As India assumes the G20 presidency, the Chinese State media have begun discussing what it means. Unlike Indonesia, which was the chair till recently, the discussion about India’s presidency is focused on Beijing’s strategic competition with New Delhi.
The Chinese State media commentary suggests that Beijing wants to stop the border dispute from being discussed at next year’s G20 Summit and stymie India’s rise in the UN Security Council.
Former Deputy National Security Advisor Pankaj Saran had recently said that dealing with China will be a ‘challenge’ during India’s G20 presidency. Saran’s comments were noticed by the Chinese State media.
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China on India’s G20 presidency
The Chinese views about India’s G20 presidency range from seeking New Delhi’s cooperation, to highlighting that India has ‘ambitions to reshape the international order’.
The Chinese State media and social media commentary aren’t just focused on India taking over the G20 presidency. It also reminded the Chinese people that India is serving as a security council member from 1 December.
“India will serve as the chairman of the G20 and the Security Council from December, calling on the Security Council to open the veto to all members,” said Phoenix Television in a Weibo post.
The Chinese commentary suggests that the G20 presidency could help thrust India into the great power club and set the nation on the course to join the coveted UN Security Council as a permanent member.
But the Chinese experts are trying to downplay India’s ability to become the model developmental State. Taking a swipe at India’s track record on inspiring other developing nations, Liu Zongyi, Secretary-General at the Center for China and South Asia Studies, Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, said India’s development model doesn’t match the rhetoric.
“Some Westerners believe that India’s hosting of major international conferences such as the G20 means that it will compete with China for the leadership of the developing world. The Indians also believe that their development model is different model from the U.S., Western and Chinese development models, which is more suitable for the majority of developing countries, so it wants to act as a ‘mentor’ for developing countries. China also welcomes this, because, for the majority of developing countries, after all, there is an additional choice. In addition, for the leaders and people of developing countries, they are more concerned about what the big powers are actually doing and what they can contribute to their development, while paying attention to the beautiful and inspiring rhetoric of some big powers” wrote Liu Zongyi.
Liu was alluding to the thinking within the Chinese leadership that its Belt and Road Initiative is the ideal developmental solution for Asian countries and India can’t match Beijing’s developmental model.
The expert commentary on India’s G20 presidency has underscored the competitive nature of Beijing-Delhi relations.
“After India took over the presidency of the G20, it has made no secret of its ambition to reshape the international order. This is not only based on its economic strength, population size, religious cohesion, but also its long-standing hatred of Western plunder,” wrote a Weibo commentator on International Affairs.
But some commentators believe that Beijing holds a card if New Delhi wants to project its ambitions to make an impact with its G20 presidency.
“Second, India is the G20 President next year, which means that next year’s G20 summit will be held in India, and all countries know that a G20 Summit without China’s participation cannot be considered a success. Because of this, India hopes that relations between the two countries will warm up and pave the way for Chinese leaders to attend next year’s G20 summit. Because if China does not participate, a lot of topics simply can’t be discussed. The second India’s important neighbours are not present, it is inevitable that the international community will also question its influence,” wrote Dingqing Focus, a new media account affiliated with National Defence Times.
The Chinese State media believes India’s vision to seek global consensus in the current geopolitical climate will be a ‘daunting task’.
“With the Russia-Ukraine conflict and Sino-US rivalry, India’s search for global consensus in the current context will be a daunting task. The deteriorating global macroeconomic environment, including rising unemployment, increasing cost of living, and food and energy crises, have exacerbated the difficulties and challenges of India’s G20 presidency. The prospects for international cooperation are becoming more complex as countries turn their focus to solving domestic problems,” said a report by Global Times in Chinese.
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Where views align
We can’t say that all views about India’s G20 presidency are hostile towards New Delhi. Beijing shares the view with New Delhi that G20 is more representative of the international community than merely the exclusive G7 group of countries.
“With emerging economies like China, India and Indonesia, the G20 as a broader and more representative group than the G7 gathers more strength and carries more hopes for the world to come together, especially as the role of the G7 in global economic management slowly recedes,” said an op-ed in China Daily.
While there are some points of convergence, the Chinese State media have suggested that New Delhi should refrain from discussing the border dispute at the G20 as has been the demand by some political voices in India.
“Indian politicians should be aware that the G20 is not an appropriate platform to discuss China-India border disputes. If India sees itself as a big power, it should get accustomed to the many divergences it has with China, and should try to properly manage these divergences,” wrote Hu Weijia, a reporter with the Global Times.
Beijing may seek a bargain for its participation by asking New Delhi not to discuss the border dispute.
India can use the G20 presidency to promote its ambitions as a power entrenched in contemporary great power relations. A successful conclusion of the G20 presidency could elevate India’s international stature further and become the stepping stone for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council, something Beijing vehemently opposes.
The Russia-Ukraine war was at the centre of discussions during the G20 Summit in Bali, and the G20 presidency should be an opportunity to discuss complex topics, including Beijing’s bellicose actions at the Line of Actual Control. If India misses this opportunity, New Delhi may not realise its vision to sit in the UN Security Council as a veto State.
The author is a columnist and a freelance journalist. He was previously a China media journalist at the BBC World Service. He tweets @aadilbrar. Views are personal.
(Edited by Anurag Chaubey)