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Soft power set to define Modi’s China visit

Making the most of Bollywood and yoga to reach out to Chinese citizens

May 11, 2015 11:41 pm | Updated December 04, 2021 11:30 pm IST - BEIJING:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a meeting in New Delhi on September 18, 2014. File photo: R.V. Moorthy

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a meeting in New Delhi on September 18, 2014. File photo: R.V. Moorthy

Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to be combining a well-calibrated soft power push with his visit to China, leveraging social media, Bollywood and yoga to reach out to ordinary Chinese citizens.

Mr. Modi has already made heads turn in China by his surprising entry into Sina Weibo, China’s adaptation of Twitter, known for its largely no-holds-barred, and often caustic postings. Mostly cheers, but not insignificant jeers, have greeted Mr. Modi on Weibo. By Saturday alone, his account had recorded 11.12 million hits, including a posting by Kevin Rudd, former Australian Prime Minister, who has pioneered his appearance on Weibo along with British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Release of PK

In parallel, three days before the Prime Minister’s arrival in Xian on Thursday — Bollywood star Aamir Khan is landing in Beijing. The commercial release of the blockbuster PK in Chinese is bringing Khan on his maiden visit to China. The other makers of the film — Raju Hirani and Vidhu Vinod Chopra — who had also visited Beijing earlier are confident that PK would do as well as 3 Idiots , their earlier offering which had struck a chord with young Chinese audiences.

In a country which is undergoing a cultural renaissance, with Buddhism at its core, the Modi administration alongside its Chinese counterpart is leveraging the memory of Xuan Zang or Hieun Tsang — the Chinese monk and traveller who lived in India for 17 years — as the mascot of India and China’s common Buddhist heritage. On Thursday, the Prime Minister and Chinese President Xi Jinping are slated to visit in Xian, the Wild Goose Pagoda — the emblem of Xuan Zang’s epic journey to India.

The Indian and the Chinese film industries are also coming together in celebration of the Xuan Zang’s China-India connect. In Shanghai, which Mr. Modi will visit on May 16, a MoU on a film on Xuan Zang is expected to be signed. India’s Eros group and China Film Group will collaborate for the making of the film, which will star Chinese actor Huang Xiaoming, along with an Indian star cast.

Already a movie titled “Kung Fu Yoga” featuring Hollywood star Jackie Chan is being made under the joint production. That connects with Wushu, the collective name for a cornucopia of martial arts developed in China, which continues to grab the attention of China’s youth.

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