Print and online media assume a central and under-analyzed importance in shaping Sino-Indian mutual perceptions. From Indian reports on China’s cross-border incursions and its intentions to break India apart into pieces, to Chinese reports on the U.S.-India strategic relationship serving as a counterweight to China, media stories often take on a life of their own, at times provoking a diplomatic or military response. The Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy, in the eighth installment of its seminar series “China-South Asia Dialogues,” brought together media experts from both countries to discuss the role of the media in Sino-Indian relations. Carnegie’s Lora Saalman moderated.
- Quantity vs. Quality: One Indian expert emphasized the media’s obligation to responsibly report the news. He made a clear distinction between quantity and quality of news, arguing that media often has a detrimental impact on Sino-Indian relations due to their tendency to sensationalize the mundane.
- Fair and Honest Reporting: An Indian reporter contested this argument, remarking that the media’s primary role is fair and honest reporting, rather than improvement of Sino-Indian ties.
- Popular Interest: China is a topic of much interest in India, while China’s reporting on India is rarely front-page news, argued one Indian expert. A Chinese expert qualified this statement by arguing that coverage of India exists within China, but often focuses on cultural rather than security issues.
- Domestic vs. Foreign Coverage: An Indian reporter took exception to the idea that China dominates the Indian media’s overall coverage, stating that print news outlets remain focused on domestic issues. Yet, he agreed that when China affects domestic issues, Indian reporting rapidly increases, citing Indian news articles on alleged People’s Liberation Army cross-border incursions.
Print and Electronic Outlets
- Sensationalism: One of the biggest challenges facing the media industry is that fewer people read print newspapers than in the past, argued one Indian reporter. Several participants noted that a difference exists between print and electronic media in terms of sensationalism, with the latter more prone to China and India “bashing,” particularly on blogs.
- Internet Slant: Given the media’s lack of attribution and responsibility, as well as lingering issues over vetting and accuracy, Chinese and Indian participants largely agreed that Internet-based news sources often skew Sino-Indian relations.
Topics and Trends
- Asymmetry in Event Reporting: One Indian reporter expressed dismay that Chinese reporting on India’s hosting of the Commonwealth Games was highly critical of India, while the Indian media made a concerted effort not to raise human rights issues when China hosted the Olympics in 2008.
- Relations with the United States: Another Indian participant was puzzled by the Chinese media’s frequent criticism of the U.S.-India relationship, arguing that India does not harbor ill will toward strong Sino-U.S. ties.
- Chinese Focus on India: A Chinese expert offered an overview of the issues most frequently mentioned concerning India in the Chinese press:
- British legacy and the 1962 Sino-Indian border conflict
- Kashmir and Kargil issues
- Indo-Pakistan conflicts
- Cross-border terrorism
- India’s bid for UN Security Council permanent member status
- U.S.-India civil nuclear deal
- Economic issues
Lost in Translation
- Linguistic Asymmetries: Selective translation is a core component in the interaction between Chinese and Indian media outlets, argued several Chinese and Indian experts . Due to a lack of proficiency in the Chinese language, Indian experts largely depend on Chinese media reports that are translated into English. Given that the more extreme and sensational articles tend to be translated, this polarizes the discourse between the two countries.
- Western Outlets: Another Indian participant added that media outside China and India also play an integral role in the interaction between the two countries. Negative media reports on China within the Western press are often circulated throughout Indian news outlets.
Government vs. Independent Media
- Government Authority: Government control over Chinese media binds it to the views of the central authority in China, while the Indian press remains free, argued one Indian expert. This government intervention in China forces a plurality of views into the blogosphere, argued one Indian expert.
- Media Not a Monolith: Chinese participants emphasized, however, that the Chinese media is not a monolith. They criticized Indian overreliance on the Chinese news outlet Global Times, which they saw as hyping the “India threat” and not representative of the views of the Chinese government. Such reporting could exacerbate tensions at the border and sea in the coming decade, argued one Chinese expert.
Discussants: Wu Mengqi, Yang Shaoping, Ananth Krishnan, Li Ying, Long Xingchun, Filip Noubel, Li Xiabing, Binod Singh,