For the past one month, the standoff between India and China is getting murkier for many reasons. It all started with the construction of motorable road by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army on Doklam, a disputed territory between Bhutan and Tibet on 16th June 2017, followed by many developments reported in Indian and Chinese media, particularly, in the Global Times, a major Chinese newspaper which is published both in Chinese and English. For Indian media and analysts, the Global Times has become a source of their understanding of Beijing’s thinking.
In an op-ed, published in GT, on July 23, 2017, titled, ‘New Delhi didn’t draw lesson from 1962 border war’ Long Xingchun, a research fellow, said, ‘China doesn’t want a war. Many Indian media outlets and analysts put all the blame on China for the standoff and conclude that China had plotted to provoke the conflict in an attempt to divert attention from its internal problems.’ He even questioned the Western-oriented understanding of China by Indian experts by saying, ‘So far as I know, there are no more than 200 Chinese experts in India, of which 10 percent, at most, can read or speak Chinese. Most of these experts study China based on publications from the US and Europe and a few English publications published by China, but sadly they believe that they have been well informed about China.’
Contrary to Long Xingchun’s statement, however, most of the recent reports and commentaries by Indian media and experts have shaped their reports and views on the basis of the contents in The GT. This is further validated in the following reports and commentaries published in Indian media. The following reports and commentaries are few among the series, which have quoted the editorials and commentaries published in the GT.
- Doklam standoff: India should be ready for all-out confrontation: Chinese media
- If India becomes a US ally, results may prove catastrophic: Chinese media
- Amid Sikkim standoff, Chinese state media divided over Doval’s visit to Beijing
- Doklam will prompt new thinking on India-China relations
- Will the Doklam Standoff Lead to a Second India-China War?
For the past one month, there was continuous barrage of editorials and opinions published in GT, day after day, reminding India, of its place in the world and the lesson it failed to learn from 1962 war. These editorials and opinions are in fact a source for Indian media and commentators, who based on the GT, tries to understand Beijing’s thinking on the current Doklam standoff. Due to the lack of any direct statements from Beijing, one cannot resist the temptation of quoting GT now and then. For instance, Sutirtho Patranobis, a reporter with the Hindustan Times, who has earlier written a report titled ‘Not every Chinese state media opinion reflects Beijing’s mind’ where he questioned the reflections of Beijing’s thinking in state media, particularly, GT. However he too felt the need to quote GT in one of his latest reports on Doklam standoff.
Rajiv Ranjan, Assistant professor at the Shanghai University’s College of Liberal Arts in Scroll, an online media outlet, questioned the credibility of GT as a window to Beijing’s thinking and even urged the Indian scholars to look beyond the provocative editorial in the GT. He said, ‘By giving undue importance to such articles by amateur scholars–merely they write in English–India’s strategic experts and policy advisors enable them to influence New Delhi’s China policy.’ He further added that, ‘It appears the psychological war launched by China’s English media is solely intended to invite counter attacks from the Indian media.’ For the past few weeks reports and commentaries published in newspapers and other platforms, it does appears that the purpose of GT is being served.
If one count the series of editorials and opinions published since the beginning of standoff, it also appears that the GT has received the blessings from the Chinese Communist Party to start a psychological warfare against India.
Richard Burger, who had worked as an editor in the GT till 2011, blogged these words, in his blog the Peking Duck on July 20, 2012:
‘I was (am) always curious about the seemingly opposing forces at the GT. Often I was amazed at how far they would go allowing commentators to criticize the CCP, even columns mocking China’s navy and arguing it was hardly ready to participate in any conflict in the South China Sea. … But still….I was amazed at what the censors let through. But I never doubted that it was strategic. Nothing got through by accident.’
From his words, it indicates that nothing happened by accident and there is always a connection between the Global Times and the Chinese Communist Party.
In an exclusive interview with Hindustan Times on 6 November, 2016, Li Hongwei, managing editor of the GT, responded to the question, whether what GT carries is an indication of what the government is thinking? He said, it didn’t, but he further added, ‘While government thinking is interpreted by the GT through our reports and commentaries, opinions and perspectives from the private sector, the grassroots and expat communities can also be found in the paper.’
It further gets little clear in the words of Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the GT since 2005, who in an interview with the Quartz ,a digital news outlet, on 9 August 2016, said that ‘ I have so many friends in the foreign ministry and the security department. We gather together and talk quite often. We share the same sentiment and the same values. Our thinking is the same in general.’ He further claimed that his thinking is in line with their thinking, because they are more cautious and hence cannot speak willfully.
From the above words it can concluded that he is indirectly channelizing their thoughts in his writing in the GT.
Despite the Global Times being branded as a hyper-nationalistic newspaper, or being questioned, whether it represents the Chinese government or not, it however remains a major source of information to Indian media and analysts alike on the issue surrounding Doklam standoff. If China really wants to mitigate the current standoff, the first step would be to stop the psychological warfare through the Global Times. Because, for the past few weeks, the Global Times acted more like a war dog than a watchdog.
*Tenzin Tsultrim is a research fellow at the Tibet Policy Institute. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the Tibet Policy Institute.