The microblogging site Twitter, blocked in China, hosts hundreds of accounts of Chinese officials. The government has withheld access to its millions of users for a company that is allowing its platform to be used by the same government to be heard to the world outside. Xi Jinping with his call to“ tell China stories well” in 2016 has been consistently and aggressively expanding its reach to the world media. A report released by Reporters Without Borders titled ‘China’s pursuit of a new world media order’ says that China invests approximately $1.3 billion annually to increase its presence in the world media not only through advertisement but through ‘ Timid Polyphony’. This expression of ‘Timid Polyphony’ refers to the Chinese Communist Party style of journalism where the stories and news articles are written in such a way that it abides by the censorship system of the country.
To achieve this China invites foreign journalists for 10 months every year since 2016 and give them a red carpet welcome and stay. The journalists who attend this program are mainly from Asia and Africa. During this program, they are given exotic apartments to live in and a handsome stipend with a certificate in International relations from the Chinese university. For the West, China has employed a different strategy, in the United Kingdom, the Chinese government’s TV broadcaster opened up a production centre in London with 90 local journalists in December 2018 paying them handsomely. Wall Street Journal has earned $6 million since November 2016 through Chinese advertisement, the Washington Post $4.6million the New York Times $50,000 and the list goes on.
China’s imperialistic mindset buying out the sham journalists in the West has created huge propaganda against India's Modi government. India has always been covered by the world media but never the head of state been attacked personally as it is done now. No other head of any country was referred to by his/her faith like the Christian president of the United States or the Catholic Prime Minister of Britain etc but Narendra Modi has always been called the Hindu Nationalist Prime Minister of India. They are targeting the word ‘Hindu Nationalist’ and rendering it an incompetent adjective that is anathema to democracy. Prime minister Narendra Modi has hit the Achilles heels of China through its ‘Atm Nirbhar Bharat’ scheme following which there is a continuous decline in the trade deficit with China after 2017-2018. Rs 4,600 crore was spent annually on the Chinese border till 2016 but it was increased to Rs 11,800 crore since then. China with its investment in the western media facilitates its agenda against India which has first time chosen a Prime Minister who doesn't shy away from his Hindu identity and has given a befitting response to China in every field. RSS is a votary of Swadeshi with its ‘Swadeshi Jagran Manch’ and have created enormous awareness among the common masses about the use of indigenous goods and services and fetched around 13 lakh signatures for its digital campaign to support ‘Atm Nirbhar Bharat’ till July 2020.
The appointment of Fei-Fei Li who allegedly is connected to the CCP as an independent director to the board of Twitter in May 2020 has been another point of contention for democracies. She has been instrumental in implementing Google’s project ‘Dragonfly’ in China which is a search engine compliant with the censorship laws of the country. She has raised the slogans of the leaders of the Chinese Communist party which says ‘stay true to our founding machines’ and ‘China is awakened’. The influence of Fei-Fei Li on the decision of Twitter can be gauged from the fact that post her appointment numerous Twitter handles were suspended without any basis. These handles were critical of her appointment and china’s policy. Journalist Didi Kirsten Tatlow Tweeted about her research paper titled ‘How democratic security can protect Europe from a rising China’. Immediately after the post, she was targeted by Twitter for violating its policy.
Twitter is a widely used platform in India for creating views about the Government and its policies. As per an EPW article written by Joyjeet Pal of the University of Michigan and Anmol Panda of Microsoft Research India, in the 2019 general elections, 228 out of 500 most-followed politicians in the country were from BJP. Out of the top 10 most followed leaders in the country, the top 8 were from BJP. The politicians from the states of Delhi, Maharashtra, UP and Gujarat collectively account for 60% of the top 500 most followed politicians out of which Uttar Pradesh has the most number of highly followed Twitter accounts. It is known to Twitter that BJP and its leaders have an edge over its oppositions in using its platform to for its political campaign. Targeting the Vice President of a country is just an act of challenging the sovereignty of the country. The act of removing the blue ticks means that Twitter doesn’t recognise the Vice President as a verified person.
Similarly targeting RSS leaders including Sarsanghchalak Dr Mohan Bhagwat Jee by removing their verified badges is equivalent to saying that they don’t recognise RSS as any genuine organisation and Mohan Bhagwat Jee as its head. It was an act to tease the Government and challenging its commitment to democracy and free speech. Restoring the blue ticks in spite of the reasons existing for which it was removed itself confirms the arbitrariness with which Twitter uses its platform. Labelling a post of BJP spokesperson as ‘manipulated media’ on the complaint of the opposition leaders is another stance of Twitter's bias against BJP. China’s Global Times reported that anti-china sentiment is “Political Correctness” for Indian politicians which is often echoed in the remarks made by Rahul Gandhi by calling our PM a ‘coward’.
In an interview with an economist, Kaushik Basu Rahul said: "It's not necessarily a confrontational strategy. It can be a coexisting strategy. But a strategy has to be there, and currently the strategy is not there." He was talking about his strategies vis-a-vis the US and China if he was the Prime minister.
Twitter has selectively targeted certain accounts which are critical of China, left-liberals and pseudo-seculars. On being pointed out Twitter restores these accounts even though the reason for suspending or taking actions against these accounts exists. Either the AI algorithm of Twitter is malfunctioning or Twitter is at the hands of those who hate to see India strong. While China has the 36 stratagems of deception to win over their enemies, India it is using the third stratagem ‘Kill with a borrowed sword’.
(The author is a research Scholar in XLRI, Jamshedpur and writes on Socio-Economic issues.)