Ever heard of Huanqiu.com or m.guancha.cn? The first is the Mandarin version of China’s English language Global Times newspaper. The latter is a Mandarin language media house set up in 2012 and apparently popular among Chinese youth.
Let’s begin with m.guancha.cn. SNI was able to access an English translation of an article published on Feb. 15 where the rather incendiary claim is made that there is no evidence that Masood Azhar, leader of the “Mohammad Army” (meaning Jaish-e-Mohammad), is a terrorist. But elsewhere it says the army Azhar heads is an “extremist armed group” based in Pakistan.
It notes China’s rejection of India’s moves in the Security Council to list Azhar on the UN designated list of terrorists, calls for “solid evidence” and points out that China had proposed a “technical suspension” so the UN special committee could have more time to consider. Elsewhere it is factual about the Pulwama attack, India’s response and Pakistan’s denial regarding giving shelter to the Jaish-e-Mohammad.
Let’s take a look at the article in Huanqiu.com dated Feb. 19. It is studiously neutral in many respects: It mentions India’s stand on the sanctuary given to terrorists and terror groups in Pakistan and the latter’s denial; it refers to India’s demand that Masood Azhar, chief of the Jaish-e-Mohammad, be put on the UN list of designated terrorists and admits, “India believes that China has obstructed the above listing.”
The article then goes on to explain why China is blocking Azhar’s listing. “The United Nations has a strict set of procedures for listing terrorist organisations and individuals. India’s requirements can be understood but India can’t have arbitrariness in this regard. ”
It says that China has issues with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which it says is a terror group active in the Muslim majority Xinjiang province. The ETIM is on the UN’s list of terror groups. But the article says, “China has asked for some specific people to be listed but it cannot happen according to one’s own wishes.”
Many Indians would say Kashmir and Xinjiang cannot be compared, that Kashmiris have the same freedoms as any other Indian, they have recourse to law and justice, they can voice their opinions. On the other hand, Xinjiang and its ethnic Uyghur people are oppressed by China’s heavy handed state, denied religious and cultural freedoms and subjected to communist indoctrination.
But Huanqiu.com is part of China’s giant state-owned media where such ‘heretical’ views don’t come up. In fact, this is where the gloves with regard to India start coming off. The article says, “After the (Feb) 14th attack the Indian government did not lead the matter towards China however, some Indian media were full of radical nationalism and they were being arrogant,” adding: “It can be said that one of Asia’s most arrogant nationalism is being spoiled by the West.”
It accuses the Indian media of conniving with the US to contain China, claiming that “extreme nationalist sentiment” in the Indian media shapes public opinion and “is bound to affect Indian society’s evaluation” of India-China relations. China respects India’s interests and feelings, the Huanqiu article says, and never shows strength in front of India. But Indian public opinion blames China and puts China on the opposite side.
It recalls the tensions over Doklam noting that, “In the summer of 2017 the Indian Army crossed the border and entered the Doklam area. The Indian public went crazy about China ignoring the risks.” The article calls upon the Indian media to abandon extreme nationalism and treat relations with China in a realistic manner and “on the rational track.”
What conclusions can be drawn from both articles. They are factual in many respects, neither are overtly pro-Pakistan, but the dissimulation over Masood Azhar underscores the need for the Chinese state to stand by Pakistan, its only ally apart from North Korea. It would suggest that any change in Beijing’s stand on Masood Azhar maybe unlikely in the near term. Doklam still rankles since India would not give in to Chinese threats and intimidation and it is also clear that Beijing does not want India to drift into the US camp. The references to realistic and “rational track” could be a suggestion or warning to India that it must not push the envelope with China.
Nevertheless, one cannot deny that both articles are for the most part factual and the tone is restrained. The English language Global Times report of Feb. 20 accused the Indian media of blaming China for the Pulwama attack, claiming that demands were being made to downgrade ties with India. The story dismisses India’s demand on Masood Azhar as “not China’s fault”, talks of the “power gap” between the two countries and India’s arrogance. The language is less incendiary than that used during the Doklam standoff, but one is left with the impression Global Times has fewer qualms when it comes to India compared to the Mandarin media.
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