After being critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi days ahead of his three-day visit to China, the Chinese media was fullsoe in his praise on Thursday as he landed in Xi’an.
In an commentary, state-run news agency Xinhua pointed out how Modi made his China debut as Indian prime minister in the city of Xi’an just like Chinese President Xi Jinping chose not Delhi but the western Indian city of Ahmedabad as the first stop of his official trip to India last year.
The two cities are also the hometowns of the two leaders, the article noted.
“Choosing these stops lends not only a personal touch to the relationship between the two leaders, it also reflects their shared desire to push forward relations between the two Asian neighbours,” the article, headlined “Growing rapport between Chinese, Indian leaders marks new era of ties”, stated.
It also said that Modi opening a opened an official account on China’s microblog Sina Weibo days before his visit drew applause from Chinese bloggers.
“The account attracted over 20,000 followers hours after Modi posted his first tweet,” it stated.
“The unusually warm response towards Modi’s effort to communicate with common Chinese citizens is also proof that many Chinese are upbeat about the future development of bilateral ties between China and India following several high-level visits.”
In a separate opinion piece headlined “Trust between two oriental giants”, Xinhua stated that it is not quite often that top Chinese leaders travel outside Beijing to meet foreign guests.
“The exchange of visits by the leaders from the world’s two largest emerging economies soon after both took office has signaled warming relations between the two oriental giants,” it stated.
According to the article, despite a long history of cultural exchange between the two ancient civilizations, “Sino-Indian ties have long been regarded as sometimes complicated due to their competitive yet cooperative relationship”.
For the past few decades, there has been mistrust between China and India, resulting in tense relations and even military confrontation over border issues in 1962.
“With growing economic integration and people-to-people contact in recent years, the two Asian economies have ushered in a new phase and the Sino-Indian ties could be among the most important bilateral relationships, requiring the two powers to abandon the outdated zero-sum mindset and build a more constructive relationship,” it stated.
“It is clear that if the ‘Chinese Dragon’ and the ‘Indian Elephant’ co-exist harmoniously and realise peaceful, cooperative development, it will bring benefit to not only their combined 2.5 billion people, but also those living beyond their borders. Otherwise, both might slow down their growth if they fall into a spiral of bilateral rivalry.”
Meanwhile, a paper that had earlier carried a critical commentary on India and had charged Modi “with playing little tricks over border disputes and security issues”, on Thursday took a conciliatory stand to say that the two countries can gain much if they pursue a position complementary towards each other, shedding the distrust they share mutually.
“Anyone with some geopolitical knowledge understands what revolutionary changes would happen to the political and economic landscape in Asia if China and India can join hands to forge ahead,” the Global Times said in an article titled “China and India Can Complement Each Other”.
“But the people are also aware that there seems always to be a lack of mutual trust between the dragon and the elephant,” said the Global Times, which is an English language newspaper of China’s state-patronised People’s Daily.
The Global Times article conceded that there were, indeed, some unsustainable factors in the trade structures of China and India, like in the case of textiles where the two countries enjoy the status of top two global exporters.
“To tackle them, the two countries must devise and expand complementarity of their industries,” it said, while also spelling out some examples of how the two sides can provide more favourable conditions for each other’s competitive industries.
Yet another important paper said it was now “time for deeper China-India cooperation”.
There is huge potential for deepening bilateral cooperation in trade and economic fields, especially in the manufacturing sector, wrote Xu Changwen in an opinion piece in the state-run China Daily.
The Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiatives by the Chinese president too are apt for cooperation with India, especially after it adopted an “eastward-looking” strategy, it said.