In an article the Global Times [30/8] published from Beijing cautioned India that "joining the US alliance system may irritate China, Pakistan and even Russia....it would bring strategic troubles to itself...". The question uppermost in everyone's mind is: How seriously should we take the Global Times and its admonition?
The Global Times [GT] is a subsidiary of the People's Daily; the official mouth piece of the Chinese Communist Party [CCP] and its offices are located within the People's Daily compound in the prestigious Chaoyang district of Beijing. There are 700 staff members working for GT. This association of the GT with the People's Daily implies a degree of official sanction, although it is difficult to assess the exact nature of the link. It cannot be said, however, that its articles carry the same weight or official sanction as Xinhua or the People's Daily.
GT started publication in 1993 as a weekly but quickly graduated to a daily; with its present daily print circulation estimated at 2 million with an English edition at 100,000 copies. Its website receives about 15 million hits daily. A US edition was launched in 2013, a South African one in 2014 and this year a European one also hit the stands.
The editor of GT is the 56 year old Hu Xijing, a former pro-democracy activist who is alleged to have participated in the 1989 Tienanmen protests, but was not present when the Chinese authorities sent in PLA tanks to disperse the pro-democracy activists. Hu started his career as a war correspondent in the Balkans and also covered the Middle-East conflicts and quickly rose to become the editor; thereby indicating his close links with the ruling group within the Chinese government and the CCP. Hu often writes editorials himself under the pen name of "Shan Renping".
GT is best known for its hawkish editorials and sometimes insulting articles, but it is said that these often reflect official thinking on the concerned subject, that Chinese authorities are reluctant to express openly. The nationalist stance taken by GT is in line with present Chinese foreign policy that espouses a firm, robust and an uncompromising line when global issues are on the table. The hawkish and provocative articles published by GT recently on the South China Sea dispute are a prime example. Australia was dubbed as a "paper cat".
While the admonition carried by the GT as regards India would certainly not have the same weight if it had been published by Xinhua or by the People's Daily; yet in a sense it does reflect the concern that exists within Chinese government on the signing of the LEMOA agreement between the US and India. Probably the Chinese authorities are carefully assessing the impact and would also wait and see on how this agreement is implemented. The GT article is perhaps the first tentative assessment of a section of the Chinese government. It would be interesting to see what the PLA newspaper, 'The Liberation Army Daily' has to say on the subject.