ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A New China Engages India

The new China that has emerged in the aftermath of the global financial crisis of 2008 is no longer passive or timid, but sees itself as a big power with a more strategic approach to its external environment. Retracing the ideological contest between reformers and leftists in China on the nature of the post-Maoist system, this article points out that New Delhi has to reassess the type of relationship it wants to build with its stronger and m ore self-assured northern neighbour.

When Hu Jintao, China’s then president, visited India in November 2006, he said China would not seek “selfish gains” in south Asia and called for an “early settlement of the boundary issue” (China Daily 2006). Subsequent Chinese words and deeds lent little credence to the notion that there had been a reorientation in Chinese policy. China’s posture on the border seemed to harden with ill-timed rhetoric by high officials. Regionally, with an open-ended western military presence in south Asia, Beijing seemed content with playing second fiddle in regional geopolitics.

In December 2010, when Wen Jiabao, the then premier, arrived in India the focus had shifted to geoeconomics. The trade imbalance had become palpably distorted in China’s favour and India Inc seemed to have emerged as the swing factor in India’s China policy. India’s core geopolitical concerns seemed to have been swept aside. China’s unfriendly position on Kashmir, where its rhetoric challenged India’s sovereignty even on territory east of the Line of Control, coincided with Wen’s visit (Krishnan 2010). Overall, China seemed to be uninterested in serious geopolitical engagement on areas of regional discord (Singh and Sahgal 2010).

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