Discontents brew against Chinese ambassador in Nepal

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Now, it is emerging that the Chinese media is also being gagged against publishing or airing contents inimical to the interests of Beijing, including the ongoing global interests in Taiwan.

Chinese ambassador to Nepal Chen Song

Chinese ambassador to Nepal Chen Song

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By Manish Anand

New Delhi, December 30: Chinese ambassadors for decades in Nepal hold bloated clouts in the Himalayan nation. After China unleashed charm offensives in Kathmandu by tapping into the glamour quotient of former ambassador Hou Yanqi, the current incumbent, Chen Song, is inviting the ire of the local intelligentsia for his larger than life influence in the affairs of Nepal.

Chen wears traditional Nepalese caps at several of the functions that he attends in all parts of the country. He delivers speeches in English. Chen outlies the Chinese largess in Nepal with claims of “building the infrastructure”, as well as even venturing into lecturing on “misfortunes of Kathmandu to have a neighbor like India”.

Now, it is emerging that the Chinese media is also being gagged against publishing or airing contents inimical to the interests of Beijing, including the ongoing global interests in Taiwan. Biswas Baral, Editor of The Kathmandu Post, wrote in an article: “If a Nepali news outlet publishes something that even remotely smacks of support for Taiwan or Tibet, the Chinese quickly take it up with Kathmandu. So Rastriya Samachar Samiti and The Rising Nepal have stopped printing anything the Chinese may find problematic. The northern neighbour now wants the (often easily cowed) Nepali state to impose similar censorship on private media.”

The claims made by Baral appear in line with Chinese strategies in foreign capitals to influence the media to further the strategic interests of Beijing. Strategic thinkers often accuse China of meddling into the domestic politics of other countries by manipulating the media.

Joshua Kurlantzick in an opinion piece for HT had detailed the modus operandi of China in manipulating the media in different countries to influence the affairs of the target nations. She had claimed that China uses the media outlets with training programmes for the scribes, information tools, and the social media platforms to serve the strategic purposes of Beijing.

Chen is seen going around parts of Nepal to make outlandish claims. His claim that the Pokhara International Airport was built by China as a part of the Belt and Road Initiative had stunned the political class of Nepal. The Himalayan nation is not part of the BRI. Facing an outcry, the Nepali leadership had publicly denied the claims of Chen on BRI. Yet, Nepal appears letting the Chinese ambassador a free run to work out the strategic interests of Beijing in the Himalayan nation.  

Bipin Ghimire wrote in The Diplomat: “Despite its aspirations with regard to relations with China, Nepal possesses very minimal strategic and economic leverage. This lack of leverage makes it largely a recipient, not only of Chinese economic assistance but also its political influence, and Nepal equally faces the brunt of China’s geopolitical assertiveness.”

His lamentation was endorsed by The New York Times in a detailed report on the domineering ways of China in the economic affairs of Nepal. The New York Times in a report said that “after the Pokhara International Airport’s construction, Beijing began declaring that it had been part of the Belt and Road Initiative…”. The daily underlined that the airport is now in the middle of a diplomatic tug of war between China and India.

Nepal Assembly election is to be held on January 25, 2024, and Chen is seen to be turning the Chinese embassy into a political factor in Kathmandu. The election will be held to elect 19 members for six-year terms in the Upper House which has strength of 59.

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