In shift, China backs trilateral talks with India, U.S.

Dialogue and more communication can lead to more trust between countries: Le

A top Chinese official on Tuesday said China was open to the idea of a trilateral dialogue mechanism with India and the United States to build trust between the countries, in remarks that have been seen as reflecting a larger, subtle shift in Chinese foreign policy away from a traditional “zero-sum” view of its relations.

Assistant Foreign Minister Le Yucheng said dialogue and more communication “can lead to more understanding and more trust” between the countries, when asked about a proposal made by a leading Chinese strategic scholar last week, who is known to be close to the leadership, for putting in place a China-India-U.S. dialogue, a move that is backed by Indian officials.

China, Mr. Le said, was in general “open and positive” towards such mechanisms. “We believe dialogue is better than confrontation,” he said.

Mr. Le's remarks were seen by analysts and diplomats as reflecting a wider shift in Chinese strategic thinking away from a traditional view of its relationships in the region which, for instance, tended to frame ties with India largely against the backdrop of China's relations with Pakistan and concerns over U.S. “containment.”

This shift has also been seen in unusually strong comments from Chinese officials and the State media this week in welcoming an improvement in India-Pakistan ties. The Foreign Ministry, which rarely breaks from script while commenting on issues not directly involving China, said it was “happy” to see Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari travel to India on Sunday.

The Communist Party-run Global Times went a step further on Tuesday, saying in a commentary that “China has been working hard to help better the relationship between India and Pakistan.” Pakistani officials have also suggested that China had, in fact, advised them to focus on improving trade ties with India as a first step towards greater regional stability.

The Global Times article hinted that there were some sections in the Chinese establishment that had reservations over this approach, saying that it “has even been lambasted” by some in China. A more conservative view of China's policies in South Asia, which is known to find favour among the military and more traditional strategic experts, has advocated a deepening of ties with Pakistan as a response to India-U.S. relations growing closer.

For dialogue

“As a developing State itself,” the commentary said, “China understands how important a peaceful external environment means to India and Pakistan, where living standards still require major improvements. Hence, rather than aggravate regional tensions, China has been promoting dialogue and cooperation between the two.”

Mr. Le underscored this new approach guiding Chinese foreign policy in a speech on Tuesday at the China Institute of International Studies (CIIS), a think-tank run by the Foreign Ministry.

Mr. Le, who is in charge of the Ministry's policy planning division, outlined the country's priorities in the coming year in an address titled “China's relations with the world at a new starting point.” He said two big shifts in the international system had underpinned current Chinese diplomacy: an increasingly networked world, where countries saw their interests “entwined” and the emergence of the BRICS countries.

“We must abandon the so-called “see-saw” mentality, which contends one's rise is another's fall,” he said. “We must stop playing the “zero-sum” game which builds one's gain on another's loss. Instead, countries must develop a new type of relationship that keeps up with the changes of our time.”

He said there was a mixed international reaction to the rise of emerging countries, with “some applauding, others more negative, and those who cry wolf and see emerging countries as monsters.”

“China, India, Brazil and others have become indispensable components to the world market and their market potential is still being unlocked,” he said, pointing to the agreements reached in New Delhi last month to boost trade and set up a BRICS development bank.

“Rising powers,” Mr. Le said, “should not challenge established powers and established powers should accommodate rising powers.”

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Printable version | Feb 23, 2020 1:23:39 PM |

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