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Business News/ News / India/  Is China running a secret propaganda operation with journalists in India?
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Is China running a secret propaganda operation with journalists in India?

There are offers to pay $400 (nearly ₹33,000) to write one article.

The matter has been taken seriously.Premium
The matter has been taken seriously.

China has been accused of running a secret propaganda operation in India, after journalists and researchers in the country were approached by people claiming to be from Singapore-based institutions with offers to cooperate on projects or to write articles on security and foreign policy.

The individuals, who were mainly contacted via email, direct messages on LinkedIn, Facebook, or WhatsApp, focused on topics such as India-China relations, India-Japan ties, or the Indo-Pacific region. The offers of payment for articles ranged up to $400 (nearly 33,000).

Inquiries in Singapore have established that at least two of the people who contacted Indian journalists and researchers – Julia Chia, a “senior programme manager" with the National University of Singapore (NUS), and Jian Qiang Wong, a “researcher" at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) – do not exist. The matter has been taken seriously in Singapore as NUS and SIIA have ties to the government of the city-state.

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Indian security officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, say the method used by people such as Chia and Wong points to similar influence operations conducted by China in other countries, such as Australia, Canada, and the US.

“These people are looking for the kind of writing which is often induced by the Chinese State to create a narrative in its favour. They target people who have an understanding of strategic affairs or those who they think can publish or push views which favour China’s interests," the Hindustan Times quoted one official as saying.

Wong’s contacts on LinkedIn included researchers from leading Delhi-based think tanks focusing on security and military issues and retired army and navy officials, including officers of the rank of major general and vice admiral, and those who have handled issues such as defence acquisition and offsets. People familiar with the matter say it is clear Wong focused on people who had access to sensitive information.

Also Read: Nepal's economic ties with China raise concerns about ‘debt trap diplomacy’

Most of the journalists and researchers who were approached became suspicious as emails sent to them after preliminary contacts didn’t come from the official email IDs of NUS, SIIA or the other organisations that the people approaching them had claimed to work for. One Indian journalist working for a foreign publication who spoke to the person making the approach received an email from a Yahoo ID though the person claimed to work for the US-based consultancy International Development Corporation (IDC).

Ajai Sahni, executive director of the Institute of Conflict Management, said he was not surprised by the developments as they fit in with the global pattern for China’s influence operations to force Beijing’s point of view.

According to Sahni, China has been nurturing regional opinion leaders in all possible locations. If they had more autonomy like some of the nearby nations, China would have established friendship organisations that would openly promote China's stance on topics that concern them. China's strategy documents mandate that its private organisations and NGOs must support the CPC's goals worldwide.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sounak Mukhopadhyay
Sounak Mukhopadhyay, who also goes by the name Sounak Mukherjee, has been producing digital news since 2012. He's worked for the International Business Times, The Inquisitr, and Moneycontrol in the past. He's also contributed to Free Press Journal and TheRichest with feature articles. He covers news for a wide range of subjects including business, finance, economy, politics and sports. Before working with digital news publications, he worked as a freelance content writer.
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Published: 29 Mar 2023, 06:43 AM IST
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