India’s soldiers are currently preparing to battle the sub 40 degree winters in Ladakh to prevent the Chinese from taking over Indian territory, but prominent Indian publications are giving China’s government a free rein to push their propaganda through their platforms.
Hindustan Times has carried a multi-page segment called China Watch, which is a paid advertisement from the Chinese Communist Party. “This supplement prepared by China Daily, People’s Republic Of China, did not involve the views or editorial departments of Hindustan Times,” the paper clarifies in a small font on the first page of the supplement. But the supplement, carried with the main paper, sings China’s praises and attempts to paint the nation in a positive light.
The first page of the supplement speaks about how China is cleaning up the Huang He river in China, which is bringing a ‘bright future.’ Another article talks about how China’s markets are buzzing despite the downturn.
The second page speaks about how young Chinese people are making their marks on the global stage. Another article speaks of how China’s conservation efforts have led to birds flourishing in its wetlands.
The third page is a ‘Tibet special’, which completely glosses over the horrific brutalities carried out by the Chinese in the region. It speaks about how China is making efforts to preserve Tibetan culture. Another article speaks about how the aviation sector is proving to be a game-changer for the region’s locals.
Predictably, none of the articles in the ‘China Watch’ segment speak about how the country brought the coronavirus to the world, or how China runs concentration camps in which Uyghur Muslims are persecuted, or how China’s hackers regularly attack websites around the world. The segment also has no mention of how China’s aggressive moves have led to clashes with neighbors in areas ranging from Ladakh to the South China Sea.
The segment is clearly information warfare run by China, which is designed to paint the nation in a positive light. But what’s more shocking is how Hindustan Times agreed to carry it — it’s barely been four months since the deadly Galwan clash in which 20 Indian soldiers were martyred at the hands of the Chinese. The government, for its part, has been blocking Chinese apps given the risk of how they could be used to influence Indian citizens, but a near-century-old paper has laid out the red carpet for China to carry out its propaganda.
This isn’t even the first time an Indian paper has carried Chinese propaganda in exchange for money. Just four weeks ago, The Hindu had published a similar full-page ad for China, which sang its praises.
While it’s unacceptable for Indian publications to let a belligerent nation carry out its propaganda through their platforms, the risks are even greater for media companies. With China paying ad money to these publications, it has leverage over them, and can pressure them to mold their coverage as per its interests. There could be nothing more dangerous than a country’s free press being beholden to a rouge nation, and Indian authorities need to step in and make sure that China’s government can’t use India’s papers to push their propaganda on its citizens.