On September 24, the ruling party of Nepal, the Nepal Communist Party signed a historic Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Chinese Communist Party. This agreement is the first such agreement signed between the parties signifying a cementing of “sisterly relations” with one another. The agreement was signed between Madhav Kumar Nepal and Song Tao of China at the Nepal-China Friendship Symposium in the presence of both PM KP Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is set to arrive next month and this meeting has come at a crucial time to set the tone for all the upcoming Nepal-China interactions. Bishnu Rijal, NCP central committee member, in a social media post, highlighted the five major areas where agreements were signed. First, there was a promise to increase high-level visits between the two parties; second, there should be a continuance in ideological training from China to Nepali communist leaders. Third, there should be an extension in sharing communist ideology and experience and fourth, training should also percolate to the lowest levels. Lastly, there should be increased discourse between the developmental models of the two countries as Nepal has much to learn from the Chinese model. Each of these points was supplemented by presentations from the Chinese leaders. It is important to note there was a great emphasis on adopting the Chinese party discipline and discussion on how to better organize the Chinese communist party in Nepal.
This symposium was the first of its kind, and the agreement signed is unprecedented as it tightened NCP’s allegiance to the Chinese Communist Party. This agreement was signed in the backdrop of the Xi Jinping Thought Symposium which saw participation by 200 leaders, including top leaders from both Nepal and China.
With such an increase in bilateral relations between the two parties, including symposiums, training exercises and even key agreements raise worrying questions from Nepali political commentators. The most common concern is that China is attempting to export its political ideology to the NCP, which would allow for it to fulfill its economic and security interests with ease. To these allegations the Chinese Ambassador, Hou Yanqi has replied with an official statement that China has no intention of exporting its ideology and it strictly follows a policy of non-interference in other countries. Regardless of the official stance, if one were to look at the statements made by key Nepali leaders and some of the agreements signed, there has been a very clear ideological commitment made by the NCP to its Chinese counterpart.
Prime Minister Oli, in his speech as chief guest, stated that “countries, after becoming powerful, tend to dominate other countries, China never did so.” This, in his opinion, makes ‘China’s system better than the rest of the worlds’. Pushpa Kamal Dahal too praised CPC’s ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’ stating that through their ideology system, the party had gained legitimacy and longevity in China. Most of the communist leaders have expressed their admiration for the Chinese political system and hail the dominant one-party system. These statements pose a direct threat to the democratic features enshrined in our constitution. A desire to mimic China, a state that is one of the most censored, surveilled, and controlled societies would not bode well for the freedom of the Nepali people. Looking up to a leader who has altered the constitution of the People’s Republic of China to allow himself to remain in power for life, should be a cause for alarm.
Spokespersons like Narayan Kaji Shrestha have tried to assuage public opinion by stating that while there is a lot to learn from the CPC, they “won’t blindly follow” the Chinese Communist Party in Nepal. Even the opposition party, the NC, has raised concerns over the increasing closeness between the ruling party and the Chinese Communist party stating that “Nepal’s constitutional and political provisions demand an open society and parliamentary democracy—unlike China’s.” With President Jinping set to arrive in Kathmandu in mid-October, it is important for us to keep a close eye on the kind of agreements being signed between the two communist parties. Prime Minister Oli’s rise to power was propelled by two key promises, prioritize national interests above all else and achieve actual equidistance from both our neighborhood giants, China and India. In recent years, however, it seems as though Nepal is simply non-aligned on paper and is swiftly moving closer to Beijing.
Author: Natasha Todi