As the worlds netizens become digital junkies, led by the largest internet populations in China and India, our governments are also gradually gravitating towards social media to actively engage with their always online populace.
In the latest shift to virtually connect with their neighbour, the Indian embassy in Beijing created a profile on weibo, China’s widely popular version of Twitter. The website which has become popular following growing social unrest spilling out onto the net, is the platform young Chinese go to to express their opinions and comments on social atrocities. It is also the place they share news and information, keep each other updated and find solace in their online strength.
With a focus on promoting culture and tourism among young, middle class Chinese, the Indian Embassy’s page which mainly posts images and information about different travel destinations in India has more than a hundred million users. “We are trying to maximize our outreach, and this is a new mode of communication to reach out to more young Chinese people,” Indian Ambassador to China S. Jaishankar told The Hindu.
Impressions of India on Chinese blogs are often limited to either discussions of Buddhism and related tourist spots, or widely negative portrayals of poverty in India.
“We want youngsters and youth to know what rising India is,” said Arun Kumar Sahu, Political and Cultural Counsellor at the Indian Embassy.
“Getting on Weibo is an attempt to reach to more youngsters and tech-savvy people, the people who represent rising China.”
On July 21, the Indian Embassy’s Culture Centre also got on Weibo, announcing its arrival with an invitation to an open screening of a Bollywood film, Lafangey Parindey.
Getting on Weibo, Mr. Jaishankar said, was part of a larger campaign to make the Indian Embassy’s public diplomacy initiatives “more interactive”. The Embassy looked to connect “to a younger set of people” to present a more updated image of India in a country where perceptions are still rooted in images of Indian cinema from the 1950s and 1960s. Any political discussions that are perceived sensitive will, however, likely remain out of bounds on Weibo.
“A lot of older people here have a recognition of India, but in the last thirty years we have missed out, and we are to some degree still playing catch up,” he said.
The response to India Tourism’s postings has, so far, been positive, with Chinese users sharing their experiences of travelling to India and their perceptions of Indian culture.