With the coming of 2019, there has begun a Beijing-directed media blitzkrieg in India: effective Friday, January 4, with the introduction of an English edition of China Daily Global Weekly. âImported in India for distributionâ by a Mumbai-based landline-numbered outfit (without a postal address), thereby starting a determined India-based âpublicity operations divisionâ of the 21st century government of the Communist Party of China. All for âpublic (or publicity?) diplomacyâ! Is this the Clausewitz style of fighting? That âwar is the continuation of political intercourse by other meansâ!
Is this the much-vaunted, âindirect strategyâ of Chinaâs perception management? Through catchy words like âpeople-to-people contactsâ, deftly deployed through a monopoly political partyâs compulsive mouthpiece? Is the China Daily Global Weekly intended to impress the gullible and naÃ¯ve and impressionable people of India and modify their opinion about China? As the vast majority of Indians, including the highly-educated and intellectuals par excellence, have simply either forgiven, or in their collective wisdom forgotten Chinaâs myriad shenanigans in South Asia!
Interestingly, only two countries, one of which is India, are in the âimportedâ list, the other one being Brunei. Besides the full-scale media centre in Hong Kong, New York, Nairobi and London, the Chinese daily is also being printed in Australia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Italy, Malaysia, South Korea, South Africa, Spain and Turkey. Truly an âoperation of a multinational corporation,â to spread the âmessageâ of the aspiring superpower that now desires to enter the âbusiness of mind-settingâ, of friends and foes alike (maybe more foes, less friends)! The very first edition has set the tone and agenda. That âChinaâs time has comeâ. Come what may, as a ânew form of global relations takes shapeâ, thunders Wang Yi, the redoubtable state councillor and foreign minister, in the first edition of China Daily Global Weekly: â2019, marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Peopleâs Republic of China, is also crucial for meeting the first centenary goal... (of) ushering in a moderately prosperous society in all respectsâ.
The message is there loud and clear. China will do anything and everything possible, or otherwise, to take on foreigners, to take China forward to fulfil its economic goals. âThe deeper integration of China and the world will be unstoppable,â writes Wang. But who initiates and integrates whom? China or the world? What exactly does âintegrationâ mean? Does China gobble up the small and the weak for the âdeeper integration with the worldâ? Or do the weak and small submit to China to be âintegratedâ for their soul â physically, financially and politically? Like Xinjiang, Xizang, the South China Sea and the Sea of Japan, Jammu and Kashmir (Aksai Chin in the northeast and Gilgit-Baltistan in northwest) and the targeted Taiwan?
Wangâs desire for âshared benefitsâ, and âmutually beneficial cooperation with other countriesâ, however, gets comprehensively diluted by the words: âwhile firmly safeguarding our legitimate interestsâ. It appears that âlegitimateâ is one-way traffic, applicable only to Chinese interests. By implication, all non-Chinese interests can be anything but legitimate.
Chinaâs mention of the United States, for a change, is marked with some deference, clearly owing to the ongoing bilateral trade dispute and discussion. âIn the 40th anniversary of our diplomatic relations with the US, we will advance China-US relations defined by coordination, cooperation and stability, and strive for no conflict, no-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperationâ. Mark the words: China is seeking âcoordination and cooperationâ. Is this now an act of desperation? These words have been used twice in the 35-word sentence. China doesnât want âconfrontationâ and wants to âwinâ at all costs, it points out.
Interestingly, and not surprisingly, India simply doesnât figure in the Chinese scheme of things. Wang doesnât consider India even worth a footnote; being acutely aware of Indiaâs perceived fear psychosis which refuses to go away. Chinaâs tricksters appear to be deeply embedded in the psyche of Indiaâs ruling class. Paranoia and phobia over China just refuses to die down. Hence the words: âWe will strengthen practical cooperation with neighbouring countries and other developing countries to deepen our shared interests.â India stands at par with âother developing countriesâ, and China seeks âpractical cooperation.â That means most cooperation with neighbouring countries are impractical, and thus not feasible and not even worth looking at. Why doesnât then India join the Belt and Road Initiative â the signature project launched by Beijing supremo Xi Jinping? Why defy the new emperor of China, specially as China will âhost the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation this yearâ?
The message becomes louder and sterner. âWe will approach hotspot issues in a Chinese way, and play our due role by proposing solutions to international and regional flashpointsâ¦ to serve the well-being of people in the relevant regionsâ. Approach âhotspot issues in a Chinese wayâ? All other ways, thus, are unacceptable, and to be thrown away, if not in tune with the âChinese wayâ.
All these will be done in the ârelevant regionsâ. What does ârelevantâ mean? Relevant for whom? For the region, the participants or the Chinese? Thatâs the Chinese puzzle. Especially for the neighbourhood of China wherein lies the maximum number of âhotspotsâ from Chinaâs point of view. And Chinese views and problems are actual views and real problems. The rest simply donât matter. See the âhotspotâ issues in the ârelevant regionsâ: Pakistan (terror); Sri Lanka (debt); Afghanistan (war); India (territory and trade); Nepal (conquest); Maldives (base). Myanmar (port); Bangladesh (funding); Asean (monopoly); Central Asia (resources); Japan (islands); Bhutan (penetration); Indian Ocean (command, control); Tibet (religion); Xinjiang (revolt); Taiwan (renegade); the United States (technology); Europe (markets); Africa (imperialism) and South America (backdoor entry).
But these need to be pre-addressed through the media with a global reach to âtell the story of Chinaâ. Thus, not too long ago, in the last week of November 2018, an eminent Indian journalist, earlier a China correspondent of a New Delhi-based journal, had this to say: âChina is buying good press across the world.â A headline in the government-run China Dailyâs Beijing edition read: âVisiting journalists give glowing reportâ. Nothing unusual really where the state controls the media. But it was unusual because the âjournalists were from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Southeast Asia and Africaâ.
âThey were all part of a unique Chinese experiment that may be Beijingâs most successful and least-known attempt to better shape the world mediaâs reporting on China. This initiative coincides with two major Chinese government objectives: the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013 and President Xiâs call in 2016 to tell Chinaâs story better to the world.â
Chinaâs pincer media movement has begun to spread disinformation, misinformation, propaganda and wrong information â to create an impression, leading to perception management. One through the China Daily across the globe, and now in India. The second through money; buying the media from a foreign land. Can India counter this effectively? If not, let India be prepared to face a hostile and harmful situation created by the Han Chinese embedded deep inside Hindustan.
The writer is an alumnus of the National Defence College and the author of the recently-published book China in India. The views expressed here are personal.