The team met President Bhandari, Prime Minister Oli and Chairmen of other NCP faction, Dahal and Nepal, and suggested all of them work to preserve party unity. Though the visiting team could not immediately succeed in bringing together the deeply divided NCP, media reported that it had managed to somewhat pacify the two factions, keeping the hope of a future alliance or unity alive. Due to China's keen interest and effort in bringing together communist groups of Nepal and maintaining their unity, there have been speculations that this will not be China's last attempt to unite Nepali communists. It will probably continue to invest politically, diplomatically, financially and emotionally in this cause, with long-term and larger goals in mind.
The chances of immediate reconciliation between the two NCP groups are slim. Dahal-Nepal faction is vehemently opposed to Oli’s dissolution of parliament and sees it as a blow to the country’s yet-to-be institutionalized constitution, federalism and political stability. This faction has sacked PM Oli from the post of party chairman and leader of parliamentary group. Dahal has taken over as the leader of the now defunct parliamentary group and another influential leader Madhav Kumar Nepal has been declared chairman of this faction.
Oli's faction in the NCP has sacked Dahal, the party’s 'Executive Chairman', and added hundreds of new members to its Central Committee to ensure its majority. Both factions claim to be the true successor of the NCP and each has laid its claim on the party’s old election symbol, the Sun. In a revealing interview with journalist Rupesh Shrestha for Fireside, a popular interview program on Kantipur Television, Dahal admitted to a de facto party split , and awaiting de jure split. This is the current situation in the ruling party. I will be referring to this interview several times in this write up as it offers insights into many things I intend to explain and analyze here from the 'horse's mouth'.
After the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between the two countries in August 1955, China had perhaps never before shown this level of interest in managing Nepal's internal affairs. And it must also be rare, if not the first time, that China's overt and explicit maneuvers have been roundly criticized by Nepali media which otherwise exercise restraint to the extent of invisible censorship while publishing news and views about China. They have written editorials condemning China's highhandedness in Nepal. China's role has also been criticized by leaders of opposition parties like Nepali Congress and Janata Samajbadi Party Nepal and even by some leaders of the NCP. It seems Oli has of late felt out of China’s favor and it could be one important reason that compelled him to take the extreme step of parliament dissolution. Aware of such negative criticism in Nepal, the Chinese side tried to finesse the purpose of their Nepal visit. They termed the visit an act of reaching out to neighborhood and improve relations with neighbors before the centenary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 2021. The visiting team tried to diffuse the criticism by meeting Nepali Congress leader Sher Bahadur Deuba and Janata Samajbadi Party leader Dr. Baburam Bhattarai but some details of their secret meetings with Nepali communist leaders had already leaked in Nepali press. There remained no doubt that they were here to keep the NCP united. In the interview with Kantipur Television (mentioned above), Dahal admitted that the Chinese team had tried to persuade him on the same.
In spite of knowing about such a deep divide in the ruling NCP why is China so desperate to maintain and preserve the left alliance and unity in Nepal? Why has it been interested in playing a greater role in Nepal's internal politics and creating still bigger strategic space for itself? It is necessary to situate China's present activities in Nepal in the canvas of its long-term objectives and strategies. It is also important to know how China has been able to play a greater role in Nepal and why. Let's try to explore answers to these questions.
Several factors have contributed to China playing a bigger role in Nepal: the overthrow of monarchy, China's trusted institution in Nepal, in May 2008; China's new policy of 'Going Out' to invest abroad and its new approach of being heard and seen on the global stage; China's perception that rivals are trying to encircle it via a policy of 'containment of China', and China's willingness to give a befitting response; and an increase in the number of nationalist communists in Nepal.
From the middle of the 1950s to the first decade of 21st century China maintained 'low profile' in relations with Nepal. It did not interfere in Nepal's internal affairs and aided its developmental efforts by helping build many highways and industries. Though Nepal's monarchy was theoretically incongruent with China's communist rule, China had found a trustworthy friend in that institution. Monarchial Nepal would address China's sensitive security interests mainly originating from dissident Tibetan refugees in Nepal and would always respect and lend support to One China Policy. Nepal also controlled the Tibetan rebellion on Nepali soil. Their shared ambivalence towards India, Nepal's need to balance India's interference, and China's desire to project itself as a power respectful of sovereignty of small nations brought together these two countries with two different political systems. This state of affairs continued until the first decade of the 21st century. After Nepal was declared a republic, China started extending relations with various political and social forces, just like powers like India and the US had been doing.
It started cultivating ties with sub-state actors like political parties, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), security forces, media and intellectuals, but it mainly dealt with whoever was in government. Due to its instable politics and short-term governments during the transition phase, China got closer to various political groups including communist parties of Nepal. China might have felt it easier to be close to Nepali communists rather than Nepali Congress or Madhesh-centered parties that are traditionally inclined towards India on ideological grounds. Relations between the CPC and China's party state on one hand, and the NCP and its government on the other, were consolidated as a result of several conscious efforts from the two sides. In time, it created a kind of acceptance for China's 'positive role' in internal affairs of NCP and hence Nepal.
China was guided by the visions of its paramount leader Deng Xiaoping who not only introduced market economy side-by-side China's socialist economy but also believed in 'maintaining low profile but getting things done.' Deng had once been a victim of Chairman Mao’s purge. But after being reinstated in the party he improved relations with the West and imposed two-term limit on high-ranking Chinese leaders like General Secretary of CPC (the President of Chinese State) and Premiers. China also pursued 'post-ideological foreign policy' mainly under Deng’s leadership so that it would not lend financial or material or even moral support to communist rebellions in other parts of the world. China walked this path until the coming of Xi Jinping to power. He has given continuity to policies of reform and open market and embraced globalization but Xi has also undone many provisions instituted by China's revered paramount leader. The two-term limit for high-rank Chinese politicians has been scrapped. Xi is allowed to go beyond two terms as President and would be able to serve life-long if he so wishes. He has adopted the policy of 'Going out' and decided to be assertive, heard and seen on the global stage.
For this purpose, Xi has come up his ambitious signature project, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the world's largest infrastructure and development project that would contribute to the distribution of largest amount of public goods were it to be successful. The BRI is not limited to infrastructure but includes almost everything—infrastructure, health, education, science, environment, culture and many more—that influence social, economic and hence political life of Asia, Europe, Africa and other continents—all by keeping China at the center of this transformation. Xi seems to be trying to rewrite the world order in China's favor by transforming the existing one that puts the Western powers at the top. He is the only leader after Mao to have his thought included in the Constitution of Chinese State and CPC's Constitution while still in power. Power projection both on domestic as well as foreign fronts is necessary for such a powerful leader to retain his public legitimacy. China's assertive and at times offensive postures worldwide including in Nepal should be seen as obvious manifestations of policies of the present-day Chinese leadership. Though Xi as an individual is thought to be very capable and rational politician, critics worry that the end of two-term limit could make Chinese leadership more authoritarian and have undesired consequences for China and the world.
China is now an important player in global political chessboard and is influential not only in Latin America, Africa and Asia but also in Europe, Australia and North America. The West has come up with a 'China threat theory' because of fears that China would destabilize the liberal political-economic order instituted and sustained by the West. China for its part says the theory is a narrative to obstruct 'China's peaceful rise'. China is now the world’s largest manufacturing center, has the biggest reserve of foreign currency, is the largest global economy on purchasing power parity basis, and has the highest total expenditure by outbound tourists. China is also a formidable military power. Though it is far behind the US in terms of military expenditure and global presence, China is thought of as capable of filling the military capability differential with the US if it so wishes. China already has ability to largely deter the US from initiating any offensive against it.
China alone is not responsible for its enhanced role in Nepal. Factors intrinsic to Nepal have contributed too. China's influence on Nepal’s communist groups and left intellectuals, a real or perceived ideological commonality between the NCP and the CPC, and the desire of nationalist communists in Nepal to balance India's role by inviting China are pull factors that enable China to widen its strategic space in the NCP. Nepali elites, leftists, rightists and centrists, all show a dangerous tendency of inviting or even dragging a foreign power to play a greater role in Nepal's internal affairs for their vested interests. Though this may sound like generalization, it is true with only rare exceptions.
China's new-found proximity with Nepali communists especially ruling the NCP has enabled it to shape Nepal's domestic politics, a big change from its low-profile engagement until the start of the second decade of this century. Before the 2017 elections, China maintained good relations with all political parties of Nepal but preferred state-to-state ties.
China’s desires to keep the ruling NCP intact and to give continuity to Nepal’s communist government have to be seen in the context of China's possible objectives, old and new, vis-à-vis Nepal.
China’s goals in Nepal
Evaluating China's activities in Nepal in the past decade or so, China seems to have the following objectives in Nepal, not necessarily in the order discussed here. First, it wants to maintain unity among major communist factions. It wants to do so as the first step in attainment of its long-term goals. In the past five years China has invested heavily—politically, emotionally, diplomatically and no doubt financially—towards this end. Around 50 percent voters in Nepal lean towards communists, which can easily translate into over two-thirds majority in parliamentary elections if all of them are united.
Nepal has been an exception in that the number of communist parties and voters here have been continuously rising even after Francis Fukuyama’s 1990 declaration of 'End of History' marking the 'defeat of communism' at the hands of the liberal democratic ideology. Most probably, Nepal is the only country in the world where a decade-long communist rebellion was a success (in terms of political outcomes). Though China did not help the communist rebellion at the time, it might after the end of monarchy have found trustworthy friends in Nepali communists.
In an article titled “Nepali Communist Parties in Elections: Participation and Representation” published in Dristikon Journal (Vol.10, no.1), Amrit Kumar Shrestha, Associate Professor of Political Science in Tribhuvan University, Kirtipur, has worked out total votes obtained by Nepali communist parties since Nepal’s first democratic elections in 1959. According to data compiled by Shrestha, the Nepal Communist Party obtained just 7.21 percent of total votes in the historic first parliamentary elections of 1959. In the parliamentary elections held in 1991 following the restoration of democracy in 1990, the communists got 38.51 percent votes. Likewise, their vote-share in 1994 and 1999 elections were 35.52 percent and 41.16 percent respectively.
After the Maoists entered the peace process in 2006, the combined votes of the communist parties in the first Constitution Assembly elections in April 2008 amounted to 57.67 percent (FPTP) and 57.45 percent (proportional representation). In the elections of the second Constitution Assembly in November 2013, their combined votes decreased slightly, to 48.15 percent (FPTP) and 43.25 percent (proportional). In the last parliamentary elections in November/December 2017 they garnered 47.65 percent FPTP and 48.50 percent proportional system votes, respectively. Though these are combined votes of about half a dozen communist parties, the two largest, CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Center), together got over 45 percent of the total votes in 2017 elections. This translated into a near two-thirds majority in Nepal's lower house of the parliament, even though the election system was a mix of FPTP and proportional representation.
Nepali communists, because of their ideological indoctrination and socialization, are anti-India and anti-West, and hesitate to accept liberal democracy wholeheartedly. Though Nepali communist leaders have spent a lot time in India, during Panchayat era and later during the armed insurgency, they have been compelled to use anti-India rhetoric in their official documents, trainings and speeches. True, anti-India feelings in Nepal are often made worse by India's overbearing and coercive tactics. But Nepali communists have always been soft towards China because of their 'ideology' and training. China most probably saw this as an opportunity to get closer to them: forge closer ties with communist leaders and intellectuals and create strategic space for itself, to the extent that it could play a mediating role in party conflicts.
China's second objective, built on the first, seems to be a stable government in Nepal. In the abovementioned context, it now means a stable 'communist' government. This, according to statements of Chinese officials, media and scholars, is necessary to protect China's security interests in Nepal—such security threats mainly arising from Tibetan refugees and China’s rivals like India, the US and other Western powers using Nepali soil to keep an eye on and destabilize China or weaken its presence in the neighborhood.
China advocates stable government here for other reasons as well. For instance, Chinese officials and intellectuals have said that Nepal needs 'stable' politics to create conducive environment for Chinese investment including in big BRI projects. China has repeatedly emphasized the need for stable government and politics in Nepal in documents and discussions related to trade, investment and tourism as well. China has started becoming more vocal and active about it.
China's third objective is to ensure that Nepal does not become fertile ground for anti-China activities by Tibetan refugees, some of whom are engaged in naming and shaming China at the provocation of Western forces. With China's unprecedented rise as economic and military power, the country’s containment has started becoming overt and more pronounced. The US has recently asked Nepal to provide documents to Tibetan refugees to ease their travel and make it easier for them to get jobs. Members of US Congress have in the past criticized Nepal of being hostile and not sympathetic to Tibetan refugees. There are visible things. But many things in international power politics transpire beneath the surface. China is aware that Nepal could be used as one location in its 'strategic encirclement'. Hence China is in favor of a stable and friendly government.
Forth, for a great power or an aspiring superpower, it is not unnatural to try to create a friendly and favorable neighborhood. In international power politics influence in neighborhood is taken as an important measure of power projection. Though China says that it does not believe in 'imperial' and colonial perspectives like ‘spheres of influence’ and ‘buffers zone’, its rising power and response to rivals might have 'forced' it to project power in different parts of the globe. China is competing for influence with the US, Japan, India and other Western powers in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and even in Europe. Nepal is just another such place.
China's fifth objective in Nepal might be to be the most powerful player here and directly hurt Indian and American interests. Nepali analysts and journalists often hesitate to discuss this aspect of Chinese behavior. After all, the statement 'offence is the best defense' used in day-to-day life by some egoists often finds its place in international politics and international relations theories. According to offensive realism, an international relations theory, in the uncertain and unpredictable global power games, offence may be the best form of defense. In Nepal, China is usually perceived as disinterested, benign and benevolent power. As China has wielded its soft power in Nepal rather successfully (as will be discussed in this article) a lot of positive information about China flows through media and social sites. In Nepal, being positive or soft on China is almost synonymous with being a nationalist. China might have been willing to cash in this public perception and maintain strong foothold in Nepal as a 'pre-emptive' blow against current and probable 'anti-China' activities here.
China is a rational actor in international politics. The way China has engaged with India's permanent foe Pakistan shows that the 'all-weather friendship' between the two might not have been so deep without India’s involvement in the equation. Many Indian politicians and scholars accuse China of using Pakistan to keep India entangled in regional affairs and preventing its rise as a global power. Spectrum of engagement between China and Pakistan from arms and ammunition, technology transfer, BRI, and other strategic issues clearly indicate the India angle in their joint strategic initiatives.
During the Galwan Valley crisis, the way Chinese scholars, media and officials spoke about the probability of India facing a three-front conflict with China, Pakistan and Nepal suggests they are trying to use Nepal against India. Conflict with small neighbors may be a source of irritation for regional or great powers. And using Nepal to irritate India might have been one of China's goals. Knowing or unknowingly, we usually overlook this aspect of China's behavior in Nepal.
The fact that China wants to create strategic space in Nepal at the cost of other powers is also evident from the way it showed its displeasure at Nepal's readiness to accept grants from the US Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) projects. China appears to want to stretch the notion of 'stable government in Nepal' to mean a government that draws Nepal closer to China at the expense of Nepal's traditional relations with India, the US and other Western powers. Though China's official rhetoric on the MCC is that Nepal is free to accept or decline it according to its need, Chinese media and scholars have also been saying that the MCC is a part of the Indo-Pacific Strategy and Nepal should thus reject it. Nepali politicians and scholars, mainly leftists, who usually give voice to China's interests in Nepal, are vehemently opposed to the MCC. They have been spreading all sorts of rumors against it. His willingness to accept MCC projects is thought to be a reason KP Oli fell out of Chinese favor. Dahal, during a joint virtual program of CPC and NCP, committed to not accepting any assistance that would be detrimental to security of Nepal and its neighbors, clearly alluding to the MCC. But PM Oli as well as his foreign minister Pradeep Gyawali and Finance Minister Bishnu Prasad Paudel are clearly in favor of the MCC. Hence, China, which was earlier in favor of continuation of Oli's government leadership, is said to have changed its position. Later, if Nepali scholars and politicians with close ties with China are to be believed, Chinese were of the view that 'NCP should remain intact and should run the government but we do not have problem with who leads it.'
The MCC, the $55 million project, targeting Nepal's energy sector, especially construction of transmission lines, is not a huge project in terms of financial assistance. But its refusal especially at China's provocations may not be taken lightly by the world's only superpower. Rejection of the MCC would not only mean rejection of US 'goodwill gesture' but a clear indication of Nepal moving into China's fold. The US has felt threatened by China's rise and is seeking ways to contain it in various ways in the global political great game. NCP leader Dahal in the same interview with Rupesh Shrestha hinted that the MCC might have been the reason behind the dissolution of House of Representative. He did not elaborate but requested democratic countries like India and the US to speak against House dissolution, a great blow to democracy and constitution. This request was meaningful and probably hinted of a rapprochement with India, the US and other democratic countries. But both India and the US in their official statements have said that recent political developments within Nepal are its internal affair. Their position is thought to favor Oli.
That the MCC might have been an important reason for the NCP split is also indicated by the fact that PM Oli and leader of opposition Sher Bahadur Deuba, both MCC supporters, are also said to have similar views on latest political developments.
The deeper Chinese engagements in Nepal get, other big powers that have major stakes in here are looking to respond. Great powers do not easily give up their prerogatives in the zero sum nature of international politics. But if Nepal cannot manage this game, we may have unforeseen and dangerous consequences. Nepali elites and intellectuals fear Nepal could become next Afghanistan or an altogether different geopolitical battleground. Such fears seem to be gaining strength due to colliding interests of great powers.
Is the CPC's and Chinese state's growing intimacy with NCP an indication of 'ideology' coming back into China's foreign policy? Has it taken a policy of strengthening relations with communist parties or supporting their government? Is it the beginning of a new Cold War based on ideology, with Nepal becoming the first spot where Communists are encouraged to capture state power? Is that another of China's objectives in Nepal? That is probably not the case. China has been trying to establish relations with all sorts of political groups throughout the world irrespective of their ideologies. It might just be that China has found it easier to engage with communist groups of Nepal on ideological grounds. Historically, China has placed national interests above ideology. It has fought border wars with communist Soviet Union and Vietnam. It also supplied arms and ammunition to Nepal Army to fight Maoist rebels at the request of King Gyanendra. So it is probable that China and NCP might have found it easier to use 'ideology' as a pretext to consolidate their ties.
Though India, a regional power, and the US, a global power, were for long engaged in Nepal in line with their interests, China's transformation from apparently a low-profile and benign actor to a player with great impact in Nepal has been rather speedy and dramatic.
From low- to high-profile engagement
Nepal's powerful northern neighbor China assumed low profile in its relations with Nepal after the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between on 1 August 1955. Five principles of peaceful co-existence (Panchasheela) that included mutual respect for each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty, mutual non-aggression, mutual non-interference in each other's internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and co-existence were mentioned in the Treaty of Peace and Friendship signed between Nepal and China on April 1960, as well as in other bilateral agreements, most probably at Nepal's insistence. For example, principles of Panchasheela were either mentioned or the commitment to abide by them were categorically mentioned in the Joint Communiqué on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations signed in Kathmandu on 1 August 1955, the Joint Communiqué on Talks for the Maintenance of Friendly Relations signed in Kathmandu in September 1956, the Agreement to Maintain Friendly Relations and on Trade and Intercourse signed in Kathmandu in September 1956, the Sino Nepali Boundary Agreement signed in Peking, the Boundary Treaty signed in 5 October 1961 in Peking, the Boundary Protocol signed in Peking on 20 January 1963, and even the Agreement signed between Tibet Autonomous Region of China and Nepal on 2 May 1966.
These five principles of Panchasheela were emphatically mentioned most probably to allay Nepal's concerns vis-à-vis certain claims by China's successive regimes, from its erstwhile emperors to Mao Zedong. In the 1791-92 Nepal-Tibet war, China sent its army in support of Tibet to fight and defeat Nepal. As a result the 'Treaty of Kerung' was signed in 1792, compelling Nepal to send quinquennial (five yearly) gift missions to Chinese emperors in Peking. These missions would travel all the way from Kathmandu to Peking via Tibet and they continued till 1906. Though they were called five-yearly missions they were irregular.
Nepali side saw the gifts as Mamuli Saugat (ordinary gifts), but Chinese emperors interpreted them as tributes from their 'tributary or dependent or feudatory' Gorkha Kingdom. In other words, Chinese interpreted the agreement to send gifts to Peking as Nepal’s acceptance of tributary status. Historians like Baburam Acharya, Tri Ratna Manandhar, Vijay Kumar Manandhar, Gyan Mani Nepal among others have written in great details about Nepal's gift missions to China and differing interpretations of the two sides. Chinese interpretations were not limited to Gorkhalis, but all kingdoms sending gifts to powerful Chinese emperors with the aim of keeping them happy or at least not inviting their displeasure.
Chinese emperors used to consider themselves 'Sons of Heaven' and those who sent gifts as barbarians and their tributaries. Books and journal articles on China's history unanimously agree on this point. Henry Kissinger's popular book 'On China' that is widely read in Nepal also discusses such interpretations of powerful Chinese emperors. These emperors sent return gifts to Nepali rulers and conferred titles on Nepali kings and later on Rana Prime Ministers through those missions. Nepali rulers accepted those titles with pride, without understanding that acceptance of the title meant acceptance of Nepal as tributary state of China in the eyes of Chinese emperors. When Rana Prime Minister Chandra Shamsher learned of this interpretation in 1910 from a British minister in Peking, he discontinued the gift-sending missions. Nepal could do so as the British India had guaranteed its security due to various appeasing tactics of the Ranas. China too had become weak due of internal conflicts during what Chinese like to call 'the century of humiliation'.
Chinese emperors in Peking were to be replaced by the Republicans led by Sun Yat-sen. In the course of China's internally turbulent times that were also marked by foreign interventions, it was ruled by the nationalists led by Chiang Kai-shek and by communists led by Mao Zedong. But Chinese narrative with respect to 'tributary states' including Nepal continued to survive. China applied such a narrative not only to Nepal but also Korea, Tibet, Mongolia and others. Even Mao is said to have listed territories like Hong Kong, Macau, Korea, Burma and even Nepal as China's lost territories during China's century of humiliation and emphasized the need to get them back.
Nepali leaders were apprehensive about China's intent on Nepal even after the establishment of democracy in February 1951. China's formal occupation of Tibet in 1950-51 enhanced the fears of Nepali rulers. A sequence of events after the occupation such as Western powers’ attempts to exclude communist China and accept Chiang Kai-shek-led Republic of China in Taiwan, necessitated China taking measures to be accepted as a responsible member of the international community. China accepted sovereign equality of small countries like Nepal and Burma (now Myanmar) and Chinese communists started assuring Third World countries that they did not have imperial desires. Nor did they believe in colonial-era doctrines of spheres of influence. Nepal was still hesitant to establish formal bilateral relations. But Nepal's heavy dependence on India and India's apparent highhandedness made a section of Nepali elites contemplate formal relations with China. China's reassurances about respecting independence, integrity and sovereign equality of states big or small, rich or poor, in international platforms such as meetings of Non-Aligned Movement and bilateral dealings had persuaded Nepal. In addition, being in good terms with a powerful neighbor is a good approach in its own right.
It was in this backdrop that the Principles of Panchasheela were mentioned in many treaties and agreements between Nepal and China. From that time until the end of monarchy in May 2008, China remained respectful of Nepal's sovereignty, assisted generously in Nepal's developmental and did not take much interest in its internal affairs. Though monarchy was conceptually and philosophically incongruent to communism, China found a trustworthy friend in that 'stable' institution. During the time of active monarchy until 1990, China relied on it to address its security interests, which were mainly limited to Tibetan refugees and their use by foreign powers. Even after the restoration of democracy in 1990 and onset of multiparty democracy and constitutional monarchy, kings in Nepal retained significant powers. China had good relations with these kings, even though the Chinese now also had good relations with the government of the day.
Only after monarchy was overthrown did China start to cultivate relations with various other social and political forces in Nepal. In an interview for my master's level thesis, Nepal's senior journalist Yubaraj Ghimire had told me that China started reaching out to many sub-state actors mainly because Nepal's central authority had been diffused. In the process of exploration, they probably came to realize that Nepali communists could be reliable partners as they could easily secure majority in elections if they united. They were closer to China ideologically and most probably would support China's other goals.
China's gestures were reciprocated by Nepali communists, and it was given a role in the unification of two big Nepali communist parties. China's ability to use soft power mainly among leftist politicians and intellectuals will be discussed somewhere else in this write-up. China all of a sudden emerged as a great player in Nepal and started shaping Nepal's internal politics after the party it had helped come into being got almost two-thirds majority in the federal lower house and thumping majorities in National Assembly and provincial assemblies. But China was not the only factor responsible for the unification of then CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Center)—it’s role was rather active but secondary.
After NCP formed the government, the proximity between CPC and Chinese party state on one hand, and NCP and NCP government in Nepal on the other, intensified. The CPC appeared more and more confident in having a say in NCP's internal matters. China also tried to help the government improve its image in various ways. President Xi Jinping's visit to Nepal in October 2019, the agreement on the Trans-Himalayan Connectivity Network, big Chinese investment, mentioning of Nepal as an important BRI country, China's promotion of tourism in Nepal are some ways in which China tried to bring credit to NCP government. Evaluating some recent interactions between the CPC and the NCP helps us understand how China rapidly built its position in Nepal by wielding 'soft power' over Nepal's political elites, especially in NCP and opinion makers close to the party.
The second part of this article dealing with the CPC’s ties with the NCP, Chinese soft power, the India factor, and dangers of communist China will be published next Monday, Jan 25
The author has a Masters in International Relations from South Asian University in New Delhi and is the Managing Editor of Nepali Journal of Contemporary Studies