Expert Speak Raisina Debates
Published on Dec 29, 2022 Updated 28 Days ago
Despite the “communist victory” in Nepal, there seem to be some apprehensions within Chinese strategic circles about the stability of this new coalition government
Chinese reactions to Nepal’s election result Either due to the havoc wreaked by the ongoing COVID crisis or confounded by the complexity of Nepali politics, the Chinese reaction to Nepal’s election results, as evident from the debates and discussions in the Chinese internet circles, has been rather muted. Overall, Chinese observers are of the opinion that the 2022 Nepal election results are a positive development for China, as the Communist Parties of Nepal (CPN, United Marxist-Leninist and the CPN, Maoist) have re-united and firmly grasped political power in Nepal, at least for the next few years. Some outrightly called it a “strategic defeat” for the United States, whose recent efforts of making inroads in the Himalayan nation, particularly through the signing of the US$500 million Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) compact or proposing the US state partnership plan (SPP) etc, have been successfully thwarted. The American inroads in Nepal have been a recurrent theme in China’s Nepal discourse in the last few months, where Chinese observers have been particularly critical of the trend of political alternatives emerging in Nepal (mostly championed by western-educated Nepali youths) and also accused a section of Nepali media of being American lobbyists, promoting western style democracy in Nepal and opposing communism. There were also allegations that the US is lobbying hard to put a weaker, non-communist president at the helm of Nepal, so as to meet its strategic needs. From that perspective, the Chinese side seemed somewhat relieved that with the re-emergence of a government dominated by the Communist Party, the appeal of communism in Nepal’s society and polity stays intact and could not be shaken by the US and its values and ideologies. They argued that now with left-wing political parties back in power in Nepal and the ruling party alliance led by the Congress Party essentially broken down, with former Nepali PM Sher Bahadur Deuba facing defeat, the MCC issue is going to be raked up once again and will have to face new challenges in its implementation process. Overall, under the new situation in Nepal, Chinese observers asserted, the Americans will have to substantially adjust their Nepal policy.

The Chinese side seemed somewhat relieved that with the re-emergence of a government dominated by the Communist Party, the appeal of communism in Nepal’s society and polity stays intact.

In the Chinese assessment, the failure of the Nepali Congress is bad news for India as well. It is argued that both the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) and the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist) are veritable communist parties, that are inherently close to CPC and psychologically attuned to prioritising Beijing’s interest over New Delhi or Washington. Although former prime-minister KP Oli might be China’s biggest asset in Nepal so far, Chinese observers noted that the new Nepali PM is also no less “pro-China”. It was Prachanda, they pointed out, who after becoming the Prime Minister of Nepal for the first time in 2008, had changed Nepal’s diplomatic tradition of visiting India first when new Nepalese officials took office. No wonder, even when out of power, he was attended by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during his Kathmandu visit in March 2022, they noted. Thus, in a way, signalling that from Beijing’s perspective, it might very well be the “payback time” for Prachanda. From that perspective, the Chinese thrust this time seems to be on fast-tracking China-Nepal Railway, which is currently in the exploration stage. There have been reports that Chinese experts have already been visiting Nepal to do preliminary research work. In the name of “helping Nepal in reducing its dependence on India”, “safeguarding its sovereignty” etc., China wants to expedite its Belt and Road plans, and make some quick tangible progress in the proposed China-Nepal-India Corridor. This can not only provide some positive publicity for China’s BRI, which presently remains mired in various controversies, but also make a stern statement to an increasingly defiant India. On the other hand, as tension refuses to die down on China-India disputed border, China might also seek to create pressure on the new administration in Nepal to rake up the disputed territory issue with India and strengthen China’s position in, what they call, “3D打印 (3D-printing)”—a slang often used in Chinese online circles, meaning… attacking/harassing India (印度) from three sides (China, Pakistan, and Nepal).

In the Chinese assessment, the political stability of Nepal in the next five years is going to be a low-probability event, with various alliances doomed to split and reunite, producing one new prime minister after another.

However, despite all the enthusiasm over the “communist victory” in Nepal, there seem to be some apprehensions within Chinese strategic circles about the stability of the new coalition government in Nepal, comprising multiple political parties. It is noted with concern that this is not the first time that Prachanda and Oli had reached a 2.5+2.5 term sharing agreement. They had agreed to such an agreement after the 2017 general election, and had even merged their respective parties to form the Communist Party of Nepal. However, developments since then have only repeatedly demonstrated the fragility of such an alliance. And from that perspective, Chinese observers believe Prachanda's current rise to power this time is only “built on sand”. In the Chinese assessment, the political stability of Nepal in the next five years is going to be a low-probability event, with various alliances doomed to split and reunite, producing one new prime minister after another. This is something, the Chinese side is most worried about, as they believe that this instability could leave space for further “manipulation or interference” by other external forces including the US or India. Under such circumstances, the Chinese side seems somewhat sceptical of how much exactly the Nepali communists, despite their astounding win, can deliver on-ground for China.
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Author

Antara Ghosal Singh

Antara Ghosal Singh

Antara Ghosal Singh is a Fellow at the Strategic Studies Programme at Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi. Her area of research includes China-India relations, China-India-US ...

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