It seems really odd that China annexed Tibet but left Sikkim. Sikkim is present on the Chinese borders and was an independent nation until 1975 when it joined India as one of its states.

What might have been possible reasons to not capture Sikkim in contrast to China's decision to capture Tibet, even when China could have easily annexed Sikkim?

2 Answers 2


  After communists took power, Chinese policy was not grabbing land at any cost, but displaying power.

Reasons for that are simple to understand. Before WW2, although most populous country in the world and ancient civilization, China was weak and divided into the fiefs of various warlords with weak central government. Various parts of Chinese territory including Tibet (which for China was an is undisputed Chinese territory) were separated or occupied.

After winning in civil war, Chinese communists still did not control lot of territories considered to be Chinese (Taiwan, Hong Kong, Tibet ...) but they were resolved to rectify that as much as they could. So in 1950. they got hold of Tibet which was semi-independent at that time, but without proper army and therefore easy picking . This lead to conflict with India - China and India have border disputes but realistically this is mostly over worthless uninhabited land. Real problem is about dominance in SE Asia. India started supporting independent Tibet, and events escalated to Sino-Indian war in 1962 which China won.

Note that, although China soundly defeated Indian forces, they refrained from land grab, choosing to take only small parts of disputed territory and not something that could be considered undisputedly Indian. Thus, from Chinese POV, whole exercise was just display of power to dissuade India from interfering with ostensibly Chinese internal affairs in Tibet. Note that similar pattern of "punishing bad neighbor" with slight change of border and voluntarily withdrawing from conquered territory repeated in 1979. during Sino-Vietnamese war.

As for the question of Sikkim, unlike Tibet, this territory was part of British India from 1853. China and Britain signed convention in 1890. that clearly demarcated Sikkim as British, and Tibet as Chinese territory. Therefore, communist China after WW2 had no legal ground to assert sovereignty over Sikkim unless they forfeit their legal claim for Tibet. But, since India at the time supported Tibetan independence (to a certain degree), China also to an extent supported independent Sikkim, even disputing Indian annexation in 1975. Sino-Indian rivalry is still very strong, but both countries tend to avoid military confrontation. Both countries still feel they could use Tibet or Sikkim question as tools for propaganda, but realistically behind closed doorsthey have accepted that Tibet belongs to China and Sikkim to India.


What might have been possible reasons to not capture Sikkim in contrast to China's decision to capture Tibet, even when China could have easily annexed Sikkim?

Sikkim's history was never related to mainland China. Sikkim was historically never under the rule of any Chinese empire. Sikkim was a protectorate of Tibet, not China.

Tibet was under Yuan Dynasty from 1240 to 1354.

Tibet was also under Qing rule from 1720 to 1912. At this time Sikkim was not under Tibetan control.

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