China’s official reaction to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Japan visit has been circumspect but its tightly controlled media expectedly noticed the Indian leader’s reference in a speech Monday to “expansionist” and “intruding” powers.
The reference was unlikely to have been lost on the Chinese government keeping in mind China-Japan’s frosty relations over the disputed Diaoyu (Senkaku in Japanese) islands in the East China Sea.
Beijing is also involved in ongoing tussles with several countries over the ownership of islands in the South China Sea Coming weeks, if not days, before President Xi Jinping’s India visit, the implied reference to China’s aggressive maritime postures by Modi expectedly got some response in the local media.
The Global Times newspaper on Tuesday was quick to pick on the issue in an editorial. "Everywhere around us, we see an 18th century expansionist mind-set: encroaching on another country, intruding in others' waters, invading other countries and capturing territory," the newspaper carefully quoted Modi as saying in the speech.
“Japanese and Western public opinion views his remarks as a clear reference to China, although he did not mention China by name. This interpretation made some sense because Modi is more intimate to Tokyo emotionally. Therefore it is perhaps a fact that he embraces some nationalist sentiments against China,” said the opinion piece.
It added: “China's GDP is five times that of India's. Mutual trust between Beijing and New Delhi, facing strategic pressure from the north, is difficult to build as there is also an unresolved border conflict between the two.”
But most opinion pieces on India in the Chinese media lately have gone on to use an unusually generous – occasionally patronising - tone.
“The increasing intimacy between Tokyo and New Delhi will bring at most psychological comfort to the two countries. What is involved in China-India relations denotes much more than the display of the blossoming personal friendship between Modi and Abe,” it added.
It went on to add that China-India relations are stable. “Chinese President Xi Jinping will pay a state visit to India later this month and the only country Chinese leaders won't visit in the near future is Japan. If Japan attempts to form a united front centered on India, it will be a crazy fantasy generated by Tokyo's anxiety of facing a rising Beijing.”
“The Modi administration apparently views Sino-Indian relations as more important than Indian-Japanese relations. Besides, Modi snubbed Japan's right before the BRICS summit, demonstrating that the Modi government actually gives priority to China in its foreign policy,” said another editorial in the newspaper on Monday.