Rajat Sharma

Chinese funding in India: Only the tip of the iceberg

akb2711The New York Times has, in an investigative report, exposed a Chinese conspiracy in which an American millionaire Neville Roy Singham was used as a conduit for spreading Chinese state media propaganda worldwide in countries like the US, UK, South Africa, several other African countries and India. Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur on Monday cited the NYT report to claim that companies of Singham linked to China were funding a news portal NewsClick in India. The NYT report says that NewsClick was part of a global network that received funds from Singham’s companies to spread Chinese propaganda in India. Singham was the founder of ThoughtWorks, a Chicago based software consultancy firm, and is currently hosting office space in Shanghai, China. There are allegations that Singham funnelled millions of dollars to groups that espouse Chinese government’s positions on world issues. There are also reports of some “urban Naxals”, a few self-styled intellectuals and some Indian journalists who received Chinese funds through conduits. These Indian groups and individuals used to plant news against our government, and one of these companies got Rs 38 crore as funds from the conduits. Indian investigation agencies had probed the source of funding of NewsClick three years ago, and at that time, Congress, Left parties and some other opposition parties had alleged that the Modi government was trying to stifle the voice of dissent in media. With the New York Times report exposing the Chinese funding on Monday, it has now become a major issue involving media persons, media outlets, Left extremists and some opposition parties. The matter is serious due to two reasons: (1) It has been exposed by none other than a US newspaper which considers Narendra Modi its bete noire. The New York Times had been publishing news against Modi government for the last nine years, but this latest investigative report about Chinese funds being pumped into India to carry out anti-Modi propaganda, is surprising. China is trying to interfere in India’s domestic politics by funding some YouTube channels, news websites and journalists. This is a worrying trend. (2) Indian investigation agencies were already probing this matter for the last three years, but they were projected as biased, and charges were levelled that Modi government was trying to stifle the voice of dissent. I can cite one example from what the Indian investigation agencies unearthed. A top leader of CPI(M) wrote an e-mail to Neville Roy Singham saying that anti-China feeling has spread in India after the military situation near Line of Actual Control aggravated, and this has caused quite a stir. The CPI-M leader wrote that the Indian government is now putting curbs on investments and imports from China and this can ultimately harm India. Imagine, how an Indian political leader harbouring such an opinion can harm India’s interests! Some may also argue, what can China achieve by funding a few news websites, YouTube channels and some journalists? My view is: This is not a small matter. It is only the tip of the iceberg. In this hi-tech age, wars are not fought with weapons alone, wars not fought only by soldiers fighting the enemies on the border. Information War is the latest key in world strategic affairs. To weaken the enemy, digital propaganda is used as weapon. I remember what the late Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, said. Jobs said, wars across the world will now be fought over information. The latest NYT report is one such example. There are people in India today who try to set an anti-India narrative by alleging that Narendra Modi fears China. They also spread misinformation saying Chinese soldiers beat our jawans near the LAC, that China is very powerful, it has built roads, highways and set up colonies near the LAC, and we and our armed forces are helpless. This negative narrative is part of a propaganda war. These people also praise the Chinese government, but they forget the harsh reality that there is no liberty and freedom of expression in China. Top ministers, including the recently dismissed Foreign Minister Qin Gang disappeared from public view suddenly, top industrialists like Jack Ma also disappeared for nearly three years. So, to compare Chinese with Indian media is of no use. China is not waging an information war against India alone. It is engaged in information war across the world, particularly in smaller countries, which are neck deep in Chinese debts. China wants to make colonies in these countries. And in countries like India, where Chinese authorities lack their bluster (dadagiri) they try to defame governments, thereby seeking to establish Chinese supremacy. This is in China’s DNA. I would appeal to our citizens not to trust YouTubers or websites, which peddle paid news for their foreign masters. These people bring a bad name to mainstream media, and at the same time, try to fill their own coffers. One must understand this carefully. Every Indian needs to be on guard.

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