Does the world have enough raw material for a China vs India industrial WWI?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Jiraiyathegallant, May 19, 2017.

  1. Jiraiyathegallant Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2012
    In an alternate timeline where a United India and China emerge as Super Powers while Europe and the Middle East are poor and unable to influence much, is it conceivable for the alternative China and India with 1914 levels of tech and over a billion people each to be able to duke it out in a war of attrition with armies proportionately as large as France and Germany OTL? Meaning 50,000,000+ man armies, fighting a war of attrition? Assuming that trade is still reasonably open and global markets are fairly developed, could the world conceivably come up with the materials needed for that?
     
  2. fjihr ├čanned Gone Fishin'

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2014
    Location:
    Toronto, Canuck SSR
    In regards to India, I do believe it had the resources for a fairly late industrialization. Most Indian coal was concentrated in Jharkand, and is inaccessible until the mid-late 1800s. However, the coal reserves at Jharkand are quite massive and there'd be more than enough for a war. Vast amounts of metals in the same region could also allow for the production of quite a bit of Indian weaponry.

    In addition, the Himalaya range effectively blocks out the Indians and Chinese from fighting through Tibet, so there'd only really be the place around Assam to fight one another in. That makes a war of attrition possible.

    I don't think a war with 50 million soldiers on each side is possible at all with 1914 technology, however.
     
    Jiraiyathegallant likes this.
  3. RousseauX Donor

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2011
    sure, why not? China and India can basically do this today at tech levels higher than 1914, the world could prob fight WWII - nukes 2 or 3 times
     
    Jiraiyathegallant likes this.
  4. metalinvader665 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2011
    Location:
    Tennessee, North American Union
    Yeah, they're massive, but we're presuming that to industrialise and be on the level of a great power (or even a Tsarist Russia), India has been exploiting them and the rest of its resources for a century or so. The same goes with China's own huge amount of natural resources.

    There's also the whole "from a Eurocentric viewpoint economically, these resources are worthless for their time, but from a Sino/Indocentric viewpoint economically...?" What the Raj deemed inaccessible/of questionable economic value might not be what this industrial India deems inaccessible or of questionable economic value.

    How can you even supply all those troops through the Himalayas, let alone break through? That's like the Alps front in WWI on steroids (trenches at the top of Mt. Everest, nice). The only place to attack China is from the Pacific coast (hard), the northern steppes (easiest) or the Southeast Asian jungles. Even Assam and Northern Burma aren't easy points to attack China from, since Yunnan has such a crazy mix of terrain.

    Unless you have these 50 million Indian soldiers fighting elsewhere, like in Vietnam/Laos or in North Asia. That makes a bit more sense. But it's unlikely to have those 50 million man armies until one side is directly invaded, which will take a victory on a front actually conducive to invasion. Since if you feed a million men through the passes in Central Asia, you'll be lucky to get past OTL Xinjiang before the Chinese army utterly wrecks you.

    My guess is you'd have 50 million men on each side raised over the course of the war, never all at once. There just isn't enough frontage to put 50 million men unless your only strategy is a cartoonish level of IRL zerg rushing. That's a comparable level to OTL France or Germany by population, since I'd assume about 600 million in both China and India since we presumably don't have mass famines/brutal rebellions, etc. like OTL China and India had leading up to 1914.

    However, if the pace of resource exploration/exploitation picks up globally--if the world outside Asia's mostly a bunch of colonies, you'll need far more intense exploitation than OTL's colonies had to fill the demand--it is conceivable each side can support that many troops.
     
  5. Achaemenid Rome Iron Age City-State

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2016
    If India and China are both industrial empires, they could fight in Central Asia/Persia, as well as Southeast Asia and Indonesia which might be colonies. Or colonies in Africa for that matter.
     
  6. metalinvader665 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2011
    Location:
    Tennessee, North American Union
    Yep, and thus more difficult to threaten the heart of either nation than it was for France or Germany (or for that matter, Austria-Hungary and Italy) to threaten each other.
     
  7. Achaemenid Rome Iron Age City-State

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2016
    Maybe India could ally with Japan against China.
     
  8. RousseauX Donor

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2011
    Yeah if China and India were the only 2 modern superpowers there would be a lot more fronts than the Himalaya mountains
     
  9. metalinvader665 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2011
    Location:
    Tennessee, North American Union
    I think we'd need to set up which states are proxy states of India and which are proxies of China before discussing this. Since China would've had to mess up foreign policy horribly to be surrounding by India to let them fight where they need to. Southeast Asia, because of its closeness and since its full of rivalries to make Chinese or Indian allies/proxies, is probably the main theatre. Unless you can get an anti-Chinese Japan or anti-Chinese powers in northeast Asia like the Yakuts/Sakha or in general a Japanese colony there (since they're well positioned to colonise the place to begin with). It's still a long way to the place, and China would have to led by idiots to alienate every power around them.

    But there still would have to be more superpowers. Who controls the Americas? They'll need the resources from there to support the wartime industry and military requirements (50 million soldiers each, plus tens of millions allied to either power). If there's an independent American state, then they'll be a third power behind the two superpowers, BUT hold sway over quite a bit of resources. Sure, they might be Indian (which Indian group, lol, not even getting into American Indian!) or Chinese, but would they jump to the side of their former colonial masters? If they aren't (since IMO Japanese colonisation of the New World is just as likely as Chinese colonisation considering how distant a likelihood it is to begin with, let alone anyone else), who they might they support? Or just get rich off of trading with both sides, of course.

    Good news is Europe should have a lot of coal, since for instance we can presume the coal in the Rhineland and the coal in Silesia is no more exploited than that of India OTL. Bad news is I bet there'll be plenty of fights over it. Just another place to deploy some of your 50 million soldiers, of course.

    There's a lot of variables here where a scenario needs to be constructed before we can plausibly have 50 million man armies fighting. Especially since unlike the Franco-Belgian-German border, the world's tallest mountains are in the way. Although I reiterate--trenches on Mt. Everest and other major Himalayan peaks would be incredible. Whoever wins over the Sherpa will have a nice advantage.
     
  10. alaric Member

    Joined:
    Feb 7, 2017
    We already know that zheng he had been to India and had carried out some sort of power projection by interfering in the warring sides in ceylon, which clearly lied in India's sphere of influence.In addition chola navy had also attacked south-eastern island nations paying nominal authority to chineese heavenly emperor.I believe a naval war supported by inland troops would have been a front.The route taken by Japaneese during WW2 was the most plausible one for a large scale war.indo-china,singapore,burma would form major battle sites.In addition china could attack india from Kashgar followed by attock which was a feasible route according to british(The british feared a russian invasion which eventually lead to both the anglo-afghan wars).War on direct territories seems out of reach.war on proxy states/vassal states seem more plausible.
     
  11. metalinvader665 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2011
    Location:
    Tennessee, North American Union
    Naval war from where? The only option is basically Sri Lanka + Andamans, and India would definitely have to be the weaker power here to let China get that far. It's almost like India having Taiwan. The other option is India having access to Japanese ports and bases, and I'd say the very threat of India being allowed to do that is more than enough casus belli on China's part versus Japan.

    China cannot make any serious invasion across the Karakoram because of the extremely difficult conditions of the passes due to the frequent risk of landslides, avalanches, earthquakes and the reality of blizzards in the winter months. Can China take Kashmir? Extremely difficult, but sure. Then India concentrates a million men on however many Chinese got through come winter/spring, who by now are facing supply issues from the conditions of the passes and probably major resistance from the locals because of taking their food.

    Speaking of navies, the world would need a hell of a lot of oil if there is a correspondingly large naval buildup.
     
  12. Clandango Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2012
    I imagine the Himalayas will be in a stalemate, though it may be that Tibet is independent (yah, yah, I know) and that the Nepalis act as special ops or something. Really hard to imagine how this would go since... Well, getting the exact boundaries of India and China would be tough, especially if we consider them as having the minority groups that were in each of the main combatants of WWI, and the revolts that came from them. Also, there were no real 'Super Powers' during WWI. There were Great Powers, so the comparison to the OTL are really crumbling. Anyways, who is ruling each of these countries? We need religions, ethnicities, styles of governments, etc. It affects quite a bit.