Contemporary Sino-Japanese relations have long crossed the line from foreign policy to becoming an active domestic issue, particularly in China and now increasingly so, also in Japan. China appears to believe both that nationalist passions can be controlled and that time and demography are on its side. The first assumption is questionable though evidence till now shows that Beijing has been successful while the second is correct. India will then have to manage its relationship with Japan keeping both realities in mind.
Given their long history of exchanges, it was always unlikely that the legacy of World War II would be forgotten or forgiven as in the European case but in both countries this past is now being used to rake up and create fresh reasons for discord and enmity. In China, the humiliation of being overrun and subject to the depredations of the Japanese was the worst of the ‘century of humiliations’ while for the Japanese, their brief dominance over China allowed them to finally emerge from the long historical and civilizational shadow of their larger neighbour.
South Asia impacts China’s security in several ways. Besides the boundary dispute with India and Bhutan, Nepal and India are destinations for Tibetan refugees while Afghanistan and Pakistan are sources of extremist influences in Xinjiang. Nepal is also politically unstable which creates opportunities for Beijing – which has traditionally played second fiddle to New Delhi – to parlay its influence. Pakistan – where China’s influence has been historically strong – however, is at the other end of the spectrum. Domestic instability has reduced the scope of what China might achieve in and through Pakistan and military-to-military cooperation remains the strongest leg on which the relationship stands, even as economic opportunities for Chinese companies have grown. Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, meanwhile, have swung between India and China but are increasingly now able to carefully balance their interests between the two. Read more
With a still young political leadership in both China and India, economic ties will be a major plank of the India-China relationship. Even as the burgeoning trade deficit for India is a major bilateral problem, the two countries are also trying to lay fresh sinews in their relationship through Chinese-assisted infrastructure development in India. What is also important to note that is that much of these economic interactions are or will be increasingly negotiated at the sub-national level. Read more
Chinese views of Narendra Modi’s election victory are interesting for a number of reasons. One, there are implications for China’s own political system about a democracy’s ability to provide a clear majority to a ‘decisive’ leader. Two, there are hopes for a more pragmatic relationship and greater speed on the economic side of the relationship. And three, there is evidence of an increasingly sophisticated understanding of India’s internal politics. Prime Minister Modi, meanwhile, has an advantage in having visited China before in his capacity as Chief Minister of Gujarat but the Chinese are still unsure if this necessarily means either greater friendliness or an ability to better understand China and its national interests. Read more