The majority that the left alliance won in the federal elections has convinced many that the new government under its leadership will naturally be closer to China. By this, they also believe that Nepal’s foreign policy will once again change its direction, leaving China and India in a more intense confrontation. It should be admitted that affinities of ideology are indeed a major advantage for the development of good relations. However, it should not be overlooked that the value orientation of China’s diplomacy has already surpassed ideology and more attention is paid to the real interests of the country. It has adopted a more pragmatic diplomacy which no longer takes societal system and ideology as the most important factor of bilateral relationships.
All previous Chinese governments have been emphasising the importance of a peaceful surrounding environment for the development of China. Only when the surroundings are stable can China concentrate its efforts on nation building. China and Nepal share a border-line that is more than 1,400km long; a turbulent and impoverished Nepal is in no way beneficial for the stability and security of the western frontier of China.
Deng Xiaoping once said that it doesn’t matter whether the cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice. From this point of view, China is willing to see any party that can bring stability and prosperity lead Nepal, rather than only the pro-China left wing communist parties. With the conclusion of the elections, long awaited political stability seems to be within reach.
In 2013, president Xi Jinping proposed a new neighbourhood diplomacy characterised by amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness, with an aim to build a community of shared interests with our neighbours. Neighbouring countries like Nepal will benefit from the development of China, and China will also benefit from Nepal’s development. This is in line with the wishes of the Nepali people in the hope that the country will move toward political stability and economic prosperity. And doing so does not mean that Nepal needs to act according to China’s will.
The 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in October 2017 was considered to have opened up a new era for China. In this congress, Xi Jinping’s report proposed the building of a new type of international relations and a community of common destiny. To achieve that goal, one of the major measures is to increase assistance to developing countries, especially underdeveloped countries, and to deepen relations with neighbouring countries. Such policies are an essential part of the great power diplomacy with Chinese characteristics. In the coming days, pragmatic cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative will link China and other countries through bonds of interest. The highest leadership of China believes that only a mutually beneficial relationship can be a long-term relationship.
As for the so-called Sino-Indian competition and opposition in Nepal, news of exaggerated confrontation always make the headlines and get more attention. However, China has no interest in competing with India or any other countries to further its so-called sphere of influence. The political and economic ties between China and Nepal are the results of a normal bilateral relation. China understands and respects the special relationship between India and Nepal, India also needs to maintain its own confidence and give the normal development of Sino-Nepali relations more patience.
China clearly realises that it is impossible and inadvisable to sever the special relationship between India and Nepal; its foreign policy has always focused on cooperation instead of confrontation. Under the current geopolitical reality, India, Nepal and China all need to adjust their foreign policies. Trilateral cooperation between the three countries has been discussed for many years. By playing a decent role of a transit country between China and India, Nepal will become a stage of cooperation instead of a “boxing arena” for the two countries.
China is becoming more confident and open. When the whole world was worrying about whether the two Asian giants would go to war again during the Doklam standoff, interestingly, Aamir Khan’s movie Dangal was winning great praise in Chinese cinemas. Both countries need to look forward, not backward.
The smooth development of Sino-Nepali relations is facing a golden opportunity. However, it is not enough simply to talk about friendship, what’s important now is to cooperate in the spirit of pragmatism so that the people can benefit from the achievements of trilateral cooperation.
Gao is doing his PhD on China’s frontier politics and minority issues at Sichuan University, ChinaPublished: 2018-02-06 08:01:07