India Becoming a Threat in Chinese Imagination

Hemant Adlakha, professor of Chinese at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and Honorary Fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies (ICS), Delhi.

As the new year gets underway, and Chinese foreign policy analysts join their counterparts around the world in assessing the events of 2017, the emerging international relations (IR) discourse in Beijing is quite a revelation — at least to the Japanese and Indian strategic affairs community.

While most Chinese believe Japan to be the second biggest threat to China’s “peaceful rise,” according to a few Chinese experts, the rising global profile of India, especially under the “right-wing” nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has gone unacknowledged. Continue reading “India Becoming a Threat in Chinese Imagination”

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Fluffy Ambassadors: China’s Panda Diplomacy

Preethi Amaresh, Research Officer, Chennai Centre for China Studies (C3S)

The giant panda has proven itself to be an instrument of foreign affairs and its use as a soft power tool has played a part in International relations. Pandas are considered to be a symbol of peace for China. China’s policy of sending pandas as diplomatic gifts was revitalized in 1941 when Beijing sent two pandas to the Bronx Zoo as a “thank you” gift on the eve of the United States entering World War II. This stimulated the relationship between countries, which in turn increased China’s soft power in the panda-receiving country. Mao Zedong, the founding father of the People’s Republic of China, often engaged in panda diplomacy in the 1950s, sending the bears as gifts to North Korea and the Soviet Union.

According to one theory, the movement of pandas from China to another country means that the other country accepts the extension of “China” on its territory. It all began in 1941 where Soong Mei-Ling (First lady of the People’s Republic of China) sent the first batch of pandas as gifts to the U.S. In 1949, after the foundation of the People’s Republic of China, more giant pandas were shipped abroad. One well-known example is when the Chinese government presented two pandas to U.S President Richard Nixon during his visit to China in 1982, which turned out to be an enormous diplomatic success with respect to China’s establishment of relations with the U.S.

Pandas presented by China to Japan are considered to be a symbol of the friendly ties between Japan and China. Recently during a visit to China, the American first lady, Melania Trump, also engaged in Panda Diplomacy at the Beijing Zoo. The pandas, Cai Tao and Hu Chun, Which have captured the hearts of millions in Indonesia are considered to be part of China’s long-running ‘Panda Diplomacy’ programme, arrived at Jakarta, in November 2017 from China to their new home in a multi-million dollar sanctuary. This also signifies a strong bilateral relationship between China and Indonesia.

The tragedy of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 escalated tensions between Malaysia and China. But the arrival of the Pandas, Feng Yi and Fu Wa, in 2014 was seen as a healing touch in the relationship between the two nations after China had openly reprimanded Malaysia for the way the disaster was handled.

The panda is considered to be an emblem of China similar to how the dragon is the symbol of its nationalism. The giant panda is listed as an endangered species in the World Conservation Union’s Red List of Threatened Species. With only about 1,600 left in the wild, breeding programmes in China are considered to be incredibly important in ensuring the future of such beautiful animals. Panda cubs born to the giant pandas which are given on a loan as a token of friendship and goodwill to the other countries have to be sent back to the Chinese breeding programme to expand the gene pool before they turn four.

The panda bears unlike China’s Confucius Institutes, remain well-liked when it comes to governments across the world and they are eager and happy to welcome them. Pandas have been used as themes for Chinese movies like The Story of Panda, Taotao, Little Panda Learns to be a Carpenter and Hollywood movies such as the Kung Fu Panda series. The most recent one is Born in China, which released on the World Earth Day, 2017, and is a story about the adventures of three animal families, a majestic panda, a savvy golden monkey and an elusive snow leopard.

Chinese have also opened various restaurants chains in different cities in the name of the Pandas. Restaurant chains such as Panda Express and Panda Inn, also run in the U.S. Fast food chain Panda Express, which serves an American-Chinese cuisine, also plans to make an India entry in the cities of Mumbai and Bangalore in partnership with Jay Singh and Sanjay Mahtani (JSM). China also launched a Giant Panda Festival to promote regional economy in 2016 and in 2017, China celebrated the 49th Chengdu International Panda Lantern Carnival in Sichuan Province.

With the world’s largest economy in PPP terms and growing assertiveness in its foreign policy, China is set to have a deep-rooted impact on the international order in the future. Its changing outlook in international communication and soft-power construction reflects China’s transformation from a “quiet achiever” to an “assertive player” at the world stage. During the 19th Congress of the Communist Party of China, General Secretary Xi Jinping stated that China would improve its capacity for engaging in International communication in order enhance the country’s soft power.

China’s reach across the globe has become more extensive, thus increasing the relevance of panda diplomacy to a whole new level. At the 19th Congress, Xi also noted that China’s economic policy should be improved for the progress of the cultural sector. This shows that pandas are not just about conversation but have become increasingly linked with economic and political ambitions.

Until today, Panda diplomacy has not been established between India and China. Perhaps, it is because there is yet to be a consolidation of trust between the two countries. It remains to be seen whether it is the inability of the pandas to adapt to Indian climate or whether political climate is the issue.

Nepal’s Views on the Doklam Standoff

Avadhi Patni, Research Intern, Institute of Chinese Studies, Delhi

The Doklam standoff between India and China has caused security, economic as well as political concerns for other countries of the South Asian region. This article explains general views and opinions of Nepal on the Doklam standoff. Nepal has signed a Treaty of Peace and Friendship with both India (Ministry of External Affairs 1950) and China (Friedrich Ebert Stiftung 1960). It has two tri-junction points with India and China and its dependency on both the countries raises security as well as economic concerns for Kathmandu.

One tri-junction point between Nepal, China and India is at Lipulekh in western Nepal and the other is at Jhinsang Chuli in eastern Nepal. Concerns for Nepal started in 2015 when India and China signed a bilateral agreement to increase trade through Lipulekh but without any consultation with Nepal. This tri-junction point is considered crucial by Nepal for developing it as an economic bridge between India and China. Following this event was the 2015-2016 India-Nepal border blockade. These incidents have created a popular opinion in Nepal about India being at fault in the current standoff in Doklam (Baral 2017).

A statement by Gopal Khanal, the foreign policy advisor to the ex-Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli, Continue reading “Nepal’s Views on the Doklam Standoff”

Opening Doors Southwards: China’s Increasing Presence in Nepal

Aakriti Vinayak, Research Intern, Institute of Chinese Studies, Delhi  

China is making its influence keenly felt in Nepal today. China is using different strategies from road connectivity, hydroelectric projects to using soft power as an approach to forge linkages with Nepal. China’s concentrated effort to use soft power diplomacy in Nepal – with heavy investments in religion, education and tourism – has been a success on the high tables and between the government elites, relations have been institutionalised. One sees a prospective future for Nepal where there is an attempt to tilt more and more towards China – on almost every front – economic, cultural and regional. When Nepalese president Bidya Bhandari released the Nepalese edition of the book, Governance of China by Chinese president Xi Jinping, Upendra Gautam the General Secretary of China Nepal Study Centre said that the event befittingly heralds Nepal and China relations into the 21st century kinship where soft power plays a paramount role (Gautam 2016).

Under former Nepalese prime minister Prachanda, China started using Buddhism as a tool of soft power by Continue reading “Opening Doors Southwards: China’s Increasing Presence in Nepal”

In the Wake of Doklam: India-China Relations Entering a New Phase

Jabin T. Jacob, PhD, Fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies

This article was originally published as,‘भारत-चीन संबंध नये दौर में, in Rashtriya Sahara, 29 July 2017. The original English version follows below the Hindi text.

भारत के राष्ट्रीय सुरक्षा सलाहकार अजित डोभाल बीजिंग में ब्रिक्स देशों के राष्ट्रीय सुरक्षा सलाहकारों की बैठक में शिरकत करने चीन पहुंच चुके हैं। सभी निगाहें इस तरफ हैं कि क्या भारत और चीन इस मौके पर भूटान के डोकलाम क्षेत्र में बने तनाव को समाप्त करने में सफल होंगे। लेकिन दोनों देशों के आधिकारिक बयानों पर गौर करें तो लगता है कि चीन किसी सूरत पीछे हटने को तैयार नहीं है। न केवल इतना बल्कि वह भारत के खिलाफ तीखे बयान भी दे रहा है। मांग कर रहा है कि उसके क्षेत्र, जिसे वह अपना होने का दावा कर रहा है, से भारत अपने सैनिकों को पीछे हटाए।

लेकिन इस मामले से जुड़े तय बेहद सरल-सादा हैं।

Continue reading “In the Wake of Doklam: India-China Relations Entering a New Phase”

Bhutan: the ‘Missing’ Piece of the Puzzle

Jabin T. Jacob, PhD, Fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies

In the latest faceoff between Indian and Chinese troops in the Doklam area, the role and place of Bhutan has been easily overlooked. It is the Bhutanese after all that are contending with Chinese over the area and it is they who invited the Indians to take up cudgels on their behalf against the Chinese.

Bhutan is, in many respects, probably India’s only genuine ally in the region and this too, is largely the result of that country’s unique political history and development. The Bhutanese monarchy has played a key role in nurturing a close and beneficial relationship with India and India has in large measure reciprocated. While a tiny country, Bhutan has always been favoured with fairly senior and always competent Indian ambassadors in its capital and maintains the Indian Military Training Team in support of the Bhutanese army. Also worth remembering is the fact that it was to Bhutan that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made his first official foreign visit after taking office.

That said, India should simply count itself lucky that it has managed to maintain a special place for itself in Bhutan’s international affairs for such a long time despite the vagaries of international politics. Continue reading “Bhutan: the ‘Missing’ Piece of the Puzzle”

Doklam: Understanding Chinese Actions in Bhutan

Jabin T. Jacob, PhD, Fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies

Following the latest confrontation between China and India in the Doklam area of Bhutan, there is clearly an edge to the repeated Chinese calls to India to ‘immediately pull back’ Indian troops to their side of the boundary.

The Chinese have stressed that this ‘is the precondition for any meaningful talks between the two sides aiming at resolving the issue’.

What should Indians make of this and what should we look out for? Continue reading “Doklam: Understanding Chinese Actions in Bhutan”