Following a year of taking a hard line on India, and more specifically, hitting out at New Delhi’s relations with Washington, China’s official media this week struck a markedly different tone on Sino-Indian ties, calling for cooperation instead of competition as Wen Jiabao began his three-day visit.

The Communist Party’s English-language Global Times newspaper, which is published for an international audience, said in an editorial on Thursday “the dragon-elephant contention is a pseudo-proposition, but a true desire of U.S. and European conservatives.”

"Their discussions of the dragon-elephant contention have polluted mutual observation between China and India,” it added. “No matter whether the two emerging powers like it or not, Western interests will exert profound impact on each of their choices…. It is strange that the contention between China and India is especially singled out….This is more like a trap set by the U.S. and Europe against China.”

It was only last month that the state media here led the charge against the Indian government during U.S. President Barack Obama recent visit. One column in the official People’s Daily, which also publishes the Global Times, had suggested “the U.S. and India are right now singing a duet, echoing each other.”

Another column in the same newspaper, which is the Party’s official outlet to articulate its views, had suggested that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s recent East Asia trip and India’s “Look East policy” were actually attempts to “Look to encircle China”.

For much of the past year, the official media in China has taken a hard line on India, often stressing the close relations between New Delhi and Washington. The tone this week, however, was notably different.

'A great opportunity to dispel rumours'

"Both countries should resist falling into the trap of imagining oneself as encircled by another," the widely-read Chinese-language Global Times, which voices the Party’s views on foreign policy issues, said in an editorial on Wednesday.

Mr. Wen’s on-going visit, the paper said, was “a great opportunity for dispelling rumours and to take concrete steps to further the bilateral relationship.”

"No matter how hard the problems are, China and India should, and can, only develop good neighbourly relations,” the paper said. “There is no other option. China and India are both too big to afford any confrontation, nor can the entire region afford a conflict. We should resort to conciliatory means to resolve problems, and this is in the interests of both countries.”

But even amid this new found bonhomie, the English-language Global Times, regarded as a particularly nationalistic voice, couldn’t resist a dig at India and the U.S. on Thursday.

"The title of “the biggest democratic nation” looks like a glass of red wine enjoyed together by India and the West,” it wrote in an editorial. “But it doesn't generate anything substantial that is of India’s national interests. With a huge population and much work left to be done in developing the economy, perhaps India won’t get too drunk to act superior in front of China, because such superiority will delight India much less than it delights the West.”

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