What China’s New Leadership Means for China-India Ties

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China’s communist party leadership turnover at the 19th party congress, at the Central Committee, Politburo, and Standing Committee levels, is at an unprecedented high level of nearly 70 percent.

Despite such massive reshuffling, despite some behind-the-scenes infighting, we see more unity of the leadership surrounding President Xi at the core.

We expect the new leadership, under the guide of Xi Jinping Thought, now enshrined in the party’s charter, to be bolder in reform domestically, at the same time, more confident, more proactive, and more assertive internationally.

As China “moves closer to the center stage” in the “new era”, China will intensify its efforts to build its hard power via military modernization to “safeguard the nation’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” At the same time, to become a true “great power”, China must also build its soft power via diplomacy, extending international economic links, and forming alliances.

China confronts a complex regional and global environment. As China rises in power, China will need to trike a balance between muscularstrength and winning the trust of other countries in China’s claim for “never seeking global hegemony.”

Handling foreign relations with expertise and experience becomes ever more demanding and critical for China in the new era. President Xi needs a stable and experienced hand to help him achieve his vision and ambition of building “major country diplomacy” and increasing China’s influence on the global stage.

It’s not surprising that Yang Jiechi is elevated to be a member of the 25-member Politburo. It is possible that he might even be elevated to the role of Vice Premier in charge of foreign relations. Yang’s proven success in dissolving dangerous border standoff at Doklam and thus paving the road for PM Modi to attendthe 9th BRICS Summit in Xiamen and meet with President XI won him additional trust from President Xi. For India, dealing with an experienced top diplomat in power, who Indian counterparts are familiar with, is a plus.

For politicians and diplomats abroad, it’s necessary to dissect the jargon-filled Xi Jinping speech and the new content added into the Party’s charter. These are not political slogans spoken and then forgotten. Rather, they will be used as “guide to action” for both domestic and international policies.

In the coming decades, the #1 task for China and India is economic development. Both China and India need domestic stability and external peace to relentlessly focus on economic advancement. While bilateral tensions may arise here and there, I believe that President Xi and PM Modi are too smart to let tension in the frozen Himalayan plateau to erupt into explosion.

With the two countries being the two fastest growing economies, plus being neighbors, we expect economic linkages between the two, especially on the cross border investment front, to deepen.