When it comes to putting out messages, China does a better job than India
However amateurish it may be, Beijing makes an effort to communicate, be it the Global Times or the CCTV or official statements. New Delhi’s outreach, on the other hand, is so staid and stoic, it gets lost in the staticUpdated: Sep 01, 2017 17:59 IST
In recent weeks an article posted on social media proved a curious artefact. It was boldly plugged, ‘Is ancient India overrated? A mind-blowing analysis by Chinese ex Professor from University of Toronto’. No, the writer argues, “if anything, ancient India is sorely underrated.”
This had appeal on several levels: A personal interest in the ancient heritage of the subcontinent; that it was supposedly written by a Chinese or Chinese-origin person while the Doklam impasse continued, and finally, that the author was a Toronto resident.
A search through the University of Toronto faculty directory, however, delivered no entries for the ex-professor Pak L Huide, so I approached contacts to try and locate this former ‘professor’. The response: No records. “Seems like a fake,” I was told in confidence since there were privacy issues involved.
To be fair, there may be plenty of reasons for this: A Chinese national may be unwilling to be seen writing a pro-India piece during the prevailing cross-border confrontation. Or maybe it was matter of semantics – could the person be from a University in Toronto? That’s doubtful since the manner of writing of the piece itself didn’t lend itself to the belief that he or she was particularly adept at playing around with the English language.
Given the places where this appeared and soon spread online, this could also have been counter-propaganda. If that is the case, it once again underscored India’s inability to communicate its message effectively.
Doklam itself is an example of that. While sections of think-tankdom agree India may have succeeded in not conceding an inch, American media isn’t giving column centimetres to that contention.
India really has no institutionalised mechanism to make its point. The Chinese are blunt, with the kind of brazen badgering that doesn’t appear in global diplomacy outside the hilarious if fake Twitter handle of the Pyongyang regime. China flaunts fake facts on racist videos, but still gains greater traction than the statements from India’s ministry of external affairs.
Sure, the intent in New Delhi may have been to not raise temperatures with intemperate outbursts, but the presentation of its case was so dully bureaucratic, it went cold.
That’s ironic. With a free and fiery media and a film industry that’s getting edgier and more sophisticated, you would think there’s a talent pool to trawl to outclass the opposing view. But all that talk of soft power is not yet being heard. Official minimalism can be supplemented with informal channelling of spin.
The Chinese make an effort to communicate, however amateurish that may be: From having the Global Times, the party propaganda publication, appear in my mailbox in New York and subsequently in Toronto; to news channels like the unfortunately named CCTV, spouting the closed circuit messages of the Communist regime, popping up on cable; and official statements that offer red meat. India’s outreach is so staid and stoic, it gets lost in the static.
Anirudh Bhattacharyya is a Toronto-based commentator on American affairs
The views expressed are personal