The Rediff Special/ J N Dixit
The Great Leap Forward
President Jiang Zemin's visit to India this week will be the first-ever visit to
this country by a Chinese head of state. Former foreign secretary J N Dixit
discusses the relevance of this visit against the backdrop of China's increasing
importance in global affairs.
The long-awaited visit of President Jiang
Zemin to India may take
place from November 28 to November 30. The invitation
was extended to Mr Jiang nearly four years ago when Mr Narasimha
Rao visited China in September 1992. The last highest level political
visit from China took place in December 1991 when Mr Li Peng came
Mr Jiang's visit to New Delhi takes place not only in
terms of protocol, but also in terms of the fundamental requirement
of political reciprocity. Preparatory work for this visit has
already been done when India's Foreign Secretary Salman Haider
visited Beijing in October 1996 for the scheduled meeting of
the Sino-Indian Joint Working Group on the settlement of the boundary
The experts committee of this working group dealing with
issues related to military disengagement on the line of Actual
Control met in Beijing earlier in September. After a gap of nearly
a year, activity galvanising Sino-Indian relations seems to be
picking up. Equally interesting is the positive spurt in non-governmental
contact between China and India over the last eight weeks.
The Chinese Institute for Contemporary International Relations invited
a delegation from the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation led by Mrs Sonia
Gandhi to visit China in the last week of August. Mrs Gandhi led
a delegation of scholars and former Indian diplomats knowledgeable
about China for a three-day discussion. She was received by Prime
Minister Li Peng and senior political figures of China.
invited by the Chinese People's Political Consultative Committee
for an international conference on 'China and Asia in the 21st
Century. I was asked to present a paper at this conference
on the specific theme of 'India and China as factors in Asian
Stability and Development in the 21st Century.' This was a high-level
conference with the senior keynote speakers being Lee Kuan Yew,
Helmut Schmidt, Henry Kissinger, former Japanese prime minister
Takeshita, George Schultz, Alexander Lukin, chairman of the foreign
affairs committee of the Russian parliament, and General Aslam
Beg of Pakistan. Li Peng personally participated in the inaugural
session of this conference.
President Jiang Zemin's visit to Delhi will be the first-ever
visit by a president of China and the secretary general of the
Chinese Communist Party to India. It would be relevant to speculate
on possibilities and prospects. First of all, it is worth taking
stock of China with which we have to deal with.
Observing China's foreign policy orientations and its strategic
postures, three clear trends are discernible.
First, China desires
a peaceful and stable neighbourhood, as it considers this essential
for carrying forward China's own economic modernisation and national
consolidation programme and projects. China does not seem to be
interested in the foreign policy activities of a cosmetically
Second, China wishes to emerge as a major
influence in Asian affairs during the 21st century. The focus
of attention in China's foreign policy is the Asia-Pacific region.
Third, China gives high priority to structuring an equilibrium
in its relations with the United States, Russia, Japan and ASEAN
in that order of priority. I must mention in parenthesis that
though India appears on their foreign policy radar screen as
a large and important neighbour, for the present they do not visualise
India as too influential a strategic or economic factor in Asian
Our attitudes and polices towards China are to be
fashioned in this overall context.
But even more relevant is to take cognisance of the evolving characteristics
of China's society and China's polity. China has a land area of
approximately 9.6 million kilometres. It lays claim to 3 million
kilometres of territorial seas. Its population which is 1.2 billion
now, will stabilise at approximately 1.6 million by 2015 to 2020.
China produces approximately 460 million tonnes of food grains.
The rate of growth of China's GDP has averaged at between 10 and
11 per cent per year over the last five years. Between 1991 and
1996, China has attracted $ 110 billion worth of direct
foreign investment. China's economic exports predict that in another
three and half years, that is by 2000, China's foreign trade
will reach the level of $ 400 billion per annum.
to stabilise its defence expenditure at 1.5 per cent of its GDP,
that is, at the current levels of this expenditure. The Chinese
are also sanguine about controlling population growth and stabilising
its population by the first decade of the 21st century.