World War 3 is coming. Actually, it’s not. But this hasn’t stopped the internet from going crazy over another confrontation at the China-India border.
Yes, at least 20 Indian soldiers died on Monday. And yes, “World War 3” is trending all over the place.
However, there’s no chance of India, China or any other nation declaring open warfare at the moment. The ongoing pandemic has put the world’s powers in a very weak position. Meanwhile, the world’s increasing interdependence means that the threat of World War 3 was already very low.
On Monday, Indian and Chinese troops clashed at the disputed Himalayan border. India has confirmed that at least 20 of its troops died during this confrontation, which involved hand-to-hand combat.
China hasn’t confirmed any deaths. Nonetheless, the clash has sparked fears that a full-scale war, or even World War 3, could erupt.
Predictably, people on Twitter were quick to stoke and mock such fears.
Other tweets have implied that 2020 was already so bad that World War 3 happening makes a weird kind of sense.
On top of this, we also have plenty of “World War 3” scare stories from the tabloid press. The worst example of this is the UK’s Daily Express, which seems to take a sick delight in scaring its unfortunate readers.
Needless to say, World War 3 isn’t happening anytime soon.
Most immediately, it’s clear that India and China don’t want war. Indian PM Narendra Modi has said “India wants peace”. Similarly, the Chinese Foreign Ministry has declared, “From the Chinese side, we do not wish to see more clashes.”
Analysts agree. Speaking to CNBC, China specialist Kelsey Broderick said:
The fact that the 15 June incident, despite the fatalities, did not boil over into a larger conflict is one positive signal that higher-ups on both sides are not interested in sparking any kind of war.
More generally, recent and longer-term history also suggests that war is extremely unlikely.
Firstly, India and China have clashed many, many times in previous years over the Himalayan border. They most recently clashed in August 2017, when reports even suggested they were preparing for a “full-scale war”. Obviously, such a war never materialized.
That said, the two nations did engage in a month-long war in 1962. Even so, it hardly led to World War 3, since only China and India were involved.
Secondly, now is certainly not the time for a regional war, let alone a world war. The ongoing pandemic has severely hamstrung the world’s nations and economies. China’s economy shrunk by 6.8% over the same period. Meanwhile, the State Bank of India is predicting a 40% contraction in the Indian economy in Q2.
So it seems laughable to think that, in the unlikely event of a China-India war, over nations would wade in. The world is less able to afford a war right now, while the global population would have even less appetite for it than usual.
Thirdly, modern history has shown a continuous decline in wars between major powers. Since World War 2, the increasing globalization and interdependence of the world has made actual open declarations of war increasingly unlikely.
So no, put those World War 3 memes away for now. The world has real dangers to worry about.