Monday, Aug 26, 2019 | Last Update : 10:14 AM IST

‘To tell its story better to the world’, Xi’s China ramps up India propaganda effort

THE ASIAN AGE. | ABHIJIT BHATTACHARYYA
Published : Jan 21, 2019, 12:38 am IST
Updated : Jan 21, 2019, 6:48 am IST

The message is loud and clear. China will do anything and everything possible to take on foreigners, to take China forward.

Chinese President Xi Jinping
 Chinese President Xi Jinping


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. “Imported in India for distribution” by a Mumbai-based landline-numbered outfit (without a postal address), thereby starting a determined India-based “publicity operations division” of the 21st century government of the Communist Party of China. All for “public (or publicity?) diplomacy”! Is this the Clausewitz style of fighting? That “war is the continuation of political intercourse by other means”!

Is this the much-vaunted, “indirect strategy” of China’s perception management? Through catchy words like “people-to-people contacts”, deftly deployed through a monopoly political party’s compulsive mouthpiece? Is the China Daily Global Weekly intended to impress the gullible and naïve 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 China’s myriad shenanigans in South Asia!

Interestingly, only two countries, one of which is India, are in the “imported” 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 “operation of a multinational corporation,” to spread the “message” of the aspiring superpower that now desires to enter the “business of mind-setting”, of friends and foes alike (maybe more foes, less friends)! The very first edition has set the tone and agenda. That “China’s time has come”. Come what may, as a “new form of global relations takes shape”, thunders Wang Yi, the redoubtable state councillor and foreign minister, in the first edition of China Daily Global Weekly: “2019, marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, is also crucial for meeting the first centenary goal... (of) ushering in a moderately prosperous society in all respects”.

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. “The deeper integration of China and the world will be unstoppable,” writes Wang. But who initiates and integrates whom? China or the world? What exactly does “integration” mean? Does China gobble up the small and the weak for the “deeper integration with the world”? Or do the weak and small submit to China to be “integrated” for their soul — 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?

Wang’s desire for “shared benefits”, and “mutually beneficial cooperation with other countries”, however, gets comprehensively diluted by the words: “while firmly safeguarding our legitimate interests”. It appears that “legitimate” is one-way traffic, applicable only to Chinese interests. By implication, all non-Chinese interests can be anything but legitimate.

China’s mention of the United States, for a change, is marked with some deference, clearly owing to the ongoing bilateral trade dispute and discussion. “In 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 cooperation”. Mark the words: China is seeking “coordination and cooperation”. Is this now an act of desperation? These words have been used twice in the 35-word sentence. China doesn’t want “confrontation” and wants to “win” at all costs, it points out.

Interestingly, and not surprisingly, India simply doesn’t figure in the Chinese scheme of things. Wang doesn’t consider India even worth a footnote; being acutely aware of India’s perceived fear psychosis which refuses to go away. China’s tricksters appear to be deeply embedded in the psyche of India’s ruling class. Paranoia and phobia over China just refuses to die down. Hence the words: “We will strengthen practical cooperation with neighbouring countries and other developing countries to deepen our shared interests.” India stands at par with “other developing countries”, and China seeks “practical cooperation.” That means most cooperation with neighbouring countries are impractical, and thus not feasible and not even worth looking at. Why doesn’t then India join the Belt and Road Initiative — the signature project launched by Beijing supremo Xi Jinping? Why defy the new emperor of China, specially as China will “host the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation this year”?

The message becomes louder and sterner. “We will approach hotspot issues in a Chinese way, and play our due role by proposing solutions to international and regional flashpoints… to serve the well-being of people in the relevant regions”. Approach “hotspot issues in a Chinese way”? All other ways, thus, are unacceptable, and to be thrown away, if not in tune with the “Chinese way”.

All these will be done in the “relevant regions”. What does “relevant” mean? Relevant for whom? For the region, the participants or the Chinese? That’s the Chinese puzzle. Especially for the neighbourhood of China wherein lies the maximum number of “hotspots” from China’s point of view. And Chinese views and problems are actual views and real problems. The rest simply don’t matter. See the “hotspot” issues in the “relevant regions”: 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 “tell the story of China”. 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: “China is buying good press across the world.” A headline in the government-run China Daily’s Beijing edition read: “Visiting journalists give glowing report”. Nothing unusual really where the state controls the media. But it was unusual because the “journalists were from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Southeast Asia and Africa”.

“They were all part of a unique Chinese experiment that may be Beijing’s most successful and least-known attempt to better shape the world media’s reporting on China. This initiative coincides with two major Chinese government objectives: the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013 and President Xi’s call in 2016 to tell China’s story better to the world.”

China’s pincer media movement has begun to spread disinformation, misinformation, propaganda and wrong information — 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.

Tags: xi jinping, beijing, diplomacy