China's Geography Problem : A blessed - Cursed country.

China is a country both blessed and cursed by geography. 

On the one hand, its land has allowed the country to grow to almost 1.4 billion people, but on the other hand, it doesn't really have much geographic protection. The beginning of what most people call Chinese history often begins with the Yellow River civilization and there is a good reason why this colony became the most populous country in the world - the Yellow River floodplain is one of the best agricultural lands in the world.

In fact, the whole of eastern China is perfectly suited for agriculture. 

It was and still is essential to the success of the country. In addition, this area is hot and humid enough for farmers to practice what is called double cropping. Once the main rice crop is grown in June and July, another slightly less productive crop can be planted for the October crop. This increases rice production by about 25%, which means China can produce more food using the same area of ​​land. Europe mainly depends on wheat to feed its population which produces only 4 million calories of food per acre of farmland. Rice, on the other hand, produces 11 million calories per acre.

Photo by Li Yang on Unsplash

It's easy to see why there are so many people in China. 

But China has its geographic challenges. To the south, it borders three countries: Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar. The borders between these three countries and China seem almost arbitrarily fixed because they somehow were. Vietnam was created after the Sino-French war, that of Laos was created following its involvement in the Vietnam War, and that of Myanmar was created after a small war with China in the 1960s. was naturally defined by the environment; all were chosen arbitrarily by warring humans.

These countries are not trivial - combined, they have nearly a million active military personnel while China, the much larger country, has just over two million. A major conflict with one of these countries would not be a unilateral war. While China would have the technological advantage, each of these three countries would have a significant advantage on the ground. Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar are all jungle countries - one of the most difficult environments for war. This was part of the reason the Vietnam War lasted so long. It is so difficult to move troops in the jungle that everything slows down.

Without any geographic protection of its borders, it would be much easier for Vietnam, Laos or Myanmar to invade China than the other way around. But China has an advantage elsewhere. China and India are just not good friends. They have border disputes, military disputes, political differences, so it is difficult for them to get along and that is why Tibet is so important. Tibet was historically its own empire; China has only taken it over in the past 300 years. Tibetans are ethnically different from the Han Chinese living in eastern China. It doesn't make sense that Tibet is part of China… except militarily. Only 0.2% of the Chinese population lives in Tibet, which accounts for nearly 13% of the country's land area.

More people live in Beijing's four inner quarters than in Tibet as a whole. 

It’s just incredibly sorry, but it serves a purpose. If China wasn't ruling Tibet, India would. Maybe not formally, but there is little chance that an independent Tibet will not be dominated economically and culturally by India or China. It simply does not have enough economic or military power to resist, but in China's view it could not and could not allow an Indian Tibet. The Indian rule of Tibet would mean that there would be no geographic protection between the populated area of ​​China and India because Tibet is that geographic protection.

Not only does Tibet extend China's border into the Himalayas, but it is also an unpopulated region without the transport infrastructure necessary for an invasion of India to advance large numbers of troops east. from China. But it also means that there is not the necessary transport infrastructure for China to advance to India, but China is trying to change that. They recently opened the world's tallest railway to Tibet, they are constantly building highways, and they also opened a large airport in Nyingchi a few kilometers from the border. In the short term, the objective of these projects is to further integrate Tibet into China.

The government has hardly succeeded in convincing the indigenous Tibetan population, but it can change who lives in Tibet. Hundreds of thousands of Han Chinese have moved to Tibet, and many more go there every year. The government knows that the usefulness of Tibet is diminished if, when a foreign army shows up, the people think it means liberation rather than invasion. But there is another reason China needs Tibet: water. This whole eastern area of ​​agricultural productivity exists because of all the water in Tibet.

The Yellow and Yangtze rivers, China's two longest rivers, both draw their water from Tibet and foreign control of the country's water supply would, in the minds of governments, deal a catastrophic blow to China's food security. country. If there was, hypothetically, a large mountain range separating Tibet from eastern China, chances are it would still be independent. The water would still come from China, and the mountains would act as the geographic protection that China desires.

 But to the north lies another Chinese asset: Mongolia. 

It is a huge, sparsely populated friendly country. With the Gobi Desert and another wasteland, there is little chance that a modern ground army can cross with any efficiency. The supply lines would be extremely long and by the time they arrived at the Chinese border, there would have been many warnings.

But then again, who would want to invade?

 Mongolia's only other neighbor is Russia, which is a friendly ally of China both militarily and economically. China need not worry about its northern border until relations with Russia deteriorate. But that leaves the eastern border. Now, you'd think this would be China's safest border - the ocean - but consider that the powerful states lie just off the coast of China, the most powerful being the United States. The United States has a significant military presence in the Pacific with bases in South Korea, Japan, and Guam. It is also a close ally of Taiwan, Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia, meaning that if a serious dispute with China arises, the United States would have no problem blocking China and cut off its maritime access, and of course, China knows it.

This is why China has devoted so much time, energy, and political capital to establishing sovereignty in the South China Sea by building military bases and man-made islands. He knows he needs these islands and therefore has sovereignty over the region in order to be able to reach the Pacific in the event of war, but ironically his actions in the region are altering his relations with the very nations including China. needs his side. The Philippines, for example, does not have a rock-solid relationship with the United States. While the two countries are allies, the Philippine leadership has tried to distance itself from the United States.

If China hadn't ruined its relationship with the Philippines over the South China Sea dispute, it could have won them to their side, which would allow China crucial access to the Pacific if the United States tried. a naval blockade. China's entire economy relies on exports, so restrictions on access to the oceans would bring economic ruin. With its huge population, China is also dependent on imported food, most of which comes from ships. Without jobs and food, there is a good chance that the population will rise up against the government and end the current regime. China did not want to be a world power extending its influence to all continents until recently.

She wanted to be the dominant power in her region, Asia, but historically she has kept her business in the region.

It never colonized outside of Asia, and for much of its history, it had no significant navy to project its power into the world. But that has changed just because China has become so big. China is now of a size where it cannot support its people with its size alone. Self-sufficiency in food production has been a major aspect of China's domestic policy for decades, but the country has found a way to avoid it as its economy has grown.

Africa has almost become China of China. 

It supplies the country that supplies the world. China has injected huge sums of money into the mainland in what some describe as a form of neocolonialism. Chinese state-owned companies have purchased huge amounts of land in Africa to extract minerals, drill for oil, and grow food. China now imports more food and oil than it exports. While this is a sign of the development of its economy, it also means that it is now dependent on foreign powers, which is a vulnerable position for a country often at odds with some of these foreign powers.

China doesn't have bad geography, it has some of the best in the world, which has made it the biggest country in the world, but as it grows to be an increasingly powerful country and developed, it must be aware of its vulnerabilities if the current regime is to continue. It is clear that due to its geography, the country is in a more precarious situation than some realize. If there were every reason to go to war with China, the country is surrounded on the south and east by countries that would likely join the NATO powers. To the west and north, China is surrounded by countries and regions without the infrastructure to support China is war. China is a nuclear power, which means that formal war with other superpowers is unlikely, but, should it ever happen, it's hard to deny that its major downside is geography.

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