19 April, 2011

J-20's second flight??


Photos of China's J-20 stealth fighter prototype are all the rage on online military forums, after word emerged that another test flight was completed Sunday when officials in Beijing celebrated the 60th anniversary of the establishment of China's aviation industry.

Some of the online footage showed scores of military enthusiasts yelling when an aircraft flew over the Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute's airfield in Sichuan Province, but it was unclear whether the plane was the J-20 prototype.

"The J-20 made several passes and waggled its wings (rolling the plane first to one side then to the other) to salute the crowd near the airfield," a witness told the Global Times on condition of anonymity, adding that the plane took off at around 4:25 pm and landed at about 5:50 pm.

As of press time, Chinese authorities had not commented on the issue, but the Xinhua News Agency posted another clip of the flight uploaded by Internet users.

The J-20 prototype made its 18-minute debut flight in Chengdu on January 11, when US Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited Beijing. Since then, it has been touted as a potential challenger to the US Air Force's F-22 Raptor, the world's only fifth-generation fighter jet.

Xu Yongling, one of China's top test pilots, said that if Sunday's test flight proved true, it would be more or less the same as the first test, but Xu noted that every test is one step closer to mass production.

"The first 10 to 20 tests are meant to calibrate the entire aircraft, including its stability, handling qualities and performance. All of them are short in time, but the entire process will take years to complete," Xu told the Global Times on Monday.

The alleged test flight coincided with a celebration in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Sunday that marked the 60th anniversary of China's aviation industry.

Lin Zuoming, general manager of the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), pledged at the ceremony to push forward the development of next-generation aircraft and to make breakthroughs in propulsion systems.

"By 2015, the research and design of all key models will be completed," Lin said, adding that inferior engine design has been a "bottleneck" for the advancement of China's aviation industry.

According to him, AVIC will invest 10 billion yuan ($1.52 billion) in engine development, which is equivalent to its net profit from 2010.

However, this amount of investment is unimpressive when compared with other major engine projects.

According to a press release from Pratt & Whitney, the company was awarded a contract valued at more than $4 billion in 2001 to develop its F135 engine for the US air force's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft.

Lin also urged speedup in transferring technology to civil aviation, saying China's aviation industry cannot rely solely on the military.

Wang Zhilin, general manager of the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, told CCTV on Sunday that, by 2020, China's C919 passenger jet will be equipped with engines designed by AVIC.

"By 2021, the Chinese aviation industry will be at the same level as major players in the world and have become the outstanding supplier of air defense equipment," Lin added.

Separately, another rumor circulated on the Internet recently involving the alleged J-18, China's first warplane with vertical/short takeoff and landing capabilities.

Earlier this month, citing a report by Japan's Asahi Shimbun newspaper, Phoenix Television said the J-18 had completed a test flight at a field base in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

The report said the wings of the jet, similar to Russia's Su-33, a carrier-based multi-role fighter, could be folded, and suspected that it would be installed on China's future aircraft carrier.

The report came at the same time as foreign media speculated that China's first aircraft carrier, a modification of the Varyag bought from Ukraine, would take to the oceans in July. The Chinese military has denied such reports.

Ding Zhiyong, a spokesperson at the AVIC, told the Global Times on Monday that the Japanese report of the alleged J-18 was pure speculation and that the corporation had no information to reveal.

Li Daguang, a professor specializing in military strategy at the National Defense University, told the Global Times earlier that even if the rumored carrier were true, the vessel would only be used for training.

China and the End of the Deng Dynasty

By Matthew Gertken and Jennifer Richmond

Beijing has become noticeably more anxious than usual in recent months, launching one of the more high-profile security campaigns to suppress political dissent since the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989. Journalists, bloggers, artists, Christians and others have been arrested or have disappeared in a crackdown prompted by fears that foreign forces and domestic dissidents have hatched any number of “Jasmine” gatherings inspired by recent events in the Middle East. More remarkable than the small, foreign-coordinated protests, however, has been the state’s aggressive and erratic reaction to them.

Meanwhile, the Chinese economy has maintained a furious pace of credit-fueled growth despite authorities’ repeated claims of working to slow growth down to prevent excessive inflation and systemic financial risks. The government’s cautious approach to fighting inflation has emboldened local governments and state companies, which benefit from rapid growth. Yet the risk to socio-political stability posed by inflation, expected to peak in springtime, has provoked a gradually tougher stance. The government thus faces twin perils of economic overheating on one side and overcorrection on the other, either of which could trigger an outburst of social unrest — and both of which have led to increasingly erratic policymaking.

These security and economic challenges are taking place at a time when the transition from the so-called fourth generation of leaders to the fifth generation in 2012 is under way. The transition has heightened disagreements over economic policy and insecurities over social stability, further complicating attempts to coordinate effective policy. Yet something deeper is driving the Communist Party of China’s (CPC’s) anxiety and heavy-handed security measures: the need to transform the country’s entire economic model, which carries hazards that the Party fears will jeopardize its very legitimacy.

Deng’s Model

Former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping is well known for launching China’s emergence from Mao’s Cultural Revolution and inaugurating the rise of a modern, internationally oriented economic giant. Deng’s model rested on three pillars.

The first was economic pragmatism, allowing for capitalist-style incentives domestically and channels for international trade. Deng paved the way for a growth boom that would provide employment and put an end to the preceding decade of civil strife. The CPC’s legitimacy thus famously became linked to the country’s economic success rather than to ideological zeal and class warfare.

The second pillar was a foreign policy of cooperation. The lack of emphasis on political ideology opened space for international maneuver, with economic cooperation the basis for new relationships. This gave enormous impetus to the Sino-American detente Nixon and Mao initiated. In Deng’s words, China would maintain a low profile and avoid taking the lead. China would remain unobtrusive to befriend and do business with almost any country — as long as it recognized Beijing as the one and only China.

The third pillar was the primacy of the CPC’s system. Reform of the political system along the lines of Western countries could be envisioned, but in practice would be deferred. That the reform process in no way would be allowed to undermine Party supremacy was sealed after the mass protests at Tiananmen, which the military crushed after a dangerous intra-Party struggle. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the People’s Armed Police would serve as Deng’s “Great Wall of steel” protecting the Party from insurrection.

For three decades, Deng’s model remained mostly intact. Though important modifications and shifts occurred, the general framework stands because Chinese-style capitalism and partnership with the United States have served the country well. Deng also secured his policy by establishing a succession plan: He was instrumental in setting up his immediate successor, Jiang Zemin, and Jiang’s successor, current President Hu Jintao.

Hu’s policies have not differed widely in practice from Deng’s. China’s response to the global economic crisis in 2008 revealed that Hu sought recourse to the same export- and investment-driven growth as his predecessors. Hu’s plans of boosting household consumption have failed, the economy is more off-balance than ever, and the interior remains badly in need of development. But along the general lines of Deng’s policy, the country has continued to grow and stay out of major conflict with the United States and others, and the Party has maintained indisputable control.

Emergent Challenges

Unprecedented challenges to Deng’s model have emerged in recent years. These are not challenges involving individuals; rather, they come from changes in the Chinese and international systems.

First, more clearly than ever, China’s economic model is in need of restructuring. Economic crisis and its aftermath in the developed world have caused a shortfall in foreign demand, and rising costs of labor and raw materials are eroding China’s comparative advantage even as its export sector and industries have built up extraordinary overcapacity.

Theoretically, the answer has been to boost household consumption and rebalance growth — the Hu administration’s policy — but this plan carries extreme hazards if aggressively pursued. If consumption cannot be generated quickly enough to pick up the slack — and it cannot within the decade period that China’s leaders envision — then growth will slow sharply and unemployment will rise. These would be serious threats to the CPC, the legitimacy of which rests on providing growth. Hence, the attempt at economic transition has hardly begun.

Not coincidentally, movements have arisen that seek to restore the Party’s legitimacy to a basis not of economics but of political power. Hu’s faction, rooted in the Chinese Communist Youth League (CCYL), has a doctrine of wealth redistribution and Party orientation. It is set to expand its control when the sixth generation of leaders arrives. This trend also exists on the other side of the factional divide. Bo Xilai, the popular Party chief in Chongqing, is a “princeling.” Princelings are the children of Communist revolutionaries, who often receive prized positions in state leadership, large state-owned enterprises and the military. This group is expected to gain the advantage in the core leadership after the 2012 transition. Bo made himself popular by striking down organized-crime leaders who had grown rich and powerful from new money and by bribing officials. Bo’s campaign of nostalgia for the Mao era, including singing revolutionary songs and launching a “Red microblog” on the Internet, has proved hugely popular. It also has added an unusual degree of public support to his bid for a spot on the Politburo Standing Committee in 2012. Both sides appeal to the inherent value of the Party, rather than its role as economic steward, for justification.

The second challenge to Deng’s legacy has arisen from the military’s growing self-confidence and confrontational attitude toward foreign rivals, a stance popular with an increasingly nationalist domestic audience. The foreign policy of inoffensiveness for the sake of commerce thus has been challenged from within. Vastly more dependent on foreign natural resources, and yet insecure over prices and vulnerability of supply lines, China has turned to the PLA to take a greater role in protecting its global interests, especially in the maritime realm. As a result, the PLA has become more forceful in driving its policies.

In recent years, China has pushed harder on territorial claims and more staunchly defended partners like North Korea, Iran, Pakistan and Myanmar. This trend, especially observable throughout 2010, has alarmed China’s neighbors and the United States. The PLA is not the only institution that seems increasingly bold. Chinese government officials and state companies have also caused worry among foreigners. But the military acting this way sends a particularly strong signal abroad.

And third, Deng’s avoidance of political reform may be becoming harder to maintain. The stark disparities in wealth and public services between social classes and regions have fueled dissatisfaction. Arbitrary power, selective enforcement of the law, official and corporate corruption, and other ills have gnawed at public content, giving rise to more and more frequent incidents and outbursts. The social fabric has been torn, and leaders fear that it could ignite with widespread unrest. Simultaneously, rising education, incomes and new forms of social organization like non-governmental organizations and the Internet have given rise to greater demands and new means of coordination among dissidents or opposition movements.

In this atmosphere, Premier Wen Jiabao has become outspoken, calling for the Party to pursue political reforms in keeping with economic reforms. Wen’s comments contain just enough ambiguity to suggest that he is promoting substantial change and diverging from the Party, though in fact he may intend them only to pacify people by preserving hope for changes in the unspecified future. Regardless, it is becoming harder for the Party to maintain economic development without addressing political grievances. Political changes seem necessary not only for the sake of pursuing oft-declared plans to unleash household consumption and domestic innovation and services, but also to ease social discontent. The Party realizes that reform is inevitable, but questions how to do it while retaining control. The possibility that the Party could split on the question of political reform, as happened in the 1980s, thus has re-emerged.

These new challenges to the Deng approach reveal a rising uncertainty in China about whether his solutions are adequate to secure the country’s future. Essentially, the rise of Maoist nostalgia, the princelings’ glorification of their Communist bloodline and the CCYL’s promotion of ideology and wealth redistribution imply a growing fear that the economic transition may fail, and that the Party therefore may need a more deeply layered security presence to control society at all levels and a more ideological basis for the legitimacy of its rule. Meanwhile, a more assertive military implies growing fears that a foreign policy of meekness and amiability is insufficient to protect China’s access to foreign trade from those who feel threatened by China’s rising power, such as Japan, India or the United States. Finally, a more strident premier in favor of political reform suggests fear that growing demands for political change will lead to upheaval unless they are addressed and alleviated.

Containing the Risks

These emerging trends have not become predominant yet. At this moment, Beijing is struggling to contain these challenges to the status quo within the same cycle of tightening and loosening control that has characterized the past three decades. Though the cycle is still recognizable, the fluctuations are widening — and the policy reactions are becoming more sudden and extreme.

The country is continuing to pursue the same path of economic development, even sacrificing more ambitious rebalancing to re-emphasize, in the 2011-15 Five-Year Plan, what are basically the traditional methods of growth. These include massive credit expansion fueling large-scale infrastructure expansion and technology upgrades for the export-oriented manufacturing sector, all provided for by transferring wealth from depositors to state-owned corporations and local governments. Modifications to the status quo have been slight, and radical transformation of the overall growth model has not yet borne fruit.

In 2011, China’s leaders also have signaled a swing away from last year’s foreign policy assertiveness. Hu and Obama met in Washington in January and declared a thaw in relations. Recently, Hu announced a “new security concept” for the region. He said that cooperation and peaceful negotiation remain official Chinese policy, and that China respects the “presence and interests” of outsiders in the region, a new and significant comment in light of the U.S. re-engagement with the region. The United States has approved China’s backpedaling, saying the Chinese navy has been less assertive this year than the last, and Washington has since toned down its own threats. China’s retreat is not permanent, and none of its neighbors have forgotten its more threatening side. But China has signaled an attempt to diminish tensions, as it has done in the past, to avoid provoking real trouble abroad (while focusing on troubles at home) for the time being.

Finally, the security crackdown under way since February — part of a longer trend of security tightening since at least 2008, but with remarkable new elements — shows that the state remains committed to Deng’s general deferral of political reform, choosing strict social control instead.

The Deng model thus has not yet been dismantled. But the new currents of military assertiveness, ideological zeal and demand for political reform have revealed not only differences in vision among the elite, but a rising concern among them for their positions ahead of the leadership transition. Sackings and promotions already are accelerating. Unorthodox trends suggest that leaders and institutions are hedging political bets to protect themselves, their interests and their cliques in case the economic transition goes wrong or foreigners take advantage of China’s vulnerabilities, or ideological division and social revolt threaten the Party. And this betrays deep uncertainties.

The Gravity of 2012

As the jockeying for power ahead of the 2012 transition has already begun in earnest, signs of vacillating and conflicting policy directives suggest that the regime is in a constant state of policy adjustment to try to avoid an extreme shift in one direction or another. Tensions are rising between leaders as they try to secure their positions without upsetting the balance and jeopardizing a smooth transfer of power. The government’s arrests of dissidents underline its fear of these growing tensions, as well as its sharp reactions to threats that could disrupt the transition or cause broader instability. Everything is in flux, and the cracks in the system are widening.

One major question is how long the Party will be able to maintain the current high level of vigilance without triggering a backlash. The government effectively has silenced critics deemed possible of fomenting a larger movement. The masses have yet to rally in significant numbers in a coordinated way that could threaten the state. But the regime has responded disproportionately to the organizational capabilities that the small Jasmine protests demonstrated, and has extended this magnified response to a number of otherwise-familiar spontaneous protests and incidents of unrest.

As security becomes more oppressive in the lead up to the transition — with any easing of control unlikely before then or even in the following year as the new government seeks to consolidate power — the heavy hand of the state runs the risk of provoking exactly the type of incident it hopes to prevent. Excessive brutality, or a high-profile mistake or incident that acts as a catalyst, could spark spontaneous domestic protests with the potential to spread.

Contrasting Deng’s situation with Hu’s is illuminating. When Deng sought to step down, his primary challenges were how to loosen economic control, how to create a foreign policy conducive to trade, and how to forestall democratic challenges to the regime. He also had to leverage his prestige in the military and Party to establish a reliable succession plan from Jiang to Hu that would set the country on a prosperous path.

As Hu seeks to step down, his challenges are to prevent economic overheating, counter any humiliating turn in foreign affairs such as greater U.S. pressure, and forestall unrest from economic left-behinds, migrants or other aggrieved groups. Hu cannot allow the Party (or his legacy) to be damaged by mass protests or economic collapse on his watch. Yet, like Jiang, he has to control the process without having Deng’s prestige among the military ranks and without a succession plan clad in Deng’s armor.

More challenging still, he has to do so without a solid succession plan. Hu is the last Chinese leader Deng directly appointed. It is not clear whether China’s next generation of leaders will augment Deng’s theory, or discard it. But it is clear that China is taking on a challenge much greater than a change in president or administration. It is an existential crisis, and the regime has few choices: continue delaying change even if it means a bigger catastrophe in the future; undertake wrenching economic and political reforms that might risk regime survival; or retrench and sacrifice the economy to maintain CPC rule and domestic security. China has already waded deep into a total economic transformation unlike anything since 1978, and at the greatest risk to the Party’s legitimacy since 1989. The emerging trends suggest a likely break from Deng’s position toward heavier state intervention in the economy, more contentious relationships with neighbors, and a Party that rules primarily through ideology and social control.

"China and the End of the Deng Dynasty is republished with permission of STRATFOR."

16 April, 2011

Analysis of the Chinese Revolution

by Eric Hobsbawm

"A specter is haunting Europe - the specter of communism." 

To many, Communism and Marxism are interchangeable, despite the differences between the two. Communal societies have existed long before the Industrial Revolution, while Marxism was only created during the mid-nineteenth century after the publication of The Communist Manifesto. Marxism goes beyond just the notion of a communal society, it’s philosophy is also a method of studying history and economy. 

Marxist theory also predicts that the proletariat will eventually seize control of the means of production. The theory behind Marxism is so in-depth that a nation could be under communist rule without necessarily following the Marxist doctrine. Russia for example, regards itself as the most authentic communist nation, following a Marx-Leninist doctrine, yet it is also a highly stratified nation. A better example of a variation from Marxism is the Communist Revolution of China which succeeded after a decade or two, shortly after the defeat of the Guomindang (Nationalist party of China). Though the idea of a functional communal society is present, there are many deviations from Marxism. Unlike the European powers Marxism was intended for, China was a largely unindustrialized nation. This is the main fork on the road toward Communism, though by far not the only.

The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, served as the foundation for Marxism, which was aimed at a highly industrialized nation such as Britain or Germany, far from the rural agrarian society China was known as. According to Marx, the proletariat is a class who lives as long as they can find work, where work exists only when it is profitable. This is a class found in the cities, minute compared to China’s massive rural population. Industrialization for China did not begun until World War I during which trade routes were cut off and production shifted from civil to military. Goods became scarce causing demand to soar, making it profitable to start factories. The large majority of China’s population were composed of peasant farmers.

The proletariat and peasant farmers are very similar. They are in the bottom strata of an oppressive hierarchy, making up the masses. They are the backbone of the society, and are to a certain extent exploited by the people above them. "All previous historical movements were movements of minorities, or in the interest of minorities. The proletarian movement is the self conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority." The proletariat class to Marx is synonymous to the Chinese serfs. The Communist Revolution of China offered many promising reforms to the poor peasant farmers whom never had much power in the past. Like the proletariat, the peasant class was an immense group which was often neglected. Both the proletariat and the peasants usually lived an unpleasant life. The industrial workers of Europe lived in filthy slums where little attention was paid to their welfare. There was little security. If someone was injured, then they would become unemployed and effectively left to die. Children often fell asleep in front of dangerous machines. The peasant farmers were no better off.

When the peasant is ruined, he has to sell his field and his hut. If it happens to be a good year, he may just be able to pay his debts. But no sooner and has the harvest been brought in than the grain bins are empty again, and contract in hand and sack on back, he has to go off and start borrowing again. He has heavier interest to pay, and soon he has not got enough to eat. If there is a famine he falls into utter ruin. Families disperse, parents separate, they seek to become slaves, and no one will buy them.

Though the proletariat and the Chinese farmers had many similarities, this generalization however, does not suffice. Not only is the urban life of a proletariat worker quite different from those of a farmer, they also exist in a very different setting. Though both their lifestyles are of the lower class, they have little else in common. Most of the farmers owned the plot of land which they worked on. They worked for themselves, their earnings were relative to their effort and skill. Aside from taxes, the farmers owned the harvests, and could do whatever they wanted with it. They had much more freedom than the industrial workers. The proletariat had to work long hours everyday, often with quotas to meet. They did not own the means of production like their peasant counterpart. The proletariat lived in dense cities where the unemployed could gather and discuss revolutionary issues; discontents could exchange ideas with intellectuals easily. The peasant farmers lived in a low density setting where work is plentiful, and intellectuals were scarce. Though both instances involve the hopeless majority overcoming the few rich, circumstances in each case were quite different.

Instead of rising with the progress of industry, the modern laborer sinks deeper and deeper below the conditions of existence of their own class. Karl Marx uses this to justify the overthrow of the bourgeoisie. One of the aims of Communism is to solve this problem. After the Chinese Communist Revolution, everyone’s income was relatively equal. Although "some workers were paid bonuses for producing more than others", this was later on discouraged by the government. The workers’ income was based on the profit of their team so the more efficient teams earned slightly more money. Each individual worker’s income is also based on skill, ability, and difficulty. Despite the variations, people of the same type of occupation had similar incomes. Under Communism, instead of sinking deeper, the living conditions in class become similar. Though the end result coincided with Marxism, the beginning is very different. The living conditions of the proletariat are indeed deteriorating for the benefit of the other classes. The scenario with the peasant farmers are considerably different. The decline in the standard living was not largely due to continual exploitation as was the case with the proletariat. The Chinese were fighting Japanese invaders which had a vastly superior military force. They also had to support the ongoing civil war during crisis times like the famine. During the war, tax rates soared to ridicules levels. The conditions declined for everyone, not just a single class. The Communist Manifesto was aimed at the working class during peacetime, not during a war. It is only during war that conditions for Chinese farmers steadily worsened.

The main revolt did not come from the workers of industrial cities as Marx had envisioned, but the peasant farmers in rural areas. Communists had always believed that their revolution would have to be spearheaded by oppressed factory workers in the cities, but Mao showed that the revolutionary base could be established in a region far from the cities and towns. From these peasants Mao recruited members for the C.C.P. and the Chinese Red Army. The Communists originally hoped to create a massive revolt in all the cities to topple capitalism, but each riot was quickly put down by the Nationalist forces. Instead of a large scale proletariat revolt which defeats capitalism, it was a peasant army which defeated the government militarily. The peasant army was the only way to achieve victory since the Communists had to hide in northern China in the rural countryside safely out of reach of most of the Nationalist forces. This also meant they were too far away from any industrial city to have any notable influence. This is drastically different from Marx’s revolution since it was military might, not political power, that changed the governmental and economical system.

The Marxist theory stated that "the work of the proletarians has lost all individual character ... [and] becomes an appendage of the machine." One of the reasons for revolting would be because workers only had collective value and power through the work they provide, worth even less than machines. One worker could replace another, they are both equal and the same. Unindustrialized, China did not have this problem. Since the horrors of industry were known by relatively few, it made little impact in much of China. It is horrors like absence of job security, lack of protection against dangerous machines, long work hours (usually over seventy hours a week), and bare subsistence income (just to name a few) which forces the workers to revolt. Conditions were so horrible that the life expectancy of the urban industrial worker was thirteen years below those of non-industrialized areas. The far majority of the Chinese were farmers who retained individuality both in themselves and their products. Since most Chinese families owned their own plot of land, they do not simply become replaced or fired for whatever reason. Whether due to injury or a depression in the economy, the farmers still have control. Peasant farmers rarely become discontent for the same reasons the proletariat does. At anytime, the farmers could see the products of their hard work, take what they made, and do as they wish with it That was something the proletariat Marx had in mind could not do, causing to resent the system they are a part of. The total absence of direct power within a class which fundamentally holds all the real power is an important catalyst in a revolution. The injustice would have to be corrected. This situation was lacking in a country like China where the proletariat contributed to only a small percentage of the total population.

One contributing factors to Marx’s revolution is the fierce competition amongst capitalists. As the competition increases, the wage decreases, until it will be just enough for subsistence. This will cause the workers to resent the owners whom they work for. The fear of wages dropping even further (caused by high supply of workers and low demand of labor) would provoke the men to unite (to create a low supply of workers and thus a high demand of labor). This is one of the foundations of the union. In the early stages of a Marxist revolution, the workers begin to form trade unions against the bourgeoises to maintain a fair wage, as well as prepare for the occasional revolts and riots. The success of the unions will lead to the formation of new unions, as well as the expansion of existing unions. When the workers rise up again, they would have enough strength to replace the existing system of government. The unions are a key step in the power struggle between the bourgeois and the proletariat. Without this step, the workers will not have enough power to make any real change.

In China, virtually all the revolts incited by the Chinese Communist Party were quickly ended. The few successful revolts were aided by the Guomindang which later sided against the Communists. The arrests and executions of Communist leaders were usually enough to stabilize the situation. One example is known as the Nanjing Road incident. When two thousand students distributed leaflets in the International Settlement, hundreds were arrested, others were brutally assaulted. Thirty thousand surrounded the police station the next day. The British police killed five, and injured fifty, leading to the formation of The Workers’ General Union. Within half a month, one hundred and fifty thousand were on strike in Shanghai. Even a strike of this magnitude failed, for various reason. One of the main reasons was the workers’ dependency upon the same market they struck against. This is why the peasants had much more success. Unions did poorly in winning their demands in China. This does not happen in a Marxist revolution. The proletariat would be so strong that they could not be defeated.

According to Marx, only the most efficient capitalist will survive, the unfit will slip into the proletariat. The competition amongst the capitalists will eventually eliminate all but a few capitalists, creating a large proletariat class. The proletariat will be so large that they will easily overthrow their oppressors. In China, the proletariat did not form unions large enough to carry any notable political weight to the current government. "Because the unions were small and weak, ... strikes usually ended in failure. Moreover, there were no labour laws to protect the workers. The warlord government in Peking was indifferent to the plight of industrial workers and had no power to interfere with factories in the treaty ports." Marx did not consider racial differences as the ones which existed in China. Whites were superior to Asians, they had their own parks, and other special privileges. Even if the owners do fail, they would not join the proletariat class in China due to the virtue of having white skin.

The Communist Manifesto states that, the bourgeoisie’s battle against the aristocracy and anti-progress (of industry) bourgeoisie, and bourgeoisie of foreign countries, will bring the proletariat into the political arena. "In all these battles it sees itself compelled to appeal to the proletariat.... The bourgeoisie itself, therefore, supplies the proletariat with its own elements of political and general education, in other words, it furnishes the proletariat with weapons for fighting the bourgeoisie." This was far from the truth in the Chinese Communist Revolution. It was not the bourgeoisie who trained the proletariat nor the peasants to fight, whether with words or weapons. Most of the actions of the proletariat themselves changed little. It was the foreign trained Communists whom taught the largely illiterate peasants the ideas of Communism, as well as military training. Russian advisors and Japanese trained soldiers created military academies which trained the peasant army.

One criticism of Communism which seemed so radical and unheard of was the concept of abolishing private property. Marx was not terribly concerned about this possible problem because of the conditions of the average European, especially from England or Germany. "You are horrified at our intending to do away with private property. But in your existing society, private property is already done away with for nine tenths of the population; its existence for the few is solely due to its non-existence in the hands of those nine tenths." This reassurance however, only applied to heavily industrialized nations. In China’s case, perhaps nine tenth of the population were peasant farmers, instead of the proletariat. The peasants had assorted privately owned property from livestock to machinery to land. They have not only economic and utilitarian value, but sentimental value as well. This was why the peasant farmers would be reluctant to give up their private property. It is even more evident here that Marx did not write The Communist Manifesto with a largely agrarian nation like China in mind.

The heart of any Communist revolution is the abolition of private property. The Chinese Communist Party’s ultimate goal was same as that of Marx. They believed that under common ownership, use of resources would be more efficient. They did not immediately move the population into communes however. The Communists prepared the people in small steps. "When the Communists had come to power in 1949, they had confiscated farm land and turned it over to the peasants. A few years later the Party organized the peasants into small co-operative farms" The small incremental steps gave the peasants experience. First, individual families gained their own property to work on, instead of working for a landlord. Then, groups of thirty to forty families collectively worked together much like Marx described. The production did not meet the demand so the government decided to "organize still larger agricultural units called communes" During the period known as the "great leap forward", twenty-five thousand communes of approximately five thousand households each were established. "These peasants not only lost their remaining rights in the land but also had to turn over their work animals and farm equipment to the commune"

"[The peasant] fight against the bourgeoisie, to save from extinction their existence as fractions of the middle class. They are therefore not revolutionary, but conservative. Nay more, they are reactionary, for they try to roll back the wheel of history." Marx’s point of view in the Communist Manifesto does not apply to China here either. The revolutionary class in China was not composed entirely of the proletariat. The peasants actually made up of the majority of the revolutionary class.. China’s revolution can be summed up in terms of the peasant’s revolt, for it was the peasants who provided the backbone of the revolution. They supplied the Chinese Red Army with food and shelter, or even enlisting in the army. The army was composed almost entirely of peasant farmers. They did not try to reverse history as Marx claimed, but tried to help the revolution along instead. "Given time the [Chinese] Red Army could turn defeat into final victory. But it had to live off the land and this was possible only if the peasants and the countryfolk accepted and supported them." Without the peasants, it is doubtful any revolution after the Guomindang took power would have been successful at all. Unlike the industrialized nations where peasants were grouped with the capitalistic middle class, Chinese peasants were more like part of the proletariat in a sense.

"National differences and antagonisms between peoples, are daily more and more vanishing .... United action, of the leading civilized countries at least, is one of the first conditions for the emancipation of the proletariat." According to Marx, the proletariat could not be truly free until many nations unite. During the revolution, China received only limited help from Russia. The leading nations sided with the Guomindang. All the nations, including Russia, recognized only Guomindang as the government of China. United States continually supplied the Guomindang with munitions which was often ultimately used against the Chinese Red Army. With little help, the C.C.P. was able to overthrow the current government and liberate the lower classes. Emancipation of the working class did not require the aid of many leading nations as Marx wrote. If the Communist Revolution was meant for all nations, and all proletariat to be free, then the Chinese revolution was only a small part in an unfinished and ongoing revolution. China today is becoming decreasingly Communist, and increasingly Capitalist. It seems that a global Communist Revolution will never happen. Though China contributed to other Communist Revolutions such as the one in Vietnam, China is unlikely to continue the revolution any longer.

In section two, "Proletarians and Communists", Marx noted two points that made Communists different from other working-class parties. First, the struggles of the proletariat are independent of nationality, they should serve the common interest. Second, they should always represent the interests of the movement as a whole, regardless of the stage of the struggle. The connection between Russia and C.C.P. reflects the first point. During World War II, most of Russia’s resources were tied up fighting the Axis, and had little to spare to what was then considered a lost cause. Despite that, she gave the Chinese Communists tens of thousands of much needed rifles. Though she was not able to offer much munitions, she gave plenty of advice, and offered many advisors. After the war was over, Russia sent much of its weapon stockpiles to the Chinese Communists to arm them against the Guomindang. The second point is reflected by the various sacrifices that the Communists had to make in order to avoid defeat. The Chinese Red Army was a guerrilla army in which they had to live off the land. Their food and shelter were donated by locals where ever they went. Although its the nominal contributions of the local peasants that allowed the revolution to succeed, sacrifices are notable during times when they were under heavy pressure, such as the Great March. Without the hundreds of thousands of people who abandoned their home to undertake the difficult journey, the Communist movement would have been defeated. Small bands of people risked their life by slowing down pursuing enemies so the main group could get away. The sacrifices of the few who held back the enemy is a clear example of representing the interests of the revolution as a whole. The Chinese Communist Party reflected the two distinguishing characteristics from The Communist Manifesto.

China was too different from the European industrial world of Marx to apply completely to The Communist Manifesto. Its large peasant population, and its small class of proletariat differed greatly from the industrial slums Marx was used to. Much of the Chinese not only owned the means of production, but was also far from being the faceless worker Marx described. Though the lack of safety regulations and enforcement was appalling, its effects rarely reached the peasant masses which made up most of China.

The Communist Revolution of China is quite different from Marxism and the outline from The Communist Manifesto. Although the Chinese Communist Revolution’s result shared many similarities with Marxism, it is usually because they are common to all Communist revolutions, real or theoretical. Private property was largely abolished, and replaced with co-ownership. Aside from the basics, everything is, for the most part, different. Marx could not have imagined that a Communist Revolution would end in major military confrontations between armies with millions of soldiers, nor the implementation of his industrial regime upon an agrarian society. Though the proletariat and peasantry are both of the lower class, their similarities are considerable. Marx would not consider peasant farmers as an evolutionary force. Applying a system ahead of its time created inconsistencies. The relatively small proletariat class meant unions were virtually useless. This meant variations would appear in almost every aspect of the revolution.


1. Karl Marx, Frederick Engels. The Communist Manifesto. Trans. Samuel Moore (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1967), 78

2. Richard W. Miller, The Cambridge Companion to Marx, ed. Terrell Carver (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 55.

3. Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, The Communist Manifesto: A Modern Edition, ed. Eric Hobsbawm (New York: Verso, 1998), 48.

4. C.P. Fitzgerald, Myra Roper, China: A World So Changed (Hong Kong: Thomas Nelson, 1972), 138.

5. Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, The Communist Manifesto: A Modern Edition, ed. Eric Hobsbawm (New York: Verso, 1998), 49.

6. Hyman Kublin, China (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1972), 184

7. Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, The Communist Manifesto: A Modern Edition, ed. Eric Hobsbawm (New York: Verso, 1998), 43.

8. Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, The Communist Manifesto: A Modern Edition, ed. Eric Hobsbawm (New York: Verso, 1998), 46.

9. Edwin P. Hoyt, The Rise of the Chinese Republic: From the last Emperor to Deng Xiaoping. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1989), 67.

10. Jean Chesneaux, Peasant Revolts in China, trans. C. A. Curwen (London: Thames and Hudson, 1973), 156.

11. Karl Marx, Frederick Engels. The Communist Manifesto. Trans. Samuel Moore (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1967), 88

12. Hyman Kublin, China (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1972), 162.

13. Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, The Communist Manifesto: A Modern Edition, ed. Eric Hobsbawm (New York: Verso, 1998), 47.

14. Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, The Communist Manifesto: A Modern Edition, ed. Eric Hobsbawm (New York: Verso, 1998), 54.

15. Hyman Kublin, China (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1972), p.222.

16. Jules Archer, China in the 20th Century. (New York: Macmillan, 1974), 133-134.

17. Hyman Kublin, China (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1972), p.223.

18. Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, The Communist Manifesto: A Modern Edition, ed. Eric Hobsbawm (New York: Verso, 1998), 47-48.

19. C.P. Fitzgerald, Myra Roper, China: A World So Changed (Hong Kong: Thomas Nelson, 1972), 143-144.

20. Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, The Communist Manifesto: A Modern Edition, ed. Eric Hobsbawm (New York: Verso, 1998), 58.

21. Karl Marx, Frederick Engels. The Communist Manifesto. Trans. Samuel Moore (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1967), 95


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Meskill, John T. An Introduction To Chinese Civilization. Toronto: Heath, 1973.

Salisbury, Harrison E. China: 100 Years of Revolution. Great Britain: Andre Deutsch Limited, 1983.

Schell, Orville. Esherick Joseph. Modern China. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1972.

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Thomas, Roy. China: The Awakening Giant. Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1981.

Warshaw, Steven. Bromwell, David; Tudisco, A. J. China Emerges. Berkeley: Diablo Press, 1973.


April 2010 redux?

Worth a read,,,as one year passes after the April massacre of the CRPF by the Maoists at Chintalner, Dantewada


by Praveen Swami 

Key to India's failure in combating Maoist insurgency is an ahistorical, one-size-fits-all security doctrine.

Eric Hobsbawm wrote: “There is nothing in the purely military pages of Mao, Nguyen Giap, Che Guevara or other manuals of guerrilla warfare which a traditional guerrillero or band leader would regard as other than simple common sense.”

Last week, after the massacre of 76 police personnel in Dantewada, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram urged Indians to “remain calm, keep your nerve, and do not stray from the carefully chosen course that we have adopted since November 2009.”

The last of those recommendations may prove profoundly misguided. Few of the strategists charged with executing the Minister's ambitious counter-Maoist offensive appear to have grasped its doctrinal and tactical demands. Premised on the belief that counter-insurgency campaigns must be population-centric — in other words, dominate territories and thus deny insurgents contact with the population — the strategic foundation of India's war against Maoist insurgents is flawed. The bottom line is this: Indian forces are losing. Last year, 312 security personnel were killed to 294 Maoists. This year, too, the figures are grim.

For centuries, insurgents have known that a superior force can be defeated. Napoleon Bonaparte believed that his 1808 occupation of Spain would be a “military promenade.” Instead, France found itself bogged down by a protracted guerrilla struggle that lasted six years and compelled to commit three-fifths of its imperial army. Irish insurgents who fought the British in 1848 were taught to “decompose the science and system of war.” “The force of England,” advised the radical James Lalor, “is entrenched and fortified. You must draw it out of position; break up its mass; break its trained line of march and manoeuvre; its equal step and serried array.”

Much of this would have been familiar to peasant rebels and bandits in India. Back in 1813, Kallua Gujjar led a successful series of raids targeting moneylenders, travellers and police posts in the Saharanpur-Dehra Dun belt. His 1,000-strong irregular force was, on one occasion, able to loot a group of some 200 police personnel. Bhil insurgents staged a series of revolt between 1820 and 1860 — driven, among other things, by the large-scale expropriation of Adivasi land by the state and growing exploitation by moneylenders. Despite the use of irregular formations like James Outram's Bhil Corps and a policy of pacification that involved pushing the Adivasis to become settled farmers, the Bhil raids continued for decades.

Major-General Akbar Khan, who commanded the Pakistani irregular offensive directed at Srinagar in 1947, described the tactical mindset of such irregular warriors in his memoirs: “One Mahsud tribesman aptly described to me their tactics as being like that of the hawk. The hawk flies high in the sky, out of danger; he flies round and round until he sees his prey and then he swoops down on it for one mighty strike and when he has got his prey, he does not wait around, he flies off at once to some far off quiet place where he can enjoy what he has got.”

Ossified doctrine

Key to India's failure in combating Maoist insurgency is an ahistorical, one-size-fits-all security doctrine. In essence, state responses have consisted of pumping in forces for conventional, ground-holding operations in the hope of displacing guerrilla forces; maintaining high force levels over sustained periods of time; and, using this military presence to push forward with developmental and political initiatives to deprive insurgents of their political legitimacy.

Indian counter-insurgency tactics and strategy, Vijendra Singh Jafa notes, “have remained fundamentally conservative and traditional, influenced substantially by accounts of British experiences.” Drawing on the British campaign against the Malayan Communist Party, Indian strategists believe that successful counter-insurgency campaigns must focus on winning popular support. New work, like that of historian Karl Hack, has shown that the back of the Malayan insurgency was, in fact, broken long before Britain set about winning hearts and minds. Little of this revisionist literature, though, has been studied seriously in Indian military academies.

Despite plenty of evidence that population-centric strategies do not work —witness the durability of insurgencies in the northeast and Jammu and Kashmir — the doctrine has never been reappraised.

The former Punjab Director-General of Police, K.P.S. Gill's signal contribution was demonstrating that alternatives to population-centric counter-insurgency could succeed. Instead of engaging in protracted, large-force operations, Mr. Gill focussed on offensive operations targeting the leadership and cadre of Khalistan terrorists. In effect, unconventional war-fighting methods were used to defeat unconventional war-fighting methods. Evidence that such tactics work has piled up. In Jammu and Kashmir, the Special Operations Group succeeded in decimating the leadership of the Hizb ul-Mujahideen. Andhra Pradesh's Greyhounds destroyed a once-powerful Maoist insurgency. Tripura defeated an intractable tribal insurgency.

In a thoughtful 1988 paper for the United States Air Force Airpower Research Institute, Dennis Drew noted that counter-insurgency operations called for an upturning of military thinking. Military professionals, he wrote, believe “that the basic military objective in war is to conduct operations that lead to the destruction of the enemy's centre of gravity.” India's policy of pumping company-sized formations into the Maoist heartland, and attempting to dominate the territory around them, is one manifestation of this thinking. The problem is successful insurgents have no fixed centre of gravity — no bases that conventional forces may overwhelm.

Population-centred counter-insurgency has received renewed legitimacy from the apparent success of the U.S. troop surge in Iraq, which was marketed as having subdued a growing insurgency. But, as scholar and soldier Gian Gentile has pointed out, the notion that the reduction of insurgent violence in Iraq was “primarily the result of American military action is hubris run amok.” In fact, Gentile argued, a “combination of brutal attacks by Shia militia in conjunction with the actions of the Iraqi Shia government and the continuing persecution by the al-Qaeda against the Sunni community convinced the insurgents that they could no longer counter all these forces and it was to their advantage to cut a deal with the Americans.”

Capacity crisis

For many in the Indian intelligentsia, the defeat of insurgents is an inevitability: part, as it were, of the manifest destiny of the state. Last week, Shekhar Gupta, editor of Indian Express, offered a ringing endorsement of this received wisdom, arguing that insurgencies “follow a pattern pretty much like a bell curve,” “The graph of violence,” he argued, “rises in the initial period, producing more and more casualties on both sides. But at some stage the rebels come to the realisation that the state and its people are too strong and resolute to be ever defeated, no matter what the score, in a particular day's battle in a long war. That is the point of inflexion when rebels see reason. There is no reason why the Maoist insurgency will not follow that same pattern.”

But will it? Back in 1954, when India first committed troops to battling Naga insurgents, just one State was hit by insurgency. Now, 265 of 625 districts are affected by one form or the other of chronic conflict — a figure that excludes areas with unacceptably high levels of organised crime, as well as cities periodically targeted by jihadist violence. It is far from clear if the resources exist to address the problem. Italy has 559 police officers for every 1,00,000 citizens; Bihar has 60, Orissa 97, Chhattisgarh 128 and Jharkhand 136. Even the Army, despite its apparently enormous size, will be stretched if it is committed to internal security duties. The United States has one soldier for every 186 citizens; India has one for 866.

Worse, it is far from clear if the Indian state has the capacity needed for rapid, transformative projects. The U.S., figures compiled by the Institute for Conflict Management's Ajai Sahni show, has 889 federal employees, and 6,314 state and local employees for every 1,00,000 citizens. India's Union government has 295 — and if one excludes railway employees, 171. Chhattisgarh has 1,067 government employees per 1,00,000 population; Bihar, a pathetic 472.

Even if forces are found to saturate the ground, experience shows, development will not necessarily follow. In both Jammu and Kashmir and the northeast, state spending has yielded only limited results. Funds have often been siphoned off by local contractors and politicians — and, worse, preyed on by insurgents. In effect, the injection of cash into troubled regions has subsidised insurgency.

Learning from its own success stories, India needs to fight insurgencies in smarter, leaner ways. Like Andhra Pradesh, States must invest in training facilities that meet their particular needs; expand intelligence capabilities; and use technology effectively. Instead of focussing on simply expanding the size of Central forces, the Union government must understand the need for them to be properly trained and equipped. Soldiers without skills have only one fate: defeat.

In time, it is true, Indian forces may succeed in wearing down the Maoist insurgency, albeit at a horrible cost of lives — but there are reasons to worry that they may not. India's strategic strengths are manifest. But as the work of military scholar Ivan Arreguin-Toft teaches us, the weak do sometimes win. Instead of despatching ever-greater numbers of men to support those already flailing in the face of insurgent fire, a dispassionate review of both doctrine and tactics is needed.

11 April, 2011

On Landmines

Blasts That Matter, Geopolitics, special feature, pp 18-20, April 2011


The Chattisgarh police is planning to arrange a conference focusing on the role of technology in counter-insurgency warfare. The Special Task Force (STF) dealing with anti-Maoist operations in the state has been entrusted to examine the modalities of this conference. Among other things, the STF and the state police seek knowledge in detecting landmines, which pose grave threat to the security forces not only in the state, but in almost all the Maoist dominated areas of India.

This article focuses, inter alia, on the several existing technologies of land-mine detection. Furthermore, it discusses some novel techniques of unraveling these dormant, yet deadly weapons.

(the link provides an edited version, for full version: see below)

Blasts that Matter

It is not without reason the Chattisgarh police is planning to arrange a conference focusing on the role of technology in anti-insurgency warfare. The Special Task Force (STF) dealing with anti-Maoist operations in the state has been entrusted to examine the modalities of this conference. Among other things, the STF and the state police seek knowledge in detecting landmines, which pose grave threat to the security forces not only in the state, but in almost all the Maoist dominated areas of India.

Undoubtedly, landmines pose a formidable challenge to the world community. It is both a theoretical as well as a practical problem to determine the location of each and every landmine in a geographical area. To defuse them thereafter is an additional difficulty. 

In fact, one of the last century's unsolved problems is the landmines left behind from wars and insurgencies. It is estimated that 15,000–20,000 victims are claimed per year due to landmines. The U.S. State Department reports that a total of 45–50 million mines still remain to be cleared worldwide. Research also tells us that around 100,000 mines are detected and destroyed per year around the globe. 

Thus, going by the present rate of clearance and assuming no new mines are laid; simple calculation shows that it will take another 450 – 500 years to get rid of all the existing landmines. However, according to some estimates, roughly 1.9 million new mines are being placed annually !

Interestingly, mines are inexpensive—costing as little as US $3 each and hence of late, have turned out to be the poor rebel’s potent weapon. But on the other hand, they impose devastating consequences on the affected populace. In 1995, a survey conducted in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Cambodia, and Mozambique found that one in three victims of mine-blasts die. And as would be explained later, many of the victims are children. 

For example, in Afghanistan, the survey found that, on an average, 17 in 1,000 children had been injured or killed by landmines. For those who survived the blasts, the most common injury reported was loss of a leg. Loss of arms, blindness, and shrapnel wounds were also found to be frequent. 

In a January 2011 Issue Brief published by the Centre for Land Warfare Studies (New Delhi), Rahul Misra asserts that there are as many as 10 million mines in Cambodia and one in every 236 Cambodians is an amputee. Laos, according to Misra, is the most heavily troubled country. It had two million tonnes of ordnance dropped on its territory between 1964 and 1973. Also, as per the brief, one of the most problematic issues facing Vietnam is that it continues to view the landmine as a necessary and legitimate weapon for self defence.

Furthermore, the medical bills for survivors of such blasts can bankrupt families. Many victims have to undergo multiple surgeries. Children who lose limbs require multiple prosthetic devices over their lifetimes. Even the rumours associated with landmines may halt all normal activity in an affected area. For example, a 1999 study claims that in Mozambique, a town of 10,000 was deserted for four years because of a rumour that mines were present. Later, a three-month clearance operation found only four mines. Incidentally, the extensive mine contamination of Afghanistan’s fertile valleys has reduced agricultural production in those areas. A 1995 study by Andersson and his group estimated that without mines, agricultural land use in Afghanistan could increase by 88–200 per cent.

Types of Mines

Generally, mines are of two types: anti-personnel and anti-tank. It is the former which is a major cause of concern in the long-term. Ironically enough, anti-personnel mines were first used in World War II to prevent opposing soldiers from clearing anti-tank mines. The original anti-personnel mines were improvised from hand grenades and simple electric fuses. Since then, mine design has changed substantially. Modern-day mines can deliver blasts of lethal pellets extending in a radius of up to 100 m. Some are designed to resemble toys or other everyday objects, such as pens and watches. Presently, at least 350 mine types exist, manufactured by some 50 countries. 

Anti-tank mines are larger and more powerful than anti-personnel mines. However, anti-personnel mines are the most common type of mines, yet the most difficult to find because they are small and often made of plastic. Anti-tank mines generally contain more metal than do anti-personnel mines and are thus more easily detectable by simple metal detectors. Both types are buried as close to the surface as possible and are found in a variety of soils and terrain -- rocky or sandy soil, open fields, forested areas, steep terrain, and jungles. 

For both types of mines, detonation is typically caused by pressure, although some are activated by a trip-wire or other mechanisms. Thus, the major challenge for a land-mine detector is to do its job without having direct contact with a mine. It also must be able to locate all types of mines individually in a variety of environments. 

Although hundreds of varieties exist, anti-personnel mines generally can be classified as either “blast” or “fragmentation” types. Blast mines are buried at shallow depths. They are triggered by pressure, such as from a person stepping on the mine. The weight needed to activate a blast mine typically ranges from 2 to 10 kg. This indicates that these mines are easily triggered by a small child’s weight. They cause the affected object (e.g., foot) to blast into fragments, which blast upward.

Blast mines typically are cylindrical in shape, 2–4 inches (5-10 cm) in diameter, and 1.5–3.0 inches (4-8 cm) in height. Generally, they contain 30–200 gm of explosives. The casing may be made of plastic, wood, or sheet metal. Plastic-encased blast mines are sometimes referred to as “nonmetallic mines,” but nearly all of them contain some metal parts which are usually the firing pin and a spring-washer mechanism, weighing about a gram.

Detection Methodology

The major obstacle in detecting mines is that close to 100 per cent of the mines in any area must be found with few false alarms, i.e., mistaking a rock for a mine. The United Nations, for example, has set the detection goal at 99.6 per cent, and the U.S. Army's allowable false-alarm rate is one false alarm in every 1.25 square meters. However, no existing detection system meets these criteria. Nonetheless, there are a number of general techniques of detecting landmines, which may be enunciated in a nutshell.

Magnetometers: It is marginally effective in its de-mining operations and good only for close-in (point) detection. The approach is effective for ferrous metal while has problems with plastic and non-ferrous metal.

Radar: This technique has the potential for wide-area applications. However, it has problems with detecting plastic mines in some category of soils.

Infrared Sensors: This again has potential for wide-area detection but may be affected by soil disturbance and thermal effects.

Millimeter Wave Sensors: It has the potential for wide-area detection, albeit at a slow scanning rate. Moreover, it can fail to discriminate mines from surroundings.

Visible Light Sensors: The major problem with such devices is that they cannot detect buried items, though they might detect mines planted at the surface.

Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR): Its potential use is against recently emplaced mines and surface-laid objects.

Electromagnetic Induction: They are only good for point detection of metal mines. By its very nature, it has problems in detecting plastic landmines.

Apart from the detection technologies mentioned above, dogs and other ‘sniffers’ are the most viable. Nevertheless, they have high ongoing expenses, are subject to fatigue and can be fooled by masked scents. As has been pointed above, metal detectors are sensitive to metal mines and firing pins but cannot reliably find plastic mines. Infrared detectors effectively detect recently placed mines, but they are expensive and limited to certain temperature conditions. Also, thermal neutron activation detectors are accurate but are large for field use; slow and expensive.

Ground-penetrating radar (GPR) is sensitive to large mines, has good coverage rate at a distance and with signal processing, can discriminate anti-tank mines from clutter such as rocks beneath the ground surface. This type of radar, however, remains expensive, cannot detect anti-personnel mines because its resolution is too low, and frequently records false alarms.

In 2005, Frigui, Ho and Gader proposed a real-time software system for landmine detection using GPR. The system includes an efficient and adaptive preprocessing component; a hidden Markov model (HMM) based detector; a corrective training component and an incremental update of the background model. The proposed software system was applied to data acquired from three outdoor test sites at different geographic locations, using a state-of-the-art array GPR prototype. The results indicated that, on an average, the corrective training component improved the performance of the GPR by about 10 per cent.

Way back in 1993, researchers at Livermore invented a Micropower Impulse Radar (MIR). The invention led directly to battery-operated pulsed radar that is remarkably small and inexpensive, had a wide frequency band, and worked well at short ranges -- all necessary attributes of landmine detection systems.

MIR's small size, light weight, and low power requirements made it superior to any previous attempts to use GPR to detect landmines. MIR's ultrawide bandwidth was the source of high-resolution imaging capabilities that differentiated it from similar landmine detection technologies. Furthermore, the ability to group individual MIR units in arrays increased the speed and coverage area of the detection work.

In laboratory tests, the prototype MIR clearly distinguished plastic antipersonnel mines from surrounding soils. In field tests at Fort Carson in Colorado and Fort A. P. Hill in Virginia, funded by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the system performed well, though at a slow pace. Naturally, more research in this direction would bear real fruits in proper detection of landmines, especially the plastic ones.

Way Forward?

The 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of anti-personnel mines and on their destruction remains the principal international instrument prohibiting the use of anti-personnel landmines. This convention makes it obligatory for signatory countries to clear landmines planted in their territory. The convention recognises that mine action is not just about removing landmines from the ground; it is also about understanding how people interact with a landmine-affected milieu.

Thus more international cooperation in this regard is an imperative. Also, the concern of the security personnel in insurgency and war affected areas is genuine. Hence, when the state police forces in India exhibit urgency in implementing landmine detection technology to combat the Maoist conundrum, they should not be viewed as mere visionaries, rather be hailed as realists.