Context: Sun Xiliang is a Professor at South Central China University. Known for his controversial takes, he is a well-known and followed online commentator on issues of politics. From Baidu, he was voted in 2010 as one of the nine leading commentators on China’s internet. Among his infamous remarks includes “Democracy cannot solve all problems in China, and without democracy, all problems in China cannot be solved”. This article was published in 2016 August 5, yet is interesting to explore the kind of perspectives existing in China.
In 2009, Nepal’s political reshuffle, I once called on the Chinese government to pay attention to the strategic role of Nepal (this is almost a cold diplomatic topic, I wrote China-Nepal relations into the book “The Age of Hot War”《热战时代》). However, since China at that time did not seem to really recognize Nepal, Prachanda stepped down due to India’s intervention shortly after he came to power. India demonstrated its super influence and intervention in South Asia.
Why did China acquiesce to India’s intervention? Apart from its own lack of influence, one possible consideration would be to avoid prodding India too far into southern Tibet, and to establish a regular China-India joint counter-terrorism exercise to demonstrate that China and India have been good neighbours since ancient times. Although this military exercise has been achieved, it has no strategic significance at all. It is not beneficial to the friendship between China and India, and it has indirectly affected the relationship between China and Pakistan, creating disharmony between China, Pakistan and India. China- Pakistan iron brothers was not as strong for a period.
Now, the political forces in Nepal have been reorganized again, and the “Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist” once again elected Prachanda as the acting prime minister of Nepal (the only candidate for the new prime minister). This provides an opportunity for China and Nepal to rebuild a new type of state relationship. It may also be a challenge. If China can recognize the role of Nepal from a strategic perspective, I believe that Chinese leaders should take the initiative to raise bilateral relations to the highest level.
India’s ever-increasing armed deployment in southern Tibet requires us to boldly intervene in South Asia, which does not belong to India’s exclusive zone.
From a geographical point of view, the strategic value of Nepal is no less than Pakistan’s role in China. If you “get” Nepal, you will “get” stability in Tibet, and if you get Nepal, you will get border stability. From a practical point of view, Nepal’s economic value to China is negligible, but its political potential is unlimited.
First, in accordance with China’s diplomatic thinking of making its neighbors rich and good-neighborly, China should give Nepal the most economic assistance. The scale of aid should be close to aid to North Korea. In fact, China’s current aid to Nepal is quite limited due to various restrictions, and it is far behind India. India’s influence comes from its aid, and China’s adjustment may be necessary. For the current China in South Asia, it is not an exaggeration to raise the diplomatic level to the strategic level. To rob Nepal, you have to sharpen your head like a capitalist robbing the market. There is no hesitation. The time left by the international community for China will not be long. Grabbing Nepal is like grabbing the market for capitalists. If you do not hesitate, the international community will not give China a very long time.
Second, the idea of “paramilitary cooperation” between China and Nepal must be included in the diplomatic plan. Many people will think that this may be the idea of a lunatic. How can we establish military cooperation with Nepal? First of all, it conflicts with China’s foreign policy; secondly, it may not be in line with Nepal’s wishes; finally, this kind of thinking will touch other countries and the interests of individual countries. However, China must remember: the world changes with time and keeps pace with the times; Diplomacy must serve the core interests of the country and does not have to be rigid. If two countries have reached the point of building core interests together, it is extremely unwise to stubbornly stick to the old diplomatic principles, and will eventually lose the initiative. Whether Nepal agrees to military cooperation depends entirely on China’s will and sincerity, and also depends on the judgment of all parties on the changing situation. When India’s comprehensive national strength has not yet fully achieved equal status with China, China will actively use national hard power to make China There is a greater possibility of success in raising the level of Nepali friendship. As for India, China can look at the problem from another perspective: India can unite with Japan and Australia in the China Ring to influence China, and China can justifiably make friends in South Asia. Regarding India’s actions in southern Tibet and its stubborn support for China’s separatist forces, in addition to responding positively through bilateral diplomacy, China can use more indirect responses. The Indian side should be made aware of China’s demands. If India has no worries Focusing on its own expansion would be too costly for China.
Third, China’s foreign policy towards Nepal should gradually affect Nepal’s internal political reorganization. After the abolition of the monarchy in Nepal, Prachanda came to power for a short time, and he was the first to show his favor to China, which offended the conservative forces in India. But the overtures didn’t get the best results that Nepal wanted.
Some people in China are suspicious of the “Maoist” line and are wary of it. In particular, some pro-Western Democrats in China are disgusted by Prachanda’s rise to power and regard “Maoism” as a joke.
India saw the rejection of the “Nepal Communist-Maoist faction” by some mainstream people in China and stepped up its counterattack against Nepal, and successfully ousted Prachanda. Victory is also extremely important for India. Many people in China believe that the last time Prachanda stepped down was the result of political struggles in Nepal. In fact, it was not necessarily the case. The biggest factor came from India, which used “materials and ideas” to invite Prachanda to step down.
After resolutely choosing the focus of Nepal’s internal political forces, China must also pay close attention to the international factors in Nepal’s political turmoil. Before Prachanda stepped down, representatives from 16 countries including the United States and the United Nations met with caretaker Prime Minister Prachanda and called on all factions in Nepal to unite to achieve political stability and economic development in the country.
Nepal itself is also very concerned about the changes in the external situation, and major domestic media have even sent an unprecedented large-scale team to India to cover the parliamentary election. India has never denied its influence on Nepal’s political situation. After the violent turmoil in Nepal, India’s role has attracted widespread attention. India is an external force that has a greater influence on Nepal. Indian strategists completely regard Nepal as India’s sphere of influence. From the perspective of traditional geopolitics, India can exert a decisive influence on the political situation in Nepal, and even determine the direction of Nepal’s political situation. Even if India is sometimes accused of “interfering in internal affairs”, it doesn’t care.
In Nepal, the saying that is often heard is that “Nepal is not willing to become another Sikkim”, and Sikkim has long been a state of India. That is to say, the gap and crime prevention between the two countries absolutely exist. This “gap” can be used by China. India does not shy away from it. Why does China deliberately avoid it?
India has not relaxed its focus on China on the Nepal issue. Of course, China must also keep a close eye on India. A correct analysis of India’s influence is crucial. India’s influence on Nepal has two main layers. One is geopolitical, that is, Nepal’s east, west, and south being bordered by India on three sides, the border between the two countries is not fortified, and they can travel freely. As a big country, India, coupled with its economic influence, naturally has a status that cannot be ignored; the other layer is cultural traditions. Nepal is the only Hindu country in the subcontinent except India and historically has had close ties with India.
More importantly, the strategic position of Nepal is crucial for India. According to Indian strategists, controlling Nepal is to ensure that India has a buffer zone in its dealings with the Asian continent and access to the heart of Asia through Nepal.
This strategic view of India is a bit familiar to the Chinese: India also held similar views on China’s Tibet region back then, and this view fully reflects India’s self-centered view of the world. India’s strategic insights are often translated into practical policies. For a long time, India has paid close attention to the situation in Nepal and often played a decisive role at every critical moment. Of course, all political forces in Nepal also pay close attention to the changes in India’s political situation and try to find beneficial factors for Nepal from the development of India’s political situation. For a long time, Nepal has always been under the shadow of India, and China must skillfully use the factors that are beneficial to itself.
Fourth, China should pay close attention to the actions of the US. As a pawn in the strategic layout of Asia, the U.S. military also attaches great importance to Nepal. Nepal is located in the high mountain region of the Himalayas, with a long and narrow land, embedded between the two major Asian countries, China and India, and its strategic location is very important. Nepal borders China’s Tibet region, with a border line of more than 1,200 kilometers. It is an important neighboring country in the southwest frontier of my country.
The United States’ attention to Nepal’s political situation is considered to be a move made by the United States in its strategic layout in Asia. The purpose of this move is self-evident, that is, the United States will take this strategic hinterland of Asia as its starting point, looking north at the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and south at the Indian Plain. The United States is most concerned about China’s Tibet, and Nepal is a strategic location leading to Tibet. Although the U.S. government has not expressed any special interest in Nepal, relevant departments of the U.S. military and academic circles have repeatedly sent various personnel to Kathmandu, and there are reports that the U.S. has a strong interest in establishing a monitoring system on the Sino-Nepal border, etc.
During the “hot war” with China, the United States will definitely maximize the role of India and Nepal, while China must try to resolve the strategic advantages of the United States from another angle.
1. China should regard Nepal as its most important strategic partner. The traditional friendly relationship between China and Nepal has been cultivated by several generations of leaders, and has developed into a good neighbor of “mutual benefit and mutual trust”. What’s more worth mentioning is that Nepal has a long border with my country’s Tibet region. A defined international border is also an important condition for friendly cooperation between the two countries. For example, the largest border trade port in Tibet is the Zhangmu Port in the border area between China and Nepal. Hence, Sino-Nepali relations can be raised to a strategic level.
2. China’s long-term diplomacy must not be swayed by Indian sentiment. The core point of the Indian media’s attack on China is China’s interference in Nepal’s internal affairs. In fact, the international community knows that India is playing the trick of “thief screaming catch thief” on this point. China should simply ignore this accusation and participate confidently in the reconstruction process of Nepal. Nepal should be regarded as the core link of China’s march towards South Asia, and the support point should be clearly positioned on Nepal’s own independence and sovereign dignity.
3. China must be good at breaking the existing balance system. Only by changing India’s unilateral absolute position in Nepal, will China not be marginalized in this region. China needs to have a determination: within five to ten years, Nepal should be cultivated as an all-weather brother like Pakistan. The most important preparation for guaranteeing interests in a certain direction is also one of the preparations for maintaining the new balance of the situation in South Asia. South Asia is now a “dead region”, and it should be turned into a “living region”.