The Sino-India clash at the Ladakh border has been extensively covered by the media of both the countries with the perspective suitable for their audience.
Ladakh is a Union Territory of India, located in the far north of India. It’s a mountainous region with scanty vegetation and many strategically valuable locations. The clash between the Army of India-China takes place at one such strategically important location called Pangong Tso Lake. Both India and China partially control the Pangong Tso lake. Patrolling has been conducted by both the countries at the lake under the mutual agreement. Complaints of encroachment, by both sides, are common in the area. Since, past two-three months, China started obstructing Indian patrol in the lake. China also started the construction of bunkers and permanent defense facilities in the area under Chinese control. Under the agreement, signed between the countries, construction activity in this disputed area is strictly prohibited. Indian Forces objected to all these activities that led to the bloody clash between the two armies on 05 June 2020.
Coverage of the Indo-China Border clash in the Chinese and Indian Media (Electronic and Print).
Chinese media, is a state-run media (Print and Electronic), to further the propaganda of the Communist Party of China (CCP)/Government of the People’s Republic of China. One cannot expect a fair reporting of the event by Chinese Media. Xinhua and global times are the two most prominent English mouthpiece of CCP. Since the day of the clash, Global times is regularly publishing articles, to narrate the Chinese government’s stand on the dispute. To understand the correct standing of both the countries on the Ladakh tussle, coverage of the Chinese media apparatus is critical to consider. Globaltimes extensively covered the economic decisions taken by the Indian government in retaliation to China’s aggressive intentions and the International influence of China post-Ladakh brawl.
On Border Skirmish: After the bloody hand to hand fight between Indian and Chinese soldiers, Chinese media started publishing reports that the Indians are trying to change the status quo unilaterally in Ladakh. They published editorials that the Indians were given heavy beating during the brawl, and India is militarily weaker than China. The Chinese media accepted the Chinese casualty during the scuffle without disclosing the number. It warned India that China would prove superior in terms of Military equipment and Military strategy, in case of any military conflict. Every piece on possible escalation between India and China must have a line informing that both the countries are using diplomacy to de-escalate and restrain by China should not be considered as weakness.
Economy: Chinese Media regularly publishing a story or an opinion explaining the economic superiority of China. It emphasizes in its publication that India cannot survive without Chinese import. Chinese media heavily criticized the Indian government’s decision of barring Chinese investment in certain specific sectors. China is a bigger and healthier economy, and the Indian economy is in distress due to COVID-19. It described that these decisions are the result of the rise in anti-Chinese sentiments. It warned the government of India to check the anti-Chinese sentiments, to avoid the strain in relations between the two neighbors. The boycott of Chinese goods by the trader associations in India has also given widespread coverage, and almost every article on trade war highlighted the issue. India’s loss by indulging in the trade war with China was highlighted regularly in the opinion section.
International Influence: Chinese media forewarning India to not to side with the US after altercation at the Ladakh. It heavily criticizes India for cooperating with Australia and Japan in the south China sea and India oceans. It reiterates that the US would not help India, in case both countries go for the extreme because helping India would inflict grave losses to the US, particularly in trade. It emphasizes that China has much larger influence over the International community, and going to the international fora would only backfire. The countries around the world would not take sides of India due to the losses China could cause them by stopping investment and cooperation in many fields.
Media in India is independent but not impartial. Some Indian media houses are pro-government, and some are anti-government. A small number of media house comes under the category of anti-establishment. The Sino-India scuffle in Ladakh was provided ample space by the media houses in India. Some regularly published articles to counter the propaganda of Globaltimes, and most of them are pro-India instead of a balanced commentary. Surprisingly, some media houses printed articles vindicating the Chinese stand. Such media houses are those, which have strong anti-BJP (Ruling political party in Central Government) sentiment due to various reasons. Albeit differences, every Indian media house criticizes the government and asked questions on the government’s action, unlike government-controlled media in China.
On Stand off.: Indian media provided almost complete details of the scuffle to the viewer/readers, including the number of Indian casualties, before any official statement. All the media houses highlighted the martyrdom of Indian soldiers and criticized the Chinese aggression for the expansionist idea. Some also critically analyzed the stand-off and found that the government of India’s diplomatic effort since the Doklam incident was not well directed. PM Modi was criticized for meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping several times to improve the trust level but without any success. Indian Media, especially pro-Government, started showing the comparison between the military strength of both the countries. Most of the TV programs were centered around the Indian capability of effectively countering the Chinese invasion. All the TV anchors and writers were not in favor of war for settling the border dispute. According to Indian media, the recent aggression of China is the result of the development (Construction of strategic roads and Civil facilities) in the Indo-China border area by the Indian government and abrogation of article 370 from Jammu and Kashmir.
Economy: All the channels with pro-Government tilt, suggested the curtailment of import of Chinese goods/services against the Chinese act. Some sections of the Indian media appreciated the boycott of Chinese goods by trader associations. On the other hand, some criticized the sudden move by the government of canceling contracts of Chinese companies in the wake of border tension. All the media (Electronic and Print) are in favor of reducing the dependency on cheap Chinese import but with reasons unconnected to border tension. The Indian trade deficit with China and the economic repercussion of degrading economic ties with China were also in the news. Some sections of media endorsed the government’s action for reducing dependency on china and the use of Economic measures to build pressure on China.
International Influence: Indian media acknowledged that India would get support from the US, Australia, France, and Japan if the situation on the border further deteriorates. The role of Pakistan in increasing the anti-India rhetoric and its action, in the case of the Sino-India war, were given sufficient coverage. Russian government’s stand on the scuffle and the ignorance of Russia by the current government were topics of many discussions on foreign policy. Indian media (Anti-government and anti-establishment) was critical of the foreign policy acquired by the current government and correctly associated the stand-off with foreign policy failure even after the several visits of both the countries head to each other’s countries.
On looking at the media coverage from both the countries, it is clear that both countries do not want a war, but if the Chinese do not tone down their actions at the border, India can retaliate. It can be understood from the coverage that China does not want an economic war with India though it is trying to position itself as a tough guy. India’s ban on Chinese apps certainly hurt the business of Chinese software companies. China militarily is a more capable nation than India but knows that the damage that India could incur on it could be immense. Chinese media rhetoric is more focused on proving that India would be at a loss if it goes for Military or Economic war against India. Indian media being independent, presented every aspect of the stand-off. Though most pro-government channels are exaggerating Indian capabilities of tackling china through economic means, some (Anti-establishment) asked the question relevant to the scale of economic boycott and its effects on the Indian economy.