China’s new ambassador to India, Sun Weidong has been busy in the op-ed pages of major Indian newspapers since his arrival. The first of these articles came even before he had formally presented his credentials at Rashtrapati Bhavan. This piece in The Hindu talked about the long historical connections between the two countries represented by the ancient Buddhist site of Dunhuang in China’s Gansu province, the ‘pearl on the Silk Road’. While ostensibly about promoting people-to-people ties, the essay also regularly repeated such concepts and phrases as the ‘Silk Road spirit’, ‘harmony’ and ‘win-win cooperation’ seen as Chinese contributions to the lexicon of international relations, never mind that they remain poorly or vaguely defined. There is also, of course, the not so small matter of the rhetoric seldom matching the reality as both India’s own experiences and those of any number of China’s other neighbours show.
Spouting vague generalities of civilizational ties are however only a warm-up to the practical needs of ensuring the rest of the world accepts and backs Beijing’s positions on both the ongoing Hong Kong protests and the US-China trade war.