INFOCUS | COVER STORY | MEDIA | INTERVIEW
Media must not lose its soul Immediately after his birth in April 1929 in Malaya, Tan Chung was carried by his mother and aunt to Shantiniketan in Bengal to be shown to his father and scholar Prof. Tan Yunshan. Rabindranath Tagore was glad to see the baby and christened him Asoka — the Bengali name Tan Chung could unfortunately never use. Tan Chung returned to Malaya with his mother. He was then raised in China from 1931 to 1954. He came to India to be united with his parents and studied at Shantiniketan from 1955 to 1958. He then started his career teaching Chinese language in India from 1958. An authority on history, Prof. Tan Chung has been a doyen of Chinese cultural studies in India for more than half a century. He is an authority on Chinese history, Sino-Indian relations and cultural exchange. In 2010, he was awarded the Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian honour by the Indian government and the ChinaIndia Friendship Award by the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao the same year. Prof Tan Chung is at present an Academic Associate at the University of Chicago and Emeritus Member of the Institute of Chinese Studies in New Delhi. Manju Hara caught up with the professor to understand his views on the prickly media issue.
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Having scanned some of the major dailies of both countries over the past year, one gets the impression that media coverage is largely negative. Why so? Are the media in India and China generally hostile in their coverage? Or is it just a perception? I think it somewhat inaccurate in describing the mutual media coverage between India and China as ‘largely negative.’ First of all, the coverage is standard and normal, featuring what has happened between two fast developing economies and rapidly changing and modernizing societies. Second, one does not see an intentional distortion of facts as sometimes happens between the media of hostile countries. Of course, we see in the media in the two countries a reflection of some suspicion and misconception which is quite normal as too much have been happening in the two countries and too few experts are there to give a timely interpretation with correct perspectives. Subjectively, the media today are motivated by sensation-making rather than conscience-friendly and morality-responsible. Those of us who are dedicated to the promotion of India-China contacts and interconnections, friendship and understanding should not be distracted and disheartened by the cacophony of the media which is what the media are cut out for. It is true that India and China share a complex relation yet should there not be an objective assessment of the realities? Does so-called “national interests” prevail over objective reporting? I think we need a historical perspective to talk about this. India and China are the only two ‘civilization states,’ i.e. continuously burning flames of civilization for many millennia “where it was first lighted,” as described by Rabindranath Tagore. This fact should not be forgotten. However, as modern states, — the People’s Republic of China was born in 1949, and the Republic of India, in 1950 — they have been greeted by the
geopolitical paradigm of the world of the ‘nation states’ no sooner than they opened their eyes for the first time. Tagore’s vision of India and China being united in the geo-civilizational paradigm did influence India’s founder-prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Yet, when Nehru, with the good wishes of Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, tried to place India-China relations right in the geo-civilizational paradigm, he met strong resistance from his detractors both at home and abroad who considered the geopolitical paradigm of the world of the ‘nation states’ sacrosanct and non-negotiable. Nehru could not do anything, and he died a sad and disillusioned man. Let me quote what Nehru wrote to Prof Tan Yun-shan (my father)
dated April 10, 1938: “China and India have stood for certain ideals in human life for ages past…I trust that it may be given to our two countries to cooperate together in the cause of world peace and freedom and that neither of us, in good fortune or ill fortune, will lose our souls in the pursuit of some temporary advantages.” As civilization states, India and China should be guided by their “souls” (the public good of mankind) which, I think, does not exclude their ‘national interests.’ Today, from the politicians to the masses in both the countries, there is no clear understanding about the real ‘national interests’ of the two civilization states of India and China. The people, as well as the media of the two countries must stand aloof from the “pursuit of
Of course, we see in the media in the two countries a reflection of some suspicion and misconception which is quite normal as too much have been happening in the two countries and too few experts are there to give a timely interpretation with correct perspectives. March-April 2011 India-China Chronicle |25|
INFOCUS | COVER STORY | MEDIA | INTERVIEW
some temporary advantages” without losing their souls, as advised by Nehru. India and China are two geopolitical rivals and their interests clash both in the political and economic arena. Both are vying for the same markets. India calls the Central Asian region its ‘extended neighborhood’ while to China it is the ‘strategic backyard.’ Do the compulsions of geo-politics have an impact on the media too? Neighbouring countries are rivals of competition and even potential enemies according to the geopolitical paradigm of the world of the ‘nation states.’ This is the cancer of the modern world dominated by the Western civilizational influence. We should be reminded of the fact that in ancient times all great civilizations in the Western Hemisphere treated each other as rivals and bent on destroying one another. In the Eastern Hemisphere, the two neighbouring civilizations of India and China have maintained thousands of years of cordiality and fraternity in the spiritual arena of the geo-civilizational paradigm. India and China need not fall into the trap of the geopolitical paradigm, and need not be rivals, and their interests need not clash in the political and economic arena. Even modern thinkers of the Western civilization see the countries of today in an interdependent equation. International relations are refreshingly viewed as different modes of interconnection and intercourse. If any Indian calls Central Asia an ‘extended neighbourhood,’ he/she must be living in the 19th century Europe when ‘Might was Right’ and a patriot’s duty was to carry the ‘White Man’s Burden.’ But, the days of the ‘Sun-neversets’ Empire are gone, the days of ‘Superpowers’ are gone. My observations for more than half a century have not shown any proof that the intellectual mindset in India and China fits in the proposition suggested in your question. I don’t think the media of both countries are in similar preoccupation.
The two countries have known to cooperate at the governmentto-government level as well as on international forums. Then why is there negative media coverage? Is Pakistan a factor? Or the US! The answer to the first part of the question (which, I feel, is not properly framed) has already been provided above. The US is a factor that can impact India-China relations both positively and negatively. However, that possibility is increasingly diminishing
Pakistan is a huge factor that impacts India-China relations which is a topic good enough for a dozen PhD dissertations. Briefly put, China, for the last 60 years, has had no single occasion to feel displeased with Pakistan, but has been constantly called upon to reciprocate the extra-warm initiatives from Islamabad
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both because of the decline of the US dominating influence over the world, and because of India and China having their own international forums, especially the BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (also the India-China-Russia tripartite dialogue at the track one i.e., the foreign ministers’ level and track one-and-half i.e., at the scholars’ level to which I had been associated when I was the co-chairperson of the Institute of Chinese Studies, Delhi) to help slowly construct a cooperative strategic partnership. Pakistan is a huge factor that impacts India-China relations which is a topic good enough for a dozen PhD dissertations. Briefly put, China, for the last 60 years, has had no single occasion to feel displeased with Pakistan, but has been constantly called upon to reciprocate the extrawarm initiatives from Islamabad (particularly its role in helping the secret visit of Henry Kissinger to Beijing to break the ice between China and the US). Today, when China realizes the importance of Sino-Indian friendship, she is morally bound not to ditch Pakistan, and not even make Pakistan feel that the friendship of India is greater than that of Pakistan. This Chinese position which is a kind of dilemma has not been understood in India. On the contrary, it is somewhat construed as an ‘anti-India’ gesture, or a strategy to contain India. I understand that at the official level, both India and China don’t feel easy to discuss this issue. While there is yet any Chinese scholar who is competent to analyse the issue convincingly, few Indian scholars and strategists are in a position to appreciate the Chinese dilemma while discussing it. In other words, objectively, it is the India-Pakistan enmity that holds the improvement of India-China cordiality and trust as hostage. China is moving quickly to influence media in many parts of the world – because information is power – how is that it has so far failed to influence the Indian media.
I do not see China moving quickly to control media in any part of the world outside her territory. This conclusion is predicated on the assumption that China has such a power of control which she does not. On the contrary, China has already felt that she has not been sufficiently appreciated and understood in foreign countries as well as in the international media. Many years ago, an editor of the Global Times in Beijing asked me why in spite of all her efforts, China was less appreciated and liked in the international circles than India was? My answer was that international appreciation and love would not emanate from the position of power. The pursuit of power could make others respect with fear but not respect with affection. In many respects, India looked weaker than China, but won greater appreciation, sympathy and love. I have not seen any sign of China trying to influence the Indian media. I think the Chinese have not been able to figure out what the Indian media are, especially why they have so many contradictory voices, why they criticize the Indian government so much, and why they go to such an extent to wash dirty linen in public (even the US media exercise certain self-censorship). The two countries share a civilization bond yet that has not transpired into positive response. Why are we too suspicious of each other? I think I have already spelled this out. Look at what we are doing presently! A Chinese and an Indian cannot conduct a dialogue in the language of China or India. When you publish this Q&A for the Indian readership, you probably do it only in English which is a foreign language to both India and China. Make no mistake that we do not live in globalization, but in Anglobalization. It is this Anglobalization (and this servitude to Anglobalization) that has made the Indian and Chinese civilizations irrelevant to modern sociopolitical, socio-economic,
Tagore was optimistic about the future of India and China when the two entities were in their weakest state. Tagore’s optimism was not unrelated to the fact that for two millennia before the 18th century India and China had been the most developed world on earth. geopolitical discourses in India and China. I think it not just a question of language, but a mindset, a mental orientation. If we don’t get rid of this servitude, we cannot have the paradigm shift — from the geopolitical paradigm to geocivilizational paradigm. We shall be condemned to mutual suspicious between India and China forever.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the world has largely been unipolar. Do you think that a strategic coming together of the two Asian giants could balance or even shift the global power equation? That the dismemberment of the Soviet Union was not the ‘end of history’ was sufficiently proved by the IT bubble and the ‘9/11’ tragedy. We are now in the post-Cold War and post-9/11 era to see clearly that the world is a big mess, not unipolar at all. I think the decline of the domination of the great powers of the Western Hemisphere can help us revolutionize our thinking— including our concept of the ‘Asian giants.’ Tagore said in 1916 in Japan about the civilization of India and China: “Though it may look feeble and small, judged by the standard of the mechanical power of modern days, yet like small seeds it still contains life and will sprout and grow, and spread its beneficent branches, producing flowers and fruits when its time comes and showers of grace descend upon it from heaven.” Tagore was optimistic about the future of India and China when the two entities were in their weakest state. Tagore’s optimism was not unrelated to the fact that for two millennia before the 18th century India and China had been the most developed world on earth. In my opinion, the strength of a country’s civilization fortifies its material development, not vice versa. It was the moral corruption that led to the downfall of the great powers in modern times. India and China should not aspire to become ‘giants’ or ‘superpowers’. They should come out of the vicious circle of rise and fall of great powers, but lead the world to the Indian ideal of vasudhaiva kutumbakam (the world as one family) and the Chinese ideal of shijie datong (the world in grand harmony). Yes, by coming together, India and China not only can benefit a lot themselves, but can create a more harmonious, equitable and happy mankind.
March-April 2011 India-China Chronicle |27|
INFOCUS | COVER STORY | MEDIA | VOICES
No full stops
The media seems to be at war where India and China are concerned. Facts do not seem to matter as some Indian media organisations believe that is the best way to grab a larger market share. Similar responses are emerging from the Chinese side as well. The threat to a stable India-China relationship seems coming not from the governments, but from sections within the media. We spoke to a cross-section of media representatives to get their versions.
Better ties better coverage
Founder and Editor, Network 18
n media perception: There are negative vibes in the India-China relationship and the media reflect these. It is possible to question the tone, the pitch or even the twist but no one disagrees that it is a cobbled, not smooth, relationship. Stapled visas, the construction of roads and railways along the border, the military build-up, the supply of nuclear reactors to Pakistan, the India-US civil nuclear deal, the opposition to India getting a waiver at the Nuclear Suppliers’ Club, the cozy relationship with Pakistan, the Dalai Lama’s activities, all these may be negative but they reflect reality. There is however a lot of positive coverage in the Indian media about China’s economic achievements. India has made China the standard, for instance, when it aspires for Mumbai to be like Shanghai, or strives to attain Chinese rates of growth. I would be surprised if relations improved and media coverage did not. On so-called “national interests”: Though the Indian media are privately owned, and do not take cues from the government, on strategic issues there is broad national consensus The secretive nature of the Chinese state creates apprehensions. There is much ignorance in India about what caused the 1962 war and the balance of blame. In China, I believe, the war itself is not well-known, so there is inadequate appreciation of Indian sensitivities. The Indian government itself laments that it only gets flak from the media and little positive coverage! So the complainers
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across the border have company! Compulsions of geo-politics: India is a status-quoist power; it does not have territorial ambitions or spheres of influence. Our markets may be similar in labour intensive manufactures, but there the media blame Indian policy and the difficulty of doing business in India, rather than the Chinese for being competitive and getting a bigger share of the world market. In fact sections of the Indian media have been saying that the government must address security issues, if any, without depriving Indian power producers or telecom service providers of cheaper Chinese equipment. The media prodding the government to be aggressive like China in securing oil supplies or winning Central Asian and African friends should not be seen as a clash. Every country has a right to pursue its self-interest. Why negative coverage: Since 2003 when Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee visited China, the two countries are building on the areas that bind, while not harping on the issues they differ on. International cooperation happens in areas of agreement. But the differences are critical. The media cannot ignore them. For instance, can it gloss over the little or no progess in resolving the border dispute despite many highlevel meetings? China’s influence: China’s media influence reflects it’s economic, and consequently, strategic heft. But is the Western media less critical about China on, say, human rights or the exchange-rate? Agreed, there is wider and deeper coverage of China in the Western media. The India media, and certainly the TV channels need to have more journalists in China, and cover a wide range of issues. Often it is cost that decides issues like placement of journalists and not a lack of interest in developments in China. In fact there is a huge interest in India about China. The Chinese embassy in Delhi should engage journalists continually. It must promote study of the Chinese language. Why does it not set up a Confucius Institute in New Delhi to begin with? A larger constituency in either country can act as a pressure group for better relations. Civilisational links: Yes, Buddhism is a link. Both people also share certain common values. But national interests can differ despite affinities between people. India, China, US: It is a multi-polar world with one hyperpower. But even the US knows how far it can stretch. For India, it would be unwise to thwart China’s rise. It is also unrealistic to expect that India can be weaned away from the United States; they have much at stake mutually. India should try balance its relationship with both countries and profit from it.
Correspondent based in New Delhi of the People’s Daily, China
eeing is believing. That’s so true for a country like India. India is indeed famous for its diversity and the Indian people known for their hospitality. I have been living and working in India for around three years. I am so glad to have experienced this country first hand rather than from books! Before I set foot here, most books I read introduced the Caste system. If I did not know India, I would tend to believe that the caste system is the most important part of this society. Actually, it is only a deep-rooted concept in peoples’ mind, and not many people are willing to talk about it openly. Anyway, the Indian constitution claims that India is a secular country and that the caste system should be abolished. One China scholar made a perceptive remark about India when he said that any conclusion you draw about India may be right, but then the very opposite could also hold true. The diversity of India is reflected in many aspects. India has 22 official languages, and 400 smaller tongues and dialects. Indian society is made up of nearly 5000 castes and communities, each with its own rules, customs and stories. India gave birth to four world religions and its 33 million gods. I believe that no other such diversified state can be found at any other place around the world. Its diversity is just like the masalas (spices) produced here in all its colours and different smells. I have to confess that for a foreign journalist working in India can be a baffling experience nevertheless. Going from one state to another is like passing from one country to another. I do not know the official language Hindi, so English is the only tool for communication. But people from different ‘Pradeshes’ (states) speak English with their own accent and sometimes it becomes very difficult to understand. Language is only one aspect but the real challenges are the local food and living habits. As a Chinese journalist who lives in India, I have to face the same problem like other foreigners; the slowness,
whether in the bureaucratic system or on the road. But I cannot conceal the fact that I really appreciate the private service system, for example the service at hotels and restaurants. Some other things leave me quite incredulous such as when you can bargain the penalty with the traffic police when I am stopped by them. I cannot imagine such things in my country. I really appreciate the flexibility of the Indian traffic police. My friends from China keep asking me whether India can be defined as a conservative society. This is one of the most difficult questions for me to answer. As the local media frequently criticize the dowry system, the honour killings, the liquor culture and etc, even from the way most people dress, sometime I feel that India is conservative. But then I also notice that bold perfume advertisements and Bollywood videos are shown on the TV channels, sexy pictures are published in newspapers and magazines, something rarely seen in the so-called comparatively open-minded society in China. Indian youth are much more confident today. “The future of a nation always rests on the shoulders of its youth.” In my perspective, this is being proved by India’s youth. Showing greater interest in the growth and development of the country by getting involved in Indian politics, the government sector, business, software and initiating various innovative projects for the country’s welfare, the difference and change is quite visible. And there is bound to be progress in a country where the youth take the initiative. There is no doubt that Indian youth is setting examples and they are proving themselves in every field, at home and abroad. Doing interviews are not so difficult in India, because this is a country in which people like to talk and express themselves. At seminars and press conferences, the persons who ask questions is more likely to talk much more than those who answer. Actually, they just want to express themselves instead of asking and waiting for an answer. The Indian media plays a very important role. But in international politics, sometimes, I do not believe it plays a positive role, for example, it unnecessarily hyped tension with Pakistan after Osama Bin Laden’s killing. I believe that the win-win situation of Sino-India relationship can be achieved. Although I hold a positive stand on this trend, the fact is that many sensitive factors still exert negative influence on that. Some Indian experts say that apart from economic cooperation and trade volume increase, no other important achievements have been achieved for these years. I do not agree with that. In my perspective, the economic cooperation is pushing the exchange of people and mutual understanding. We can see that more and more people are travelling to each other’s country. As emerging markets, India and China do have many common interests; they attract many investments and create many wonders. As for the two countries comprehensive national strength is on the increase, but the US will continue to dominate international politics. That aspect should change as early as possible. March-April 2011 India-China Chronicle |29|
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No access to Chinese officials Ananth Krishnan The Hindu’s Correspondent based in Beijing
wouldn’t say the media are hostile in their coverage. It is my perception that the coverage in both countries generally tends to reflect the tone of the relationship between the governments. Media coverage might magnify – and on occasion exaggerate – differences or problems. But I would still suggest that the coverage tends to be more a reflection of the nature of the relationship rather than any hostility created by the media. It’s fair to say that national interests do indeed influence coverage in both countries. This is clearly more so the case in China, where the media is largely State-controlled and not free when it comes to reporting on diplomacy. Yes, the Chinese media is opening up when it comes to local issues, but it is my perception that coverage is strictly dictated to when it comes to reporting on China’s relations with other countries. Unlike in India, you will rarely find contrarian views in newspapers, say, criticising foreign policy towards India. In India’s case too, Indian interests are more represented in covering issues. I see two reasons. Firstly, I’d say this is true – and somewhat natural - of media in any country, whether India, China or the United States – you tend to be informed more by the views of the government of your own country, and you tend to engage with officials of your country’s government more. A second – and particular – problem in our re-
Pakistan is a factor
Diplomatic Editor, Times of India
think on the Indian side, media coverage of China in the past couple of years has unfortunately been somewhat negative. That has more to do with the stories of incursions by the Chinese into Indian Territory in 2008-09, a perception that China does not want India to advance in the world. China’s relationship with Pakistan is seen as a big negative in India, because by and large the media interpret this as being directed against India. On the other hand, there is a great deal of appreciation at the progress that China has achieved in such a short time, a call to the Indian government to show greater efficiency as we see in the Chinese system. Fundamentally, Indian media coverage of China is a result of ignorance of the Chinese system, and the way it works. Therefore most Indian media see China through the prism of the western media. |30| India-China Chronicle March-April 2011
porting on issues dealing with China is we have little – or no – access to the views of Chinese officials and how they see issues or problems. Chinese officials tend to not engage with foreign media beyond official statements, making it difficult to convey their viewpoints with the clarity with which we understand and report on the Indian government’s views on an issue. The “negative coverage” reflects problems and differences in the relationship which do exist. It doesn’t make sense to suggest that because there is some cooperation, the other issues are not reported on. Cooperation between the two governments also receives coverage. A case in point: cooperation between India and China on climate change received much attention in the media in both countries. So does cooperation under multilateral platforms like BRICS etc. Another example: the trade relationship is also widely reported on. Looking at trade and business coverage, I’d say it’s unfair to sweepingly label media coverage as “negative.” I don’t really see the Indian case as being any different from what’s happening elsewhere. Perhaps the United States is an exception in terms of how is China reaching out – I think China is far more interested in engaging with the US media considering the importance of its relationship with the US and is hence devoting more attention and resources there. I don’t think there’s any comparable move to engage with the Indian media only because China – and the Chinese media - view its relations with India as being far less important, and hence relations with India tend to receive far less attention. The two countries have only been actively engaging since the late 1980s, and substantial contact regarding education, commerce or the media has only been evident in the last decade. It will take continued engagement on many platforms – and time – for any unwarranted suspicious to subside, which ultimately also depends on the state of relations between both governments. India and China do indeed share a complex relationship. Having said that, these so-called “national interests” do not triumph over general reporting. Indian media is often much more critical of the Indian establishment than the Chinese. Yes, to some extent geo-politics do impact media coverage. When the media covers any issue related to China, it’s mainly related to foreign policy, so yes, geo-political interests do get mentioned in some length. Pakistan is certainly a factor. But it’s also true that the Chinese government makes little effort to push the “good” stories in the Indian media. The US has little influence on Indian media reporting on China, but because Indian media get a far greater exposure to US media, that has some effect on Indian reporting. That’s primarily because Indian media has a long independent tradition. Also it’s in the private sector, which might make it more difficult for the Chinese system to influence. On the other hand, it doesn’t seem like the Chinese too are particularly interested in wooing Indian media. I guess suspician about each other has to do with our collective history, the 1962 war when India lost, and China’s Pakistan connection. China is also felt to be encircling India that makes people nervous. Given the situation and context, India and China are more likely to end up at opposite ends. But there will be greater cooperation between India and China on many many issues.
Faulty perceptions to blame Pramitpal Chaudhuri
Foreign Editor, Hindustan Times
overage has been more negative the past two to three years because the primary issues between the two countries in these periods have been confrontational or dispute-based. If national interests mean government-based concerns, then there is only a minimal influence on the Indian media’s coverage. If anything, the Indian government has often sought to dampen controversies. This is less clear in China where the media is tightly controlled by the government. Media, or oped pages, like to have stories that revolve around rivalries and conflicts. The Western press, in fact, has been at the forefront of claiming there is an India-China race for resources and influence around the world. That has now been picked up by the media of both India and China. The reality is that there is far less of a race than people imagine, but it continues to serve as a backdrop for some reporting and oped pieces. China, I would argue, has the following negative image perceptions. One is that its unflinching support for Pakistan, which seems to be impinging on core Indian interests like
India not a big story for China Reshma Patil Beijing Correspondent for Hindustan Times
ostile coverage is a perception maintained on the Chinese side which tends to sweep all Indian media reports on China into the ‘negative’ category. New Delhi officials actually speak up in defense of India’s independent press when the Chinese raise this complaint. Indian media reports a variety of views and news breaks on the India-China story including both the highs and lows in bilateral relations. In fact, positive outcomes after bilateral meetings get better play and analysis in the media in India than the cursory coverage in China. The Indian media also follows up the China market, economy and culture – similar trends from emerging India are rarely reported in China. India is still not a big media story for China. The staterun Chinese media has kept major issues raised by New Delhi, like stapled visas for Kashmir residents, out of coverage. Most Chinese citizens have not even heard of these issues. This
Kashmir, has led it to be conflated with the negative Indian image of Pakistan. Two, China is either hostile or indifferent to certain Indian international aspirations including nuclear technology parity and UN Security Council membership. Finally, it is perceived as an efficient but brutal state in its treatment of dissidents, the Dalai Lama and so on. I don’t think China took India seriously until perhaps a year or two ago. Anti-Indian sentiment in China revolves around a belief that India is becoming part of an anti-China geopolitical alliance that includes the US and Japan. Thus it is seen as a subset of China’s US policy. But as China develops a larger stake in the Indian economy it seems to be more concerned about its image. Companies like Huawei have begun investing in public relations with some success. Not so the Chinese state. Indian and Chinese political leadership have been suspicious of each other since the 1950s for various ideological and security reasons. The public in India and China are barely conscious of each other. There is little civil society engagement between the two countries. Understandably the discourse is largely driven by state perceptions. The civilisational bond, I should add, is less than is often described – it does not go much beyond Buddhism. The coming together of the two Asian giants could shift global power equation.When the two have cooperated, as happened in Copenhagen’s climate summit, the Western powers were stymied. However, given the lack of trust between the two Asian giants their strategic coming together is highly unlikely. control of information has led Chinese citizens to assume that problems in the bilateral relationship are only because of Indian hostility/suspicions and the ‘negative’ Indian media. If you scrutinise Hindutan Times reports over the last three years, you will notice that we ensure there are Chinese voices in all our foreign policy stories related to India-China relations. It’s important to note that the Chinese government ministries and several strategic think-tanks make it extremely challenging to report their view. Government ministries remain closed to the foreign media. China needs to open up and enable a dialogue with its policymakers and military strategists in the foreign media...not just at rare official events, but by starting to acknowledge and respond to repeated interview requests. In the case of Chinese state-run media the editorials are an indicator of the government’s line of thinking on foreign policy. There are existing unresolved disputes on both sides. There is also an absence of information sources on India in the Chinese language. China has the world’s largest online population that mostly surfs Chinese language websites and they do not read Indian websites unless translations are produced in the Chinese media. Language and cultural differences are the main barriers to tourism and even doing business in either economy. But the prospect of coming together has greater business and economic potential. However, long-term political relations between India and China are hard to predict. March-April 2011 India-China Chronicle |31|
INFOCUS | COVER STORY | MEDIA | VOICES
Need to negate propaganda Sreemati Chakrabarti
Honorary Director, Institute of Chinese Studies, New Delhi
egative reporting gets more readership/viewership as it conforms to people’s perceptions which have emerged due to many years of hostile propaganda against each other in both the countries. National interest is a very loosely-defined and unclear and confusing term but nationalism in both countries manifests itself more in the form of jingoism than patriotism. The media is not really bothered about ‘national interest.’ Increasing antagonism with a neighbour is in no way conducive to national interest. Objective reporting often does not bring in much revenue as media houses are in a stiff competition with each other to sell sensational news. “Geo-political rivals” is a favourite term of the media and elements who would want the mutual threat perceptions to grow as it benefits the world’s armaments industry. Here I will repeat what PM Manmohan Singh has said:”There is enough space in the world for India and China to grow.” The two terms (regarding Central Asia used by India and China) in my opinion are not necessarily conflictual. Let’s not forget that we are talking about states that are independent and sovereign. Nei-
Need for more peopleto-people contact
Political Editor, Hindustan Times
here is most certainly an element of distrust if not outright hostility in the Indian media towards China with exceptions such as The Hindu. The reasons are both historical and contemporary. The two countries have been at war in the past and China has always backed Pakistan in its one-upmanship game vis-à-vis India. It has exchanged nuclear know-how with Pakistan and is also setting up nuclear power plants in that country. The Chinese position on Kashmir too is pro-Pakistan barring occasions when Beijing advised Islamabad to try and make progress on less contentious issues with New Delhi and leave Kashmir for the long haul. The Indian media and their Chinese counterpart also keep propagating stereotypes. This is largely on account of the language barrier and bare minimum peopleto-people contact between the two sides. Objective assessment of the complex relationship is a casualty largely because of lack of adequate study and knowledge on the part of commenta|32| India-China Chronicle March-April 2011
ther India nor China is forcing them into a relationship. Pakistan and US are both important factors but not so important as to keep India and China apart forever. The media exaggerates these issues for it sells well. Chinese think tanks working on India do understand that India is too independent a nation to be dictated by the US despite the civilian nuclear deal and Indians who profoundly study and understand China know China’s compulsions in making positive noises in favour of its “all weather friend” – Pakistan. I do not agree with the view that China controls a lot of the media outside its borders. The western media is constantly pointing to China as a threat, and India as a counterweight to China. Such perceptions need to be contested. Nearly half a century of intense propaganda against each other has led to suspicion and threat. In case of China, antiIndia sentiments among the common people developed since colonial times when the British used Indians as security guards in the areas under colonial control (called Concessions) to harass and torture the local people. (See Madhavi Thampi, Indians in China: 1840-1949). No one is to benefit from an Asia-US/West Cold War. The world has never been as interdependent as it is today. Desire for economic growth and prosperity should lead to cooperation rather than confrontation within Asia and between Asian nations and others. The world is not completely uni-polar. China has emerged as America’s banker and India is at least a partial employer. Of course, the US may not appear to be as powerful as it was when the Soviet Union declined but its military power, as well as soft power, continue to enjoy the number one spot. tors and media persons – barring sinologists who have spent a lifetime studying the relationship. The Indian view of China is also guided by the pro-Capital media’s bias towards communist parties, notably the CPI-M that have been their whipping boys since the advent of economic reforms. The Indian media is driven also by TRPs that get better with Pak and China bashing on nationalist lines. This trend is complimented by the Chinese response – in their official newspapers and the cyber world. The India leadership has often insisted that there is enough space for China and India to compete and coexist. And if the balance of power has to shift to Asia in economic and strategic terms, these two must desist from unbridled rivalry. But such emotions do not translate into creating a popular psyche that’s realistic. The Indian middle class is distrustful of China and the Chinese people arrogant and equally distrustful of India. These perceptions are reinforced on a daily basis by a reactionary media and the ideologically biased Indian right wing bedazzled by the US and the West. Both Pakistan and the US are factors that influence the relationship. The Indian media admires China’s success on the economic front. Trust is lacking because of adversarial perceptions. We are so near and yet so far, emotionally, diplomatically, socially and in strategic terms. The Chinese perceive us as allies of the US and we view China as a country determined to check our matching rise by propping up Pakistan. India and China have to work in unison towards the creation of a multi-polar world. That would require a paradigm shift in the way we see each other.
Lack of trust Shams Raza Naqvi
Business Correspondent, News X
think more than negative, adequate coverage is not just there. As a business correspondent for my TV channel, many a times there is a story that I would want to do objectively. But on paper it’s far away from that and eventually the story is not done. Mostly what we cover on both sides are political stories and don’t really go beyond that. Trade and sports for example are not given enough importance. I also feel that it’s unfair to compare both sides as China is very secretive about figures unlike India which is fairly transparent. I think national interests do influence media coverage. I think each set of neighbours share complex relation. More so in South Asia where conflicts have been going on for decades with countries claiming each other’s territories. Tibet also has been a big factor and that is where China we all know is not too happy with India, especially with Dalai Lama being a state guest. Plus there is the Pakistan as well as Nepal (Maoist) influence on China and that makes India uncomfortable. Therefore the amount of confidence between the two countries is not there and hence the un-objective reporting, so to say. There’s only to a certain extent the media can go against the state. And if the state has unhealthy relations against a country only a minority of the media will contribute in improving those relations. In communist China that almost seems an impossible task. The media has to tow the line of the
Geo-politics impact coverage Vinod Khanna
Former Ambassador of India
t is true that the media coverage in both the countries generally tend to be negative about the other. I would however like to say that this happens largely on issues where interests of the two countries are perceived by the media to clash. On issues where cooperation is involved, — for instance in multinational forums — there is fairly objective reporting.
government. But what can bring us together are our rapidly growing economies. The world talks about India and China in the same breath, and there is enough scope for both to grow around the world at their own pace. Indian media’s reporting of China’s growing economy in a sense is a catalyst for India to follow and try and grow even faster. Absolutely! Both of Pakistan and the US are big factors. Two of the biggest growing economies cannot ignore each other and need to stay in touch. But as we’ve seen several times across the world politics takes over everything else. Many believe an unstable neighbour is not good for a country. Both India and China know that they’re too strong to be destabilized. But media loves negative reporting. And that is true for places beyond China. I’m not too sure about China influencing media anywhere, leave alone India. It’s very difficult to influence media anyways. And to do that China has to open up, let people inside and know more about the country. Indian journalists still can’t go to Lhasa and even going to China is not an easy task. In comparison many correspondents of China based media live and work from New Delhi. And that’s the difference. China has time and again claimed ownership of Indian land. Be it Ladakh, Arunachal or Sikkim. The areas are controlled by India where Indians live. So what is the point of raking up an issue every few months? It calls residents of Kashmir and Arunachal as their own and issues them stapled visas. It’s got half of Ladakh under its control. Chinese boats roam freely in Indian lakes in Ladakh. India doesn’t do anything of that sort. And therefore, the suspicion. What happened thousands of years ago, cannot form borders now. India and China have to come together to take on the world. And then they would be unbeatable. The power equation will definitely see a shift. The two Asian giants can take on the might of the west and the east and make South and Central Asia the powerful regions in the world. Remember money is power!! Occasionally, Mr N. Ram writing for the Hindu, on subjects like the internal developments in Tibet is, one is tempted to say, even excessively “positive!” On the question of “national interests” skewing objective reporting, I would say it seems so. But I must hasten to add that this is not true of just India and China. After all geo-politics inevitably has an impact on any country’s perceptions of its national interests. On the Pakistan and US factors, I would point out that Sino-Pak relations certainly influence the Indian media and to some extent the Chinese are unhappy with what they perceive as the anti China potential of Indo-US relationship. The 1962 War and the unresolved territorial dispute, Tibet and other geopolitical issues have contributed to both being suspicious of each other. Global power equations are changing somewhat but I don’t see a strategic alliance between China and India against the US, that is unlikely. Of course on some specific issues Indian and Chinese interests will converge and they may combine — along with other similarly placed countries — to oppose the US. March-April 2011 India-China Chronicle |33|