamantly made theissue of Muslims an internal affair, a good fortune that even with occasional riotsstill beats the rancorous India-Pakistan relationship.

2. Bangladesh vs Ningxia

Similar to the situation in India, China’s muslins also concentrate in tworegions: Xinjiang and Ningxia. Another common feature is that the muslins inboth Bangladesh and Ningxia are less aggressive and thus more reassuring.Clever as India might have been, its role in the secession of Bangladesh(formerly the eastern part of Pakistan) from Pakistan hardly earns a scorebecause Bangladesh, almost cutting India from its northeast territory, is an independent nation, while as partof China, Ningxia poses no genuine threat, and as the Hui3 have muchin common with the Han, the conflict between them is at most an internalaffair, at least barely noteworthy.

3. Nepal and Bhutan vs Mongolia

The north neighboring power of China is Russia while that of India isChina, with powerless buffer states stuck in between tremendously curtailingthe borderlines. What is annoying for us Chinese is that the buffer zone,Mongolia, was taken from us while both Nepal and Bhutan were slightly moreindependent. So let’s just say India wins this round.

4. Sri Lanka vs Taiwan

Lying respectively to the Southeast of India and China, both islands,whose inhabitants are mainly from the continent, hold prominent strategicpositions. Most countries acknowledge that Taiwan is part of China, and it isjust a matter of time and tide before China reunites Taiwan. But no one wouldtreat Sri Lanka as part of India besides, China has managed to manifest itselfin Sri Lanka on the issue of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Wouldn’t Indiawant to retaliate by intervening in Taiwan? Yes, but No Way! China scores ahalf point considering that the two sides of Taiwan Strait are not yetreunited.

5. Myanmar vs Xizang (Tibet)

Just as Xizang (Tibet) is the latest constituent for China, Myanmar firstcame under Indian jurisdiction at a rather late time– during the British rule.India would not fear a China without Xizang (Tibet) just as China would not fearan India without Myanmar. The fact is that India lost Myanmar while China keptXizang, an ominous fact for the Indians but a fortunate one for the Chinese.Again China scores.

6. The Northeast of India vs The Northeast of China (Manchuria)

The historical term Manchuria on the map will surely offend many people. Iuse it mainly for a lucid illustration of the regions that are being comparedbecause the term Northeast is confusing. The Northeast of both countries areunder direct control of their respective central governments, but China hasapparent advantages over India. For one thing, the ethnicity of China’sNortheast is largely Han whereas that of India is mainly Mongoloid; foranother, the strategic ties of China’s Northeast to its heartland prove strongand steady while those of India seem quite precarious, almost hanging by athread. Given that currently both countries have effective control over theseareas, let’s call it even.

Geopolitical status is not unchanging. The point of comparison is to saythat about seven decades ago China shared great resemblance in geopoliticalstatus with India, but now China has seized most of its peripheral zoneswhereas India relinquished most of its own, which could be time bombs on itsdoorstep and obstacles to its rise. In this sense, however the comparison isset – longitudinal or transverse, the geopolitical status quo of China isbetter than that of India.

Before turning to analysis of China’s sea power, I take this chance to answerthe question of a friend – Why, in orderto occupy China, did Japan first need to usurp the Northeast (Manchuria)?

History featured prominently in this question and the Japanese have alwayshad an exhaustive understanding of China. Historically, successful conquers ofChinese heartland were all launched from either the northern Mongolian Plateauor the northeastern forest zone. In fact, the numerous inhabitants to the northof the Great Wall can be generally classified as two kinds: One is nomads on thesteppe, the Wolf Tribes, withMongolians as their representative, and the other is the Tiger Tribes foragingin the forest, such as the Manchu people, the founders of China’s last dynasty.It is safe to assert that ninety percent of wars in ancient China were startedby the two kinds. This may help explain why Japan, after seizing two strategicpositions – Korea Peninsula in the north and Taiwan in the south –still choseto attack from the Northeast, even though its navy was apparently stronger thanits army.

I have always believed that geography affects and even determines humanhistory and politics. What makes me do nothing but sigh is the sheer volume ofhistory books left by our ancestors and their deep fondness for humanisticmotives. So here I am trying to balance the thinking with more emphasis onobjective reasons, such as geography, or to be precise topography, which Isurmise holds the real key to many questions we have.


1. Economic means is a well-known tribute system, in which the neighboringregimes paid tribute to the emperor of China as a token of their recognition ofand deference to China’s supremacy. It is important to note that the tributewas more symbolic than substantial because out of vanity or magnanimity theChinese emperors always gave back more than he received. A similar symbolism isalso evident in the political means, where the emperor of China coronated therulers of some surrounding political entities but mostly stayed out theirpolitical workings. This on some level is analogous to the Coronation of theHoly Roman Emperors. Only the latter assumed a religious look and engagedactual crowning whereas the former was much more secular and nominal.

2. The secession of Outer Mongolia from China was sponsored by the Russians,who also played a role in the separatism in Northern Xinjiang.

3. An ethnic minority in China who is the descendant ofa mixed Arabian and Chinese ancestry and whose religion is Islam.

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