Chinese media: Cautious optimism over Indian PM Modi's visit

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Mr Xi (left) and Mr Modi have pledged to improve ties between the two countriesImage source, AFP
Image caption,
Mr Xi (left) and Mr Modi have pledged to improve ties between the two countries

Newspapers and commentators in China are cautiously optimistic over Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit.

Mr Modi started his three-day tour to China on Thursday with a visit to President Xi Jinping's hometown Xian.

The Indian PM's visit to Xian is seen in the context of Mr Xi's visit to Mr Modi home state of Gujarat last year.

Mr Modi is also scheduled to visit Beijing and Shanghai.

Most newspapers appear convinced that India and China are "natural partners" and the century belongs to the Asian giants.

But some Chinese media outlets have gone beyond the rhetoric to highlight the "real problems" between the two countries.

The land dispute between the two countries has been highlighted by pundits in Chinese newspapers.

The two countries share an ill-defined 4,057km (2,520 miles) border and fought a brief war in 1962.

Shen Dingli, an expert in international affairs with Fudan University in Shanghai, tells the Hong Kong Commercial Daily that the problems cannot be solved in one state visit.

He urges India to be "more kind and generous" and "bear with China's attitude of not recognising [the disputed Indian state of ] Arunachal Pradesh", which China considers as a part of Tibet.

"China should also be more pragmatic: India possesses nuclear, what can we do?" he asks.

'Blind arrogance'

Mr Modi's diplomacy with Japan, the US and some European countries too seems to have not gone down well with Chinese commentators.

The Indian PM has been also actively pursuing better economic and diplomatic ties with East Asian countries, which are considered by pundits as China's "diplomatic backyard".

Hu Zhiyong, a research fellow with the Institute of International Relations at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, highlights that Mr Modi has been trying to boost ties with these countries to "compete with China".

"But his diplomatic moves last year have proven that he is a pragmatist, rather than a visionary," he writes in the Global Times.

"Mr Modi has also been playing little tricks over border disputes and security issues, hoping to boost his domestic prestige while increasing his leverage in negotiations with China."

The article blames what it calls "the Indian elites' blind arrogance and confidence in their democracy" and some Indian media outlets' "irresponsible exaggeration" for fuelling "hostility among the public" of the two countries.

Some commentators also see Delhi's ties with Washington as a reason behind sporadic tensions between China and India.

Shanghai-based analyst Wang Dehua argues that the US "wants to use India to counter China".

Focus on economic ties

But beyond highlighting the tensions between the two economic giants, a hint of cautious optimism appears to be in no short supply.

An article in the Global Times notes that the Sino-Indian relationship has "constantly been overshadowed by negative issues, especially border disputes", which is a "strategic conflict" and has been "articulated primarily by Indian media".

However, the commentary assures that economic ties can outweigh rivalries over territories.

The People's Daily observes that some Indian papers are "expecting" both countries to co-operate in the high-speed rail projects.

Most Chinese media outlets have mentioned disputes between the two countries, but their focus is very much on economic cooperation.

Even the nationalistic Huanqiu daily has dedicated a page to report on the Mr Modi's visit, highlighting that "cooperation in economic and trade sectors" is the main theme of the visit.

Papers in China have also noted a shift in Indian papers' attitude about China.

The overseas edition of the People's Daily observes that Indian media outlets now show more "positive energy" when they report on China.

It says India papers are still "wary of China's fast-paced growth", but they also want to learn from Beijing's development model.

Weibo diplomacy

Mr Modi's decision to open an account in Chinese language on Weibo, a Twitter-like service in China, has also generated much discussion in China.

Noting that Mr Modi has opened a Weibo account, an article in the People's Daily praises his attempt to reach out to Chinese web users as "Weibo diplomacy".

The paper also quotes that most web users have written enthusiastic and welcoming comments on Mr Modi's account.

The comments in the cyberspace, however, are not completely welcoming.

In one of his posts, Mr Modi commented that India and China will need to work together to help developing countries eliminate poverty. 

The seemingly friendly remarks have won praises with one user agreeing that both countries need to "look beyond their differences".

But others are not too friendly. One user has reminded Mr Modi to "show sincerity" and "return south Tibet to us".

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