Eye on China is a weekly bulletin offering news and analysis related to the Middle Kingdom from an Indian interests perspective. This week we cover the aftermath of the Chennai summit; Xi’s visit to Nepal; China’s economic slowdown; a possible Phase 1 deal with the US and much more…
I. The Chennai Summit
Narendra Modi and Xi Jinping concluded the Chennai informal summit over the weekend. Both sides issued separate remarks after the meetings. Also, this will not be the last informal summit, there’s going to be another one within a year. Before we get on to the official narrative and the reportage, here’s how The Economist titled their report on the meeting: The leaders of China and India pretend to get along.
The MEA’s statement following the Chennai Summit listed the following outcomes:
- a new mechanism led by Indian finance minister and a Chinese Vice Premier to discuss trade investment and services.
- the possibility of establishing manufacturing partnership.
- greater defense and security engagement with the Indian defense minister set to visit China next.
- both leaders “agreed that we need public opinion in both counties to broad base the relationship.”
- more discussions on connecting Tamil Nadu and Fujian Province
- “both agreed that it is important to strengthen a rules based order in the international trading system, that the World Trade Organization is the central pillar of the global trading system and that in the process of reform both sides should work together.”
- “both agreed that it was important to deal with the challenges of terrorism and radicalization in an increasingly complex world and where our own societies were diverse and both leaders were leaders of countries which were not only large in terms of area and population but also in terms of diversity.”
Responding to media queries, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale also said that “since Pakistan Prime Minister had recently visited China hence President Xi told Prime Minister about it and Prime Minister listened to the same.”
In China, Xinhua reported that the two leaders met “in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere, (and) held a candid and in-depth exchange of views.” The report adds that Xi said: “We must hold the rudder and steer the course of China-India relations, map out a hundred-year plan for the relations from a strategic and long-term perspective, inject a strong endogenous impetus into bilateral relations, and work together to realize the great rejuvenation of our two great civilizations.” Xi is also reported to have said that “China-India relations have transcended the bilateral scope and bear important and far-reaching strategic significance.”
Xinhua further adds that Xi made a bunch of proposals during the talks. First, never let the differences dim the overall situation of bilateral cooperation and that the two sides should work to accomplish their respective goals and “brighten up” each other. Second, both sides should prudently deal with issues concerning each other’s core interests, and for problems that cannot be resolved at the moment, they should properly manage and control them. Third, with regard to military and security exchanges, Xi wants professional cooperation and joint training and to strengthen cooperation between law enforcement and security departments, and maintain regional security and stability. Fourth, both sides should deepen pragmatic cooperation and tighten ties of interests. This refers to the proposed trade dialogue and manufacturing partnership. Finally, Xi said the two countries should take a clear-cut position to safeguard an international system with the UN as its core…firmly uphold multilateralism and maintain a multilateral trading system with the World Trade Organization as its core, and safeguard the legitimate development rights of developing countries. He also called for exploring the gradual expansion of the China-India Plus cooperation to South Asia, Southeast Asia and Africa. The report also suggests that there is an understanding between the two leaders on concluding the RCEP deal.
Interestingly, there’s no mention of terrorism, radicalism or extremism in either the Xinhua report or Chinese foreign minister’s statement.
Here are some of the other reports following from the summit that are worth noting. First, Dev Lewis’ China India Networked newsletter offers a really good look at social media commentaries in China with regard to the Chennai summit. Second, Atul Aneja in The Hindu reports that Xi mooted a trilateral partnership with India and Pakistan. He quotes Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi as saying that “the Chinese side sincerely expects sound China-India relations, China-Pakistan relations and India-Pakistan relations, and expects to see all sides work together to promote regional peace and stability, and achieve common development and prosperity.” He added: “China’s respective relations with India, Pakistan and other South Asian countries, with respective unique history and characteristics, can run in parallel and develop together, neither targeting any third party nor being influenced by a third party.” Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury reports in ET that instead of connecting via BRI, Modi offered China connectivity through India’s Indo-Pacific policy.
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