For the second time in two days, the Communist Party-run media has expressed a view that India’s new trade pact and dialogue with Japan aims to counter China. “India and Japan have vowed recently to cement a closer relationship to confront a rising China,” said an editorial in the nationalist Global Times on Thursday.
The Chinese Premier has arrived in Hanoi, Vietnam, with one of the largest high-level contingents including his ministers of foreign affairs, commerce and finance. It remains to be seen how the Chinese delegation will display China’s new assertiveness across Asia while tackling strategic concerns from its neighbours.
Going by the Chinese media reports ahead of the summit, Beijing may want to soften its image while retaining centrestage in Asian affairs. The Thursday editorial that mentioned India-Japan partnering to confront China, advised that China take concrete actions to prove it’s a ‘responsible and nice neighbour’.
An analyst at a top think-tank also advised Beijing to tone down the rhetoric. “A fast developing China is the guarantee of stability in East Asia,’’ wrote Li Wen, of the Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, in the China Daily. “China should maintain its calm and confidence at the Hanoi summit ... and not over-react to any challenge thrown by the US, Japan or any other country.’’ The same edition front-paged China’s marine fleet expansion with plans to add 36 new ships.
China specialist Dean Cheng, who read a latest People’s Daily commentary that implied that Indian leaders should consider Chinese concerns before allying closely with Japan, said it embodied China’s ‘true’ desire in its relations with its neighbours. “That whenever any decision is being made, there is an implicit Chinese seat at the decision-making table with China’s views and concerns being taken into account.”
So the state media is likely to continue to take the hard line on India’s handshakes with Japan and Vietnam. “Future Indian diplomatic moves that might affect China, as with moves by Vietnam or Japan, or the rest of ASEAN, will be greeted with comparably strident commentary,’’ he said.