Prime Minister Narendra Modi is revered as ‘Modi Laoxian,’ which translates as ‘Modi the Immortal,’ by Chinese netizens, a rare respectful reference to an international leader despite the bitter India-China border row, according to an article published in the US-based strategic affairs magazine The Diplomat.
Mu Chunshan, a journalist known for analysing Chinese social media, particularly Sina Weibo (China’s version of Twitter), stated in the article ‘How is India viewed in China?’ that most Chinese believe India, led by Modi, can maintain a balance among major countries in the world. There are over 582 million active users on Sina Weibo.
“On the Chinese internet, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is known as Modi Laoxian. Laoxian is an elderly immortal with unusual abilities. The nickname implies that Chinese netizens regard Modi as unique – even more so than other leaders,” the article said.
They point to his Laoxian-like dress and physical appearance, as well as some of his policies that differ from India’s previous ones, according to Mu.
On India’s relations with other major countries, he said, whether it is Russia, the United States, or Global South countries, India can enjoy friendly ties with all of them, which is “very admirable” to some Chinese netizens.
“As a result, the term ‘Laoxian’ reflects the complex sentiment of Chinese people towards Modi, combining curiosity, astonishment, and perhaps a dash of cynicism,” according to the article.
“I’ve been doing international media reports for nearly 20 years, and it’s unusual for Chinese netizens to give a foreign leader a nickname. Modi’s moniker stands out among all others. He has clearly made an impression on Chinese public opinion,” Mu said in the article.
Modi has hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping and former Premier Li Keqiang since taking office in 2014, as well as two rare informal summits with Xi, 69, in Wuhan and later in Mamallapuram near Chennai, raising hopes for improved relations between the two Asian giants.
Following aggressive military actions by the Chinese military in eastern Ladakh, which violated agreements to resolve the border dispute, Sino-Indian relations hit rock bottom, resulting in a nearly three-year military standoff.
To resolve the standoff, the two countries have held 17 rounds of high-level military commander talks.
India has maintained that relations with China cannot be normalised unless the border areas are peaceful.
Modi is also well-known in China, where he connected with the Chinese public via his Sina Weibo account, which he launched in 2015 and had over 2.44 lakh followers, according to PTI.
Nevertheless, he left Weibo in July 2020 when the Indian government banned 59 Chinese apps in order to send a “strong message at the border, on the economic front, and on a personal level too,” according to BJP general secretary (organisation) B L Santhosh.
(With Inputs From Agencies)