Premier Li’s India Mission: A Chinese Perspective

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s maiden visit to India (May 19-22) has spawned a spate of news reports and commentaries in the Chinese media. By and large, the Chinese media has lauded the premier’s visit and his initiative to improve relations with India. Moving India-China relations beyond media hype, insulating bilateral ties from border disputes and the need for peaceful co-existence were some of recurrent themes that framed Chinese media narratives about Li’s visit that culminated in the signing of eight pacts cutting across diverse areas.

You can’t choose neighbours…

People’s Daily published a Xinhua commentary, entitled “China, India can be good neighbours, partners”. It said numerous converging interests were pulling India and China closer. “Perhaps the pivotal point is that both countries need a peaceful and stable environment for development when they are entering a crucial moment of national rejuvenation in their history. The recent military standoff along disputed borders in the Himalayas has ended with peace, with laudable diplomatic efforts from both sides. Meanwhile, it serves the interests of both sides to make sure the border disputes do not damage their overall friendly ties or derail cooperation in other areas,” says the article. It concluded by observing that “we cannot choose neighbours, but we can choose what kind of neighbourhood we would like to live in.”
Trade deficit
Xinhua, China’s state-owned official news agency, published a new analysis (“China, India seek to create new economic engine”) in which it quoted Liu Xiaoxue, an expert on Sino-Indian trade from the Asia-Pacific Institute, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, as saying that the persisting bilateral trade imbalance can be attributed “mainly to India’s less sophisticated production lines.” The article went on to say that both Liu and Zhang Yansheng, a foreign trade expert with the National Development and Reform Commission, agreed that “weak manufacturing and infrastructure are the main areas restraining India’s development and in which China can play a more constructive role.”
China Daily carried a Xinhua report from New Delhi on the Indian media coverage of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s visit. “The Indian newspapers also paid attention to the personal style of the Chinese premier, saying that he has left a deep impression to Indians during his maiden visit abroad since becoming head of the Chinese government,” says the report.

Transcending Media Hype

In an editorial headlined “Sino-Indian ties transcend media hype”, Global Times wrote that the relationship between China and India has long been plagued by negative news. “This has caused public opinion about the relationship to become more negative than the reality warrants. Around 10 days ago, a “tent confrontation” between the two sides made headlines. It’s difficult to simply judge Sino-Indian relations as ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ New conflicts initiated by border disputes may break out at any time, according to worst-case scenarios.” However, it noted that the actual situation in border areas was much better than the Senkaku Islands (known in China as Diaoyu Islands) and some other disputed islands in the South China Sea. “Both sides have been trying to divert the focus of the bilateral relationship from border disputes to other areas. In spite of media hype, both sides share a common will in terms of preventing border problems from impeding Sino-Indian ties. Such rationality is commendable in present-day Asia where nationalism runs rampant.”

The editorial acknowledged that “if both nations (India and China) simultaneously rise, they may put pressure on the other.” It went on to add that the “Indian sense of national pride is very strong but Chinese society doesn’t want to adapt. Chinese people lack understanding and respect toward India. They tend to judge it according to ill-conceived preconceptions. Previously, China’s efforts to promote ties with India were less obvious than the US’. However, China’s surrounding environment will suffer if India, a country which has the prospect of running neck-and-neck with China, becomes another Japan or Philippines in terms of its policies toward China.”

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India Writes Network
India Writes Network
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