China Bows to India
Xi Jinping, China’s president, is playing host to the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, and South Africa this week in Xiamen, a port city on China’s coast across from Taiwan. The occasion is the 9th summit for the group of five nations, known as BRICS, and provides an opportunity for Xi Jinping and the four, other heads of state to come together and address pressing issues.
But the three-day event also offers an opportunity for Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, to decide how to get along after they almost declared war on each other.
The conflict began in mid-June, when Xi Jinping ordered construction crews to seize land and build a road in a territory, called Doklam, belonging to the small kingdom of Bhutan. He found himself in a stand-off with Narendra Modi, who came to the defense of the tiny nation high up in the Himalayas. Xi Jinping then mobilized his army. Immediately, Narendra Modi deployed troops and promised to defend Bhutan’s sovereignty.
But, as quickly as both sides escalated the dispute, one side just as quickly defused it. Last week, Xi Jinping withdrew the equipment he had sent to the region to build the road.
Although Xi Jinping is used to getting his way, wielding enormous economic and military might, he now has encountered a leader who won’t back down. Narendra Modi not only has thwarted Xi Jinping’s latest attempt to expand China’s territory; the Indian leader has put the Chinese leader on notice that their competition in Asia is about to heat up.
As Xi Jinping moves aggressively across Asia, he can expect his ambitious projects, such as the massive One Belt, One Road initiative, to run into problems with Narendra Modi. The Chinese leader is counting on his allies in Pakistan to help pave the way across Asia, but the Indian leader promises to thwart those efforts.
Xi Jinping can’t expect to get what he wants on every occasion.