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World War 3 Isn’t Happening, Despite the Deadly India-China Streetfight

Last Updated September 23, 2020 2:00 PM
Simon Chandler
Last Updated September 23, 2020 2:00 PM
  • “World War 3” is trending hard after 20 Indian troops died in clashes with Chinese forces.
  • However, there’s very little chance of open warfare, with both sides expressing a desire for peace.
  • Likewise, history shows that the chances of another world war are extremely slim.

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.

World War 3: An Overreaction Timeline

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.

World War 3 fear tweet
A Twitter user who seems to actually believe that World War 3 could happen soon. ⎮ Source: Twitter 

Other tweets have implied that 2020 was already so bad that World War 3 happening makes a weird kind of sense.

World War 3 2020 tweet
One Twitter user complains that 2020 has already been bad enough. ⎮ Source: Twitter 

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.

World War 3 news search
A Google search for “World War 3” news. ⎮ Source: Google 

No Chance

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.

Some Perspective

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 .

Chinese President Xi Jinping is facing questions from major nations about China’s response to the initial coronavirus outbreak. |Source: Liu Bin/Xinhua via AP

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.

Conflicts between major powers over time
Conflicts between major powers have been on the decline since World War 2, with 0% of the years since 2000 witnessing conflict between major nations. ⎮ Source: Our World In Data 

So no, put those World War 3 memes away for now. The world has real dangers to worry about.