India and China are at war and the People’s Liberation Army is winning, at least according to the Chinese media. In reality, media houses of the two countries are at war — inside the studios, in newsprint and on social media.
On Tuesday, the Chinese state-sponsored rhetoric reached alarming levels and crossed every line of decency. A video produced by Beijing’s official mouthpiece, Xinhua, portrayed India as a nation of hairy men wearing turbans. The problem is not just with the blithe usage of racial connotations, Xinhua’s TV show host goes on to paint this ‘hairy man’ as a primal invader with scant regard for the rule of the land.
The 3-minute-22-second video itself is a collage of poorly designed graphics, replete with the soundtrack of canned laughter playing in the background. It, however, tries hard to emulate the British talk-show host John Oliver, but then again the Last Week Tonight doesn’t come with English subtitles in purple.
— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) August 16, 2017
Take Canadian-Indian standup comedian, Russel Peters, for instance. He is well-known for mimicking the stereotypical Chinese accent in almost all of his shows. A memorable one that comes to mind was when he picked on a Chinese man with an anglicised name.
“How many of you are Chinese in the audience?” Russel asks. A few in the crowd cry in delight, screaming “wooooohoooo”. Russel quips, “Well, that could be your last name, Wooooo.”
After telling his audience how an Indian and a Chinese can never do any business because “one lives for a bargain” and the other “never gives you a bargain”, he asks ‘Anthony’ to share his Chinese name. Anthony says “Tapsombong”. “Does that mean you are going to get high?” says Russel. “Hey do you want to tap some bong?” he mocks in heavy Chinese accent.
Russel is known to play with racial stereotypes and spin them into fun sketches of comic proportions. What Xinhua attempted here was more of a personal attack at a time of heightened tensions between India and China. At least the video gets one thing right. It unknowingly acknowledged India’s rich cultural diversity by choosing to caricature a Sikh man. While India celebrates unity in diversity, China believes in crushing any notions of religion.
So far, India’s response to China’s aggressive posturing over the Doklam stand-off has been calm and measured. It must once again choose to ignore this blatant racial profiling from its noisy and nosy neighbour.
Maybe Russel is right, India will not lose ground to China at Doklam without bargaining for something in return and China, as he put it, will not agree to a bargain.