What does the 19th CPC National Congress mean for China-India relations and the world?

Sudheendra Kulkarni was interviewed by China-India Dialogue during the International Think-Tank Symposium on the 19th CPC National Congress: Implications for China and the World. He shared his views on the 19th CPC National Congress and what it meant for China-India relations and the world.
by China India Dialogue
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Sudheendra Kulkarni, Chairman of Observer Research Foundation Mumbai, attended the International Think-Tank Symposium on the 19th CPC National Congress: Implications for China and the World on November 16. by Zhou Xin

Sudheendra Kulkarni, Chairman of Observer Research Foundation Mumbai, was interviewed by China-India Dialogue during the International Think-Tank Symposium on the 19th CPC National Congress: Implications for China and the World. He shared his views on the 19th CPC National Congress and what it meant for China-India relations and the world.

China-India Dialogue: How will the CPC National Congress influence China-India relations? What do you anticipate regarding the relations and cooperation between the two countries in the future?

Sudheendra Kulkarni: The 19th CPC National Congress was undoubtedly of historic significance for China. General Secretary Xi Jinping’s report to the Congress set ambitious goals, a clear direction and a believable roadmap for China’s progress in the future until the middle of the 21st century. To transform China into a fully-developed “modern socialist nation” by the middle of the century – by the time of the second centenary goal of celebrating the 100th year of the founding of PRC – and to ensure that “common prosperity for everyone is basically achieved” is a bold and inspiring strategic objective. It captures the meaning of the “Chinese Dream” with all-round “national rejuvenation.”

However, Xi Jinping’s report also sent an equally momentous message from China to the rest of the world. And political leaders and scholars in India will surely study his message to the world with great interest and utmost seriousness. In particular, the following points have laid a good basis for friendship and cooperation between India and China.

Xi Jinping spoke with conviction about the need to continue globalization, preserve stability and ensure peace in the world as a precondition for the development of all nations. He reassured sceptics that even as China enters an era that will see it “moving closer to center stage,” it “will continue to play its part as a major and responsible country.”

He clearly rejected “power politics” and the “Cold War” mentality of seeing the world divided into rival blocks. He said: “We should respect each other, discuss issues as equals, resolutely reject the Cold War mentality and power politics, and take a new approach to developing state-to-state relations with communication, not confrontation, and partnership, not alliance.” I would like to underscore here that India seeks partnership with China on the basis of equality.

Xi Jinping also reassured that China will pursue good-neighborliness with all its neighbors. He said: “China will deepen relations with its neighbors in accordance with the principle of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit, and inclusiveness and the policy of forging friendship and partnership with its neighbors.” He further said that all issues between nations should be resolved through dialogue and not through confrontation.

Indian people and politicians will welcome these wise thoughts and assurances.

China-India Dialogue: How will the CPC National Congress influence the world?

Sudheendra Kulkarni: Just as a new era has begun in China’s efforts to build “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” I think a new era has also begun in international relations after the 19th CPC National Congress. The dominance of the U.S. and Europe in world affairs is rapidly weakening. China has announced it will move to the “center stage” of world affairs, while reassuring that it will always conduct itself in a “responsible” manner.

Xi Jinping’s statement in this regard is categorical. “No matter what stage of development it reaches, China will never seek hegemony or engage in expansion.”

He also said: “We call on the people of all countries to work together to build a community with a shared future for mankind, to build an open, inclusive, clean, and beautiful world that enjoys lasting peace, universal security, and common prosperity.” Today there is no other leader in the world who is speaking with such conviction about a bright and common future for the entire global community.

Moreover, Xi Jinping emphasized the principles of equality and democracy in international relations when he said: “China stands for democracy in international relations and the equality of all countries, big or small, strong or weak, rich or poor.”

However, there is yet another very important pointer to profound wisdom in Xi Jinping’s report. For the first time, he has presented before the world the concept of a new ecological civilization by saying: “Man and nature form a community of life; we, as human beings, must respect nature, follow its ways, and protect it. Only by observing the laws of nature can mankind avoid costly blunders in its exploitation. Any harm we inflict on nature will eventually return to haunt us. This is a reality we have to face.” He has also promised that, besides taking tough measures to arrest and reverse environmental degradation in China, his administration will play a leading role in the global effort to achieve the Paris Agreement goals on climate change.

All these new concepts are bound to influence the global community, and create confidence in China’s leading role in world affairs in the coming times.

China-India Dialogue: What do you think of President Xi’s leadership and China’s achievements in the past five years?

Sudheendra Kulkarni: Xi Jinping is a leader who combines strength with sagacity, vision with will power. He has provided firm leadership to China in the past five years. His uncompromising anti-corruption drive caught the attention of the people around the world. China’s role and prestige in global affairs rose considerably in the past five years. In particular, Xi Jinping presented the ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, which seeks to establish modern connectivity networks linking Asia, Africa, Europe and beyond. It promises to give new impetus and vitality to globalization, making it more inclusive.

And now, at the 19th CPC National Congress, Xi Jinping announced that China will not rest on its past laurels but move towards achieving even more ambitious goals, which are beneficial to China and also to the rest of the world.

China-India Dialogue: You spoke at the parallel session of the symposium. How can China and India achieve what you had mentioned in the last part of your speech regarding the “friendship and brotherhood” in the future?

Sudheendra Kulkarni: What struck me in Xi Jinping’s report to the 19th CPC National Congress is his wise civilizational approach to the future of mankind. He said: “We should respect the diversity of civilizations. In handling relations among civilizations, let us replace estrangement with exchange, clashes with mutual learning, and superiority with coexistence.”

This has a very positive message for India, and is bound to promote India-China friendship and cooperation. India and China are two ancient Asian civilizations. They have had constructive and peaceful exchanges for over 2,000 years. Now, both countries and their leaders should rediscover the wisdom of our civilizations and resolve our outstanding issues, including the border dispute, peacefully.