作者：Uddhab P. Pyakurel博士（尼泊爾加德滿都大學教授／當代南亞與中東研究中心學術顧問委員會委員）
Written by Dr. Uddhab P. Pyakurel, Assistant Professor, Kathmandu University ／Academic Advisory Committee of CSSAME）
Translation by Max Lin, MA. Student,
Graduate Institute of International Politics, National Chung Hsing University
Nepal and China have recently celebrated the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the bilateral diplomatic relations. Though the two-countries were having interactions along with Betravati treaty on 2 October 1792, the formal diplomatic relations was established only on August 1, 1955. Since then, Nepal tried to give a greater priority and importance to the friendly relations with China not only by firming on its ‘One China Policy’ but also by not allowing any kind of anti-China activities in its soil. China, too, has supported Nepal in the areas of development by being one of the key donors of Nepal and had been generously providing economic assistance to finance various development projects.
If one follows outcomes of Nepal-China relations in six decades, perception of Nepal on China has changed a lot. Nepali ruling elites in the 1960s could see China as guard and guarantor for Nepal’s integrity and sovereignty. That is why many Nepalese were happy to quote speeches delivered by the then Chinese foreign minister Chen Yi in October 1962. Speaking in Kathmandu on the first anniversary of the signing of the Kathmandu-Lhasa road agreement, he said: “I assure His Majesty, King Mahendra, His Majesty government and the Nepalese people, that in any case any foreign forces attack Nepal, we Chinese people will stand on your side.” Such an assurance from China against foreign invasion to Nepal seems to have convinced even the Kings of Nepal so that they started establishing a close personal relationship with China. If follow records of China visit, after King Mahendra made a state visit to China in 1961, his son Birendra repeated China visit as crown prince in 1966, and as king in 1973, 1976, 1978, 1979, 1982, 1987, 1993, 1996, and finally in 2001 just a few months before his murder. In fact China had initially provided a substantive help not only to rulers in Nepal but also to people to survive in very difficult situation; once India imposed economic sanctions in 1989 it was China which gave Nepal fairly a modest assistance by offering 600 tons of petroleum products out of which aircraft ferried 300 tons during the first months of the crisis and another 300 tons were imported via road to Kathmandu. The amount of assistance had provided a relief as there were limited people to use petroleum products in Kathmandu at that time. Speedy and smooth modus operandi of Chinese contractors and companies also helped create a good image of China in Nepal. However, China could not retain its goodwill in Nepal for long, and many Nepalese particularly the government officers who deals with Chinese counterparts on various occasions started considering China as an unreliable neighbor. Once people knew Chinese motto to earn profit at any cost, a great suspension has been in place in Nepal about its northern neighbor. The following can be considered as some of the reasons:
Firstly, Nepal was having a great expectation and hope from Chinese help to overcome from the crisis Nepal faced along with the Indian blockade in 2015. Though China agreed for the expeditious delivery of 1,000 metric ton of petroleum products to Nepal as grant assistance, it has become only a ritualistic support for Kathmandu against the high demand of petroleum products in comparison to the need of it in 1989. Apart from such small amount of petroleum products support, there were some lip services to help pave the way for commercial import of petroleum products to Nepal and memorandum of understanding (MoU) was also signed by China and Nepal in order to supply petroleum products from China but the MoU could not be materialized due to unsettled issues of rates and customs duty. Then Commerce Minister Ganesh Man Pun under the Oli government kept urging the Chinese side not to impose customs on the petroleum products to be supplied to Nepal in order to keep at par with price of the petroleum imported from India, but he had to give up the dream. Since China showed no interest to dress the issue, Minister Pun finally stopped pursuing China on this matter.
Secondly, non-implementation of the promises made by China against Nepal’s great hope to recover from the damage and destruction from the devastating 2015 earthquake is another cause of suspension. Initially China had gave a hope by sending Foreign Minister Wang Yi to attend the highest-profile international donor conference and pledged to extend US $760 million (4.7 billion RMB) both grant and loan. Minister Wang also had offered training opportunities for 1,500 Nepalis in the year to come, and a concessional loan from Silk Road Fund from China to Nepal’s reconstruction bid in the conference but nothing has been materialized in two years of the earthquake. Just after International Conference on Nepal’s Reconstruction for post-disaster reconstruction, Chinese Deputy International Trade Representative, Ministry of Commerce had visited Nepal and signed a Memorandum of Understanding for grant assistance of $10 million to be primarily utilized for the upgradation of the roads to Tatopani and Rasuwa, two points on the northern border with China. But the government of China handed over 11,300 sets of induction cookers in March 2016 deducting $892,700 from the officially promised relief aid of the government of China to Nepal. Though the reason for providing induction cookers to Nepal was said to be a relief aid for cooking to fuel-strapped Nepal, the cooker has become a big burden for Nepal as the National Trading Limited and the Ministry of Supplies of the Government Of Nepal failed to sell those cookers in the market as the priced become relatively much higher than similar products imported from elsewhere in the market. It is said that they could sell only a cooker within one-and-a half year, but rent for godown to store the materials has already reached 23 million Nepali rupees. That is why government officials started questioning the usefulness of such grant, and context of accepting such useless cookers out of assured assistance to earthquake victims by neighbors.
Thirdly, Aggressive nature of Chinese officials in Kathmandu has been considered another important cause for the weakening Nepal-China relations. Kathmandu people share that some Chinese have gone beyond their limitation and diplomatic ethics which helped delay reconstruction of earthquake-damaged schools in Kathmandu valley. It is said that no progress have been made by China to construct the historical Durbar School for almost two years even after China agreed and issued the permission of school reconstruction project. In another case China pressured Nepal government to cancel the permission given to a Taiwanese initiative that had already done background works to rebuild Padmodaya High School building in Kathmandu. The officials of Education Ministry, teachers, and locals including the parents of those schools express their diligence from Chinese way to creating obstacle in the reconstruction/rebuilding fields once they knew the realities.
It is also said that China tries to impose its own terms and conditions everywhere without trying to understand others’ sensitivity. One might have noticed that China has been pushing Nepal to help initiate a new project-One Belt, One Road (OBOR), with major news coming out from both sides in the name of Nepal reluctance to go with the agreements. It is the OBOR project which is part of China’s new and long-term “strategy for a New Global Financial Order” announced by Chinese premier Xi Jinping in 2013. Generally speaking, there would be no harm to help an immediate neighbor like China for its long-term strategy for prosperity. However, the way Chinese push to Nepal to sign the deal has helped create an anxiety to Nepali side. It is said that China hardly cares about other projects except the OBOR. There is a rumor that China will not make its President’s visit in Nepal unless Nepal agrees to sign the OBOR; nor it was ready to invite Nepali Prime Minister to visit China. Having known to this factor, Nepal government signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the framework agreement with China on May 12, 2017 which is considered as Nepal’s official move to become part of Beijing’s “ambitious plan to revive ancient Silk Road trade routes”.
Likewise, China often states saying that it believes in equality even with small countries, but it has not been ready to do it in practice even with its neighbours. For example, both Nepal and China had agreed to support each other’s tourism promotion activities in their respective countries to enhance people to-people contacts and Nepal offered free visa to Chinese nationals for that matter. But China has not reciprocated it as yet to Nepali citizens. Nepal realized that this visa provision offered to Chinese has become further burden to Nepal in many ways; Chinese tourists are using this opportunity just to access US Dollar by using currency exchange facilities. It is said that the provision which allows Chinese to come as tourist and stay in Nepal for maximum 150 days in a year has been misused by many Chinese tourists and started working in hotels and restaurants . In that case, Nepal had to buy more US Dollar than today and the gap in remittance receiving and sending within two countries is likely to be further widened than earlier. According to report of Remittance flows worldwide in 2015, there is already a huge imbalance in remittance flows between China and Nepal as Nepal received only 500,000 US Dollars from China as against the outgoing amount of 136,000,000 US Dollars to China from Nepal.
Moreover, Chinese reluctance to reopen Kodari highway has forced many Nepalis to rethink their positive perception towards China. It is Kodari highway which had become lifeline of more than a dozen districts of mid-hill region not only to access cheap garment products but also to import construction materials essential to rebuilding project to recover from April 2015 devastating earthquake. But, China kept showing its reluctance to resume Kodari highway even after making several promises saying that “it will be in operation shortly”. Nepal still expresses its doubt about resumption of Tatopani border point event after promises made by Chinese President in March 2017 during the visit of Nepali Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal.
After having known to the situation narrated before, one could easily argue that many projects like OBOR are possible with China if the latter is ready to help Nepal to give transit facility so that import petroleum and other essential goods in reasonable price is possible with less hassle. But no government, even with Oli as China friendly Prime Minister can go for projects such as OBOR only while struggling to fulfill people’s day-to-day problems. Here China needs to realize the limitation of its old policy that was to push Nepal into its favour vis-à-vis “Indian hegemony”. Unless China is ready to re-open Kodari highway and encourage resuming other border linkages, Nepal’s dependency on India will be neither reduced nor will emotional blackmailing from Chinese side be useful anymore in Nepal. Eventually Nepali nationalists including media which are still having positive perception about China will change their pro-Chinese sentiments and start questioning Chinese side for any push China may try to make in future.
如果從表現來觀察六十年來尼泊爾關係，會發覺尼泊爾對中國的看法有了很大的變化。1960年代，尼泊爾統治精英們視中國為尼泊爾主權完整、獨立的守衛及保證。這也是為什麼許多尼泊爾人樂於引用當時中國外交部長陳毅在1962年10月發表的談話。在加德滿都－拉薩公路協議(Kathmandu – Lhasa Road Agreement)簽署一周年之際，他在加德滿都發表演說：「我向陛下馬亨德拉Mahendra保證，如果有任何外國勢力攻擊陛下的政府或者尼泊爾人民，中國人民將會站在你們的身邊支持你們。」中國的這種保證似乎說服了尼泊爾國王並使其與中國維持相當緊密的關係。根據記錄，Mahendra國王於1961年正式訪問中國，其王儲畢蘭德拉則在1966年赴中國訪問，並分別於1973年、1976年、1978年、1979年、1982年、1987年、1993年、1996年以國王的身分訪中，最後一次是在2001年他被謀殺之前的幾個月。事實上，中國不僅向尼泊爾的統治者提供了實質性幫助，也在尼泊爾人民面臨困難的情況下給予協助：印度在1989年實行經濟制裁，中國就立刻向尼泊爾提供了600噸的石油，包括在危機的頭幾個月裡空運了300噸，剩下的300噸則從陸路送達加德滿都。雖然援助數量不大，但由於當時在加德滿都會用到石油的人非常有限，因此這些援助頗有雪中送炭的效果。中國承包商和企業快速且平穩的運作方式也助於中國在尼泊爾建立良好的形象。然而中國無法長久地維持其在尼泊爾的信譽，許多尼泊爾人、特別是負責對中國事務的政府官員也開始認為中國是一個無法信賴的朋友。自從人們知曉了中國做事的原則是「不惜一切代價以獲得利益」，尼泊爾對這個北方鄰國開始產生疑慮。以下是可能的原因：
首先，尼泊爾在2015年面臨印度封鎖的危機時，曾對中國抱有很大的期待與希望。但儘管中國同意向尼泊爾快速運送1000噸石油類產品作為援助，但與加德滿都在1989年相比高出許多的石油產品需求，這次的援助只是象徵性的支持。除了少量的石油援助外，其他只是光說不練：中國曾答應為尼泊爾商業進口油品掃除障礙，雙方也簽署了合作備忘錄，以便從中國進口相關產品，但由於費用和關稅問題無法解決，這份備忘錄始終無法執行。在歐力（Oli）內閣時期，尼泊爾的商務部長Ganesh Man Pun曾向中方請求勿對向尼泊爾出口的石油產品徵稅，以保持與從印度進口的石油相同價格，但最後他不得不放棄這個夢想，中國最終也沒有表示解決此一問題的誠意。
其次，中國不履行對尼泊爾在經歷2015年毀滅性的地震之後，對其所做的承諾也是另一個原因。最初中國派遣外交部長王毅出席最高級別的國際捐助會議，並承諾撥款7.6億美元（47億元人民幣）的贈款和貸款，而這給予了尼泊爾巨大的希望。王毅部長還承諾在未來的一年裡為1,500位尼泊爾人提供培訓機會，並從中國的絲路基金向尼泊爾的重建投標提供優惠貸款，但兩年來都沒有實現。就在針對尼泊爾災後重建的國際會議結束之後，中國商務部的國際貿易代表訪問了尼泊爾，並簽署了一項1000萬美元贈款援助的合作備忘錄，主要用於升級在中尼邊界，塔托帕尼(Tatopani)到拉蘇瓦(Rasuwa)的公路。但中國政府於2016年3月交付了11,300台烹飪用電磁爐，並從中國政府正式向尼泊爾提供的救災援助款中直接扣除了892,700美元。雖然提供電磁爐的原因據說是為了紓解尼泊爾燃料不足的困境，但如何銷售這些炊具已成為尼國國家貿易公司(National Trading Ltd)和尼泊爾政府的供應部(Ministry of Supplies)的沉重負擔，因為這些炊具的價格與市場上從其他地方進口的同類產品相比要高出許多。據說，他們需要一年半的時間內才能售出這些炊具，但是存放倉庫的租金已經達到了2300萬尼泊爾盧比。這就是為什麼政府官員開始質疑這種補助的有用性，尤其是從鄰國向地震災民提供這種無用的炊具，而不是更有保障的援助。
也有人認為中國試圖到處對他人強加上各種條款和條件，但不會真的了解對方在意的事。人們可能已經注意到，中國一直在促使尼泊爾參加 「一帶一路」但來自雙方的新聞都顯示尼泊爾是不情願地簽署協議。「一帶一路」是中國國家主席習近平於2013年宣布的中國全新且長期的「新全球金融秩序戰略」的一部分。一般來說，幫助中國這樣的鄰國如此長期的繁榮戰略無傷大雅。不過，中國人推動尼泊爾簽署這筆交易的方式，對尼泊爾方面造成了焦慮。據說中國除了「一帶一路」之外幾乎不在乎其他計畫。有傳言說，中國國家主席不會訪問尼泊爾，也不會邀請尼泊爾總理訪華，除非尼泊爾同意加入「一帶一路」。因為知道中國的習性，所以尼泊爾總理普拉昌達（Pushpa Kamal Dahal）耍了一個手段，好讓他可以在2017年3月訪問中國。