Implement the Consensus Reached by Leaders of China and India to Bring China-India Relations Back on the Track of Sound and Steady Development
Speech by H.E. Ambassador Sun Weidong at the Seminar on “China-India Relations: The Way Forward” of ICS
30 July 2020
Dear Ambassador Ashok Kantha,
Dear experts and scholars,
Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends,
It is my honor to attend this webinar on China-India relations held by Institute of Chinese Studies (ICS). First of all, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to Mr. Ashok Kantha and ICS for your efforts in holding this webinar.
Here are a lot of old friends of mine. Many of you are well-known experts on China. You have made a lot of contributions to the development of China-India relations over the years. Today, we are gathered online to have constructive discussions on how to move China-India relations forward. Such discussions are necessary under the current situation. I am glad to take this opportunity to share my thoughts on the future of China-India relations.
Before looking to the future, it is necessary to look to the past of China-India relations. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and India. The past 70 years witnessed an extraordinary journey. With the joint efforts of both sides, the two countries have established a Strategic and Cooperative Partnership for Peace and Prosperity. Especially in recent years, President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi held two informal summits and reached important consensus. They emphasized that China and India are each other’s development opportunities and stable factors in the current international landscape. We need to strengthen the closer developmental partnership between our two countries. Under the guidance of the consensus reached by the two leaders, China and India have deepened exchanges and cooperation in various fields. Our coordination in major international and regional affairs has been continuously enhanced. Although there exist differences between us, the two sides have always been seeking solutions through dialogue and consultation. China-India relations have never stopped moving forward.
Along the way, the precious experience we have learned is that, we should unswervingly adhere to the strategic guidance of our leaders, achieve common development through friendly cooperation and properly handle differences through dialogue and consultation to push forward the sound development of our relations. These lessons and experience still have important practical significance in handling China-India relations today.
Recently, there occurred the Galwan Valley Incident in the western sector of the China-India boundary. It was an unfortunate incident. Neither side wants to see it happen. Immediately after the incident, the two sides conducted dialogues through military and diplomatic channels. Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi held telephone conversations with Indian External Affairs Minister Dr. Jaishankar and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval respectively. The two sides also held four rounds of corps commander-level talks and three meetings under the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on China-India Border Affairs (WMCC). With the joint efforts of both sides, the border troops have disengaged in most localities. The situation on the ground is deescalating and the temperature is coming down.
I have noticed that for some time, scholars from Indian think tanks have paid close attention to the Galwan Valley incident and expressed various opinions. Some believe that this will be a “turning point” to change or even reverse China-India relations. Honestly speaking, I have different idea on this.
In my video speech on July 10th, I proposed five points: China and India should be partners rather than rivals; China and India need peace rather than confrontation; we need to pursue win-win cooperation rather than zero-sum game; we need to build trust rather than suspicion; China-India relations should move forward rather than backward. I think the position is very clear.
In the current era, we believe that the basic national conditions of China and India as the two largest developing neighbors remain unchanged. The orientation of China and India being partners, friendly cooperation and common development remains unchanged. The general structure that China and India cannot live without each other remains unchanged. These three “unchanged” are our basic judgment on the current China-India relations.
It is based on this judgment that China’s basic policy towards India remains unchanged. Both sides should grasp the fundamental interests of the two countries and their peoples, stick to friendly cooperation and properly handle differences to bring the bilateral relations back to the normal track.
To move China-India relations forward, I believe that we need to straighten our views on several key issues.
First, China is committed to peaceful development, and it is not a “strategic threat” to India.
To safeguard world peace and promote common development has always been the fundamental goal of China’s diplomacy. The Chinese people believe in peace and harmony, and value sincerity and integrity. There’s no gene for seeking hegemony or resorting to military power in Chinese people’s blood. China has a long history as the most powerful country in the world, but it never colonized other countries. Since the founding of People’s Republic of China over 70 years ago, we have always pursued good-neighborly friendship, sought development with our neighbors and worked to make the pie of cooperation bigger. No matter how developed China may become, we will follow the path of peaceful development and will never seek hegemony or expansion. It has been formally written into China’s Constitution and is our basic national policy and solemn commitment.
There are more than 1.4 billion people in China. It is an arduous task to lift such a huge population out of poverty and make them lead a happy life. Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China, we have given top priority to development. From ensuring adequate food and clothing for the people, to building a basically moderately prosperous society, we will soon complete the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects. Peace is a prerequisite for development. There is no development without peace. To achieve high-quality development, China must uphold and safeguard peace.
As the two largest developing countries, emerging economies and the only two countries with over one billion population in the world, China and India are both at a critical period of national development and rejuvenation. Both countries need to concentrate on their own development and achieve rejuvenation. This is not something that can be accomplished overnight. It is a historic mission that will take one decade, more decades or even longer to achieve. Therefore, “Dragon-Elephant Tango” is the only correct choice for the two sides. It best serves the fundamental interests of the two countries and peoples, and serves the lasting peace and prosperity of Asia and the world at large.
It is based on this consensus that previous generations of Chinese and Indian leaders have always viewed China-India relations from a strategic perspective and put boundary question and other issues left over from history in an appropriate position of China-India relations to properly manage and handle them, to avoid complications and escalation, and to prevent them affecting the overall development of China-India relations.
In 1988, former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi made an “ice-breaking trip” to China. Mr. Deng Xiaoping made it clear to him that development is the common task facing the two countries. “Only when China and India have developed, will a real Asian century emerge”, “If China and India are developed, we can say that we have made our contributions to mankind”. The two sides also agreed to actively develop bilateral relations in other areas while seeking a mutually acceptable solution to the boundary question. It laid the foundation for the rapid development of China-India relations over the next more than 30 years.
Since 2014, President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have stressed on many occasions that China and India are each other’s opportunities and pose no threat to each other. This has made a basic judgment on China-India relations and pointed out the right direction for the development of bilateral relations.
At present, both China and India are facing severe challenges namely COVID-19, the economic downturn and pressure on people’s livelihoods and employment caused by the epidemic. When I see people wearing masks on the streets and doctors and nurses in protective suits, I really feel that the invisible virus, rather than China, is the “threat” facing India. In the face of this common enemy, China and India should work together to overcome the difficulties. It is undoubtedly short-sighted and harmful to deny the long history of peaceful co-existence between China and India and to portray our friendly neighbor for thousands of years as an “opponent” or a “strategic threat” due to temporary differences and difficulties. We should correctly analyze and view each other’s strategic intentions, and prevent misinterpretation and miscalculation in a positive, open and inclusive attitude.
Second, China firmly upholds its sovereignty and meanwhile China will never engage in aggression or expansion.
The rights and wrongs of the Galwan Valley incident are very clear. I have talked about it in my previous interview with Indian media. I won’t go into details today. What I want to talk about is how the two sides should treat this.
It is the legitimate right for every country to safeguard its own sovereignty and territorial integrity. Since the founding of PRC, China has firmly safeguarded its national sovereignty, security and development interests and opposed all forms of hegemonism and power politics. In the meanwhile, we have never been aggressive and never pursued our own development at the expense of other countries. China has demarcated boundary with 12 of its 14 land neighbors through friendly negotiations, turning land borders into bonds of friendly cooperation. This demonstrates that on the basis of mutual respect and treating each other as equals, we can find the right way to solve problems through peaceful negotiations. One fact is that China has never claimed any land outside its own territory. The label of “expansionist” cannot be pinned on China.
It is normal for neighbors to have differences. We should focus on friendship and cooperation instead of only on differences. We should not allow the development process of the two countries and the overall interests of bilateral relations to be disturbed. As we Chinese often say, “You can’t see the wood for the trees”. The more challenges we face on the boundary question, the more we need to strengthen dialogue and communication. Pending the final settlement of the boundary question, the two sides should make joint efforts to maintain peace and tranquility in the border areas. Over the past decades, the two sides have managed differences through dialogue and negotiation, established various mechanisms such as the special representatives’ meeting on the boundary question, reached a series of agreements to maintain peace and tranquility in the border areas, and kept the channels of military and diplomatic communication open. These good practices must continue.
There has been an argument in Indian public opinion on the boundary question, which worries me, suggesting the Indian government adjust its policy towards China, and change its stance on issues related to Taiwan, Xizang, Hong Kong and the South China Sea to put pressure on China. I want to point out emphatically that Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and Xizang affairs are totally China’s internal affairs and bear on China’s sovereignty and security. While China doesn’t interfere in other country’s domestic affairs, it allows no external interference and never trades its core interests either.
As the two countries have different histories, cultural backgrounds and social systems, it is inevitable that we have different views on some issues. President Xi Jinping pointed out that mutual trust is the foundation for the stability and development of China-India relations. This speaks to the essence and key of China-India relations. To achieve mutual trust between China and India, we need to have a correct understanding of each other’s strategic intentions and strengthen communication and exchanges. We need to respect each other, treat each other as equals, and be open and inclusive. We must adhere to the principle of non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, and respect and accommodate each other’s core interests and major concerns. We need to honor our commitments, walk the talk and implement the consensus reached between the two sides.
Both China and India are great oriental nations with ancient civilizations. I have full confidence that we have enough wisdom and capability to solve the problems between us and blaze a new path of peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation between major neighboring countries.
Third, China advocates win-win cooperation and opposes “zero-sum game”.
Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed that we need work together to build a community with a shared future of mankind, advocating peaceful development and win-win cooperation. China has always emphasized win-win cooperation in its development. While developing itself rapidly, China has contributed more than 30% to world economic growth and over 70% to global poverty reduction for many years in a row. China never exported refugees, let alone wars. Instead, China has shared its development dividends with others. China’s contributions to the world are obvious to all.
Chinese and Indian economies are highly complementary and have huge market potential. Our bilateral economic and trade relations are a model of win-win cooperation, which has been proved by many facts. Since the 21st century, bilateral trade volume between China and India has increased by 32 times to nearly 100 billion US dollars. China has been India’s largest trading partner for many years, with a cumulative investment of more than 8 billion US dollars in India. China-India economic and trade cooperation has boosted the development of industries such as mobile phones, household appliances, infrastructure, automobile making, medicine and biology in India, creating a large number of local jobs and cost-effective products for Indian consumers. If it is not for the high degree of complementarity between China and India, how can we explain the remarkable achievements of China-India economic and trade cooperation in the past decades?
In fact, the Chinese and Indian economies are interwoven and interdependent. According to local statistics in India, in 2018-2019, 92% of Indian computers, 82% of TVs, 80% of optical fibers, 85% of motorcycle components are imported from China. Countless examples like this are the reflection of globalization. Globalization has deepened the interconnection between countries into the “capillaries”. Whether you want it or not, the trend is difficult to reverse. Both China and India have been deeply embedded in the global industrial chain and supply chain. The development of economic and trade cooperation between our two countries is determined by international division of labor. It is also the natural choice of enterprises and consumers of our two countries under the market-oriented principles. The forced decoupling of the Chinese and Indian economies is against the trend and will only lead to a “lose-lose” outcome.
A German friend working in India recently told me that, due to India’s recent restrictions on the import of Chinese auto components, the production of German automakers in India had been greatly affected. It fully demonstrates that self-protection, non-tariff barriers and restrictive measures violate market laws and WTO rules. It will only be harmful to oneself, to others as well as to the world.
The economic and trade exchanges between China and India should be a positive cycle of mutual accomplishment. It should not become a “knockout” or a “zero-sum game” that deliberately suppresses others. Indian government announced that it will provide a favorable investment environment for foreign companies, which should include Chinese companies and treat everyone equally. Both sides should recognize the mutually beneficial and win-win nature of bilateral economic and trade cooperation, jointly create an open, fair, just business environment, and maintain the momentum of China-India economic and trade cooperation to bring more tangible benefits to the two peoples.
Ladies and gentlemen,
China-India relations today are hard-earned and should be cherished all the more. It is like an exquisite craft glass. So much effort and wisdom by a lot of people are needed to make this glass. Some of the China experts online today have also put a lot of effort into this. But it will only take a few seconds to break it. China-India relation has reached a critical juncture now. A little carelessness may risk breaking the glass. At this moment, the two sides should handle the relations cautiously, calmly and rationally, conform to the international trend, always look forward and move forward, and resolutely avoid the whirlpool of suspicion and confrontation caused by miscalculation of the situation.
I personally always have strong confidence in the future of China-India relations. China-India friendship serves the fundamental interests of the two countries. It accords with the aspirations of two peoples and the general trend. It should not be stagnated or even reversed due to temporary difficulties. As an old Chinese saying goes, “Bite the green mountain like the bamboo and won’t let go no matter from whichever direction the winds leap”. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Find purpose. The means will follow.” As long as China and India have firm faith in developing good-neighborly and friendly relations, transmit the strategic consensus reached by the two leaders, and resort to actions, no force can shake it.
Dear friends, you come from the strategic, academic, or media circles, and you are the “opinion leaders” of Indian society. I hope that you could speak with an objective, rational and responsible voice, meet China halfway, correctly guide and shape Indian public opinions on China, and inject more positive energy into China-India relations. The Chinese Embassy in India is willing to work together with you. Let’s transmit and implement the consensus reached by the two leaders, and contribute to bringing China-India relations back to the track of steady and sound development at an earliest time.
Thank you all.