THE analysis of a country’s media provides useful insights into its leadership’s thinking, especially when government functioning is deliberately kept opaque in a country as vast as China. As China’s aggressive actions against India increase, an analysis of the Chinese media becomes more important.
Ever since its inception, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has paid a lot of attention to its propaganda apparatus. It has become increasingly adept at managing it over the years and its propaganda department tightly controls the country’s Chinese and English language media. Academic publications are subject to similar controls. Highlighting the importance of propaganda is the fact that the portfolio has always been managed by a member of the Politburo Standing Committee — essentially the seven or nine persons who run the country.
The propaganda department disseminates the approved party ‘line’ and, thrice daily, ‘guides’ editors on what they can report, prominence to be given to each item and directs them to the official news agency, Xinhua’s version on controversial matters. Failure to comply attracts prompt punitive action.
Over the past decade, the CCP has increasingly targeted foreign audiences through its English-language publications such as the Global Times, China Daily and the Beijing Review. The Global Times is more acerbic, blunt and sensational. Owned by the CCP’s official mouthpiece, People’s Daily, it conveys messages that the Chinese authorities want to send out but are hesitant to do so as blatantly.
Especially since May 2020, the Global Times has targeted the Indian audiences almost every day with a steady outpouring of criticism. Even its report on the tragic demise of General Bipin Rawat was offensive.
Three recent articles appearing in reputed Chinese-language publications give an insight into Chinese officialdom’s thinking on India’s geo-economic and foreign policies. All convey the party ‘line’.
An article by two Chinese journalists in Sichuan University’s bimonthly publication asserts that the Modi government’s economic policies are doomed to fail because India will incur considerable economic costs as it ‘struggles’ to reconcile its development objectives with issues of national security.
It warns that in the wake of the Galwan valley skirmishes, India’s policy of ‘comprehensive decoupling’ with China will make it difficult for India to realise its global ambitions because Chinese imports will remain very important for India’s economic growth.
The subject of US-India relations comes up repeatedly. Another article asserts that the United States seeks to contain China by incorporating India into its Indo-Pacific strategy. The article — whose author is with a think tank that is administered directly by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs — claims that India participates in the US strategy not because it wants to take the US side in its competition with China, but because India sees cooperation with the US as the best way to achieve its great power ambitions.
The article declares that the US-India relationship is not smooth sailing. It says the two countries have conflicting objectives and differ in their geopolitical, security and economic thinking. In addition, there are trade frictions between the US’s ‘America First’ approach and Modi’s ‘Made in India’ strategy, as well as differences over India's continuing purchase of Russian weapons.
As such, the author declares, the China factor alone is not enough to push India into an alliance with the US. It also warns India that the US and China will eventually learn to co-exist, reducing India’s ability to play one off against the other.
On the other hand, if China and India were to rise together, they will play increasingly significant roles as the world transitions towards a multi-polar order. It declares that Modi must, therefore, decide the future of India's non-alignment policy.
The third article analyses the situation along China’s borders. It’s author, Ouyang Wei, a ‘princeling’, retired senior colonel and border affairs expert, accuses India of adopting the strategy of “defending the north and advancing eastward”.
He says that encouraged by the US’s Indo-Pacific strategy, India has taken a hard-line anti-China stance on the Belt and Road Initiative, “built up military deployment in border areas and encroached on China’s territory”. Nonetheless, he says, neither China nor India wants a military conflict and it is very unlikely that a local clash will harm the overall stability of the border areas.
It is China’s English language Global Times, however, that delivers a blunt and stern message. In its October 11, 2021, article, it says that “China has made tremendous efforts to ease and calm the border situation, while India insisted on unreasonable and unrealistic demands, adding difficulties to the negotiations”.
The hard-hitting article says that India expects Beijing will yield to its demands to prevent an Indo-US alliance. However, this will not work as the border issue is related to the dignity of all nations and trying to coerce the other side into making concessions that are not in line with the real situation will only create trouble for itself.
And then it issues a final warning: “The Chinese people know that both China and India have enough national strength to sustain a long border standoff. Such mutual attrition is regrettable, but if India is willing to do so, China will keep it company until the end. New Delhi needs to be clear about one thing: it will not get the border the way it wants. If it starts a war, it will definitely lose… China’s territory belongs to China and we will never cede it.”
While their styles differ, noteworthy is that all articles emphasise that China is in a stronger position, but chooses not to take tougher measures. They also warn India that the US and China will possibly eventually reach some sort of modus vivendi.
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