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China wonders what Clinton had in mind

China's basketball sensation, the tall and strapping Yao Ming, retired from the sport this week.

world Updated: Jul 22, 2011 00:53 IST
Reshma Patil
Reshma Patil
Hindustan Times

China's basketball sensation, the tall and strapping Yao Ming, retired from the sport this week.

"When I stand next to Yao Ming," a government adviser told HT at an off record briefing some months ago, "I don't feel afraid though he is over seven feet tall and stronger than me. I feel secure.''

The official was responding to a question on how Beijing reacts to the global debate about its new muscle-flexing in relations with India and the world.

The witty answer left ample room to interpret whether China wants the world to see it as the bigger, stronger and safer leader among its neighbours.

China was not surprised when Hillary Clinton told India 'it is time to lead'. Clinton's subtext will be subject to scrutiny in Beijing as a potential step forward in US policy aimed at countering Chinese influence, especially in maritime disputes in the South China Sea.

"The strategic meaning came out clearly for Washington, Beijing and New Delhi,'' Shi Yinhong, a specialist on American relations at the Renmin University in Beijing, told HT. "I think Clinton had something in mind.''

Shi said Clinton was referring to established American policy, but the timing of her speech may have "implied relevance" of an attempt to rope in India to give tactical support to the US and its allies in maritime disputes in the South China Sea.

It was also seen as another attempt to improve relations with India while US ties with Pakistan go downhill.

While the Secretary of State's words made headlines in India, a state-run Chinese newspaper published a lengthy critique titled that the US has a 'faulty' South Asia policy.

The US and India are 'doing the opposite' what they should to help Pakistan fight terror, argued Fu Xiaoqiang, a director of counter-terrorism studies at a foreign ministry think-tank in Beijing.

"If the US is really serious about fighting terrorism in South Asia, it should treat India and Pakistan more equally," Fu wrote in the China Daily, "instead of standing closer to New Delhi and putting extra pressure on Islamabad."

Some of Beijing's foreign policy think-tanks advocate improving relations with Pakistan and India to compensate for US bonding with India. "New Delhi wants close relations with China as well,'' said Shi. "Delhi will make its own decisions."

First Published: Jul 21, 2011 23:25 IST