March 27, 2008ChinadiplomacyForeign Affairsgame theoryIndiainternational relationsTibet

Doing it at ungodly hours

China’s unfriendliness is revealing

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

A sign of the nature of a relationship between countries is the manner in which they officially communicate displeasure. So when the Chinese government calls in the Indian ambassador at 2am, to hand her details of plans by Tibetan protesters to disrupt the movement of the Olympic torch in India, you know what the Chinese think about the nature of bilateral relationship. China might have reason to be angry. That it chose to be demonstrate unfriendliness reveals that it believes the proper way to handle India is through overreaction and bullying.

India responded by cancelling Commerce Minister Kamal Nath’s trip to China. The unwritten rules of the game would have suggested tit-for-tat: that the Chinese ambassador be summoned at 2am and handed some inane document. (But where’s the joy is having to meet a Chinese diplomat at 2am? Asking Mr Kamal Nath to cancel his tickets was easier. In any case, the Chinese ambassador, expecting to be called in at an ungodly hour, must have spent the night in his suit, waiting for the call that didn’t come. Not calling him, arguably, was more punishing than calling him in)

China has escalated its diplomatic offensive. The first round was when Premier Wen Jiabao issued a disguised warning. In the second round, the disguise has come off. But it’s a bad move: as the UPA government’s decision to call off Kamal Nath’s trip shows, bullying is the worst strategy China could take against India. Even its mouthpieces can’t generate enough propaganda to prevent public opinion from massively turning against Beijing. China would do well to conduct its business at normal working hours.

Update: Read Tarun Vijay’s op-ed



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