By TN Ashok
The Chinese media has been cautious about expressing optimism over Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to China with some praising his bold initiatives on the economic coperation front and others expressing reservations on his comments on reorienting policies .
The Indian PM’s visit to Xian is seen in the context of President Xi’s visit to Modi’s home state of Gujarat last year.Modi also visited Beijing and Shanghai and addressed the business fora there.
While most newspapers are convinced that India and China are “natural partners” and the century belongs to the Asian giants, a section of the Chinese media has gone beyond the rhetoric to focus on “real problems” facing the two nations.
The land dispute between the two countries has been highlighted by experts in Chinese newspapers. The two countries share an ill-defined 4,057km (2,520 miles) border and fought a brief war in 1962. Shen Dingli, an expert in international affairs with Fudan University in Shanghai, tells the Hong Kong Commercial Daily that the problems cannot be solved in one state visit, a leading British news network says.
India should be “more kind and generous” and “bear with China’s attitude of not recognizing [the disputed Indian state of ] Arunachal Pradesh”, which China considers as a part of Tibet, Shen Dingli is quoted as saying.
“China should also be more pragmatic: India is a power nuclear, what can we do?” he asks.
Modi’s aggressive diplomacy with Japan, the US and some European countries too seems to have not gone down well with Chinese commentators. The Indian PM has been also actively pursuing better economic and diplomatic ties with East Asian countries, which are considered by pundits as China’s “diplomatic backyard”, the network commented.
Hu Zhiyong, a research fellow with the Institute of International Relations at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, highlights that Modi has been trying to boost ties with these countries to “compete with China”. “But his diplomatic moves last year have proven that he is a pragmatist, rather than a visionary,” he writes in the Global Times.
” Modi has also been playing little tricks over border disputes and security issues, hoping to boost his domestic prestige while increasing his leverage in negotiations with China”, the British news network quoted Hu Zhiyong as saying.
Some commentators also see Delhi’s ties with Washington as a reason behind sporadic tensions between China and India. Shanghai-based analyst Wang Dehua argues that the US “wants to use India to counter China”.
But beyond highlighting the tensions between the two economic giants, a hint of cautious optimism appears to be in no short supply, the network said.
An article in the Global Times notes that the Sino-Indian relationship has “constantly been overshadowed by negative issues, especially border disputes”, which is a “strategic conflict” and has been “articulated primarily by Indian media”. However, the commentary assures that economic ties can outweigh rivalries over territories.
The People’s Daily observes that some Indian papers are “expecting” both countries to co-operate in the high-speed rail projects.
While most Chinese media houses have mentioned disputes between the two countries, their focus is very much on economic cooperation. Even the nationalistic Huanqiu daily has dedicated a page to report on Modi’s visit, highlighting that “cooperation in economic and trade sectors” is the main theme of the visit.
Papers in China have also noted a shift in Indian papers’ attitude about China. The overseas edition of the People’s Daily observes that Indian media outlets now show more “positive energy” when they report on China. It says India papers are still “wary of China’s fast-paced growth”, but they also want to learn from Beijing’s development model.
Modi’s decision to open an account in Chinese language on Weibo, a Twitter-like service in China, has also generated much discussion in China. Noting that Modi has opened a Weibo account, an article in the People’s Daily praises his attempt to reach out to Chinese web users as “Weibo diplomacy”.
The paper also quotes that most web users have written enthusiastic and welcoming comments on Modi’s account. Modi commented that India and China will need to work together to help developing countries eliminate poverty. The seemingly friendly remarks have won praise with one user agreeing that both countries need to “look beyond their differences”. But others are not too friendly. One user has reminded Modi to “show sincerity” and “return south Tibet.