Even as Indian soldiers are preparing to battle the sub-zero temperatures in Ladakh to thwart Chinese expansionist attempts, some papers in India are using their reach to parrot the narratives of the Chinese government — and getting paid to do so
The Hindu today carried a full-page ad sponsored by the Chinese government. This fact was proudly shared by Sun Weidong, China’s ambassador to India. “On the occasion of 71st National Day of the People’s Republic of #China, my Embassy published special page in @the_hindu @businessline, sharing stories how #China has defeated #COVID19, forged ahead and made remarkable achievements in every field,” he wrote on Twitter.
The “special page” had sections highlighting China’s achievements in 2020 around its economy, society, poverty eradiation, science and technology and diplomacy. More bizarrely, the ad had a section on how China had fought Covid-19, when it’s now accepted that the virus originated in China and China’s coverup led to its spread around the world.
If the blatant Chinese propaganda in a major national paper wasn’t bad enough, the timing made it worse. Over the last few months, India and China have been engaged in a tense border standoff at Ladakh — the deadly clash at Galwan had left 20 Indian and over 35 Chinese soliders dead, and since then Indian and Chinese troops have been eyeball to eyeball, with the threat of war looming in the background. Most of India had rallied together to support Indian troops — even as the government had cancelled Chinese contracts and banned Chinese apps, many companies had said they’d pause Chinese imports, and trade organizations had said they’d boycott Chinese goods.
Far from distancing itself from a nation that’s threatening our territorial integrity, The Hindu has instead chosen to let China use its large platform to spread its narrative. The “special page” announcement by the Chinese ambassador means that it also received money to do so. This would bring into question The Hindu’s relationship with China — just recently, Rajeev Sharma, who was a freelance journalist who wrote for The Quint and other publications, was arrested for passing over Indian defence secrets to the Chinese. Sharma had allegedly also written a series of articles for the Chinese government in exchange for payments and foreign trips.
Over the years, experts have consistently pointed out how left-leaning communist papers in India have had a soft spot for communist China, and this has shown in their reporting. Now even as India militarily faces off against China, these relationships only appear to be growing stronger — and coming out into the open.