A Chinese Pivot?

NEW DELHI – Is China, under its new president, Xi Jinping, undertaking its own diplomatic pivot, parallel to the United States’ “pivot to Asia”? Xi’s first significant international initiatives – making Russia his first official visit abroad, followed immediately by his attendance at the BRICS summit in South Africa – suggest that China may be seeking to place its relations with the world’s most powerful emerging countries on a par with its US diplomacy. Indeed, this possibility is supported by Xi’s recent statement about relations with India, which he termed “one of the most important bilateral relationships” for China.

Xi’s early focus on Sino-Indian relations is unusual for a Chinese leader. He enunciated a five-point platform, rather like Jawaharlal Nehru’s “five principles of peaceful coexistence,” implemented in the two countries’ Panchsheel Treaty of 1954.

According to Xi’s platform, pending a final settlement of territorial issues, the two countries should cooperate to maintain peace and tranquility and prevent border disputes from affecting the overall relationship. China and India should maintain close strategic communications in order to keep bilateral relations on the “right track.”

Moreover, the two countries should harness each other’s comparative strengths and expand mutually beneficial cooperation in infrastructure, investment, and other areas; strengthen cultural ties to advance an expanding friendship; and enhance their cooperation in multilateral forums to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of developing countries in tackling global challenges. Finally, they should accommodate each other’s core concerns.