Sikkim standoff: Belligerent editorials in Chinese media give a shrill war cry against India

There is no let-up in the India-China standoff over the Sikkim border issue and the way things are going it does not look that like there will be a solution anytime soon. Both, New Delhi and Beijing, are at loggerheads over the almost-four-week-long stalemate, which has witnessed no diplomatic solution so far.

On 27 June, China accused Indian troops of "crossing the boundary" in the Sikkim section and demanded their immediate withdrawal, while asserting that it has shut down the Nathu La pass entry for Indian pilgrims travelling to Kailash Mansarovar because of the border standoff.

File image of Nathu La. Reuters

File image of Nathu La. Reuters

China also said that it lodged diplomatic protests with India, both in New Delhi and Beijing, alleging that the Indian troops trespassed into Chinese territory in the Sikkim sector. "We have lodged solemn representations in Beijing and New Delhi to elaborate on our solemn position," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Lu Kang was quoted as saying.

"Our position to uphold our territorial sovereignty is unwavering. We hope the Indian side can work with China in the same direction and immediately withdraw the personnel who have overstepped and trespassed into Chinese border," he said.

While the stalemate continues, Chinese media, and especially Global Times, among others, came out with a scathing op-ed which ratcheted up its rhetoric against India. A state-run Chinese daily, Global Times, warned that Beijing may support "pro-independence appeals in Sikkim" if New Delhi does not stop pursuing "regional hegemony" through the border face-off.

"In the past, China was wary of India playing the Dalai Lama card, but this card is already overplayed and will exert no additional effect on the Tibet question. But if Beijing adjusts its stance on India-sensitive issues, it could be a powerful card to deal with New Delhi," the paper wrote in an article titled China can rethink stance on Sikkim, Bhutan. Global Times, a hardline, party-run tabloid published by the official People's Daily known for its hawkish views, published more than one opinion-editorial pieces, which not only takes almost warlike stance against New Delhi, but it also warns India's political leadership on many instances and advices New Delhi on its foreign policy as far as Beijing is concerned.

Read articles here, here, here and here.

The coverage of the current standoff in Chinese media, and mainly Global Times, is not only lopsided, it also is extremely provocative. The op-eds, which are being circulated widely in Indian media as well, barely falls short of telling India to "behave itself" and back off if it desires peace. Sample this excerpt from this article titled India will suffer worse losses than 1962 if it incites border clash:

If New Delhi believes that its military might can be used as leverage in the Donglang area, and it's ready for a two-and-a-half front war, we have to tell India that the Chinese look down on their military power. Jaitley is right that the India of 2017 is different from that of 1962 - India will suffer greater losses than in 1962 if it incites military conflicts.

The article furthers its point by saying that the Indian military should start thinking of returning to "its territory with dignity, or be kicked out of the area..." by the Chinese army.

Another article, in Global Times, reevaluates the present border dispute and quotes Chinese experts saying that with the current geopolitical strategies undergoing a sea of change (India's improved and good relations with major world powers), New Delhi is overvaluing its international status. The piece goes on to hint that New Delhi should not take things for granted. "...after economic reforms, India has enjoyed a period of rapid economic growth. However, it should be known that economic development needs a peaceful and stable environment."

China, which is extremely sensitive about Tibet's status, insists on countries reiterating the "One China policy" at every summit to underline its position on Tibet and Taiwan. It is an especially sensitive issue with India. Despite China's concerns on Tibet, the Global Times, however, suggested Beijing should rethink its recognition of Sikkim as well as push for Bhutan to dilute its ties with India and establish formal diplomatic ties with China.

Criticising India's "brutal colonial policies", which according to this article was inherited from Britain, the op-ed says that New Delhi chases a regional hegemony at the sacrifice of "tiny Himalayan nations" (Sikkim and other northeastern states).

New Delhi's regional hegemony is swelling to a tipping point. The country has to pay for its provocations.

Urging the world leaders/media to take note of this so-called "hegemony", articles in the Chinese media comes to the "aid" of the "tiny" Bhutan who is being "oppressed" by New Delhi. For the mere joy of perspective, the current standoff erupted after India opposed China's attempt to extend a border road through Doka La. Doka La, which lies at a junction between China, Sikkim and Bhutan, is currently disputed between Beijing and Thimphu. India supports Bhutan's claim over it.

Even Bhutan has seconded India. Bhutan's ambassador to Delhi Vetsop Namgyel told BBC that China's road construction is "in violation of an agreement between the two countries".

A piece, published in Global Times and authored by vice director and a research fellow of the Institute for South Asian Studies at the Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences, noted that 'an-eye-for-an-eye' stand on the current stalemate will not serve any purpose for either of the nations. While China warned India of a war-like situation, Union minister Arun Jaitley and Indian Army chief General Bipin Rawat, in two separateoccasions, did not shy away from telling China that threatening the India of 2017 will not fly with the country's leadership. The article in the Chinese media, however, concluded with this line:

India should stop holding on a wrong cause.

Another article published in XinhuaNet, considered an official view, said "despite its strategic discomfort, it is important for India to get over its 'China anxiety' and carefully assess the initiative, recognise its potential benefits and seize the opportunities".

Chinese media, widely known for the extreme censorship by the ruling Communist party and a one-sided view of the world, has been consistently ranked last or sometimes second last as far as freedom of press parameters stand. In 2016, Freedom House ranked China last for the second consecutive year out of sixty-five countries that represent 88 percent of the world’s internet users. The Chinese government employs a huge number of people to monitor and censor the nation's media.

The France-based watchdog group Reporters Without Borders ranked China 176 out of 180 countries in its 2016 worldwide index of press freedom. Experts say Chinese media outlets usually employ their own monitors to ensure political acceptability of their content. Censorship guidelines are circulated weekly from the Communist Party’s propaganda department and the government’s Bureau of Internet Affairs to prominent editors and media providers.

Considering that almost all national newspapers and news websites in China act like the government mouthpiece, the words published in these articles can be considered as good as official statements of the ruling government of the country.

Here is a wordcloud of the articles published in Chinese media, specifically in Global Times and Xinhuanet.

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Published Date: Jul 06, 2017 08:43 pm | Updated Date: Jul 06, 2017 08:43 pm


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