The People’s Republic of China has asserted itself as a South Asian state by showing a keen interest in its affairs. China’s stance indicates that it respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of countries and is not favourable towards involving itself in the domestic affairs of other countries. However, China’s current relations in the South Asian region are facing a predicament as there is a possibility of some national governments and their domestic constituencies not favouring China’s policies in their countries. Stemming from a Neoclassical Realist lens which underscores the importance of state-society relations in the foreign policy-making of a country, this article analyses the reasons as to why national governments and their domestic constituencies, especially in the South Asian region may have these perceptions and also what type of policies and practices have led to this opposition. The primary objective of the study examines how China’s relations in the South Asian region can be improved in order to create a better image. Following the case study method, the research examines how the public from Myanmar, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have influenced each of these countries’ foreign policy-making towards China. It was found that China’s foreign policy executive needs to be conscious that the people of South Asia are currently assertive about their governments’ policy initiatives, thus requiring a more conscientious approach. China must be mindful that these concerns could also affect the future of the Belt & Road Initiative. In conclusion, when analysing the South Asian states’ external relations pertaining to China, it can be established that these states will attempt to be more vociferous in their interaction and relations. Hence, China should calibrate its diplomacy to suit modern day requirements so that it does not alienate other countries.
This article submitted to the 4th volume of the Defence & Security Journal, can be downloaded from here.