Editorial

Chinese institutes infiltrate Indian educational institutions

China has made significant inroads into numerous Indian sectors in the past few years. China has been using subtle tactics to spread its influence and propaganda on not just India, but also its neighbours and the world at large.

Global powers such as the US, Canada and Australia have already recognised this growing trend and taken concrete steps to minimize Beijing’s influence on their societies.

China’s aggressive wolf-warrior diplomacy, coupled with its more subtle influence operations, have allowed it to infiltrate deep into several key sectors of India, by using its warfare doctrine of winning without fighting.

Beijing’s influence operations have not only been limited to the entertainment industry, but over the years, China has also tried to control and steer Indian think-tanks and civil society.

To do so, China has attempted and, in some ways, succeeded to make deep inroads in the India intellectual space. One of the primary ways in which China achieved its great influence on think-tanks is by making generous donations, either directly or through proxies.

China also regularly facilitates exchange programmes among think-tanks and university students. The students travel to China at the Chinese government’s expense and inadvertently fall prey to Beijing’s narrative. China has also deployed “intellectuals”, “academicians”, and floated organisations to further its narrative.

How Chinese institutes are rapidly coming up and have been established in dozens of Indian educational institutions. This, in-turn, has a rippling effect of having Indian institutions taking a pro-China stance and influencing the impressionable Indian students.

One example of Chinese infiltration into India’s educational institutions is how a prominent public management university located in northeast India offers a Post Graduate Programme for Executives “Managing Business in India and China” under which students are sent to Chinese Universities.

Moreover, China has expanded its influence within Indian educational institutions using a state-supported social foundation called “Confucius Institute”. First established in 2004, these institutes are supposed to be centres of learning but are just another tool used by China to expand its public influence.

China has also tried to use the Indian media and prominent Indian media personalities to influence civil society, and this is the centre piece of its propaganda tactics. One of the examples highlighted by the Law and Society Alliance’s report is the case of detained journalist Rajeev Sharma, who is facing allegations of spying for China.

Tech savvy youths in India are routinely tuning to mobile apps for their day-to-day needs, Chinese influence operations have even sought to control this sector, especially 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.

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.

India’s budding tech sector has also not been able to escape the clutches of China. Since 2015, China and Chinese firms have invested around $7 billion in the Indian tech sector. Coupled with many acquisitions, Chinese companies have become major shareholders of some 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.

Huawei has had its global reputation tarnished by being labelled as a pawn of the Chinese Communist Party and for carrying out espionage operations against foreign nationals.

One of the easiest ways for a country to influence another nation is through its leaders. Chinese influence over the years has slowly permeated into India’s political environment as well.

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.

Despite its meek stance against China, over the years, the CPI-M has not shied away from aggressively questioning Indian government’s foreign policy decisions on China and have even alleged that New Delhi was succumbing to Washington’s pressure.

While this alone does not indicate a Chinese ploy, there is evidence providshow CPI-M received cash and kind from China. CPI-M leaders have also strongly criticised the Indian media and academia for holding China responsible for the spread of Covid-19 pandemic.