The recent border skirmishes along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh have been followed by heavy censorship on the Chinese social media websites. There is an attempt to delete the Indian perception on Chinese social media websites- Indian embassy officials say that Prime Minister Modi’s speech to Chief Ministers on June 18 and the comments made by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) have been removed from two Chinese social media sites.
Meanwhile, China has also blocked Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s official website using the Great Firewall, however, Rahul Gandhi’s website has been spared. Moreover, the readout by India’s External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar during his telephonic conversation with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi also finds no mention.
A fearful China is clearly looking to censor and delete India’s views on the latest border skirmishes. This round of censorship seems to be orchestrated by the Chinese President Xi Jinping who is seemingly terrified at the prospect of losing hold over the Communist Party of China (CCP).
China is using flimsy reasons to exclude India’s official version of the Galwan Valley bloodshed last Monday. The Indian Embassy said that MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava’s remarks were removed from its official account on the Chinese microblogging platform, Sina Weibo, on June 18. A day later the Indian Embassy posted screenshots of the remarks on the social media website.
Since Twitter is banned in China, Weibo is similar to the microblogging platform with millions of Chinese users. All embassies in China have opened their official accounts on Weibo, apart from several leaders such as Prime Minister Modi.
Srivastava’s comments have also been removed from WeChat with a note reading, “unable to view this content because it violates regulations.” Srivastava had asked China to remain on its side of the LAC and avoid any unilateral actions to alter the status quo.
PM Modi’s June 18 remarks have been removed in an even more suspicious manner. WeChat claims, the “content has been deleted by the author”, but the Indian Embassy officials maintain that they have not deleted Prime Minister’s remarks.
Reasons for censorship are clear- Xi Jinping fears that the Indian perception of the border skirmishes could cause a domestic backlash in China.
Xi Jinping is an insecure leader, as opposed to what the Chinese propaganda machinery and State-owned media has to say.
Cracks have appeared in Jinping’s hold over the Communist Party of China (CCP) in view of the catastrophic handling of the COVID-19 Pandemic. The military stand-off in Ladakh and the recent clash could very well be a diversionary tactic, in order to sidestep growing criticism in China.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his tall stature within a democratic India is certainly a challenge and a matter of insecurity for Xi Jinping, a not-so-strong leader of an autocratic country.
Despite the Chinese State media’s narrative of a strong nation under a decisive leader, there are voices within China that disagree strongly due to concrete reasons. Xu Zhiyong, a Chinese civil rights activist and a former lecturer at the Beijing University of Post and Telecommunications, for example, said, “You (Jinping) are not Putin, or Modi, and you’re certainly not Trump. You flirt with Cultural Revolution fanaticism, but you are no true-believing Leftist; you lurch towards bellicose nationalism, but you’re no hawk, either. You’re a big nothing.”
Such comparisons of being smaller than Prime Minister Modi undermine Xi Jinping’s influence in the domestic arena, which is why Xi Jinping wants to delete PM Modi’s opinions in his country. The Chinese President realises that PM Modi’s rising image and appeal beyond India, including in China, is directly a threat to his own position within Beijing.