Modi’s US visit is everything China hates

Joe Biden, Nahrendra Modi

hinese media is calling the United States’ enthusiasm for India “wishful thinking”. Beijing is backing Russian President Vladimir Putin on the Yevgeny Prigozhin affair. The US-China truce is in a pickle as American President Joe Biden called Chinese President Xi Jinping a ‘dictator’. This Chinascope edition dives into views from China on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US on 21 June.

China over the week

At the state dinner hosted by Biden for PM Modi, where the US Marine Band played Lata Mangeshkar’s Ae Mere Wattan Ke Logon, the China factor wasn’t lost on the guests. After all, the Indian PM’s state visit to the US is everything China detests.

Chinese experts have argued that India is exploiting a Goldilocks moment in the US where the Indian PM presented New Delhi with optimum geopolitical bandwidth.

“India has a very big appetite, and it wants everything; whether it can eat or not is another matter," said Liu Zongyi, researcher at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies.

China closely watched the high-octane public show during Modi’s US visit and its State media even published an extensive commentary on it.

It said that the US is displaying “wishful thinking” regarding India’s potential and that Delhi isn’t very enthusiastic about specific proposals from Washington. Chinese State media regarded Modi’s visit as part of Washington’s strategy to prop up India to contain China – exuding a mild ‘cautious optimism’ – as Beijing believes that the two sides aren’t entirely aligned.

Experts argue that the US and India have converged because of the strategic challenge posed by China, and the two countries differ in their strategic goals.

“The most fundamental reason why the United States treats India so grandly this time is to unite with India to contain China jointly" wrote Liu.

According to Chinese experts, India’s strategic autonomy posture intends to rehabilitate the international status it lost in the 1962 India-China war. The US hasn’t stopped criticising India on human rights and has backed Modi’s opponent Rahul Gandhi so that the two countries can stay aligned, experts say.

Liu pointed out that the US may have succeeded at tying India down to some of its agenda. He also mentioned that Delhi is coordinating with the US, Japan, and South Korea on Taiwan and that some “influential Indian strategic scholars’ have travelled to Taiwan this year.

But other concerns can potentially draw a wedge between the US and India, especially Delhi’s emphasis on ‘national interest’, according to an authoritative op-ed in Xinhua. The author also argued that India is trying to play both sides in the power game, while the US is furthering a broader strategy to contain China. “The United States also understands that India does not want to be a front-line country against China, but by selling cutting-edge weapons and equipment to India, such as the MQ-9B drone, it can encourage India to increase its ‘confidence’ in confronting China on the border issue.”

Chinese social media users closely followed every detail of Modi’s visit. The PM’s gift to First Lady Jill Biden enamoured the Chinese public. The hashtag “Modi put a 7.5-carat green diamond in the hand of Mrs Biden” was viewed over 54.8 million times on Weibo

As Wagner Group mercenaries moved toward Moscow on 24 June, many wondered how China would respond to the chaos about to engulf Russia. Wager Group founder and chief Yevgeny Prigozhin struck a peace deal with President Putin soon after, quickly ending the ‘civil war-like’ scenario.

China responded to this series of events.

The Chinese foreign ministry said that it supports Russia in “maintaining national stability and achieving development and prosperity”. At the same time in Beijing, a meeting between the two countries’ foreign ministers, Qin Gang and Andrei Rudenko, ended on a congenial note.

Chinese social media users closely watched Prigozhin’s putsch too, a topic that would otherwise get censored, as discussing ‘coup d’état’ is taboo in the country.

The hashtag ‘Putin accuses head of Wagner of treason’ was the number one trending topic on Weibo over the weekend. On the search engine Baidu, the term ‘Wagner Group says ‘civil war’ has officially started’ topped the charts.

We can’t deny that Beijing was trying to assess the impact of the Prigozhin-led insurrection while figuring out its own strategy. The Prigozhin affair may have ended somewhat amicably, but Kremlin’s internal rumblings will likely keep Beijing on its edge.

China in world news

The US-China truce struck during the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Beijing was already on shaky grounds. Biden gave it another shock last week by calling Xi a “dictator” at a fundraiser event on 20 June. “That’s a great embarrassment for dictators. When they didn’t know what happened,” said the US President while commenting on the spy balloon affair from early 2023. Antony Blinken even ended up backing the remarks. “The President always speaks candidly, he speaks directly. He speaks clearly, and he speaks for all of us,” he said during an interview on CBS’ Face the Nation.

The Chinese government was quick to reprimand US Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns over Biden’s remarks. “China expresses strong dissatisfaction and opposition," said Mao Ning, a spokesperson at the Chinese foreign affairs ministry.

The remarks may not completely scuttle the truce, but Biden’s comments confirm Beijing’s concerns about the US wanting a change in China’s political system.

The author is a columnist and a freelance journalist. He was previously a China media journalist at the BBC World Service. He is currently a MOFA Taiwan Fellow based in Taipei and tweets @aadilbrar. Views are personal.

Guest Contributor

This piece was written for Greek City Times by a Guest Contributor

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