The unexpected timing and the aggressive language of the anti-India rhetoric in Beijing from both the foreign ministry and the government-run Chinese newspapers have stunned Indian China watchers.
This week, the top four ‘most popular’ headlines on the website of the official newspaper of the Communist Party of China are all about India and Indians.
Top of the popularity charts: India’s new missile is able to attack China’s Harbin,’ and ‘Indian hegemony continues to harm relations with neighbours’.
Beijing’s political mouthpiece controlled by top Party members says Indians are ‘narrow-minded,’ ‘intolerable of
criticism’ and have ‘impetuous’ superpower aspirations.
The spurt of sarcasm is far more than in recent times.
An Indian analyst at the Chennai Centre for China Studies says the rhetoric sounds like China’s India view in the chaotic pre-1978 era.
The Chinese media’s tone has also followed up the tone of the foreign ministry’s less than diplomatic objection to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit.
“Do not stir up trouble at the disputed area," the ministry warned on its website 10 days after Singh’s stopover in Arunachal Pradesh.
The latest tension between India-China comes surprisingly soon after both New Delhi and Beijing had tried to publicly downplay reports of strained ties.
In Beijing, officials of the ministry of foreign affairs had held several meetings with the Indian and Chinese media with just one message — ‘create good public opinion’ while reporting on the border and bilateral relations.
Beijing’s protest was issued while Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was in town shaking hands with President Hu Jintao.
The People’s Daily boosted speculation about the timing with a rude commentary that referred to India’s ties with China and Pakistan in the same context, and discussed India’s refusal to ‘drop pretentious airs when dealing with neighbours like Pakistan’.
“India, which vows to be a superpower, needs to have its eyes on relations with neighbours and abandon recklessness and arrogance as the world is undergoing earthshaking changes.
“For India, the ease of tension with China and Pakistan is the only way to become a superpower," it said.
On Thursday, Premier Wen Jiabao met Gilani and offered Chinese collaborations in finance, hydro-electricity, education, railway and road transport and the fishing industry in Pakistan.
“The China-Pakistan friendship had weathered changes on the world stage," Wen was quoted saying in Xinhua.