What’s going on between India and China?

This week's skirmishes between Indian and Chinese forces in a disputed Himalayan border area represent the deadliest flare up between the two regional powers in many decades.

The two foes have been locked in a bitter border dispute for years, yet recurrent flare-ups have tended to be resolved through diplomacy. The spark that ignited the clashes this time seems to be a recent Indian infrastructure development, including a road to a remote Indian army base which New Delhi argues falls on its side of the Line of Control.

Though details remain murky, after the last rock was thrown Tuesday, at least 20 Indian troops were dead, while the People's Liberation Army also reported some "casualties" on its side, but stayed mum on the numbers.


How did we get here? India and China, the world's two most populous states and two great powers in Asia, have long viewed the other cautiously. Since China thrashed India's army in a border war in 1962, the two rivals have enjoyed a cold peace for the most part. But as Beijing and New Delhi have continued to compete for influence on many fronts across South Asia, the two nuclear powers are more often bumping up against one another in the remote borderlands, as well as elsewhere in South Asia.

The power of personality. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, first elected in 2014, India has tried to project a muscular nationalism at home and abroad. As part of this strategy, Modi has stoked national pride by talking tough on longtime rival Pakistan, which has cozied up to Beijing in recent years. (China, for its part, has endeared itself to Islamabad by pledging a whopping $60 billion to build the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor — a network of roads, pipelines and a crucial port.)

In asserting an expanded regional role for his country, Modi has made clear to China's leaders that there are limits to India's willingness to resolve ongoing conflict through peaceful negotiation. Consider that last year, after protracted skirmishes broke out in the contested western Himalayas in 2017, Modi moved unilaterally to carve out a chunk of Kashmir long contested by India, Pakistan, and China, placing it under direct rule from New Delhi. Unsurprisingly, this move irked Beijing, which said that it undermined its territorial sovereignty. Increasingly wary about China's dominance on its doorstep – in Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka – Modi signed a $3.5 billion arms deal earlier this year with the United States, a useful ally against Beijing.

Recent clashes also come as China has doubled down on its own territorial ambitions across Asia. Since coming to power in 2012, President Xi Jinping has stoked national pride in China's expanded military and economic influence and declared a "new era" for China's role in the world. This is part of what he has called the "great rejuvenation" of the Chinese state.

In recent months, as international attention has focused squarely on COVID-19, Beijing has gotten bolder, clamping down on Hong Kong's autonomy and clashing with Indonesian, Malaysian, and Vietnamese vessels in the disputed South China Sea – and probing Indian lines in the Himalayas, which led to this week's clashes.

No one wants an escalation. Both sides say they are keen to deescalate the situation, since this confrontation comes with costs and risks for both sides. But neither government wants to appear to be the first to back down, and a meeting between military officials on Wednesday failed to break the border standoff. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Modi warned that the death of scores of Indian forces "will not be in vain."

The world is at a turning point. Help shape our future by taking this one-minute survey from the United Nations. To mark its 75th anniversary, the UN is capturing people's priorities for the future, and crowdsourcing solutions to global challenges. The results will shape the UN's work to recover better from COVID-19, and ensure its plans reflect the views of the global public. Take the survey here.

Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday. To understand what that means for the country's politics and public health policy, GZERO sat down with Christopher Garman, top Brazil expert at our parent company, Eurasia Group. The exchange has been lightly edited for clarity and concision.

More Show less

The Trump administration sent shockwaves through universities this week when it announced that international students in the US could be forced to return to their home countries if courses are not held in classrooms this fall. Around 1 million foreign students are now in limbo as they wait for institutions to formalize plans for the upcoming semester. But it's not only foreign students themselves who stand to lose out: International students infuse cash into American universities and contributed around $41 billion to the US economy in the 2018-19 academic year. So, where do most of these foreign students come from? We take a look here.

For years, the Philippines has struggled with domestic terrorism. Last Friday, Rodrigo Duterte signed into law a sweeping new anti-terror bill that has the opposition on edge, as the tough-talking president gears up to make broader constitutional changes. Here's a look at what the law does, and what it means for the country less than two years away from the next presidential election.

The legislation grants authorities broad powers to prosecute domestic terrorism, including arrests without a warrant and up to 24 days detention without charges. It also carries harsh penalties for those convicted of terror-related offenses, with a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole. Simply threatening to commit an act of terror on social media can now be punished with 12 years behind bars.

More Show less

16,000: Amid a deepening economic crisis in Lebanon that has wiped out people's savings and cratered the value of the currency, more than 16,000 people have joined a new Facebook group that enables people to secure staple goods and food through barter.

More Show less