International

China proposes united front with India and emerging economies to counter trade headwinds

Sun Weidong, Chinese Ambassador to India. Photo: Special Arrangement  

Ahead of the next informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping, China has flagged its interest in partnering India for building a united front of emerging economies and developing countries to counter trade headwinds.

Amid a spiralling trade war with the U.S., Chinese ambassador-designate to India, Sun Weidong, told resident Indian journalists on Friday that “the ugly path of unilateralism and protectionism has now affected the growth and stability of the world economy.”

“This will surely have an impact on the emerging markets and the developing countries because it also based on the international order that they rely on,” he observed. Seeking a bigger partnership with India on a global scale, Mr. Sun said on the eve of his departure to New Delhi that China and India had a “historical” duty to become frontrunners in protecting multilateralism and globalisation.

He pointed out that the scale and impact of this initiative should echo the success of Panchsheel — the five principles of peaceful coexistence nailed by the two countries in the 1950s — which became the template for guiding state-to-state relations.

“China and India are the only two emerging markets and developing countries in the world that have a population of over 1 billion. So while upholding our legitimate rights and interests, we have to shoulder our historical responsibility in terms of safeguarding peace, stability and prosperity for the world…,” Mr. Sun observed.

The Chinese envoy specially flagged the reform of the World Trade Organisation, the defence of the U.N. system, cyber-security, and climate change as the arena for China-India collaboration in the future.

India and China reset their ties last year at the Wuhan informal summit, after the two countries nearly came to war in 2017, during the Doklam military stand-off. But with the next edition of the informal summit slated later this year, Mr. Sun was emphatic that the time had arrived when the two neighbours should move away from merely “managing” their differences to a stage of active partnership, capable of yielding an “Asian Century”.

“The Chinese people are now in an endeavour for (realising) the first millennium goal, and at the same time Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi has come out with the vision of the new India. That means our two countries are in a similar development stage; we share similar goals for our development and that enables us to share very extensive and in-depth common interests.”

Mr. Sun stressed that the Chinese side was “willing to work with India to enhance our strategic mutual trust, step up our all-dimensional cooperation, to lend support to each other’s development so as to realise the mutual dancing of the Chinese dragon and the Indian elephant and to make our joint efforts for the emergence of the Asian century.”

The Chinese envoy spotlighted that the two countries must grasp “the overriding trend of the changes in the current world landscape and to properly understand the stage of our own developmental process and bear in mind the long-term picture so as to take initiative in shaping our bilateral relationship.”

Asked to comment on bridging the trade gap between the two countries — a concern shared by Prime Minister Modi and President Xi during their meeting last month in Bishkek on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit — Mr. Sun said China “ highly values” India’s concerns on the trade imbalance. But he also made it plain that Beijing has “never deliberately created a trade surplus against India.”

He pointed out that from last year, China had increased imports of Indian rice and sugar, along with stepping up the review and approval process of the Indian pharmaceuticals. “I am convinced that with our concerted efforts, the issue of trade imbalance between China and India will be gradually addressed.”

On the resolution of the border issue, Mr. Sun reiterated that the dialogue among the Special Representatives of the two countries, which began in 2003, had yielded the political principles guiding the resolution of the boundary row. Besides, “the basic principle of a package planned though mutual adjustment to resolve the boundary issue” had been identified.

Commenting on managing India and China’s overlapping interests in the Indian Ocean and South Asia, the Chinese envoy pointed to the “China-India plus” mechanism “to better build regional infrastructure connectivity and to ensure better synergy of policies and strategies between countries.”

After the Wuhan summit, China had proposed a joint approach with India to address some of the major issues in the region, including the Rohingya refugee crisis along with possible initiatives in Nepal, Afghanistan and Iran. On a personal note, Mr. Sun said he looked forward to working with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, with whom he had interacted when he had been posted in Beijing as India’s Ambassador to China. “We worked closely together. So I really hope that in the new tenure of your government, this relationship will be further promoted through our common and mutual efforts.”

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