Has China lost its diplomatic consistency and credibility?

By Deepak Gajurel

Deepak GajurelIf a diplomat says ‘Yes’, he means perhaps, if he says ‘Perhaps’, he means no. But if he says ‘No’, he is not a diplomat at all.

Conducting foreign relations is a responsible business. Reliability and Trust is the most needed commodity in doing diplomacy. It’s no easy task. Hence, in diplomacy, one must be careful in choosing and using words.

Equally vital are circumstances, process, means, techniques, modes and methods. One must choose suitable ways to deal with other nations, no matter whether you are working with great power or poorest one. Once you slip on any of those crucial elements, you lose your credibility and trust which will certainly cost you dearly in due course of time.

There are instances in the world history when even mutually hostile enemies trust each other at critical times, because they have shown consistent ‘trustworthy’ behavior in the past.

Chinese credibility …

Today’s rising giant power China is treated by everyone in the world with respect and trusted accordingly, because of Beijing’s past behavior in dealing with others, super power and smaller nations alike.

Most striking example is the United States’ trust upon Chinese leaders, at a time when Washington and Beijing were hostile enemies, with no formal contacts and several embargos by the United States against China at place, and at a time when mainland China was not even a member of the ‘international community.’

Shanghai Communiqué of February 1972 was the landmark takeoff point for China that has brought this nation to today’s status. Here is the remarkable thing that proves how trustworthy China was even at that period of isolation and anxiety.

Though the English version of the Shanghai Communiqué was prepared by both the parties, Chinese language version of that Joint Communiqué was translated from original English language, and finalized by the Chinese side, without any involvement of the US delegates. Without even verifying or tallying it with the original English one, the Joint Communiqué was signed and issued by the US President Richard Nixon.

There could be different things, points or commitments mentioned in the Chinese language version of the Communiqué. Nay, there was none. Mao and Chou were so reliable, credible and trustworthy that then superpower United States President signed the document as if it was written by his own men.

It is worth mentioning here that this high degree of trust towards Chinese leaders was shown by that same man Nixon who, the previous year, named another country’s leader ‘old witch.’ It was because of failure of basic diplomatic norms and credibility.

A number of such instances can be pickup up from the past.

… Sliding down

Decades have gone by. China has transformed from a poor and weak country to a rich and superpower nation, having the capability to impact course of actions across the globe.

Though, there are no Mao and Chou in Beijing, the Chinese leaders have somewhat been maintaining the past prestige, but with some downward slides.

A glimpse of China’s recent conduct of diplomatic behavior with Nepal hardly goes with the respectable and prestigious Mao-Chou reliability and high credibility.

Gone somewhere deep into the pages of history the event when Chinese ambassador, hurrying eagerly presented his credentials to the King Gyanendra-appointed Nepal’s prime minister, at a time when Nepal still had a Monarch as the head of the state.

Unfortunately, diplomatic puerility from our northern neighbor has not subsided. Yes, you are correctly choosing ‘indirect’ and non-formal methods and ‘tools’. But the messages you are emanating are not consistent rather, going by standards, they are contradictory which shows Beijing’s dilemma, inaction or perhaps even nervousness.

Some two months back, one Chinese prominent ‘South Asia expert’, giving interview to a Nepali daily, in explicit words, declared, ‘Monarchy will never be restored in Nepal.’ There was no room for implying anything but the crystal clear words used by the Chinese expert. Thus was learned Beijing’s ‘Nepal policy’, at least by Nepali intelligentsia.

But things did not last long. Came another, but contradictory, message from the north. Chinese state news agency Xinhua, in its publication Asia Pacific Daily (APD) newspaper, a few days ago published an article.

Based on interview with a prominent Nepali political leader, who is well-known adherent to constitutional monarchy in Nepal, the article explicitly advocates for the return of Monarchy in this Himalayan nation. He, in the article, even accuses India of deceitfully overthrowing Monarchy, and China of unfortunately okaying that Indian move.

Now the pertinent question remains unanswered. Has China lost its diplomatic consistency and credibility?

The author is Political Scientist with Tribhuvan University, Nepal, and editor of www.nepalpolity.com He can be reached at: deepakgajurel@gmail.com


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  1. You have raised a pertinent question about Chinese diplomacy and its credibility.

    China can’t so easily forget the initiative taken by Nepal to get China Observer status at the Dhaka SAARC summit in 2005 when the Nepali delegation was then led by former King Gyanendra.

    This gesture on Nepal’s part had, quite obviously, angered the southern neighbor. Things then started rolling and finally monarchy was abolished at one stroke.

    China, an emerging world power, should be consistent in its policy statements and should not lose its credibility so that the smaller neighbors will continue to call China a ‘reliable friend’.

    Is Beijing listening?


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