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 Chinese ambassador to India Sun Weidong’s engagement with the Indian media; China’s new white papers on human rights and the new era; Chinese engagement in South Asia and a return to patriotic education and much more…
I. Sun’s Media Blitz
In two separate interviews this week, Chinese Ambassador Sun Weidong spoke about a range of issues that are central to the Sino-Indian relationship. In the Times of India, Sun said that “opportunities and cooperation outweigh challenges and differences” in the Sino-Indian relationship.
He wants both countries to go beyond the mode of “managing differences” to “shape bilateral relations and accumulate positive momentum.” On 5G, he called for India to make an “independent judgment,” adding that it would “set an example for mutually beneficial cooperation.” More on Huawei below. On trade, he said that “both sides should broaden our vision and take more comprehensive measures such as increasing mutual investments encouraging Indian enterprises to participate in China International Import Expo, upgrading Nathula border trade concluding RCEP as soon as possible…”
On India-Pakistan tensions, he said that “China supports anything that is conducive to the improvement of India-Pakistan relations and regional peace, stability and prosperity, and is willing to continue to play a constructive role to this end.” That’s what he also told the Hindustan Times.
However, the HT engagement went further to touch upon a broader range of regional and international issues. On Afghanistan, he suggested that the two sides should “further expand cooperation’ and “play a positive role” to achieve peace and national reconciliation. On BRI, he avoided any contentious issues, suggesting that there could be some linkages with BRI and India’s Act East policy. The overarching framework for Sino-Indian cooperation, however, appears to be in the context of the “profound changes unseen in a century” that the world is undergoing.
My Bubble: The big takeaway from Sun’s press engagement appears to be that Beijing wants to course correct its post-August 5 approach. India anyway believes that the Chinese side “misread” the situation. Now, the rhetoric, therefore, is being toned down. There are immediate sources of friction – 5G and RCEP – that could upset the applecart. But China still seeks to play the role of a balancer between India and Pakistan. For Beijing, the broader agenda for the bilateral relationship with Delhi continues to be framed in the context of its deepening systemic competition with Washington. That’s also what reflects in Subramanian Swamy’s remarks after his recent visit to China. He says that India’s deepening relationship with the US remains Beijing’s primary concern. He also adds that Chinese officials explained that raising Kashmir at the UN was done as “the minimum to keep Pakistan feeling that” it has not been abandoned.
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