BETWEEN THE LINES

How the Chinese press is covering Narendra Modi’s visit (so far)

Obsession
Modi's Moment
Quartz india
Obsession
Modi's Moment
Quartz india

India isn’t the only place where Narendra Modi is making front-page news. Two days into his tour of China, the country’s closely monitored media can’t seem to get enough of the Indian prime minister.

But amid the frenzy, there are constant reminders in opinion pieces and news reports of the 1962 India-China war, cross-border tension, and Modi’s latest efforts at consolidating the relationship. There was also a map on state-run television that cut out huge chunks of India’s territory.

Here is a look at the Chinese media’s coverage of the Indian prime minister’s visit:

CCTV

The state-owned television station, greeted Modi with a modified map of India. Both Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir were absent from India’s territory. China refers to Arunachal Pradesh as South Tibet, and believes it belongs to China. CCTV, however, referred to the visit as part of Modi’s “charm offensive” to reach out to China.

Xinhua

The Chinese state-run news agency sounded an optimistic note on “a chance for the two Asian neighbors to consolidate trust,” in a commentary titled “China Voice: Trust between two oriental giants.” And like other state-run news outlets, Xinhua made much of president Xi Jinping’s accompanying Modi to his birthplace of Xi’an.

“It is not quite often for top Chinese leaders to travel outside Beijing to meet foreign guests. The tour of the ancient Xi’an City, a place closely connected to China and India’s deep historical links, was a carefully orchestrated choice,” Xinhua observed on the first day of Modi’s three-day tour. It was, however, quick to point out the cold relations of the past:

Despite the long-standing history of cultural exchange between the two neighboring ancient civilizations which now share similar national conditions and a common aspiration for prosperity, Sino-Indian ties have long been regarded as sometimes complicated due to their competitive yet cooperative relationship.

For the past few decades, there has been mistrust between China and India, resulting in tense relations and even military confrontation over border issues in 1962.

And what the future holds between them:

With growing economic integration and people-to-people contact in recent years, the two Asian economies have ushered in a new phase and the Sino-Indian ties could be among the most important bilateral relationships, requiring the two powers to abandon the outdated zero-sum mindset and build a more constructive relationship.

It is clear that if the “Chinese Dragon” and the “Indian Elephant” co-exist harmoniously and realize peaceful, cooperative development, it will bring benefit to not only their combined 2.5 billion people, but also those living beyond their borders. Otherwise, both might slow down their growth if they fall into a spiral of bilateral rivalry.

Xinhua also ran a similar commentary titled “Growing rapport between Chinese, Indian leaders marks new era of ties” on May 14.

China Daily

In an op-ed piece titled “Time for deeper China-India cooperation,” Xu Changwen—a researcher at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, affiliated to the commerce ministry—wrote that Modi’s visit “is expected to strengthen ties between the two neighbors and deepen bilateral economic and trade cooperation.”

The opinion piece then goes on to laud Modi for all his efforts, and counts on everything that the two countries stand to gain from each other:

China’s advanced and competitive high-speed rail technologies are another area of cooperation with India. There is huge scope for bilateral cooperation in the service sector, too – from banking, securities and insurance to telecommunications and postal services. Education and medical care are other areas in which the two sides can work together for mutual benefit.

Mirroring Xinhua, China Daily noted: “It is very rare for Chinese leaders to accompany foreign guests outside Beijing,” in an article titled “Xi to give Modi a hometown welcome.” There was also a comment on Modi’s decision to join China’s largest microblog, Weibo, just ten days before his visit:

Modi has prepared carefully for the trip, and opened his Sina Weibo account so he could make contact with the people of China. The Indian embassy said he edited his first posting early on the morning of May 4 and asked his staff to translate it into Chinese. He wrote six pieces over the next five days and attracted more than 46,000 fans.

Another China Daily post was titled “Cheers for Modi reflect closer links,” which described the street-side drama:

As Modi was being driven along a busy street, he saw crowds of people who were hoping to see him. He asked the driver to stop and left the car to greet them and shake hands, and they responded by waving and calling out his name.

Global Times

On May 12, state-run Global Times newspaper, the tabloid associated with the Chinese-language People’s Daily, launched a scathing attack on Modi. An article titled “Can Modi’s visit upgrade Sino-Indian ties?” by Hu Zhiyong, a research fellow at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, accused the prime minister of “playing little tricks.”

Modi has been busy strengthening India’s ties with neighboring countries to compete with China, while trying to take advantage of the tremendous opportunities for economic development created by China, as Beijing is actively carrying forward the “One Belt and One Road” initiative. Modi has also been playing little tricks over border disputes and security issues, hoping to boost his domestic prestige while increasing his leverage in negotiations with China.

Thereafter, it puts the onus for better relations squarely on India:

The ball is in India’s court to deepen the bilateral relations. For China, developing friendly cooperation with surrounding countries has always been the foothold of its diplomacy.

Then, there are two other opinion pieces: one that says there will be a subtle reset in China-India relations, while another believes it could be revolutionary.

And what about Chinese citizens themselves? While some heckled Modi when he joined popular blogging platform Sina Weibo earlier this month, his accounts of his trip has so far been mostly positively received online, and his “fans” there are up to 65,000.

A life-size replica of the Indian prime minister also looks to have quite a following.

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