China now has the military power to alter territorial status quo

Why has China precipitated a fresh military crisis with India in eastern Ladakh? Among the many explanations making the rounds in Delhi, there is always the easy and attractive one — it’s all about America. Delhi has incurred Beijing’s wrath by moving closer to Washington, goes the argument. India’s renewed enthusiasm for the US-led Quad, it is said, is encouraging China to teach a lesson to Delhi.

How does this theory hold up in relation to other countries having problems with China? Let us turn to the South China Sea, where China is on a bold and ambitious drive to expand its control over the disputed waters. Let us start with gathering tensions over the territorial dispute between Beijing and Jakarta.

To talk of a territorial dispute between two countries so far apart from each other seems strange. But distance is no guarantee of an escape from territorial problems with Beijing, at least in the South China Sea. To be sure, Jakarta says it has no territorial dispute with Beijing in the South China Sea. But there is a problem nevertheless.

You may not want to court trouble, but trouble has a way of knocking at your door, especially when it involves a great power. Remember the Aesop’s fable about the wolf that accused the lamb of muddying its waters. The lamb’s protests that it was only drinking downstream did not, of course, stop the wolf from eating it up.

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