What Xi’s third term means for Nepal?

Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to clinch power for a third consecutive term this week. On October 16, hundreds of party delegates—provincial representatives, top military brass, and representation from farmers and minority communities—will assemble in the Great Hall of China to endorse Xi.

The gathering will also pick new faces who shall dictate China’s military, economy, and foreign policies.

Over the past decade, China has become more assertive, projecting itself as a superpower.  So what can Nepal expect from five more years of Xi?  Since he took office in 2013, like everywhere, China adopted an aggressive policy towards Nepal, particularly to counter Western influence.

In 2019, Xi visited Nepal to elevate comprehensive bilateral ties into a “strategic” one. He pledged to transform Nepal from a “land-locked country to a land-linked country”. Since Xi’s trip, China has been pressing Nepal to implement the agreement reached between the two countries.

Pramod Jaiswal, who follows China’s South Asia policy, says Xi is one of the few Chinese presidents to visit Nepal so he places a high priority on Nepal.

“Xi sees Nepal as a gateway to South Asia,” says Jaiswal. “He views South Asia as a very important region to materialize his pet project, the Belt and Road Initiative. I believe that he is going to further deepen ties with Nepal during this third term.”

Soon after taking charge as the president of China in 2013, Xi stressed peripheral diplomacy.  Doing well in peripheral diplomatic work, he said at the time, was necessary for China to achieve the “Two Centuries” objective and realize the great rejuvenation of Chinese nation.

In the final days of this second term, Xi dispatched his senior colleagues to Nepal to keep tabs on the Western influence in Kathmandu.

With growing tensions between Beijing and Washington over numerous issues, including the human rights issues of the Tibetan community, Xi’s China is likely to adopt a more aggressive approach to protect its security interest.

Beijing is already pushing its new campaigns, such as Global Security Initiatives and Global Development Initiatives, which has put Kathmandu in a precarious position.

Upendra Gautam, general secretary at China Study Center, says China’s key priorities are security and development.

“Nepal can take a lot of economic benefits, but we do not have any clear vision on our engagement with China. We could not even take advantage of what Xi had pledged during his Nepal visit in 2019,” says Gautam. “The main problem is we are unable to take independent decisions when dealing with major powers.”

He adds Nepal seldom does enough homework to identify its needs to present them before China.

“Nepal should pursue an independent foreign policy. Geopolitical pressures and concerns are always there, but we can handle those issues with right vision and leadership.”

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