At a time when the entire nation is in eddy debates about Nepal’s upcoming parliamentary elections on November 20 and the fate of the candidates for the same, there is another world attention and speculation about our northern neighbor, the People’s Republic of China, which gears up in holding People’s Congress beginning on 16 October to elect their Supreme leader.
World leaders envy the strong leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC), under whom China has achieved such great success and has put itself among the world’s most prosperous and stable countries. Therefore, President Xi, considered the most powerful figure after Chairman Mao will have a much greater role in addressing the world’s geopolitical and geo-economic challenges. Not to mention the whole of China marches to a great leap forward economically, politically, and militarily. Analysts predict the US and PRC will remain in an ugly time, despite unscrupulous trades during Xi’s tenure. Xi is clear about the US forcefully abides by an existential strategic approach to the PRC with mainly two objectives: first, to improve their resilient capacity, including their alliances and partners from alleged challenges from the latter; and secondly, to persuade, dictate or even compel Beijing to remain docile against the former.
While the West would be unworried to witness unusual results in this upcoming Congress in Beijing but incumbent supreme Xi’s probability to remain as General Secretary and Chief of China’s Communist Party, the President, and also the Chairman of China’s Central Military Commission is almost ‘Certain” and Mr. Xi, now at 69, will carry on with world’s most demanding contextual challenges in his possible unabated extensive tenure.
In Nepal, as the election approaches, social media is full of rhetoric against their political leaders who have had one or two terms in the house, if not a powerful ministry portfolio, after the Constituent Assembly and it was all time unpleasant to hear their performance in parliament and ministries desperately have failed. Among others, the most serious is the unemployment status, weak manufacturing base, balance of payment situation, and poor performance in agriculture, health, and even governance. Consequently, people are found to have lost their faith and trust in those leaders who had bragged to bring a change in people’s lives.
With Xi’s possible reemergence as the most powerful leader of the PRC, his cooperation and developmental approach to neighbors to expand diverse opportunities for sharing technologies, knowledge, and experience will remain all-time extraordinary. Xi visited Nepal in 2019 and pledged his support for Nepal’s developments and declared it a ‘strategic partner. The connectivity of Nepal with larger economies of both Southern and Northern neighbors will guarantee a direct positive effect on peace and harmony, fraternity, and reduced geopolitical tension in the region. South Asia’s socioeconomic indicators are weak, meaning that the quality of life, in general, is low, where Nepal fills the list. The transformation of Nepal from land-locked to land-linked, and as a bridge between these Asian powers can be strategic fallout soon to reduce our poverty by creating new opportunities in industry, tourism, agriculture, and energy among others. China is still making the transition from a largely agricultural country to a major industrial country. India is also transforming into capital and technology-intensive industries. We can learn from both.
There could be diverse development opportunities through innovations in trade and commerce and the 7000 commodities that can be traded with PRC must not be overemphasized. We may start up industrial cooperation by developing more border areas infrastructures across the country. Nepal’s tea, coffee, wine, herbal medicine, cement factories, Himalayan water industries, herbal cosmetic factories, dairy products industries, local woolen products, pashminas, woolen carpets, Bodhi Chitta, Thankas, and even meat products such as porks could be in high demand in Tibet. Besides, Nepal is likely to have more surplus hydropower resources for their requirements, indicating the vast potential for cross-border trade opportunities.
Infrastructure development is the key element needed for poverty reduction strategies. Cross-border or border areas infrastructure through road or railway, electricity transmission, or high-speed communication links will be necessary. Nepal should not delay the construction of all-weather road link-ups to all feasible border crossings.
The cross-border infrastructure reduces transportation and trade costs, increases trade, and attracts FDI flows, to set up new local industries, leading to manufacturing and hence poverty reduction. Adequate rural roads will reduce poverty by affecting the prices of goods consumed by the poor or the prices of goods sold by the poor.
Transport corridors are the second important feature. Electrification in border areas with sound transport accessibility and the creation of industrial zones will bring out dividends in the living condition of the people.
Since our history, Nepal was the shortest route to Tibet (China). During the peak of Buddhism, trading activity influenced religion and art. Nepali artist Araniko had traveled to Tibet, China, and Nepal’s Princess Bhrikuti Devi was married to Emperor Songtsen Gampo. We can now imagine the prospects of this reinvigorated trade link and develop the multitude of travel tourism potential of Kailash Mansarovar, Lumbini, and the Himalayas among many others. The greater hopes of the “One Belt, One Road” investments can be the next opportunity for reviving the Southern Silk Road (SSR) to connect the Tibetan Plateau to Nepal and extend it into Bihar in northern India and beyond for mutual economic advantage.
Most importantly, if Nepal acts as a land-linked state the distances between Indian cities and the inner cities of the PRC would be greatly reduced. Lhasa is emerging as a major transportation hub in the western part of the PRC. Five major highways converge in Lhasa: the Kunming–Lhasa, Shanghai–Chengdu–Lhasa, Beijing–Lhasa, and Yecheng–Lhasa expressways, and the Friendship Highway that connects Kathmandu (Nepal) with Lhasa. Also, the Beijing–Tibet Railway has reached Xigaste if this rail link up to Nepal is realized more economic prospects will fold out.
The plan could be to eventually link the railway to India. “The cross-border railway project, if eventually built, would surely augur well for Nepal’s economy, as the landlocked country’s transport connectivity with China currently relies on a few land ports that can’t operate amid heavy snow or geological disasters,” says Long Xingchun, president of the Chengdu Institute of World Affairs.
After Nepal’s new parliamentarians’ innings in the house, our topmost national agenda should be the well-being and prosperity of the people. There are numerous untapped areas for FDI in Nepal such as infrastructure construction, hydropower, hotel business, information and technology, health, education, and also herbal products and livestock.
Hence, firstly we should be dynamic to maximize our geographical proximity, Secondly, maximize the potential resources at the local level to enhance local-level productions, and thirdly, expedite the cross-border-commerce transaction mechanism with innovative industrial cooperation. Let the new parliamentarians think of the construction of free trade zones wherever possible to enhance trade cooperation.
PRC’s President Xi Jinping, during the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 2017 had said, ‘China will deepen relations with its neighbors in accordance with the principle of amity, sincerity, mutual benefits, and inclusiveness, and the policy of forging friendship and partnership with its neighbors.’
Given the situation that Nepali people are conversant with China’s astounding development and its unlimited prospects in the future, we can also thrive by upholding our national ‘mantra’ to pursue a similar methodology as to how China managed to bring out a larger population from poverty in the quickest time unprecedented in world’s history.
As a good neighbor of Nepal, we should increasingly engage with Beijing in the diplomatic, economic, and security domains and learn to develop. We should chalk out a workable, pragmatic, and beneficial strategy for our cooperation soon to alleviate the poverty of the Nepali people.
The Nepali people will remain poor and underprivileged unless our new elect representatives of the country display honesty, integrity, and efficiency to fruitage practical economic initiatives to serve this nation and people maximizing the spirit of this ‘strategic partnership’. Of course, we lie in the central part of this thesis, but we are yet to discover its potential strength to maximize this term.