Musing on Chinese Vice Minister Fu Ying’s message to Bhutan

Musing on Chinese Vice Minister Fu Ying’s message to Bhutan

Bhuchung K. Tsering

Bhutanese media have been reporting about the 20th round of talks between Bhutan and China taking place on August 10, 2012. Chinese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms Fu Ying, is said to be leading an eight-member delegation for the talks. Aimed to coincide with the talks, Bhutan’s Kuensel newspaper also carries a message from Vice Minister Fu Ying (see below).

Lyonpo Khandu Wangchuk is leading the Bhutanese side.

I am intrigued by two things: one relating to the substance, and the other, to the process.

Vice Minister Fu Ying

In terms of substance, Vice Minister Fu Ying would like Bhutan and China to “speed up border talks in the spirit of mutual understanding and accommodation, with a view to arriving at a fair and reasonable and mutually acceptable solution.”  Indeed, given that the first round of talks started in April of 1984 (during the time of Lyonpo Dawa Tsering), the Chinese desire for a “speed up” is understandable. However, what is this “accommodation” about and who is to do that? Given that the head of the Chinese delegation is saying this, I guess the message is to Bhutan. I am sure the issue will be discussed by Bhutanese policy makers and the increasingly assertive media in Thimphu. They need to do that.

Another substance issue is the reference to Tibet in Vice Minister Fu Ying’s message. She says, “We count on Bhutan’s continued support on matters bearing on the vital interests of China, such as those relating to Taiwan and Tibet.” I will just increase the suspense by saying that watchers of China will notice that this formulation is somewhat different from those done with many other countries. I am sure there is a message here.

In terms of the process, may be I need to search better, but there is no reference at all in the Chinese media about this 20th round of talks with Bhutan. In fact, the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s website has no announcement about any visit by Vice Minister Fu Ying to Bhutan, even in its Diplomatic Agenda section, that lists the activities of China’s  foreign ministry officials. I don’t know what this means, or I may  just be paranoid.

Lastly, Vice Minister Fu Ying may be hinting at India when she says, “Friendship between China and Bhutan will not hurt anyone’s interests.” Whether it will hurt India or not, if Bhutan is not careful, it might certainly hurt the interest of the Bhutanese people.
Take a lesson from modern Tibetan history, my Drukpa friends!

Kuensel, August 9, 2012

It is time for China and Bhutan to build bridges of friendship and cooperation

It is a great pleasure for me to make my first ever visit to the Kingdom of Bhutan, a member of the big Asian family, known around the world for its beautiful landscape, rich cultural heritage and friendly people. As Bhutan’s biggest neighbor, we are glad to see Bhutan enjoying economic growth, social stability and rising international standing under the leadership of His Majesty the King and the Royal Government of Bhutan. And many more Chinese people got an opportunity to know Bhutan better last year through the Royal wedding, which was widely reported in China. Bhutan set a new image for itself as a dynamic, promising and happy Kingdom.

China and Bhutan share a long history of exchanges and much culture affinity, and each has worked hard to explore its own way of development. The Gross National Happiness concept Bhutan has proposed is gaining popularity worldwide. On its part China is committed to peaceful development. We follow foreign policy of developing friendships and partnerships with our neighbors. The Chinese people have nothing but friendly sentiments towards the people of Bhutan. In fact, like me, many of them are curious about “Druk Tsendhen-the thunder dragon Kingdom.”

China-Bhutan relations have come a long way in the past 30 years. The two countries have conducted 19 rounds of border talks and reached much common understanding on addressing the boundary issue and advancing China-Bhutan relations. Many Chinese people wrote to the Chinese Foreign Ministry suggesting that China should establish diplomatic relations with our friendly neighbor Bhutan. Some business people also called for setting up direct trade links between the two countries. Many Chinese tourists would be eager to travel to Bhutan if there would be direct flight connections.

About six weeks ago Premier Wen Jiabao and Prime Minister Jigme Thinley met for a historic, first-time meeting between the two countries at the head of government level in Rio de Janeiro on the sidelines of the Rio+20 summit. The two leaders reached new and important common understanding on the development of China-Bhutan relations.

While the world around us is undergoing enormous changes, peace, development and cooperation remain the aspiration of most countries. Those with foresight would always follow the main trend of the times. A look around the region would suggest that in the era of common development of Asia, it is time for China and Bhutan to build bridges of friendship and cooperation.

China respects the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bhutan, as well as Bhutan’s social system and path of development chosen by Bhutan in light of your national conditions. We respect Bhutan’s cultural traditions and its independent and peaceful foreign policy. We count on Bhutan’s continued support on matters bearing on the vital interests of China, such as those relating to Taiwan and Tibet.

We took note of the fact that Bhutan is increasing its international exchanges. We are willing to work with Bhutan towards early establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The border dispute between the two countries does not cover a wide area. The two sides should speed up border talks in the spirit of mutual understanding and accommodation, with a view to arriving at a fair and reasonable and mutually acceptable solution. This will contribute to peace and stability in our border areas.

We are ready to encourage Chinese businesses to expand their exports to Bhutan and welcome more people-to-people exchanges and tourism, which will help increase the mutual knowledge and friendship between our two people. We believe that Bhutan is well – placed to grasp the opportunity of the development of China and India and benefit from the great historical renaissance of Asia. Maximizing these opportunities will help Bhutan open up a new era of development.

I heard an interesting folk tale in Bhutan. It was about four harmonious brothers, partridge, rabbit, monkey and elephant helping and supporting each other and finally fulfilling their wishes together. Friendship between China and Bhutan will not hurt anyone’s interests. China wants to be Bhutan’s amiable and trustworthy friend. We want to extend a hand of friendship and work together with Bhutan for the benefit of our two people.
Fu Ying 
Vice Foreign Minister of China


3 thoughts on “Musing on Chinese Vice Minister Fu Ying’s message to Bhutan

  1. When Fu Ying wrote “We count on Bhutan’s continued support on matters bearing on the vital interests of China, such as those relating to Taiwan and Tibet”, what she is referring to Bhutan’s one China policy, not its policy, religious or cultural, which is an internal matter. Equating Tibet and Bhutan vis-a-vis is farfetched.

    1. Thank you for your comment. The One China policy is that of China and not of other countries. Additionally, One China policy, as the Chinese Government knows, was about Taiwan as it too was claiming to be China. So how can it apply to Tibet that does not claim to be the real China.

      To you, “Equating Tibet and Bhutan vis-a-vis is farfetched”, but that does not seem to be the case with Bhutanese observers. A case in point is the editorial in Bhutan’s Kuensel today “Warming up to our north ” that says, “Whether India had its own interests in mind or not is a matter of speculation, but she did come to Bhutan’s help when a lot was happening beyond its northern frontiers more than half a century ago.” I am sure you would know what is being hinted at by “happening beyond its northern frontiers…”

      I am all for Bhutan increasing ties with China and other countries, but it should be basic human nature to learn from past experience of others, if only to not repeat mistakes. Bhutan can certainly benefit by taking lesson from Tibet’s tragedy.


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