On Oct. 3, police in New Delhi raided and searched the residences of several staff members of the NewsClick online news site and detained several of them for interrogation. According to an investigative report published in the New York Times in August under the headline “A global web of Chinese propaganda leads to a US tech mogul,” NewsClick’s main funder is a 69-year-old US citizen named Neville Roy Singham, who established the Chicago-based software and information technology consultancy Thoughtworks and currently lives in Shanghai.
NewsClick, founded in 2009, defines itself as an independent news medium focusing on “social justice” that speaks out for “oppressed communities.” However, the New York Times report says NewsClick’s reports are full of Chinese government talking points such as that “China’s history continues to inspire the working classes.” Many organizations, from the Massachusetts-based think tank Tricontinental and a South African political party to a Brazilian news organization, have traces of Singham’s funding with the aim of spreading China’s “grand external propaganda.” According to the report, Singham-funded media have used funding from the Propaganda Department of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Shanghai Municipal Committee to publish videos on YouTube and “spread China’s voice to the world.”
As a longstanding enemy of China, India is extremely wary of Chinese infiltration. It is one of the most active countries with respect to blocking suspicious Chinese companies. Consequently, the safest and most effective way for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to spread its propaganda in India is through US citizens. During the CCP’s Yanan (延安) period — from 1935 to 1947, when it was based in Yanan in China’s Shaanxi Province — US reporters such as Edgar Snow, Agnes Smedley and Anna Louise Strong wrote propaganda favorable to the CCP, and they were followed later on by others such as Sidney Rittenberg. All these writers were a bunch of lefties. Given this history, it should be no surprise that the likes of Singham should appear, the only difference being that their sights are set on money.
On Oct. 4, several hundred Indian journalists gathered at the Press Club of India in New Delhi to protest against the raids carried out by the authorities. The protesters called for the immediate release of those arrested to safeguard India’s freedom of news reporting. A dozen Indian media associations also wrote to the Chief Justice of India to request intervention by the courts.
These people are badly confused. Investigating whether NewsClick receives funding or takes orders from China has nothing to do with press freedom, which is a matter between democratic countries and their citizens, whereas the NewsClick case is a question of China using a democratic country’s press freedom to spread CCP propaganda, wage cognitive warfare on the CCP’s behalf and threaten these countries’ internal security. China has established media branches in many countries, or uses various means to control these countries’ media, but it does not allow foreign investors to operate media companies in China. The Chinese authorities readily arrest foreign reporters on charges of “espionage.” No matter whether they are accused of “subverting state power” or the lesser charge of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” they all end up in jail. Considering these differences, how can the world’s democratic and authoritarian camps have equal relations with regard to freedom of the press?
Among the world’s democratic camp, apart from the US, which is big and powerful enough to resist Chinese infiltration and engage in “competition” with China, any other country that wants to challenge China on its own would surely lose. They are not economically and militarily strong enough to resist Chinese infiltration. If it were not for the US’ support, Taiwan would long ago have ceased to exist as a country, as Chinese infiltration would have turned it into something else.
Taiwan’s national security agencies are trying to take more decisive measures to root out traitors. To accomplish this, it is especially important for judicial departments to cooperate.
Looking to the future, India is one of the main countries for resistance against China. The New York Times report is clearly in line with India’s strategic aim of eliminating internal threats. India is one of Taiwan’s strategic partners, with plenty of scope for political, economic and military cooperation. Although India still has various problems such as the caste system, as a democracy, it should be able to resolve them over time.
Paul Lin is a political commentator.
Translated by Julian Clegg
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