All 10 leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) gathered in New Delhi on Thursday for the India-ASEAN summit and the following day's Republic Day celebrations. As a milestone of India's Act East strategy, it triggered excitement in Indian public opinion.
Analyzing the significance of the India-ASEAN summit, Indian and Western media outlets focused their attention on the China factor. They argued that New Delhi's move intended to contain Beijing and China was the elephant in the room in spite of its absence. The summit can be seen as New Delhi's version of "rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific," according to these analyses.
Repeated reports by some Indian media that New Delhi has launched a diplomatic offensive against Beijing are baffling to the Chinese public. India and ASEAN have the right to hold the summit, which exerts no negative effect upon China. However, some Indians are tenacious in exaggerating the meeting's implications to China.
In fact an examination of the China-Southeast Asia relationship suggests that the situation is not like that the Indian media depicts. ASEAN's trade volume with China is more than six times that of India, and China's investment in the region is 10 times that of India.
Some members of the Indian elite enjoy engaging in geopolitical bluster. But they cannot truly gauge the reality of India's comprehensive strength and diplomatic experience. They are beginners playing at geopolitics.
Honestly speaking, Chinese people are not occupied by India. New Delhi is not Beijing's major trading partner, and, despite border disputes, is not an imminent security threat to us Chinese. China expects peaceful coexistence with India, and is happy to witness its cultural and societal progress. China attaches more importance to its eastward development and the Belt and Road initiative.
However, some Indians keep pestering us Chinese, requiring that we acknowledge India is developing better than China.
China never compares itself to the US, because its GDP is only two-thirds that of the US. However, New Delhi, with a GDP only one-fifth that of China, has been striving to prevail over Beijing in almost all aspects.
China and India should work together for development. The Sino-ASEAN relationship is sound and solid. In spite of territorial disputes, Beijing-Hanoi trade volume exceeds that of Beijing and New Delhi. The China-ASEAN relationship is inclusive and surpasses traditional geopolitics.
China and India should set an example to the world that the two countries can cooperate without limits despite their territorial disputes. We hope India has the same will and confidence as China to realize this goal.