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President Xi to visit South Asia

By Colin Speakman (blog.chinadaily.com.cn) Updated: 2014-09-18 17:03

President Xi will visit three South Asian countries starting on 11 September, 2014, in alphabetical order these are India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. They are strategic choices as China seeks to strengthen these important relationships.

Indeed it makes more than simple geographical sense, for a Chinese leader to visit several countries in a region. It also makes diplomatic sense. It would be unusual for a Chinese leader to go to Europe and meet with the leader of just one country - hence in President Xi's first visit as Chinese leader to that continent in March this year, there were five events (luckier than four!). In addition to an EU wide visit to the Union's headquarters in Brussels, Xi visited national leaders in Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands.

In a visit to Latin America in July, Xi attended six events, including a BRICS Summit, a Latin American and Caribbean Leaders Conference, and national leaders meetings in Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela and Cuba. Some of these can be seen to be focused on economic cooperation, with trade opportunities of significance, such as with Argentina and Brazil, whereas others maintain equally important links with countries who share a socialist political history with China, such as Cuba and Venezuela. Students of international relations will know that China rightly cherishes the support and recognition it received after the founding of the PRC, when some Western nations turned their backs on the New China.

The three countries to be visited in South Asia are very different, but they do have in common that they are not such close political allies of, for example, the USA as are the South East Asian countries of the Philippines and Vietnam. They are countries that are likely to see a good future in strengthened cooperation.

The size of the countries is notably different. India has the world's second largest population and is the 10th largest economy by nominal GDP converted into US Dollars. Like China, India is a member of the G-20 group of leading economies and of the BRICS. Thus China and India have many opportunities to rub shoulders at international meetings as well as being neighbors. Very recently the BRICS announced the creation of a Development Bank - it will be headquartered in Shanghai and its first president will be from India,  Indeed, China and India have been seen as the two most important Asian countries of this century and authors write about : Chindia as a new force in world affairs. They have different political traditions and India traditionally sees large families as a cultural norm compared to China's one child policy. It is possible that India will overtake China as the largest population in the world, with 1.27 billion versus China approaching 1.4 billion. They both share a common interest in security and the defeat of terrorism.

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