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Why is Chinese media praising PM Modi's 'successful' foreign policy? Explained

In a rare praise, China's state-controlled media acknowledged India's diplomatic achievements and economic strides over four years under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The author of the article praised India's foreign policy as becoming multi-aligned through ties with major powers.

Written By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee New Delhi Published on: January 05, 2024 19:15 IST
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Chinese President Xi
Image Source : ANI Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

In a rare tone of appreciation, China's state-controlled Global Times has applauded India's diplomatic achievements and economic strides over four years under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The article titled 'Bharat Narrative' by Zhang Jiadong, acknowledged India's economic growth, improvements in urban governance and a shift in attitude towards international relations, "notably with China".

This is a rare acknowledgement of India's achievements and PM Modi's leadership by the Chinese daily, which has generally maintained a cold and hostile stance towards New Delhi due to the latter's growing relations and cooperation with the United States. However, China's stance seemed to be softening after India's successful hosting of the G20 Summit last year.

On top of that, bilateral relations between India and China seemed to remain frozen in the new year as Beijing remains unyielding on repeated calls for the withdrawal of Chinese troops from the Line of Actual Control (LAC) since the Galwan Valley clash in 2020. There has been no progress in this matter despite several rounds of military and diplomatic talks.

While India has consistently asserted that there cannot be restoration of normalcy in its relations with China as long as Beijing remains adamant on the issue of troop withdrawal from bordering areas, China continues to press New Delhi to delink the border issue and bilateral relations and work towards normalcy.

What did Global Times say about India?

Zhang, the Director of the Centre for South Asian Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai, observed that India has become more strategically confident and proactive in creating and developing a 'Bharat narrative'. "For example, when discussing the trade imbalance between China and India, Indian representatives earlier used to primarily focus on China's measures to reduce the trade imbalance. But now they are placing more emphasis on India's export potential," Jiadong wrote. 

According to him, the shift in Indian foreign policy towards the 'Indian feature' of democratic politics reflected the country's ambitions to escape its historical colonial shadow and position itself as a global influencer, politically and culturally. The article by Global Times further lauded India's foreign policy strategy under PM Modi, which highlighted the nation's multi-alignment approach and bolstered ties with major global powers like the US, Japan, and Russia while displaying a nuanced stance in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

"Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi assumed power, he has advocated for a multi-alignment strategy, promoting India's relations with the US, Japan, Russia and other countries and regional organisations," Zhang said, adding that a transformed, stronger and more assertive India has become a new geopolitical factor for countries to consider.

India's achievements under PM Modi in 2023

Although the Centre under PM Modi has attempted to make great strides over the years of its governance, the year 2023 has been particularly successful as New Delhi attempted to strengthen its position in the global landscape and become a reliable voice for countries of the Global South. PM Modi's work has gained the appreciation of world leaders like US President Joe Biden, Russian President Vladimir Putin and UK PM Rishi Sunak.

India secured a major diplomatic victory in the G20 Summit by achieving 100% consensus in adopting the New Delhi Declaration, overcoming bitter differences among world leaders over the Russia-Ukraine war. China, a close ally of Russia, itself acknowledged that the joint declaration sent a positive signal that reflected its views and showed that the forum was working together to tackle global challenges. India also positioned itself as a voice for the Global South with the inclusion of the African Union in the G20.

India has also shown that action speaks louder than words in its way to become a first responder and an independent-minded geopolitical authority. This was shown when the government aided the countries of Turkey and Syria in February when devastating earthquakes killed over 65,000 people, and in Afghanistan and Nepal. Even in the Israel-Hamas war, India maintained a delicate balance by calling out terrorist attacks by Hamas while sending humanitarian aid to Gaza amid a devastating Israeli retaliation.

India also managed other diplomatic wins, such as advocating for the expansion of the BRICS to six other countries and the G7 Summit in Hiroshima, Japan. PM Modi's leadership won him praise from Biden, who invited him to a historic first state visit to the United States in June, and Putin, who recently commented about his tough stance on national security issues.

India has successfully managed to widen the ambit of its influence in global policy, trade and investment, disaster relief and even climate change. Through the course of these achievements, PM Modi and the External Affairs Minister have emphasised that India's problems are the world's problems and that the focus of geopolitics should seriously consider Indian characteristics. It represents a sharp move from the cautious foreign policy moves of the past towards a more assertive and influential character in the global arena.

China's economic slowdown

Although India receiving praise from China is considered extremely rare, it has not been seen in the same light as the United States, with whom Beijing shares particularly cold relations over a wide range of issues. While India has expanded its footprint in geopolitics through collaboration with Quad members, an article in Global Times in 2022 praised India for strictly focusing on issues of strategic importance and not blindly following the US, unlike Japan and Australia, who they said had joined US' anti-China rhetoric.

Meanwhile, 2023 has not been a good year for China when it comes to its economic performance. The world's second-largest economy faces rising debt in its post-COVID phase along with slow growth and a high rate of youth unemployment. The chairman of its largest real estate developer, Evergrande, was placed under global surveillance and the country slipped into deflation for the first time as consumer prices declined sharply.

The falling consumer prices, the highest in three years, accompanied by defaults by Chinese borrowers meant that despite how much Beijing tries to deny it, China's economic growth is expected to slow next year. The huge debt has also led to foreign investors losing confidence in Chinese companies, previously considered a major manufacturing hub, as a growing number are relocating investments and their offices out of China.

China's anti-spying law, tight controls and emphasis on self-reliance have further exacerbated the dire trade situation. Its strained relations with the US and Western countries have caused them to diversify their supply chains. On the other hand, India's trade and investment have been on a remarkable upswing, as its foreign trade closed in on $1 billion in November, with a significant decline in the foreign trade deficit.

The US remains India's largest trading partner, and a significant number of American, European and Japanese manufacturing companies are now relocating to India. Although India is unlikely to replicate anything of China's extent so soon, no other country outside China can manage the scale India possesses. This also comes with a rise in India's own manufacturing prowess in software, electronics, defence and even Artificial Intelligence, since PM Modi launched the 'Make in India' initiative.

India has also moved upwards in the Ease of Doing Business index over the years, which has resulted in its impressive 7.7% GDP growth during the first six months of 2023. It also serves as a valuable labour force compared to China as India has one of the world's youngest populations, while China is suffering from an ageing population. India's friendly ties with the Western world help its export sector over China.

However, even as India has the potential to become China's replacement in the global economy, China appears to have taken the cue by bolstering relations with Vietnam and the US in an apparent attempt to mend ties. It would be interesting how these two countries cooperate in the future given lingering tensions in the issues of the Indo-Pacific, the border standoffs and more.

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