chapter  7
12 Pages

India in China’s strategic thought

WithZhang Feng

This chapter examines Chinese strategic thinking about India at both the official and intellectual levels. Beijing’s policy attitudes toward India have veered from neighbors and friends in the 1950s, to rivals in the subsequent two decades of the Cold War, back to neighbors and friends after the 1980s, to partners after the 1990s, and finally to a shifting balance between partners and rivals in the Xi Jinping era. On the intellectual side, since the 1980s Chinese thinking has had a palpable liberal and constructivist underpinning. Sino-Indian cooperation through norms, institutions, and trade is the main theme. The 2017 Doklam standoff has sparked a new round of pessimism, and realist thinking focusing on strategic competition is on the rise. But it is impossible to predict whether realpolitik will dominate future Chinese thinking on India. That will depend on changing contexts.