"“China has all along advocated that peace is of paramount importance. We are neither a warlike state nor an assertive country. The right and wrong of what recently happened at the Galwan Valley is very clear. China will firmly safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and ensure the peace and tranquility in the border areas.”"
On Friday, 10 July, Chinese Ambassador to India Sun Weidong put out a video in which he sought to clarify some “fundamental points” about the status of the China-India relationship, and discuss the “wrong perception” of China that was being built up by some quarters in India.
From comments on the disengagement process in Ladakh to the need for India and China to work together and not ruin their trade relations, to oblique criticism of the Indian media, here are the key highlights from this speech to look out for.
ON THE SITUATION IN THE GALWAN VALLEY
The Chinese Ambassador appeared to acknowledge there were casualties on both sides during the clashes on 15 June, saying “there was an incident causing casualties at the Galwan Valley”. He said the situation there was one neither China nor India would like to see, before adding his remarks about the current situation at the flashpoint:
"“On 5 July, the Special Representatives of the China-India Boundary Question, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval had a conversation over the phone, and reached a positive consensus on easing the current border situation. Currently, our front line troops are disengaging on the ground in accordance with the consensus reached by the Military Corp Commander talks.”" -
PARTNERS, NOT RIVALS
Noting India and China’s 2,000-year-history of friendly exchanges, he said that the two countries shared long-term strategic interests in how development and revitalisation were our top priorities.
The Ambassador then said there had been a consensus since the 1990s that the two countries did not pose a threat to each other, something stressed by Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the Wuhan Informal Summit in 2018. “This is the fundamental judgment on China-India relations,” he added.
Weidong said the two countries should see each other as positive factors in the world today, and criticised those in India who have taken a different view, saying:
"“I have noticed some emerging opinions in recent days which repudiate the essence of China-India friendship due to the border-related incidents, make false assumptions about China’s intentions, exaggerate conflicts and provoke confrontations, and regard a close neighbor over thousands of years as “enemies” and “strategic threats”. It is not the fact. It is harmful indeed and not helpful.”" -
ADVOCATING PEACE, WHILE RE-ASSERTING GALWAN CLAIMS
The Ambassador argued that differences between China and India are “natural” as they are two major neighbouring countries. However, he said that confrontation doesn’t serve either country, and that the countries should not allow their differences to affect overall bilateral relations.
"“China and India have the boundary question left over by history, which is sensitive and complicated. We need to find a fair and reasonable solution mutually acceptable through equal consultation and peaceful negotiation. Pending an ultimate settlement, we both agree to work together to maintain peace and tranquility in the border areas.”" - Statement by Chinese Ambassador Sun Weidong
Referring to the established mechanisms between the countries to deal with issues like the current border tensions, including the recent talks between the two Special Representatives, the Ambassador stressed that both sides had reiterated that they didn’t want an escalation, and wanted to follow the agreements signed by the countries.
This was also, however, when he made his claim that China is neither warlike nor assertive, and that “the right and wrong of what recently happened at the Galwan Valley is very clear.” While the statement talked of peace, it also included an assertion from China that they were safeguarding their “sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
A WARNING AGAINST BOYCOTTING CHINESE GOODS AND SERVICES?
Ambassador Weidong appeared to take on the calls for boycotting Chinese goods and the banning of Chinese apps in his remarks, suggesting cooperation instead, especially in the times of the COVID-19 crisis.
Saying that China has been India’s largest trading partner for many years in a row, he pointedly noted the cumulative investment of Chinese capital in India (over USD 8 billion) and claimed that China-India economic and trade cooperation had led to local jobs in the mobile phones, appliances, infrastructure and automobiles sectors.
Opposing those who advocated a “decoupling” of China-India economic and trade relations and boycotting “Made in China” products, he said:
"“One basic fact they ignore is that the current global industrial and supply chains are formed in a process of natural selection by market optimisation over the past decades. The business community and people of India are the beneficiaries of China-India economic and trade cooperation. Any self-protection, non-tariff barriers and restrictive measures against China are unfair to Chinese enterprises, unfair to Indian employees who lost their jobs as a result, and unfair to Indian consumers who can not get access to the products and services they deserve. It will only harm others without benefit to oneself, and it will eventually hurt oneself as well.”" -
He also suggested that Modi and Xinping want to explore a ‘manufacturing partnership’, and that this could only be done through cooperation.
BUILDING TRUST AND MOVING FORWARD
Finally, the Ambassador cited Xi Jinping’s statement that mutual trust was the key to bilateral relations between India and China, as suspicion and friction are against the fundamental aspirations of both countries for development.
To build this trust, he suggested that both countries need to be open and inclusive, accomodate mutual interests and “adhere to the principle of non-interference in each other’s internal affairs.”
Recognising that 2020 marks the 70th anniversary of China-India diplomatic ties, he reiterated the global strategic importance of the relationship between the two countries, and the need for being positive and doing away with negativity that could harm trust and cooperation. He appeared to criticise the media for inflaming tensions at this point, saying:
"“In face of the epidemic, we may explore new ways and channels to promote communication and understanding between the two peoples to create a favorable atmosphere for the 70th anniversary of our diplomatic ties. The media outlets of our two countries should also make their efforts in an objective, rational and responsible manner, avoid inciting antagonism in an effort to contribute positive energy to the steady and sound development of China-India relations.”" -
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