Modi-Xi Wuhan summit: Why Chinese media thinks it's a good idea; 10 points

Topics Xi Jinping

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (left) and Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet in the central Chinese city of Wuhan on April 27-28 to improve bilateral relations. Modi seen here with Xi Jinping at the agreements exchange ceremony during BRICS Summit in Benaulim, Goa. File photo
The Narendra Modi-Xi Jinping summit in China's Wuhan city on April 27-28 will see the Indian Prime Minister and Chinese President discussing US President Donald Trump's "protectionist" trade policy and the "unprecedented" changes in the world order in the past 100 years, along with the contentious bilateral issues like China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which includes the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), and the India-China border dispute, which came to a head during last year's Doklam standoff. Meanwhile, ahead of the meeting, official Chinese media commented that the Modi-Xi summit could be as significant as the one between former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and then Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in 1988.

Ahead of the Modi-Xi summit, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday attended the meetings of the defence and foreign ministers of the SCO in China. Swaraj on Tuesday slammed Pakistan for sheltering terrorists and urged the SCO to act against countries that promote terrorism.  

Further, a day after the Modi-Xi Wuhan summit was announced, EAM Swaraj called on Chinese President Xi and had a crucial one-on-one meeting with Vice-President Wang Qishan. Swaraj is in Beijing to attend the foreign ministerial meeting of the SCO. She also met China's envoy to India, Luo Zhaohui. While Swaraj met Xi along with the foreign ministers of the SCO member countries, her one-on-one meet with Wang, considered China's second-most-powerful man, is seen as being of high significance ahead of the informal meeting between Modi and Xi. During their meeting, Swaraj and Wang discussed ways to strengthen India-China bilateral ties.

Away from official statements and statecraft, the Dalai Lama welcomed the Modi-Xi summit, saying that the two countries together could make huge contributions in different fields. Over the weekend, the Tibetan spiritual leader had said that Tibet can remain in China, but only if Beijing recognises and respects the region's distinct culture and autonomy.  

The Modi-Xi summit will aim to create a broad framework for India-China ties and build trust between the two leaders, according to official statements emanating from both New Delhi and Beijing. Further, while the two-day Wuhan summit will be informal, it will not shy away from issues of major strategic divergence between India and China -- Modi and Xi will have candid talks on the BRI, which includes the $50-billion CPEC project that has become a major stumbling block in India-China bilateral ties. Modi and Xi will also explore ideas on how to address the long-standing India-China border dispute. Informed sources told news agencies that the Modi-Xi Wuhan summit will see the two leaders give an "honest try" to working out an understanding at the top on the future course of India-China relations.  

Here are the top 10 developments around the Narendra Modi-Xi Jinping Wuhan summit in China and what is expected to emerge from the meeting:

1) Chinese official media says Modi-Xi summit as significant as Rajiv-Deng meet: The Modi-Xi Jinping Wuhan summit could be as significant as the one between former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and then leader of China Deng Xiaoping in 1988, the official Chinese media commented on Tuesday. "The meeting can be as significant as the one in 1988… and will set the course for bilateral ties," an op-ed in Global Times said.

2) 'Remains to be seen if Modi-Xi summit will live up to its billing': Another official newspaper, the China Daily, said it remained to be seen whether the Modi-Xi summit "will live up to its billing as an unprecedented meeting" like the 1988 meeting between Rajiv and Deng. "This (Rajiv-Deng summit) was when the two countries agreed to put their quarrels behind them. However, this has proved harder to do than say. Yet, clearly, both Beijing and New Delhi hope for something substantial from the upcoming two-day meeting, since the announcement was made on Sunday after talks between State Councilor Wang Yi and visiting Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj," the China Daily said.

In its editorial 'Xi-Modi meeting to show diplomatic wisdom of China, India', the Global Times said "Indian leaders attach importance to reciprocity in diplomacy. After visiting China in 2015, Modi attended the Ninth BRICS Summit in Xiamen last year and will attend the summit of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Qingdao in June". He is visiting China before June to meet Xi. This unusual move highlights how much the two sides value this meeting, it said. The tabloid, which is attached to the ruling Communist Party of China's official publications and known for its anti-India rhetoric, said: "within China, hostility toward India is being replaced by hopes for friendly ties. The two countries need more communication to enhance mutual trust and eliminate the possibility of another border crisis." 

"Asian powers and emerging countries, both China and India share many common interests in international affairs. They both have to strive for the right to develop and face Western pressure on issues like trade and intellectual property rights. There is large room for economic cooperation. Many conflicts between China and India broke out due to a lack of trust or at Western instigation, like the border disputes and so-called dragon-elephant competition," it said.

The US and Japan began underscoring Indo-Pacific strategy last year in an explicit attempt to rope in India against China. But the strategy hasn't brought India any strategic benefit except to trigger vigilance between New Delhi and Beijing, it said. China and India cooled down soon after the Dokalam standoff, which indicates the solid foundation for ties. The West wanted China and India to confront each other, but it didn't work out that way, it said. China and India have a more robust economic development than other emerging countries and are both independent. Any attempt to manipulate the way they deal with each other will likely fail, it said. The cooperation of two countries, home to about 40 per cent of the global population, is highly significant for the whole world, it said.

3) China Daily says 'good reason for optimism' over Modi-Xi summit: The China Daily editorial said "there is good reason for optimism" for Modi-Xi summit. The previous meeting between Xi and Modi in Xiamen last September produced an end to the tense border standoff (Doklam) that had been souring relations for months, it said. "That incident was a reminder to the two proud neighbours that they must manage their border issues, or they will continue to trouble them. While third parties may profit from a deteriorating China-India relationship, the two countries themselves will not. They should be vigilant of others seeking to benefit at the expense of their friendly relations and recalibrate their relationship so it serves more constructive purposes," it added.  

4) At WuhanModi, Xi to raise voice against protectionism: Donald Trump, US protectionism, the possibility of a trade war, and globalisation will reportedly be on the agenda at the Modi-Xi Wuhan summit. China has said that the "protectionist" trade policy of the US and the "unprecedented" changes in the world order in the past 100 years will be discussed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the two-day Wuhan summit this week.  

Regarding the background against which the Modi-Xi summit will be held, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said, "I believe you are also clear that the world is now faced with rampant unilateralism as well as the rising protectionism in the process of globalisation. All these new trends in the world have to be closely followed and debated." Lu said that against such a back drop, "China and India have a lot to discuss". 

"We are newly emerging markets as well as developing countries with big population. So we believe the two countries will continue to uphold the globalisation so that it is more inclusive. So, we have a lot of shared interests, concerns and positions," the spokesman said. 

Further, Lu said that at Wuhan, Modi and Xi will "exchange views on overarching long-term strategic issues as well as the latest trends of the world so that the world will develop in a more stable way". 

In an apparent reference to a host of measures initiated by US President Donald Trump in his 'America First' policy, leading to protectionist measures, including the current trade spate between the China and US, Lu said that all these new trends in the world have been closely followed and debated. Responding to a question on whether there will be a joint message related to trade and protectionism, especially against US unilateral protectionism, after the meeting between Modi and Xi, Lu said that while he cannot make any prejudgement ahead of the meeting, "it is sure that the two leaders will exchange views on these issues but I believe you will see and hear very positive voices".  

IMF calls on US, China to resolve trade tensions: The Donald Trump administration in the US has recently threatened to impose tariffs up to $150 billion of Chinese imports, while China has vowed to retaliate against US exports if the Trump administration moves forward with the tariffs. Unilateralism and trade protectionism will inevitably harm others without benefiting oneself as the global economy is deeply integrated, China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said last week. Citing a report from the Brookings Institution, Hua said a US-China trade war would result in a loss of more than 2.1 million jobs in 2,700 US counties. With these developments weighing on the fate of globalisation, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde has called on the US and China to resolve trade tensions through rules-based multilateral institutions.  

5) Ahead of Modi-Xi summit, EAM Swaraj says at SCO meet that terrorism is an enemy of basic human rights: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj today said that terrorism is an enemy of basic human rights and the fight against it should also identify states that encourage, support and finance the menace and provide sanctuary to terrorist groups. Swaraj, during her address at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Council of Foreign Ministers in Beijing, raised the issue of global terrorism and protectionism. There are a number of challenges that are being faced by the world today, foremost being the threat of global terrorism and the imminent need to build a strong security architecture to combat it, the minister said. "Terrorism is an enemy of the basic human rights: of life, peace and prosperity," Swaraj said. "Protectionism in all its forms should be rejected and efforts should be made to discipline measures that constitute barriers to trade. India is committed to working with the SCO to strengthen our economic and investment ties. We believe that economic globalisation should be more open, inclusive, equitable and balanced for mutual benefits."  

EAM @SushmaSwaraj with the members of the Indian delegation at #SCO Foreign Ministers Meeting in Beijing.

— Raveesh Kumar (@MEAIndia) April 24, 2018

Ahead of Modi-Xi summit, Swaraj, Sitharaman attend SCO foreign, defence ministers' meet in Beijing: Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday attended the meetings of the defence and foreign ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Beijing. The two meetings are being held around the same time. Sitharaman arrived in China on Monday night.

The two meetings were being held as part of the preparations for the SCO summit to be held in the Chinese city of Qingdao in June. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to attend that meeting. These are the first top ministerial-level meetings of the SCO after the admission of India and Pakistan as members last year. A host of issues, including regional security and terrorism, were expected to be discussed at the meetings and prepare the agenda for the SCO summit.  

Conveying our desire to strengthen our bilateral relationship, EAM @SushmaSwaraj called on President of People's Republic of China Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of People in Beijing. #EAMatSCO

— Raveesh Kumar (@MEAIndia) April 23, 2018

6) With Modi, Xi set to discuss CPEC, Pakistan denies reports of debt trap: After the Modi-Xi summit announced, and reports emerged that Beijing's massive CEPC project, which India contends violates its sovereignity and territorial integrity, would also be discussed by the two leaders, Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi dismissed reports that CPEC could be a debt trap for his country. Abbasi described the $50-billion project as a new form of cooperation between China and Pakistan.

Read the earlier developments on the Modi-Xi summit: Modi-Xi Jinping summit: An honest try for better Sino-India ties; 10 points 

Addressing a seminar on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, Abbasi said the project is a reality despite reservations from different quarters. He said Pakistan looked at CPEC as a partnership between the two governments. Rebutting reports that CPEC could be a debt trap for Pakistan, Abbasi said people need to read history. "Three years ago CPEC was unheard off but today it is a reality acknowledged by many countries. The BRI initiative of Chinese President Xi is a project for generations," he said, adding, "Recently, we discussed security and connectivity with Afghanistan, who also recognises the CPEC as an opportunity."

ALSO READ: CPEC: Business, security headache for China, Pak   

However, international financial institutions may not agree with Abbasi's views. Last year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had cautioned that the corridor project will generate outflows of as much as $4.5 billion by 2024, while the export benefits of the project will likely accrue gradually over time. It had said that filling the gap in between could pose a policy challenge. 

Earlier this month, an Asian Development Bank (ADB) report said that Pakistan's current account deficit (CAD) has risen to 4.5 per cent mainly due to the implementation of projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.  

New Delhi, for its part, has not changed its position on the BRI and CPEC. Earlier this month, the Ministry of External Affairs said that China's Belt and Road Initiative violated the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity. Responding to a query on media reports regarding possible cooperation with China over the BRI, MEA official spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said, "We have seen some media reports alluding to our possible cooperation with China in 'One Belt One Road' (OBOR)/'Belt and Road Initiative' (BRI). Our position on OBOR/BRI is clear and there is no change. The so-called 'China-Pakistan Economic Corridor' (CPEC) violates India's sovereignty and territorial integrity. No country can accept a project that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity."   

7) China seeks to allay India's concerns over militirisation of Hambantota: Seeking to allay India's concerns, especially with the Modi-Xi Wuhan summit just days away, China on Monday dismissed reports that it will militarise Sri Lanka's southern port of Hambantota as "baseless". Instead, it said that the facility was part of Beijing's "pragmatic cooperation" with Colombo for economic development. Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka Cheng Xueyuan recently met Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, during which time he reaffirmed that China firmly upholds and supports economic globalisation and attaches great importance to its relations with Sri Lanka, according a release issued by the Chinese Embassy in Colombo. "Responding to recent baseless suspicion on so-called Chinese militarisation at Hambantota Port, the Ambassador pointed out that there is not any military purpose for China to conduct friendly and pragmatic cooperation with Sri Lanka," the release said.  

According to analysts, the comments appear to allay concerns raised by India over Chinese plans in neighbouring Sri Lanka and the broader Indian Ocean region.  

8) Dalai Lama welcomes Modi-Xi summit: The Dalai Lama has welcomed the Modi-Xi summit and said that India and China together can make huge contributions in different fields. "I think very good... neither India nor China...(has) the ability to destroy (each) other," the Dalai Lama told reporters on the sidelines of an event in New Delhi when asked about the visit. He said that the two countries should live as friendly neighbours. "We have to live side by side, then much better live friendly. If combined, India and China, can make contribution in many fields besides economy," the Tibetan spiritual leader said.

ALSO READ: PM Modi-Jinping informal summit 'very bold step': Jaishankar

9) Nirav Modi's extradition may come up during Modi-Xi summit: India may push for Punjab National Bank fraud accused Nirav Modi's extradition during the Modi-Xi summit, the Times of India reported on Tuesday while citing sources. Absconding diamond merchant Nirav Modi is suspected to be hiding in Hong Kong. 

However, Hong Kong's Department of Justice (DoJ) on Monday refused to share information on Nirav Modi. In response to news agencies' question on Nirav Modi's whereabouts, a spokesman at DoJ neither denied nor accepted that the jewellery designer is in Hong Kong. "The Department of Justice does not comment on individual cases," he said. Earlier this month, the Ministry of External Affairs had requested Hong Kong authorities to surrender Nirav Modi. Meanwhile, PNB on Saturday moved the Hong Kong High Court against Nirav Modi.  

10) Swaraj pitches for bridging language gap: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Monday asked Indians and Chinese to learn each other's languages as it will help them overcome communication barriers, which could further strengthen relations between the two neighbours. Swaraj, who is on a four-day visit to China, made the remarks during a programme titled 'Contribution of Hindi in India-China Friendship', which was organised by the Indian Embassy. "When two friends sit together, what do they want? They want to talk their hearts out to each other, share what they feel. And for that we need a language. I should be able to understand Chinese when you speak, and you should be able to understand Hindi when I talk," Swaraj said. "If there is an interpreter sitting between two friends, he may be able to translate the words but not the feelings with which I say something. So, it is essential that we learn a language, and understand it," she said, a day after it was announced that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping would hold an informal summit from April 27 to 28 in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.   

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