Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Understanding the China—India Relationship: A Perceptual Analysis of Chinese Think-Tank Literature 2014—2021.

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posted on 2023-12-03, 23:05 authored by Andrew Wilford

China and India have a challenging and consequential relationship. Tense interactions in recent years culminated in a border clash in which soldiers on both sides lost their lives. Despite these significant developments, few studies draw on Chinese sources to analyse the strategic perceptions of influential think-tank scholars in the PRC. Their unique role in China’s political system renders their views an important mechanism for understanding elite Chinese perceptions of India. Adopting a political psychology approach grounded in cognitive biases and image theory literature, this study analyses every article in four leading Chinese think-tank journals between 2014 and 2021 to investigate several key themes. These include views of Hindu nationalism (Hindutva), Delhi’s relationship with the United States, the border conflict, and perceptions of India’s military and economy. The empirical findings suggest that Chinese scholars do not consider India dyadically; instead, they perceive the republic through the lens of Sino-US strategic competition, thereby diminishing India’s status. Scholars also consider endogenous factors like Hindutva or the leadership of Narendra Modi as singularly driving India’s foreign policy, asserting that India is solely responsible for the downturn in relations with China. This demonstrates the existence of consistently applied cognitive biases such as the fundamental attribution error and confirmation bias. India’s motivations and activities are portrayed as being inherently malign, and scholars do not consider China’s role in exacerbating tensions. The cognitive approach provides novel findings and offers explanations that systemic theories of International Relations cannot, such as why economic interdependence has not resulted in peace and why China does not balance India despite acknowledging its spoiler potential. This thesis contributes to debates regarding the nature of the relationship and insight into why their rivalry endures. Understanding Chinese elite strategic perceptions and their implications is vital for comprehending the nuanced and complex dynamics of the China-India relationship. After all, as the two largest countries in Asia, enduring tensions and misperceptions in their bilateral relationship could harbour grave consequences for the region.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

International Relations

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Arts

ANZSRC Socio-Economic Outcome code

230399 International relations not elsewhere classified; 280123 Expanding knowledge in human society; 230299 Government and politics not elsewhere classified

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

1 Pure basic research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Alternative Language


Victoria University of Wellington School

School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations


Pardesi, Manjeet