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Protectionism would harm Indian consumers, businesses: Chinese envoy on rebuilding ties

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In a video statement, Chinese ambassador to India Sun Weidong called for India and China to build mutual trust, even as he asserted that efforts to economically ‘decouple’ the two countries would eventually harm the Indian economy.

The video, which lasts 17 minutes and 57 seconds, was uploaded on the YouTube account of the Chinese embassy in New Delhi. The detailed statement of the Chinese envoy was released on the same day that the two countries held their second round of diplomatic talks through the platform of the Working Mechanism for Coordination and Consultation (WMCC).

The Chinese envoy began by acknowledging the June 15 “incident causing casualties at the Galwan Valley in the western sector of the China-India border”.

“It was a situation neither China nor India would like to see,” he said. India has stated that 20 Indian soldiers were killed in fierce hand-to-hand fighting with Chinese troops. China has not released any casualty numbers.

He then referenced the July 5 conversation between the two Special Representatives, which apparently reached a “positive consensus on easing the current border situation”.

Sun acknowledged that the Galwan face-off, which saw the first casualties at the border in 45 years, has impacted the trajectory of the ties.

“At the backdrop of what recently happened at the Galwan Valley, some quarters in India raise doubts about the consensus reached by the two leaders, and have wrong perception of the direction of China-India relations. These have brought disruptions to the bilateral relationship,” he said.

Sun also noted that there were “emerging opinions” which repudiate the essence of the India-China friendship and have termed a “close neighbour over thousands of years as ‘enemies’ and ‘strategic threats’.” He described such facts as “harmful indeed and not helpful”.

He also brought up that “some people have been trumpeting the so-called ‘decoupling’ of China-India economic and trade relations, with an attempt to completely exclude ‘Made in China’.

India has banned 59 mobile applications by Chinese technology companies, including the highly popular TikTok, on grounds of national security and user privacy. There has also been rumblings and statements by Indian leaders about excluding Chinese firms from strategic industry and infrastructure development.

Asserting that Chinese dominance of global supply chains was due to a process of natural selection, he said that any protectionist measures would harm Indian consumers and business community.

“Any self-protection, non-tariff barriers and restrictive measures against China are unfair to Chinese enterprises, unfair to Indian employees who lost their jobs as a result, and unfair to Indian consumers who cannot get access to the products and services they deserve. It will only harm others without benefit to oneself, and it will eventually hurt oneself as well,” he said.

While repeating that the “rights and wrongs” at the face-off was “very clear”, the top Chinese diplomat asserted that China would “firmly safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and ensure the peace and tranquility in the border areas”.

He also claimed China was “neither a warlike state nor an assertive country”.

Incidentally, after the violent face-off, China had laid claim to the entire Galwan Valley publicly for the first time, which would give it strategic dominance over a crucial Indian border road.

Stating that China and India have the wisdom to avoid falling into conflict, he added, “Why should we fight against each other that would only hurt those close to us and gladden the foes?”

The Chinese envoy brought up the five principles of Panchsheel, which he noted were jointly advocated by the two Asian neighbours.

“We should naturally see each other as positive factors in the changing global landscape as well as partners in realising our respective dream of development. China hopes itself will develop well and wishes India the same. Only through correct view of each other’s intentions with a positive, open and inclusive attitude, we can ensure a stable and long-term development of bilateral relations and avoid any strategic miscalculation,” he said.

A lot of the phrases used by the Chinese ambassador echoed his interview to Press Trust of India, as well as, recent statements from the Chinese foreign ministry following the conversations of State councillor Wang Yi with Indian foreign minister S. Jaishankar and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval.

Underlining the need to build trust, Weidong asserted, “Suspicion and friction is a wrong path and goes against the fundamental aspiration of the two peoples.”

“We need to seek convergence while putting aside differences and not impose one’s will on the other. We should honour our commitment, walk the talk, and ensure implementation of the leaders’ consensus in letter and in spirit,” he noted.

Sun also mentioned that the current year is the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations. He called on India to take a broader picture of relations beyond the bilateral friction. “As a Chinese saying goes, we have no fear of the clouds that may block our sights as we are already at the top of the height. Now China-India relations are facing a complex situation. We should take a broader and far-sighted view, work together to overcome and turn it around as soon as possible”.

With the theme of “moving ahead”, the Chinese envoy also suggested that media management was an important aspect. “The media outlets of our two countries should also make their efforts in an objective, rational and responsible manner, avoid inciting antagonism in an effort to contribute positive energy to the steady and sound development of China-India relations”.