In a paper titled Why China attacks: China’s geostrategic vulnerability and its military
intervention, the author hypothesised four points:
Hypothesis #1: If a crucial neighboring state becomes hostile to China, the geostrategic vulnerability of China increases. China’s security is closely related to the nature of crucial neighbors in the periphery that have strategic value for geostrategic reasons, such as Korea, Vietnam, and India. Throughout history, China’s grand strategy has been to strengthen its domination over adjacent states by transmitting Chinese thoughts, religions, and cultures to make them become pro-China. Its neighbors, however, were not always acquiescent. Some states clashed with China because of border conflicts, territorial issues, ideological confrontation, and historical enmities. Sometimes they antagonized China and increased Chinese geostrategic vulnerability by aligning with China’s main enemy.
Hypothesis #2: The more Chinese influence weakens in its traditional sphere of influence, the more its geostrategic vulnerability increases. China has deterred the challenges of regional hegemons and prevented the invasion of the enemy by securing its adjoining spheres and exerting its influence over them. When stronger enemies, however, expanded their diplomatic, economic, and military influences to Chinese spheres, they inevitably threatened Chinese security by forcing regional states to turn against China. For example, the deployment of U.S. forces on the Korean peninsula and in Taiwan in 1950, the Soviet Union’s expansion on the Indochina peninsula in the late 1970s, and the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 resulted in the antagonization of regional states and the restraint of Chinese domination, respectively, in Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, and Southwest Asia. Accordingly, the stronger enemies’ expansion into China’s peripheries weakened China’s influence and increased its geostrategic vulnerability.
Hypothesis #3: If more than two separated crucial spaces become antagonized or fell under the influence of a hostile power, then China’s geostrategic vulnerability would increase even more. There is a huge difference between antagonization of one neighboring state or region, and antagonization of more than two states or regions. If more than two states or regions became hostile, both of which were imperative for security, China would be besieged by hostile neighbors and its main enemy, and could be attacked on two different fronts at the same time. Then, China would have to prepare to defend itself from both threats from the two directions, which would deplete its national resources and increase its vulnerability in geostrategic terms.
Hypothesis #4: If China’s geostrategic vulnerability deepens, the possibility of military intervention increases. Under unfavorable strategic settings, such as a crucial
neighbor antagonized, weakened sphere of influence, and being encircled by a stronger enemy, China may be able to either accept the reality with compliance, or challenge the status quo, thus running a risk. China, however, neither accommodated the inauspicious situation, nor directly challenged the stronger power. Instead, China’s strategic choice was to intervene against the antagonized neighbors and to regain its control/power over them, while preventing worse unfavorable situations in advance. Therefore, the increase in geostrategic vulnerability was the factor causing China’s military interventions that were not full-scale provocations against the strong power, but ‘‘limited challenges’’ to the status quo by controlled use of force.
The author also wrote
The following two case studies will show that China’s geostrategic vulnerability was
sufficient to cause military intervention against its neighboring states.
Kindly note the two case studies are: China’s involvement in the Korean War in 1950 and China’s attack on Vietnam in 1979.
Reference: Changhee Park, Why China attacks: China’s geostrategic vulnerability and its military, The Korean Journal of Defense Analysis Vol. 20, No. 3, September 2008, 263-282 (Korea National Defense University, Seoul, South Korea)