Chinese scholar says Nepal shouldn’t fear China while warning it will crush Hong Kong protests

KATHMANDU (The Kathmandu Post/ANN) - Zhang Weiwei, author of a number of books on China, also said that Beijing trusts Nepal to handle its concerns regarding Tibetan refugees.

A visiting Chinese scholar, who has long extolled the Chinese model of governance and development, has said Nepal shouldn’t be afraid of the Communist Party of China and that China trusts Nepal to handle its concerns.

There is much for Nepal to learn from the Chinese experience, said Zhang Weiwei, a professor of international relations and director of the China Institute at Fudan University, of which Xi Jinping Thought is a “summary”. Zhang, however, said that China did not want to impose its ideas on others and that “each and every country should find its own way to success.”

Referring to Chinese concerns about Tibetan refugees in Nepal, Zhang said that the Chinese government trusts that the Nepal government knows “how to handle this issue”.

“All countries—I don’t find any exception—recognise Chinese sovereignty over Tibet,” Zhang told the Post in an interview. "The Tibetan presence in Nepal is a historical legacy and they should be handled according to the law. So I’m not worried about it.”

Zhang’s assessment is right. During Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit last month, a number of Nepalis were rounded up by the Nepal Police for displaying Tibetan signage on their clothes and accessories.

Zhang was an English translator for Deng Xiaoping and has written a number of books on China as a civilisational state. He is perhaps most famous for his dialogue with American political scientist Francis Fukuyama on ‘The China Model’.

Zhang, who led a delegation of scholars and two Chinese foreign ministry officials on a three-day visit, also called on Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali on Sunday.

Speaking to the media at the Press Council, Zhang, along with Lin Minwang, another professor from Fudan, said that China had its own boundary issues with India, referring to Nepal’s ongoing dispute with India over Kalapani.

“If Nepal requests, we can play the role of mediator, like in the issue of North Korea,” said Lin. “In the new Indian map, China’s territory in Ladakh was also included in their map, besides some parts of Pakistan’s territory. We have officially reached out to the Indian authorities.”

China has not formally made any indication of facilitating a dialogue, or acting as a mediator, to Nepal.

Speaking to the Post after the public programme, Zhang said that Xi Jinping is personally interested in South Asia, which shows in his recent state visit to Nepal. Zhang was careful to characterise the Nepal visit as part of a continuing relationship between the two countries.

Zhang, however, has written much about the Chinese model of development and governance, usually contrasting the Indian experience alongside China’s. He asked that Nepal not be afraid of the Communist Party of China as Xi is an “overwhelming positive force.”

“Four decades ago, China and India started at similar levels of development,” said Zhang. “But today China’s economy is five times that of India. So obviously this is one of the most successful stories of economic rise and fighting poverty.”

Zhang also parried questions about a number of issues of global significance regarding China, namely the New York Times’ damning report on China’s treatment of the Uighur Muslim minority in Xinjiang and the ongoing protests in Hong Kong.

Regarding Xinjiang, Zhang quoted American President Donald Trump calling the New York Times “fake news” and the report “rubbish.”

“The United States has already made a mess of Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen and now they want to make a mess of Xinjiang,” he said. “Of course, we will say no. Xinjiang is a hundred times better than Syria today. So why should we buy this kind of fake news and rumours that they reproduce every day, every month and every year? It’s rubbish.”

The New York Times’ report, based on a rare leak of internal Chinese documents, provides an unprecedented look into how President Xi has characterised the region’s minority Muslim population, ordering officials to act with “absolutely no mercy” against terrorism and separatism. Human rights groups have long said that China is surveilling and interning Uighurs on an unprecedented scale.

China has since said that the report has only damaged Chinese efforts to combat terrorism in Xinjiang, but refrained from calling the report fake.

Responding to questions from the Post, Zhang similarly dismissed the ongoing protests in Hong Kong as having been instigated by “capitalism” and the US as part of a “trade war”.

“It’s the United States’ interests and they are fighting a trade war,” said Zhang. “They want to use the Hong Kong protests as another edition of pressure on the Chinese government. But that’s very stupid and useless.”

Zhang largely blamed the protests on a failure of capitalism in Hong Kong before saying that the Chinese government would step in if the Hong Kong authorities failed to contain the protests.

“If they cannot handle this, we will do this,” he said. “Easy, very easy. Using whatever means, all kinds of means. It can be finished within days. We have troops stationed there. If it’s a colour revolution aimed at overthrowing the Hong Kong government, we will stop it overnight.”

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