President Donald Trump’s China visit is part of a five-nation twelve-day visit to Asia. It is not a China-specific visit, yet the China portion is the most critical part of Trump’s Asia trip. Other countries in his itinerary, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Vietnam, are either America’s alliance partners or emerging strategic partners.
The competition between China and the United States is not and not going to be the one that the world witnessed between the U.S. and the former USSR during the long Cold War years. Why? It is because the intense economic interdependence between the U.S. and China determines the economic health between them and the world as well. A Cold War type of competition would negatively impact the U.S. and the Chinese economy and other countries will simply refuse to take sides in such a “Cold War.”
A large number of allies and the strategic buddies of the United States, including India, are actually trade partners of China. And they obviously would not like to get entangled in the games played by the two countries.
For India, China is an economic partner and the United States is a strategic partner. New Delhi does not wish to see any kind of conflict between the U.S. and China where it has to take a position. But simultaneously, New Delhi expects that Sino-U.S. collaboration does not clash with Indian interests, particularly national security concerns, such as terrorism.
Significantly, India and China are on the same side on issues related to global commons, such as climate change. And both India and China were part of the Regional Cooperative Economic Cooperation (RCEP).
For China and India, the real challenge is to sort out their misperceptions, accommodate each other’s security concerns and see far beyond their immediate interests to realize the goal of an Asian Century. A stable, peaceful, prosperous Asia will be an opportunity for both China and India to make economic, political and strategic gains. The forces of globalization and realities of the 21st century make mutual suspicions and gratification of short-term goals a very costly affair.
Sino-Indian relations should not be held hostage to either big power machinations or small countries’ manipulations.
The author is a professor and pro-vice chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University.