China lavishly spent huge sums of money to buy influence in India’s film world, universities, social institutions, research think-tanks, social media, and the tech industry. This is the finding of a 76-page Study Report titled ‘Mapping Chinese Footprints and Influence Operation in India’.
The report which was released over the weekend by the Law and Society Alliance has stated that Chinese influence poses a serious threat to India’s security and democracy. It covers a vast gamut of topics and has identified key elements and ways in which not only the Chinese intelligence services, but also how the Chinese government has well-established themselves into different Indian sectors including the entertainment sector and academia.
The report also highlights the areas and industries where China has over the years increased its influence through strategic investments. And it also highlights Beijing’s hidden agenda – its efforts to influence the Indian voters.
“It is a combination of financial investments, whether in the entertainment industry, in the socio-political realm through Confucius Institutes, the Chinese government has been using every trick in its playbook to make in-roads into the Indian economy and society. This is being done in order to try and press forward its own selfish narrative and to create discord within the Indian society with regard to China’s actions and motives”, the report states.
The last few years have witnessed China’s repeated efforts to make inroads into the Indian entertainment industry and attempts to influence Bollywood. This was being done through the mechanism of co-productions of movies. And it has ensured that its interests are well represented in Bollywood or at the very least not harmed.
It has also tried to control think tanks and civil society.
According to the study, Beijing has attempted and, in some ways, succeeded to make deep in-roads in the India intellectual space. It has managed to do so by making generous donations directly or through proxies. And on a regular basis has been facilitating exchange programmes among think-tanks and university students. Under this programme the students travel to that country on the Chinese government’s expense and inadvertently fall prey to Beijing’s narrative.
One example of Chinese infiltration into India’s educational institutions is how a prominent public management university located in the North-East of India offers a Post Graduate Programme for Executives (Managing Business in India and China) under which students are sent to Chinese Universities.
Its influence within Indian educational institutions using a state-supported social foundation called ‘Confucius Institute’ is just another tool used by the neighbouring country to expand its influence here.
It has also used the Indian media and prominent Indian media personalities to influence civil society, and this is the centre piece of its propaganda tactics.
The Law and Society Alliance report contains many more such examples of Beijing subtly trying to influence the India population using social media and mobile applications, including video tools.
Tech savvy youths in India are routinely tuning to mobile apps for day-to-day needs. And the Chinese influence operations have tried to control this sector too, especially through news apps. The top three news apps in India — Dailyhunt, NewsDog and UC News — have received major investments from Chinese firms to the tune of several millions of US dollars.
India’s tech sector too has been influenced by China. Since 2015, the government and firms of that country have invested around USD 7 billion in the Indian tech sector. Coupled with many acquisitions, Chinese companies are major shareholders of a number of India’s biggest tech companies.
Another worrying development that has been aptly highlighted in the report is the powerful reputation that Chinese telecommunication giant, Huawei, shares among Indian business leaders and policy communities.
One of the examples highlighted by the Law and Society Alliance report is how the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) has refrained from criticising or rebuking China.
In summing up, the Law and Society Alliance report, has managed to show that China has made significant in-roads into numerous Indian sectors in the past few years.
Global powers such as the US, Canada and Australia have already recognised this growing trend and concrete steps have been taken to minimise Beijing’s influence on their societies.