SOURCE: INDIA TODAY
ropaganda has been used as a tool of psychological warfare since ancient times. The United States Army Field Manuals (now obsolete) describes propaganda as a form of communication in support of national objectives designed to influence the opinions, emotions, attitudes or behaviour of any group in order to benefit the sponsor, either directly or indirectly.
Recently, in the backdrop of Indo-China border tensions, Beijing has unleashed a psychological warfare with strong emphasis on propaganda. It has sought to alter the “opinions, emotions, attitudes or behaviour” of the Indian people in general, and the Indian Army in particular.
India Today OSINT team analyses Chinese propaganda initiatives to understand their goals and strategy to undermine the morale of the Indian Army and control the minds of Indian people. The analysis was done on the basis of SCAME, i.e. source, content, audience, media and effects, to understand its efficacy.
The source is classified into three categories — white, whose source is known; grey, whose source is not known; and black, wherein the information is attributed to someone other than the source.
The propaganda classification based on source generally refers to the methods employed to carry the message rather than its content. The white, grey and black classification provides for identification of the source, which in turn gives out the purpose and aim of the message.
The sources could be individuals such as Hu Xijin or Eva Zheng tweeting on the behest of Chinese Communist Party, the government itself, or some organisation sponsoring propaganda via Weibo accounts clearly attributable to Beijing. Twitter handles such as @HuXijin_GT and @evazhengll are blatantly pursuing the strategy of subverting the Indian Army through propaganda.
As regards Eastern Ladakh, the propaganda source is white and well known. The content is generally based on the prevailing situation and contains incidents that are twisted to push untrue statements as facts.
The audience is generally the common people who although very concerned about the prevailing border situation do not have access to exactly what’s going on at the border. The intelligentsia, army officers and army personnel are being targeted separately.
The media used is loudspeakers along the Line of Actual Control, newspapers, television and social media. Most of them being audio-visual media, they are able to gain attention, no matter whether the message is credible or not. The propaganda has been able to gain attention but not hold on to it due to timely analysis and refutations by India’s strategic analysts and intelligentsia.
Beijing has realised it is facing a formidable army in Eastern Ladakh. One of the first examples of propaganda was seen after the Galwan clashes when India lost 20 brave men and China did not share its casualties. CCP-controlled Chinese media houses claimed that India lost her men due to inefficient evacuation and poor medical staff.
The truth was totally different. Leh, with one of India’s best military hospitals, is barely 90 km from the point of conflict, whereas PLA would have had to evacuate their injured at least 295 km away to reach a city like Hotan in Xinjiang. Even the nearest town with minimal medical facilities is Rutog, which is 215 km from the site of conflict.
When India banned Chinese apps and the movement to boycott Chinese goods gained traction, CCP released a story in July twisting figures that Indian imports had in fact increased from June. The fact was that the embargo on imports had just been lifted. These imports were already in process but were halted for almost six months due to the coronavirus threat.
The figures quoted by Chinese media were not compared with the data of previous years of the same period, which would have clarified facts from falsehood.
A video was made viral on Chinese Internet and even on Indian social media showing a hexacopter dropping hot food in forward areas. The video claimed that while PLA troops are enjoying hot food, Indian soldiers would be eating cold food on these heights in Eastern Ladakh. India Today revealed the truth and explained how it was impossible to deliver food by dropping it from a height of 30-40 metres.
Another video showing warped surface-to-air missiles went viral, first on Weibo and later all over the world. The video showed decoys used by the PLA Air Force. The truth that India already knew about the use of decoys by PLA and even the factory producing such items was yet again exposed by India Today.
Lately, Indians were shocked to find a very reputed newspaper carrying a full-page advertisement for the Chinese embassy in New Delhi. The truth is nobody in India even read what was written on that page, but the hate quotient of China increased manifold since the advertisement was published.
There are several techniques to counter China’s propaganda campaign, some of which are explained in the US Army Field Manuals. The target audience needs to be educated and conditioned to the enemy’s propaganda as routine psychological warfare so they are aware and can differentiate between propaganda and reality.
A technique called forestalling is used which counteracts and capitalises a subject before the enemy uses it for propaganda. The enemy’s propaganda is refuted directly like a pointwise rebuttal or indirectly by way of implication and insinuation.
The diversionary technique is used to divert the attention of the audience to other topics by using new themes. This is used very often in India. Imitative deception is used to give slant to the enemy’s propaganda and use it favourably in its own interests.
The best counter-propaganda technique is silence. Not reacting to the enemy’s propaganda has always fetched better results.
Restrictive measures are adopted to counter certain types of propaganda. Economic measures adopted to restrict Chinese entry in Indian markets were helpful in banning certain social media apps such as Weibo that were being used by China to promote propaganda.
The CCP seems to have three major aims to achieve from the propaganda. It wants to portray that the PLA is very advanced by showing small technological advances and paint the Indian Army as below standard.
The PLA is trying to undermine the morale of Indian soldiers so that they are unable to fight a coordinated battle. China through such propaganda wishes to convince the Indian intelligentsia that it is futile to fight a war with it.