Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Nepal (October 12-13, 2019) is taken as multi-dimensional in advancing bilateral ties between two nations. President Xi’s 21 hours’ stay in Kathmandu received warm respect and love from the Nepali people. High expectations generated among the Nepali people by the visit of President Xi are rightly taken as a sine qua non to the growing level of ties between the two nations. In another term, the entire episode of the visit itself is considered as the synonym of the excellent ties of relations between the two countries.
Xi Jinping becomes the center of attraction wherever or whenever he visits abroad as he is the executive head of a powerful nation in terms of population, military force, economy, and the way China has to expedite the process of providing loans to other countries around the world. It is in this context that his visit definitely has a multipronged impact as Nepal has longstanding cordial and trouble-free relation with China. The result of the two-day state visit of President Xi will, therefore, be a matter of talk and appreciation in the future. We hope that the positive effect of the visit will be reflected in practice also. Some positive aspects of the visit are illustrated here:
1. New Height in Friendship
The visit of the Chinese President after 23 years is an achievement in itself to strengthen relations between the two nations although different levels of visits were exchanged in the interval of over two decades. President Jiang Zemin visited Nepal in 1996 while Prime Minister Zhu Rongji was here in 2001, followed by the visit of Prime Minister Wen Jiabao in 2012. But visit at the level of a Head of State after an interval of over two decades should be taken as an important and historic event in the history of bilateral relations between the two nations. Nepal-China relation has been trouble-free since the establishment of formal diplomatic relations on 1st August 1955 between the two nations. The agreement between King Mahendra and President Liu Shaoqi held in 1961 can be taken as a testimony to this effect.
Experience shows that any agreement between the two nations regarding important issues has settled them forever without having a negative effect in the future. The 1961 agreement between the two nations is an appropriate example to cite here. China has been getting high respect from the government and the people of Nepal as it is always committed to upholding the sovereignty, geographical integrity, and independence of Nepal. Nepal has duly reciprocated in being totally committed to One-China Policy irrespective of changes in government and political system. Nepali land is not allowed to be used against China. In this context, President Xi’s visit turned out to be another milestone to raise the bilateral relations to a new height. The views so explicitly expressed by President Xi through an article on the eve of his visit and perceptive thoughts laid out by the Chinese President during the dinner meeting hosted by President Bidya Devi Bhandari on October 12, 2019, may rightly be taken as a reflection of warm and enduring relations being pursued by two nations at both state-to-state and people-to-people levels.
2. Rising China
The hundred years of the Chinese Communist movement are often divided into two epoch-making dimensions counting from the establishment date of the Communist Party of China in 1921. The first portion encompasses the period from the establishment of the CPC under Mao Zedong in 1921 to 1978. Chairman Mao as the Great Helmsman dominated China’s political scene from 1949 when the People’s Republic of China came into being, to 1976 when he passed away.
The subsequent period since 1978 second part is taken as an important turning point for socio-economic and technological development under the policy of four modernizations and adaptation of liberal political economy under the leadership of paramount leader Deng Xiaoping. In a way, Chinese President Xi Jinping has made endeavors to add a third dimension in the development model of China since 2012 after he took charge of the leadership as the General Secretary of the CPC and the President of China.
China is rising. China has become such a country that is providing the largest amount of loans to other countries. The flagship project of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) put forth by President Xi has become an important tool to expand world relations and development. A total of 68 countries have signed the BRI and China is expecting that the number shall be increased in the future. In this way, China once known as Sleeping Lion, is on a steady and strong march as analysts say.
Various international organizations have predicted that China will soon become the first economic power from the current level of the second position. Nepal cannot remain an exception from the influence of the rising economic giant China. For this reason, also, President Xi’s visit of 2019 and its impact shall continue to remain a matter of intensive analysis and stocktaking in the days to come.
3. Discussion of Northern Border as Opportunity for Development
As Nepal’s landscape is expanded from north to south, its development structures are also developed from the north to the south. It is impossible to maintain balanced foreign relations practically unless and until we are in a position to convert geographical difficulties of the north caused by high hills into our favor. We should be able to bring border points with China into operation throughout the year. Discussion of opening and smooth operation of border points of the north has once again come into the limelight as Chinese President Xi also highlighted the issue during his visit. This is also the vital link of connectivity between the two nations. Several border points are yet to come into operation since the April 2015 earthquake. Several infrastructures of the Nepali side are yet to be built through the Chinese side has already built the necessary infrastructure on its part.
China wants to give priority to the Rasuwagadhi border and the border point has come into operation for the business. The access to China from Kathmandu shall be expanded if there is an improved and shorter highway linkage road through the proposed construction of a tunnel at Tokha. Our business relation to China shall be systematic only after the opening of additional border points as per the need of time. We should give priority to the immediate commencement of such construction works as the laying of the railway is in pipeline is a long-term project of bilateral cooperation. Hence, President Xi’s visit is also taken as an opportunity to opening up of northern door for development and business.
4. Rumor of Debt Trap
China is a country known to have the maximum stock of American dollars in the world. Being able to stave off the 2008 recession, China has expanded its investments to Africa, Europe, and Latin America. Countries that do not see eye to eye with China’s progress seem to be in a restless situation.
It is an open secret that BRI is a project based on loans. Nepal also knows the fact. We signed the BRI document in 2017 after due considerations and analysis of all pros and cons. Some are trying to that Nepal should be cautious in taking loans under BRI terming it as a Chinese policy of debt trap, not conducive to the long-term interest of Nepal’s development. We don’t want to borrow a loan from China with the intention of not utilizing or repaying it. We want to utilize it for the development of the nation. We can not implement mega projects without taking loans. Such projects shall be a game-changer and change the fate of the nation and its people. We should take loans from China as well as other countries that show concern for the development of Nepal. We should welcome the loans from countries that want to invest in cheaper interest rates in comparison to the Chinese interest rates. President Xi’s visit cleared misconceptions about debt trap rumors spread against BRI projects. President Xi’s visit remained fruitful for this purpose also.
5. Railway Connection
Both countries stressed on railway connection between the two countries during the visit of President Xi. It is also stated in the statement released during the visit. There was an agreement on conducting a probability study of railway connections between Nepal and China during the high-level visit. We cannot change our future without building a railway and we should not run away from the responsibility of building a railway against the geological bottlenecks of difficult landscape, construction cost, and distance. Now, expectations and optimism are generated that there shall be a railway connection with China because there was an agreement on a memorandum of understanding for the purpose. Chinese themselves are saying that it might take at least six years to connect the railway track to Kerung from Shigatse. It may take another few years before the railway connection reached Kerung in 2025. So, we need to take the necessary initiation to be connected with railways. It is our bounden duty to secure the right of the future generations.
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has constantly raised the issue of railway connection. This concern is not only confined to the dream of Prime Minister Oli, rather it is a common concern of all Nepalis who love development. If there is progress in the Chinese railway, the Indian railway will come to Kathmandu soon. There was also an agreement with India during the railway connection with India during the visit of PM Oli. We will be on the right track for railway construction if we are able to maintain balanced relations with both neighbors–India and China. Our future is bright.
The long-term important subject that the Xi visit has offered Nepal is the railway connection between Nepal and China. The issue of railway connection has become a matter of moat-relevant talk that was not even imagined before. This state visit of President Xi has made railway a formal central agenda of two countries. This is an important dimension of the visit of the Chinese President.
6. Reflection of National Consensus
Another important aspect seen during the visit of President Xi is the national consensus. All political parties became able to forge a national consensus on the visit of the Chinese President. Political forces showed maturity and consensus on foreign policy. President Xi also showed a long-term vision by meeting the leader of the main opposition party and President of Nepali Congress Sher Bahadur Deuba upon his arrival in Kathmandu.
Political parties did not show differences in welcoming the Chinese President. It was easy to forge consensus when PM Oli organized a meeting of former Prime Ministers in course of preparing the visit of President Xi. Both sides remained sensitive regarding relations between the two nations during the visit– upon Xi’s arrival to Kathmandu to a dinner meeting and to the conclusion of the visit. Nepal-China relations got new height because of the consensus reflected prior to the visit, during the visit, and post-visit scenario of the Chinese President. We should give continuity to such effective and good tradition in the days to come for establishing relations with other countries also.
7. Concern of Powerful Nations
It is natural that every nation has its own interest and priority of foreign policies. Some traditional nations or powers of the world are feeling discomfort seeing rapid growth made by China. The ensuing trade war between the USA and China can be taken as an example of this effect. Countries other than China will naturally show interest and concern over the impact of China and the subsequent visit of Chinese President Xi. Nepal is located in the middle of two giant economies–India and China. The activities occurring inside the Nepali territory constitute a matter of concern for other countries, especially neighboring countries. In this situation, we should utilize this opportunity for the development of Nepal without being deviated from the principles of balanced foreign policies.
America is in the process of investing a 500 million US dollar Millennium Challenge Corporation project in Nepal and waiting for approval from the Federal Parliament of Nepal. We should not be afraid of another country while extending relations with a country. Nepal knows its limitations while utilizing its strength.
So, it is better not to keep in mind that Nepal plays cards against and between the big nations. Such unnatural blame and dream will be proved false in course of time. We should extend our cooperation, friendship, mutual trust, and cordial relations with all neighboring states. No country needs to harbor doubt against Nepal’s policy of seeking balanced relations.
In conclusion, President Xi’s visit remained a successful visit in the history of Nepal-China relations. It was a historic event. The 14-point statement issued at the end of the visit has created a roadmap for the development of Nepal as well as Nepal-China relations to be followed in the future as the statement visualizes trade, health, education, tourism, and many more aspects of development as pillars of future cooperation between the two nations. Nepal’s condition will definitely be uplifted if we focus on the implementation aspect of the agreements.
The visit of the Chinese President should be taken as an opportunity to implement agreements made between the two countries during the visit and previous other visits and exchanges. This is a golden opportunity to ensure a bright future for Nepal and its people. People of the two countries are eager to materialize the vision and mission set by President Xi and Nepali leaders to transform Nepal’s situation into a better condition by strengthening ties between the two nations.
From the Book: A Pictorial Guide
Edition : 2020