Xi to become first Chinese head of state to visit neighbouring Nepal since 1996

Chinese President Xi Jinping is in neighbouring Nepal today, where he will hold talks with Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli.

xi jinping nepal

Photo: Monika Deupala

Chinese President Xi Jinping is in neighbouring Nepal today, where he will hold talks with Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli. The visit is the first by a Chinese head of state to Nepal since Jiang Zemin’s visit in 1996.

Landlocked Nepal has developed stronger economic ties with Beijing since the country signed onto the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2017. Relations were further strengthened when the Nepal Communist Party came to power in 2018, resulting in a distancing from India.

As the BRI continues to gain momentum in Nepal through the construction of a 72-kilometre railway running from Kyirong to Kathmandu, New Delhi has made efforts to appeal to its northern neighbour to match Chinese infrastructure projects. Just last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated a 78-kilometre cross-border oil pipeline funded by India.

While Nepal may see some benefit from the competition between India and China, the large BRI infrastructure projects may become the latest example of Beijing’s ability to weaponise debt. Like many countries involved in the BRI, Nepal has a large trade imbalance with China; it imports $1.2 billion from the East Asian giant but sells just $22 million of products back.

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