Chinese state media outlets and strategic analysts have expressed wariness at the India, Japan and the U.S. trilateral meet held in New Delhi on Monday describing it as aimed at exerting pressure on China over its regional ambitions.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry responded to Monday's talks saying it hoped "relevant countries will make more effort to promote regional peace, stability and development". "It is in the interests of all countries in the region," spokesperson Hong Lei was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua news agency.
The Communist Party-run Global Times, a widely-read tabloid known for its nationalistic views, said in an editorial on Tuesday that Japan — embroiled in a dispute with China over East China Sea islands — was seen as driving the trilateral initiative, being the “most anxious” of the three countries about China’s rise.
The newspaper added that it believed China’s relations with India were, in comparison, on a better footing.
“Japan is causing problems for China, but it is not the country’s foremost worry,” said the editorial. “China has some hopes of carrying out strategic cooperation with India. If Asia falls into chaos because of how to deal with China, the result will be good for nobody.”
The newspaper said the U.S. was “trying to ensnare China in the Asia-Pacific region”, even as the business community in Washington was becoming increasingly “integrated” with China. “The U.S. often holds an ambiguous strategy on China. It seems Washington hasn’t made it clear how it should deal with China’s rise.”
Monday’s talks, according to media reports, focused on maritime security issues, and did not explicitly discuss the three countries’ relations with China besides their common interests in ensuring the freedom of navigation in the disputed South China Sea. The trilateral meeting was the third of its kind, following the first round in Washington in 2011 and a second in Tokyo.
The Global Times said it saw the “practical value” of such dialogues as “very low”. “China’s rise is a tortuous process and the U.S. by itself has found no ways to counter it, either alone or with other countries. To suppress China’s rise, great financial support will be needed. The U.S. cannot afford this alone but neither can Japan or India. As long as China insists on a peaceful rise, targeting China will not be a serious idea.”
“India a diversion”
According to Su Hao, director of the Asia-Pacific Research Center at China Foreign Affairs University, Tokyo was “using India to create a diversion to the west of China” amid ongoing tensions over the disputed Diaoyu or Senkaku islands in the East China Sea. Mr. Su told the Global Times in an interview that India had “piled pressure on Beijing hoping to gain from the tensions”.
“However, China didn’t soften its stance over the border issue. As a result, India is trying to keep up the pressure,” he said.
In another news report titled “Trilateral talks ‘target’ China”, the Global Times noted the recent consultations between India and Japan on diplomatic and defence matters and the joint naval exercises.
Shi Yinhong, the head of the Centre for American Studies at Renmin University, was quoted as saying while the trilateral talks would place “growing strategic pressure” on China’s foreign policy, the three countries themselves had “great divergences as to their individual their priorities, with India more focused on South Asia, for instance”.
Han Hua, a leading South Asia scholar at Peking University, added that while Tokyo saw the trilateral setup “as a way to exert pressure on China concerning the Diaoyu Islands, it was unlikely that the trio would publicly challenge Beijing’s core interests”.