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Report: China ordered deadly brawl with Indian troops, US intel says

Soldiers of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff/WikiCommons)
June 22, 2020

A U.S. intelligence assessment reported by U.S. News & World Report has indicated that China ordered the deadly hand-to-hand clash between Chinese and Indian troops last week in the disputed Galwan Valley.

An unnamed U.S. intelligence source detailed the intelligence assessment, which found that China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Gen. Zhao Zonqi, head of the Western Theater Command, authorized his troops to attack. The U.S. intelligence assessment, if correct, would refute China’s claim that Indian troops intentionally crossed over to the Chinese side of the border, sparking tensions that escalated out of control.

“Our border troops had a high-level meeting and reached important consensus on easing the border situation,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian said of the incident. “But astonishingly on June 15, the Indian troops seriously violated our consensus and twice crossed the border line for illegal activities and provoked and attacked Chinese personnel which led to serious physical conflict between the two sides.”

The revelation would also add a new element to India’s existing assessment of the violent clash, which claims the incident occurred during a “de-escalation” meeting between the two sides.

Gen. Zhao, a Chinese military combat veteran, has overseen past border standoffs with India. Zhao reportedly held the view that China must not appear weak in the ongoing border dispute, and treated the border brawl as an opportunity to “teach India a lesson.”

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20 Indian soldiers were killed in the border clash, according to official Indian assessments. China has not officially indicated how many casualties it suffered, but India has assessed China also suffered casualties. The U.S. News & World Report article listed the Chinese casualties at 35.

China has been concerned the incident could push India closer to the U.S. and its allies, and that a weak stance on the border issue might give the U.S. further leverage.

The incident appears to have, indeed, inspired closer ties between the U.S. and India, as India has begun distancing itself from Chinese technology, as the U.S. has warned. Many Indians reportedly began deleting the popular Chinese video-sharing app, TikTok, and destroying Chinese phones.

“It does the very opposite of what China wanted,” an intelligence source told U.S. News & World Report. “This is not a victory for China’s military.”

Other analysts who spoke with U.S. News & World Report noted further evidence of the backfire in China’s plan in the form of Chinese media outlets having largely removed coverage of the clash from their pages. Those analysts further assessed China had begun to censor social media posts regarding the incident, and especially those that described the prospect of Chinese casualties as a “defeat” or “humiliation.”