An influential Communist Party-run newspaper on Friday called on the Chinese government to use “every means possible” to stop the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) Videsh from going ahead with exploration projects in the South China Sea, warning India that any deal with Vietnam would amount to a “serious political provocation” that would “push China to the limit.”
“China should resolutely stop [ONGC] from pursuing this course of action,” said the Global Times, a widely-read popular tabloid known for its nationalist views, in a lead editorial. “Reasoning may be used first, but if India is persistent in this, China should try every means possible to stop this cooperation from happening.”
Even as Chinese officials on Friday sought to play down the row with India over projects in the South China Sea, the Communist Party-run paper hit out at the Indian government for testing “China's will”, saying that although China was “sincere” about its peaceful rise, “it will not give up the right to use other means to protect its interest.”
On Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry officials had said they were opposed to any project in the disputed South China Sea, without directly referring to India. Officials said they would not comment on the matter on Friday.
The Global Times editorial described the deal between ONGC and Vietnam as reflecting India's rising ambitions, and a likely Indian move to “counter China's behaviour in the Indian Ocean,”
“Chinese society has already been indignant about India's intervention in the Dalai [Lama] problem,” the editorial said. “India should bear in mind that its actions in the South China Sea will push China to the limit.”
“China cherishes the Sino-Indian friendship, but this does not mean China values it above all else.”
A lead editorial in the Global Times, a Party-run paper, cannot be published without the approval of the Communist Party's Propaganda Department. The paper is, however, known to represent the views of more hard-line voices within the party.
The editorial reflected a popular sentiment among nationalist voices in the Communist Party, who have been increasingly calling for China to take a more assertive position in its diplomacy.
“We should not leave the world with the impression that China is only focused on economic development, nor should we pursue the reputation of being a “peaceful power,” which would cost us dearly,” the editorial said.
“China has been peaceful for so long that some countries doubt whether it will stick to its stated bottom line. China should remind them of how clear this line really is.” The editorial added that China should, however, “remain calm” and not take “rash actions”.
The Global Times has, in the past, run editorials hitting out at the Indian government. Chinese Foreign Ministry officials have often stressed that the paper, known to represent the views of more nationalist voices in the Party, did not speak for the government, and have privately criticised the paper for causing strains in relations and not taking a more “moderate” line.
For instance, in December, days ahead of Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to New Delhi, which Chinese officials had framed as an opportunity to draw a line over recent differences, the Global Times published an editorial, written by a General of The People's Liberation Army (PLA), calling on China to take a more aggressive line in its foreign policy.
China, the article said, needed to recover territory “looted by neighbours” - if necessary, by force.