By Abu Zafar
India and China are one of the most significant neighbor countries in Asia as well as throughout the world. India is world’s largest democracy and the press is considered here as the fourth pillar of democracy but, unlike India, the media in China is highly controlled by the government.. Many highly circulated newspapers, magazines and television channels which have millions of viewers are run either by the government or the Communist Party of China. Even after the economic reforms in 1978, when China adopted a comparatively liberal approach towards media, media censorship still remains a bitter truth. But due to various policies adopted during the economic reform, conditional private entrepreneurship was allowed and media ownership was also one of them. Therefore, after 1978, China witnessed a massive growth in the media sector from private or semi-private sectors. But still, all media houses, whether private, semi-private or run by the government, work under the tight norms prescribed by the government.
An overview of leading Chinese media houses from Xinhua to People’s Daily, Renmin Ribao, Global Times, South China Morning Post and CCTV shows that Indian news is still related to defense, terrorism, business and crime overwhelmed in China.
People’s Daily, the official newspaper of China and television channel CCTV, mostly has news related to security, terrorism, and India’s relations with other countries. South China Morning Post have mix stories from India which includes from business to crime and politics, but most of these stories are agency copy from Reuters, AFP, AP etc.
Xinhua, the official news agency of China, which has about 170 international bureaus and operating in eight languages from Chinese to English, French, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese and Arabic has news sharing contract with more than 80 news agencies throughout the world. Compare with earlier scenario, Xinhua is more involved in India. Since Xinhua considers itself as global media it has more vast and covers general stories from India.
Though like the United States and Britain still Chinese media houses don’t have more full-time journalists in Indian cities, but since last couple of years the number of stories in Chinese newspapers like People’s Daily, The Global Times etc is getting higher. Chinese media houses are now reporting news of Indian provinces too. Earlier apart from news from Delhi and Mumbai, very few news items were seen in Chinese dailies.
Since both countries initiated new ties between various cities which accelerated during the current regime, the news from various Indian cities like Kolkata, Bangalore, Ahmadabad etc became significant. Till now at least nine Indian and Chinese cities including New Delhi-Beijing, Mumbai-Shanghai, Chennai-Chongqing, Kolkata-Kunming, Hyderabad-Qingdao, Ahmadabad-Guangzhou and Bengaluru-Chengdu, have been adopted under the idea of ‘sister cities’.
Chinese media are known mostly for its ‘negative’ stories from India. Natural disasters like earthquake, flood, draught or medical emergencies and accidents get more frequent coverage in the Chinese media. Almost all major train accidents in India got coverage in many mainstream newspapers in China. On November 30, noted tabloid Huanqiu Shibao came with a story about Indian Railways. The story talks about how Indian trains are crowded. According to the newspaper, most of these trains have the double number of passengers compare to their actual capacity which compels commuters to travel on the roof of the train. The story also sighted statics of the total number of people who lost their lives while traveling on the roof or on the doorside. Recent rain and deadly floods in Chennai was covered significantly by Xinhua, CCTV, Renmin Ribao, South China Morning Post etc.
But now, though most of such ‘negative’ stories still being published in China, other issues are also being covered.
Heinous crimes such as rape and other crimes against women also get important attention in China. The horrific Nirbhaya incident of gang-rape in a moving bus in New Delhi in December 2012 which shook the entire nation has been getting significance coverage in the Chinese media. Since then almost all major such incidents, including an updated story about the Nirbhaya incident have been reported there. Therefore, common Chinese have a slightly narrow perception about women’s security in India. A leading news portal puts a story with reference of a British survey describing 10 most dangerous countries for women and it places India at the top.
As a sensitive neighbour, China takes serious note of any development in India in the defense sector. Whether it is test-fire of any missile by India or arms deal with any country, Chinese media always focuses on it and frequently terms India’s ambitions as global arms race.
Mostly Chinese media focus on stories related to the defense sector in India. Whether it is some deal from any western countries or India’s relation with countries like Japan, Russia, and the United States.
When Prime Minister Modi visited China in May, the Chinese media gave a significant response to the visit, but at the same time newspapers like The Global Times, which is run by the Communist Party of China and considered to be a newspaper of opinionated class didn’t forget to raise security and border issues including China’s claim on Arunachal Pradesh. Some newspapers also mentioned the Sino-India war of 1962 too. CCTV, China’s largest television channel which is run by the central government came up with a map of India, where entire Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir provinces were missing.
However, some newspapers published columns and editorials expressing positive views for Sino-Indian relations and criticized western countries for creating an atmosphere of suspicion over the relationship.
Though the Bollywood manages to get acceptance worldwide, but it seems that it does not have much impact on China. The number of Bollywood movies dubbed in Chinese is quite low.
Bollywood king Shahrukh Khan is comparatively less known in China than Aamir Khan. Aamir Khan’s Three Idiots and PK got a massive response in China. Chinese media frequently cover Aamir Khan than Shahrukh and others. Chinese media was comparatively silent on the ongoing debate about intolerance in India but Global Times and other newspapers covered Aamir Khan’s view about the same.
When relations between India and Nepal strained recently, it was widely covered by Chinese media. Some stories published in mainstream Chinese newspapers also suggest that China sees it as an opportunity to involve more in Nepal like it tried to do during Nepal’s deadly earthquake in April this year.