China today reacted guardedly to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's remarks of "expansionist" tendency among some countries, saying it is not clear what was he referring to and recalled his earlier comments that India and China are strategic partners.
"We have noted relevant information about Prime Minister Modi's visit to Japan. You just mentioned comments made by him I don't know what is he referring to," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a media briefing here when asked about Modi's remarks made during his ongoing visit to Japan.
"But I can answer the question by quoting his (Modi's) words. He said China and India are strategic partners for common development. Good neighbourliness and cooperation between the two counties is of great significance to the prosperity of the whole world and all mankind," Qin recalled Prime Minister Modi's comments made on an earlier occasion.
Modi today deplored the "expansionist" tendency among some countries which "encroach" upon seas of others.
"We have to decide if we want to have 'vikas vaad' (development) or 'vistar vaad' (expansionism) which leads to disintegration. Those who follow the path of Buddha and have faith on 'vikas vaad', they develop. But we see, those having ideas of the 18th century, engage in encroachments and enter seas (of others)," Modi said.
The Prime Minister did not name any country but the comments may be seen as targeting China which is engaged in territorial disputes with a number of its neighbours, including India, Japan and some others including Vietnam.
Asked how China sees Modi's visit to Japan ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping's proposed visit to New Delhi expected to be in the third week of this month, Qin said, "I want to stress that China and India are major countries. We both advocate and practice the five principles of peaceful coexistence."
"With regard to Xi's visit to India, during BRICS summit, President Xi had a good meeting with Prime Minister Modi," he said, adding that the two leaders agreed that Xi should visit India in the near future.
"The two sides are in close communication on the relevant issue," he said.
While Qin was cautious in his reaction, an article in the state-run Global Times' web edition said Modi attaches more importance to Sino-Indian ties considering China's strategic importance to India.
"The Modi administration apparently views Sino-Indian relations as more important than Indian-Japanese relations," the article said.
This is the second article in the ruling Communist Party-run newspaper, known for its usually nationalistic views, on Modi's Japan visit in as many days. The earlier article had criticised Japanese Prime Minister Shnzo Abe of trying to divide India and China.
The daily also claimed that Modi will not sign any deals in Japan to contain Beijing as he has to receive Chinese President in New Delhi later this month.
"Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit New Delhi soon, with the aim of enhancing economic cooperation. At such a crucial moment, if Modi signs agreements with Abe to jointly contain China, then how can he receive Xi later this month?", the state-run daily said.
It also argued that Modi snubbed Japan by visiting Bhutan first instead of Tokyo.
"To Japan's disappointment, Modi took Bhutan as his first stop abroad. Also, New Delhi repeatedly delayed the Japan tour in view of the BRICS summit and the rollout of domestic budget. The adjustment indicates India's vision of the balance of power as well as its subtle design of big power diplomacy," it said.
"The Modi administration apparently views Sino-Indian relations as more important than Indian-Japanese relations. In light of frosty Sino-Japanese ties, if Modi went to Tokyo on his first overseas trip, that would jeopardize India's relations with China," said the article, written by a scholar from an official think-tank the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies.
It said that although the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo has a private relationship with Modi and both countries have a democratic system, "Modi is a shrewd businessman and politician" who knows well what he wants and how to secure India's biggest interest.
"Modi's biggest challenge is to kickstart a lagging economy. India needs Japan's investment and technology, but it also needs economic cooperation with China. India is afraid of China's rapid rise, but it doesn't want to harness itself to the war wagon of the US and Japan," it said.
"Maintaining strategic independence is India's diplomatic tradition. It's also in the Indian interest to be a balancer in the international system," it said.
"In view of a strained China-Japan relationship and the complexity of the China-India relationship, the Chinese media are full of suspicion when observing Modi's Japan visit. But we should have confidence in China's strategy of peaceful development and China's own national strength," the daily said.
In February this year, Modi had accused China of having an expansionist mindset, a charge refuted by Beijing.
During a poll rally in Arunachal Pradesh, Modi had said, "China should shed its expansionist policy and forge bilateral ties with India for peace, progress and prosperity of both the nations."