Even in China, where propaganda has become increasingly pugnacious, the display was jarring: A photograph of a Chinese rocket poised to blast into space juxtaposed with a cremation pyre in India, which is overwhelmed by the coronavirus. “Chinese ignition versus Indian ignition,” the title read.
The image was quickly taken down by the Communist Party-run news service that posted it. But it has lingered as a provocative example of a broader theme running through China’s state-run media. Official channels and online outlets often celebrate the country’s success in curbing coronavirus infections, while highlighting the failings of others. Other comparisons in recent months include depicting crowds of shoppers or jubilant partygoers in China versus desolate streets and anti-lockdown protests abroad.
The example contrasting China with India was posted on Saturday on Weibo, a popular social media service, by a news service of the ruling party’s powerful law-and-order commission. The post drew a backlash from internet users who called it callous, and it was taken down on the same day.
But it has kindled debate in China about attitudes toward India, and the tensions between Beijing’s nationalist rhetoric at home and its efforts to promote a humbler, more humane image abroad.
one of his online responses to Mr. Hu. China, he suggested, should be more relaxed about flexing its political muscle. “Where can an 800-pound gorilla sleep?” he wrote. “Wherever it wants to.”
Mareike Ohlberg, a senior fellow in the Asia Program at the German Marshall Fund in Berlin who studies Chinese propaganda. “They have an increasing number of interests internationally, but ultimately what it boils down to is that your primary target audience still lives at home.”