Modi-Xi summit
File photo of PM Narendra Modi with Chinese President Xi Jinping, at Fisherman's Cove in Kovalam near Mamallapuram, 2019 | Photo: Twitter| PTI
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As the global death toll from the coronavirus continues to mount – 166,000 by 20 April evening, of which more than 40,000 deaths are in the US alone – alongside a US lawsuit demanding $20 trillion in compensation and a German daily slapping a €150 billion bill on Beijing, China has mounted an aggressive defence, saying that it moved fast to contain the virus at the expense of its own citizens so as to give the world time to protect itself.

Much stronger reactions are also being heard.

In the Global Times, a newspaper run by the Chinese Communist Party like most media in China, a journalist with China Central Television, Li Jiaming, published an evocative piece titled ‘Every move to stigmatize China evokes our historical memory’. He accused the Western world of “shamelessly” passing the buck. He also retold the 13th century story of the ‘Wolf of Zhongshan’ who eats up the person who saves him.


Also read: China is feeling the heat over Covid-19 — from Japan to Australia. But India’s hands are full


China, the aggrieved party

There is little left to the imagination here. The Western world, led by US President Donald Trump, who has threatened that China will face the consequences of allowing Covid to become a pandemic, is the big bad wolf, while the poor Chinese people are its victims.

Li goes on to evoke another historical comparison, which is that in the Chinese calendar, the year 2020 is the “Year of Gengzi,” which occurs every 60 years and that two cycles ago, in 1900, the Eight-Nation Alliance (led by Britain, along with the US, France, Tsarist Russia, Japan, Germany, Italy and the Austro-Hungarian empire) crushed the Boxer rebellion by looting, burning and “invading China”.

“Now, 120 years later,” Li adds, “the descendants of some of the Eight Nation Alliance shamelessly demand compensation, they evoke our historical memory of humiliation…If they want to get even with China, let us start from the damage China suffered since the First Opium War in 1840.”

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Also read: Can China be brought before an international court over Covid pandemic? Yes


From ‘bhai-bhai’ to cautious ties 

Truth is, in the post-Jawaharlal Nehru era, most developing countries have fallen for the same Chinese rhetoric. Certainly, China feels very strongly about the historical injustice done to it and this evokes equally strong sentiments in nations with similar historical experiences, for example in India. The “Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai” slogan is a manifestation of that affection. Later in the mid-1960s, India, allegedly, supported the move for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council for the People’s Republic, rather than breakaway Taiwan, because it is the true representative of the Chinese people.

Fast forward the decades to the present, via the India-China border problem, Pakistan, Masood Azhar and Kashmir, and a lot seems to have changed. At the same time, the India-China economic relationship has also grown by leaps and bounds, with the basket of goods significantly favouring China.

Former foreign secretary and China expert Shyam Saran described the bilateral relationship as “adversarial,” but pointed out that it didn’t mean India could become a cheerleader for the US in finger-pointing, blame-gaming or scapegoating China over the coronavirus pandemic.

“You cannot blame China if the virus originated in that country or jumped species from bat to human in that country, but you can certainly blame it for holding back that information for a few weeks, which might have made the world of a difference in controlling the pandemic at an early stage,” Saran said.


Also read: In China, two ‘subjects’ questioned ‘emperor’ Xi and they disappeared from public view


Silence is a statement

Another Chinese expert who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the Narendra Modi government’s response of keeping very quiet, unlike the US, is the right one, because at this time India needs thousands of masks, protective gear, ventilators, etc. to deal with the Covid outbreak and all that can only come from China.

India’s ambassador to China Vikram Misri has gone on record saying that he has its hands full, focusing on dealing with the current crisis.

“The India-China relationship is far too complex for India to say anything publicly right now. It’s better that we allow other nations to show their teeth,” the aforementioned expert said, referring to the US as well as France, whose president Emmanuel Macron recently said that it was “naïve” to think China had handled the pandemic properly.

That is why India’s decision to amend its foreign investment policy, which calls for much greater scrutiny of all investments from neighbouring countries – referring to China – has led to a sharp reaction from the Chinese embassy in Delhi, which has labeled it “discriminatory.”

Xin li you gui,” said a third China expert in Mandarin — “to have a guilty conscience.” China’s aggressive defence of the coronavirus pandemic is “failing abysmally,” this expert added, pointing out that cooperation, not confrontation, was the only way to put the genie back into the bottle.

Views are personal.

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19 Comments Share Your Views

19 COMMENTS

  1. China did much worse to Tibet than what was done to China. They play victim card as strategy,
    They want India to support one China but wont support one India plus would do there utmost to encircle India.
    They have never helped us and we are under no obligation to help them, let the anglo saxons and Chinese resolve between them self

  2. In 1900 China is stating that countries looted its country and feels as if they are owed something? World War 2 Japan was slaughtering thousands of Chinese and who came to their rescue and perhaps saving China from total collapse? USA by ending the war entirely and saving who knows how many other lives by using the ultimate weapon and putting an end to World War 2. Perhaps the US and other nations should pull all its big tech companies out of China and allow China to take care of its own people. Without those companies how many people in China would be out of work? Ripping off thousands of dollars in intellectual theft from all these countries that do business with China and we owe you payment?

  3. India traditionally does not take any firm stand in any international issues. India’s response has always been either silence or very generic reply. Even after such devastating death toll and global economic ruin, if India does not take firm and unequivocal stand, it would never be able to take stand ever. While Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) seems to be an umbrella support even for failed nations like Pakistan and Anglo-Saxon collaboration is very deep rooted, India truly has not even a single country in the world which will extend unconditional support of friendship or vouch for India.

    It is necessary that India takes stand and that too firm stand. It is no more a poor vulnerable country but a large economic power with nuclear abilty too. We may be a Peace Power but responding on global issues on the basis of merit is necessary.

    India’s China engagement is China favourable. Does it need need to be always so ? Who are we so afraid off.

  4. Good article,India need to focus on covid19 containment and Zero on dependency from chinese supply chain.Post that India should take a stand as we suffer a lot due to chinese proxy war.

  5. I am waiting for the day when Indian media become mature and confident and not pickup lines from western media. Modi’s India, India’s Modi? What is this. Govt. Of India, Modi cabinet, Modi govt., are more appropriate. I see mature readers on ThePrint however the articles are written by interns. Have some standards!

  6. Why you people writes such headlines Modi s India as Pakistan dawn news does.Its is foolishness that you don’t know that your reader base is highly educated with all these tantrums.

  7. Why you people writes such headlines Modi s India as Pakistan dawn news does.Its is foolishness of you don’t know that your reader base is highly educated with all these tantrums.

  8. Definitely its more mature not to jump the band wagon, but at the same time we need to weigh the historical Chinese response on India. China always sides with terrorist even when whole world supports us and even when facts are in our side. They will consider this as our weakness and continue the status quo. In this case it is obvious that the fault is with China and they must take the responsibility for spreading the pandemic around the world. Its intriguing that the Covid 19 spread far away places to every country around the globe but escapes the close by cities of Beijing and Shanghai

  9. I wonder whether encouraging terming our Nation as Modi’s India the media is unwittingly fanning a divide. A elected Government in a democracy rules…whether one likes it or not. As a citizen and voter I would prefer my Government to be called the Central Government and State Government et al..
    More responsibility is expected from media, experts and journalists

    • Being honest even common people like me feels this is His not Ours. I would like if you light up why disappeared the feelings of OURS?

  10. Is this article incomplete or Jyoti is going to add the concluding part soon! As usual, she has merely listed a few quotes and events and given it a provocative title. But she did conduct her recent interview for The Print with Shyam Saran quite well thought after which there was indeed no reason to broach this topic at all through this article.

  11. “Why Modi’s India won’t join US, France and….” – The usual double meaning headline…. implying fault with Modi.

    So, obviously you are telling your readers that were Rahul-ji & his Mommy in charge, they would join US, France etc in blaming China? And thus show leadership & vision?

    Rahul & Mom already are in China’s pocket! How can they blame China?

  12. It is like onsided India-China relationship, China being rough side. India doesn’t talk or blame China and China takes India UN every time on Kashmir issue. India should have spine to be as aggressive as China. Also face masks and PPE, India should gear up our own capacity, rather than depending on third quality stuff from China.

  13. I think why India is not joining the US and the West in blaming China must be correctly spelt out. It is a geographical necessity, having a common and disputed border with the Red Giant, which is militarily stronger and economically powerful. India does not want any trouble from Beijing. That is the reality. In international relations, it is might that is always right, whether one wishes or not. Chairman Mao said: Power stems out from the barrel of guns. That their cardinal policy.
    a k pattabiraman, Chennai

  14. It does not serve India’s abiding interests to move its already complex – diplomats generally do not use a word like adversarial – relationship with China to a higher orbit of confrontation. What would be truly naive is for us to believe rhetorical statements from visiting US Presidents that this will be the defining partnership of the 21st century. The US brooks no equal amongst either friends or foes. Ask yourself if MEA should become as devoted a client as the Australian foreign office. 2. China’s importance to India as an economic entity can only grow. We have allowed the asymmetry to develop too much to now realistically be seen in China’s league, although some are intent on moving India to the other neighbour’s league. A simple litmus test. Develop a relationship with China which we can handle all by ourselves. Not relying on the intervention of a friend on a dark, wet, windy night, who will turn up with a large black umbrella.

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