Understanding the timing of Chinese border incursions into India

Kevin T. Greene, Caroline Tornquist, Robbert Fokkink, Roy Lindelauf, V. S. Subrahmanian*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Since the 1960s China and India have engaged in a dispute about the demarcation of their shared border. This territorial dispute led to a brief war in 1962, and recurring flare-ups over the following decades, including during the summer of 2020. The potential for further escalation of this dispute poses significant risks to Indian and Chinese civilians, US foreign policy objectives, and the stability of the international economic system. Despite the importance of this dispute, there have been relatively few attempts to understand the correlates of Chinese incursions. This paper addresses this important question by leveraging past work on the study of conflicts between states to derive a set of testable explanations about the impact of China–India relations, internal political affairs, international political issues, and domestic economic factors on the likelihood of incursions. The study uses 15 years of original data on monthly Chinese incursions into India along with a monthly dataset containing 18 independent variables, to develop a detailed statistical understanding of the factors that trigger Chinese incursions across the Indian border with a lead time between 1 and 6 months. The quantitative study finds that Chinese incursions are more likely when Chinese leadership is early in their tenure, but more likely when Indian leadership is in the later stages of their tenure. The results also show that closer cooperation between India and the US may trigger additional Chinese incursions into India. Finally, lower consumer confidence in the Chinese economy is consistently related to an increased likelihood of incursions. These findings have implications for the maintenance of peace and India’s national security policies. Periods of Chinese uncertainty, particularly when their economy exhibits weakness and when Chinese leaders are in the early stages of their tenure are more likely to experience incursions. Further, the strengthening of the US–Indian alliance, as well as increased conflict between India and Pakistan, create the potential for an elevated risk of incursions. During these periods India should likely be on higher alert, while India and Indian allies should signal the importance of diplomatic solutions for the dispute.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number164
JournalHumanities and Social Sciences Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Psychology(all)
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)


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