Mounting Northern Discomfort

“There are no communists in Nepal, all are employees of CIA and RAW”. Such sentiments have lost their ability to shock us. But maybe they do gain some traction when attributed to people like Li Zhanshu, chairman of China’s National People’s Congress, or parliament.
Granted, the news was carried by a secondary segment of Nepal’s media. The copyeditor wrote the headline based on something that wasn’t even in the text. Moreover, the lack of sourcing and mere allusion to a special conference of the Chinese Communist Party raised more questions.
Still, the background, temperament and record of the personage purported to have made the comment lent some credence.
Expressing concern over the political situation in Nepal, Li said Western powers were dominating the country’s politics. Despite having a two-thirds majority in parliament, he continued, Nepali communists have been accused of working for foreign powers and not for the country and the people.
Specifically, Li was quoted as saying, the United States and the West were working hard against the communist ideology and were investing billions of dollars in Nepal to tear the communist party to pieces.
The current government was trying to appease foreign powers in order to maintain its power, Li said, and accused India and the United States of manufacturing a border dispute with China with ulterior motives. Nepal, he recalled, could not even call the Indian blockade of 2015 a blockade or resolve its long-running border dispute with India.
Li said the United States had brought the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) project in Nepal to encircle China, in keeping with Washington’s tradition of never providing selfless assistance to anyone. Furthermore, he said, the MCC project is eyeing Nepal's precious minerals and would ultimately make Nepalis bear all the losses. Considered a rising star, Li was elected to the politburo of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in November 2012, something uncharacteristic for a chief of the party’s General Office. He owes his political clout to proximity to President and CCP general secretary Xi Jinping.
As the director of the General Office of the Communist Party, Li handled Xi's daily activities, a job that  included management of classified documents, correspondence, security and the president’s health care. He also helped the president advance key policies.
On foreign policy, Li played a major role in facilitating the strong relationship between China and Russia. He was believed to be the first General Office chief in post-Mao China to have played such an active role in foreign affairs. For example, in 2015 Li was sent as a ‘special representative’ of Xi to meet with Vladimir Putin in Moscow. He has accompanied Xi on the leader’s key foreign visits.
Since assuming the leadership of the National People’s Congress in March 2018, Li has been active in promoting China’s relations with its neighbors, including those in South Asia.
Much remains unclear as why Li would make such outspoken comments on Nepal’s relations with third countries. Equally obscure remains the agenda of the ‘special conference’ of the CCP that would have prompted such forthrightness from such a senior Chinese official.
Given China’s rhetorically assertive foreign policy pronouncements in recent years and the opportunities apparatchiks in Beijing have been so gleefully detecting around the world, Li’s brashness becomes understandable. What we can or will do about it is, of course, a different matter altogether.
Maila Baje---@nepalinetbook/blogspot

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