PARANOID CHINA SEEKS TO EXPORT ITS PROPAGANDA & CENSORSHIP - Business Guardian
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PARANOID CHINA SEEKS TO EXPORT ITS PROPAGANDA & CENSORSHIP

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China’s tight government control over the media and internet, and its ability to muzzle free speech, is legendary. One problem is that Beijing is not content silencing all voices bar its own at home, but it wants to spread the same distorted message all across the world. The organization ‘Reporters Without Borders’ gives China a ranking of 175th out of 180 in its World Press Freedom Index 2022. Only Myanmar, Turkmenistan, Iran, Eritrea and North Korea rank lower. In a visit to three state-run media outlets in 2016, Chairman Xi Jinping famously demanded that editors and reporters show loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). “The media run by the party and the government are the propaganda fronts and must have the party as their family name … All the work by the party’s media must reflect the party’s will, safeguard the party’s authority and safeguard the party’s unity.

They must love the party, protect the party and closely align themselves with the party leadership in thought, politics and action.” In other words, the media’s role is not, to tell the truth, or expose errors, but merely to parrot whatever will keep the CCP in power. This is why Chinese state media cannot ever be trusted, for their fealty is sole to the CCP. C h i n a ’s p a r a n o i a ove r information is reflected in the CCP’s Propaganda Department. Indeed, Sun Yeli, Vice Minister of this department, had some advice for Hollywood this month. He declared, “We hope the quality of American films can continue to be improved on the basis of respecting our culture, customs and audience behaviours.” Sun added, “We will import from whichever countries that make better films, and films that are more suitable for the taste of the Chinese audience.” The last clause is better translated as “more suitable for the taste of the CCP”.

Sun’s message was clear – Hollywood can either submit to CCP propaganda sensibilities or wave goodbye to the Chinese market. In 2021, Hollywood’s share of the Chinese film market slumped to a record low, with just 28 American films released. This compared with 50 in 2019, as Xi reduces Western influence over his shackled China. CCP control over Chinese media is absolute, and woe betides anybody who fails to toe the party line. Presently, 108 journalists are imprisoned there, the greatest number of any country. Reporters without Borders also noted that Hong Kong dropped a stunning 68 places in 2022 to have the 148th worst press freedom in the world. The organization stated: “In the eyes of the regime, the media’s function is to be the party’s mouthpiece and to impart state propaganda. Independent journalists and bloggers who dare to report ‘sensitive’ information are often placed under surveillance, harassed, detained a n d i n s o m e c a s e s tortured. To receive and renew their press cards, journalists must download the ‘Study Xi’, ‘Strengthen the Country’ propaganda application that can collect their personal data.” China’s constitution guarantees “freedom of speech [and] of the press”, but such promises are laughable.

Acting with impunity, China accuses journalists of espionage, subversion or picking quarrels and provoking trouble to silence them. Furthermore, Reporters w it h o u t B o r d e r s n o t e d : “Independent journalists can be legally placed in solitary confinement for six months under Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location in China’s ‘black prisons’, where they are deprived of legal representation and may be subjected to torture.” It concluded: “President Xi Jinping, in power since 2013, has restored a media culture worthy of the Maoist era, in which freely accessing information has become a crime, and t o p r ov i de information about an even greater crime. China’s state and privately owned media are under the communist party’s ever-tighter control, while the administration creates more and more obstacles for foreign reporters.” This type of control allows the CCP to direct public opinion and glorify the state.

During the recent spat with Taiwan over US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit, for example, China manipulated the unprecedented joint exercises of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) as part of a mass disinformation campaign. One example was the imagery of a fake PLA Air Force mission, concocted by the PLA’s “media fusion centre” on 15 August and distributed by Xinhua. The faked image showed an aircraft supposedly near the Taiwanese island of Penghu in the middle of the Taiwan Strait. Similarly, another image supposedly shows a PLA warship sailing close to Taiwan was clearly photoshopped. Such signalling, called “cognitive warfare”, is designed to encourage an opponent to give up rather than fight. Or what about China’s internet, hemmed in by the Great Firewall? Since the beginning of his reign, Xi has promoted propaganda and doubled down on censorship. At his very first Propaganda and Ideological Work Conference in 2013, Xi stressed the critical nature of the “public opinion struggle” and “telling Chinese stories well”.

Xi enunciated “seven baselines”, the foundation of Chinese censorship, at that time. The next important move came in 2015 when Xi cancelled foreign VPNs, and universities were required to recruit “network civilization volunteers”. Their numbers exploded by hundreds of thousands, creating a paid parttime internet army estimated today at 20 million strong, plus two million professional internet commentators employed directly by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC). Many “volunteers” are university students or members of the Communist Youth League. Prior to 2018, a variety of government and CCP offices were responsible for patrolling the internet. This was inefficient, so a reorganization occurred and the CAC and Network Security Bureaus (departments within the Public Security Bureau) took up the mantle. The former “organizes the ecological governance of online public opinion” and “coordinates the disposal of harmful online information”. It manages local branches and state-owned media to monitor the spread of information, plus it employs the so-called “50 Cent Party” of internet trolls to “guide the trend of public opinion” both inside and outside China.

Network Security Bureaus dish out punishments for breaches by netizens, and its officers can issue warnings via direct messages. The Orwellian CAC warns: “The cyber police are right by your side. The eyes of the supervisor are watching you. You will tighten a string, and you will have the necessary scruples. You will exercise restraint and rationality when you post and write messages.” Lu Wei, the CAC chief from 2013-16, was imprisoned for corruption in 2019. The state described him as “tyrannical” and “shameless”, and Xi placed his own close associate Zhuang Rongwen over the CAC in 2018. In November that year, Zhuang invited WeChat and Sina Weibo executives to discuss how social media giants were undermining censorship in China. He scathingly accused them of “breeding chaos in the media” and “endangering social stability and the interests of the masses”. This marked a significant milestone in censorship in China. It was already tight, but from that point on, it became even worse for China’s 900 million netizens. Interestingly, Chinese party offices spent more than USD6.6 billion to monitor and guide public opinion online in 2020 alone. However, Ryan Fedasiuk, a research analyst at Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology believes the number is closer to USD13 billion when purchasing power parity is taken into account.

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Nepalese Tycoon Binod Chaudhary who sold ‘WaiWai’ plans to list India unit by 2026

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The firm, boasting a 28% share in the local instant noodles market and generating an annual revenue of 8 billion rupees ($96.2 million), is in preliminary talks regarding its listing plans. The aims is to achieve a 15% revenue growth this year.”

Nepalese billionaire Binod Chaudhary, who made his fortune selling instant noodles, is seeking to list his conglomerate Chaudhary Group’s India food unit by 2026. The Gurgaon-based firm, known for its Wai Wai brand of noodles that rivals market leader Maggi from Nestle Ltd. and ITC Ltd.’s Yippee, “would be ready to go for a sizable listing” in the next two years after rolling out new products and acquiring smaller firms in the noodle-related industry, Manvendra Shukla, global chief executive officer at CG Foods India Pvt., said in an interview. He didn’t share any other details. The listing plans for the firm, which has a 28 per cent share in the local instant noodles market and an annual revenue of Rs 8 billion ($96.2 million), are still in the early stages of discussion, he added. It aims to grow its revenue by 15 per cent this year.

CG Foods India’s initial public offering plans follow a rush among foodmakers, including packaged food products maker Gopal Snacks Ltd. and animal protein maker Mukka Proteins Ltd., that have gone public in the past year. The sector has seen the second-highest number of IPOs in India in the past 12 months, data compiled by Bloomberg News show. The mini-IPO boom is being fueled by investors attracted to India’s relative political stability and its status as the fastest-growing major economy amid the slowing pace of expansion in China.

The noodle maker, however, is not rushing to list and plans to bolster its market share and product portfolio first. The company is also looking to buy smaller companies that make seasonings, dips or ketchups, Shukla said.

‘Not Replicated’ Chaudhary Group launched the Wai Wai noodle four decades ago in Nepal’s capital Kathmandu, and has since grown to become India’s third-largest brand. Wai Wai is known for its preseasoned noodle — it comes with a layer of spice in addition to the seasoning pouches in the packet — which means it can also be munched on as a snack without cooking it. “We have something which is not replicated yet in the market,” Shukla said. CG Foods India currently has seven plants across the country, with Nepal and India contributing over 80 per cent to the group’s food sales. The firm expects to add production lines as volumes continue to grow in India where sales of snacks and soft drinks almost tripled over the past decade in India, exceeding 30 billion dollars. It launched two flavors last month, including a spicier variant called Dynamite, inspired by the Korean cuisine. More products are in the pipeline, including healthier noodle options, according to Shukla.

“It is a flavor battle,” he said.

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Summer Sizzles, Sales Rise, Indian Consumer Firms Gear Up

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Blue Star intensifies its product offerings with a plethora of new home air conditioner models, targeting a remarkable 25% revenue boost in the air conditioning segment, led by Managing Director B. Thiagarajan.

As temperatures soar across India, consumer goods companies are gearing up for what promises to be an exceptionally hot summer. With forecasts predicting an increase in heatwave days, reaching temperatures of at least 40 degrees Celsius in the plains, from April through June, businesses are seizing the opportunity to meet the rising demand for cooling solutions.

Blue Star, a leading appliances maker, has launched a myriad of new home air conditioner models to cater to the anticipated surge in demand. Managing Director B. Thiagarajan aims for a substantial 25% revenue growth from the air conditioning segment, a significant jump from last year’s 5%.

Similarly, renowned ice cream brand Baskin Robbins is rolling out 20 new products in India ahead of the scorching summer months.

Analysts foresee a substantial impact on consumer discretionary spending, particularly on products like air conditioners, fans, refrigerators, and cooling appliances. This surge in demand is expected to reflect robust growth numbers for the first quarter of the fiscal year for companies operating in this sector.

Traditionally, less than 10% of Indian households own air conditioners, but the combination of the hotter summer forecast and new product launches is expected to drive up this figure. Many first-time buyers are entering the market, driven by the desire for temperature-controlled comfort, particularly in light of the extreme temperatures experienced in various parts of the country.

Advertising expenditure is also on the rise, with companies like Blue Star and Baskin Robbins significantly increasing their budgets to capitalize on the heightened demand. Television and online advertising are key avenues for reaching consumers during this period.

Beyond manufacturers, delivery and service providers are also experiencing a surge in demand. Grocery delivery apps like Zepto, Swiggy, and Zomato’s Blinkit are witnessing increased orders for hydrating fruits, beverages, and ice creams as consumers seek relief from the heat.

With the summer months typically leading to increased beer consumption, breweries are gearing up for heightened production and distribution challenges. Carlsberg India’s Managing Director Nilesh Patel highlights the need for careful planning to meet the rising demand.

While the harsh weather may drive up vegetable prices and potentially curtail outdoor spending, analysts anticipate that consumers will continue to indulge in small luxuries like cold beverages and ice cream to find relief from the heat.

Overall, Indian consumer goods companies are bracing themselves for a lucrative summer season, with both manufacturers and service providers working tirelessly to meet the heightened demand for cooling products and refreshments.

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Aerospace parts maker JJG Aero raises $12 mn to hike capacity

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Bengaluru-based aerospace components manufacturer, JJG Aero, has secured USD 12 million (Rs100 crore) in inaugural funding from CX Partners which will be used primarily to increase its new facility’s manufacturing capacity, further vertical integration and other corporate initiatives.

Established in 2008, JJG Aero specializes in manufacturing build-to-print high-precision machined components, with in-house special process finishing capabilities. The funding comes at a time when the aerospace supply chain is facing all-time high demand from aircraft manufacturers, which legacy vendors in the Western world are struggling to meet. The global geopolitical issues, economic stability and Government support make India ideally placed to benefit from this deal.

The company has spent a decade in building best-in-class capabilities, processes, compliance standards, and customer relationships and obtaining requisite approvals and certifications, and we are now in the right place to grow rapidly. Anuj Jhunjhunwala, CEO, JJG Aero sees the company’s strengths and value proposition enabling them to emerge as a key player in the aerospace ecosystem. “India has emerged as an attractive destination for sourcing components and parts by global leaders and we are excited to be selected by so many marquee clients as a strategic growth vendor” says Jhunjhunwala. This investment will enable JJG Aero not only to continue on its growth path through capacity addition but also to upgrade the quality of earnings by focusing on higher value-added components.

Vivek Chhachhi, Managing Partner, CX Partners also notes that with its foray into the manufacture of aero-engine components, JJG Aero is well-positioned to capitalize on these opportunities and further solidify its presence in the market.

From simple 2-axis to complex 5-axis machining, JJG Aero offers a wide range of manufacturing services, complemented by over 30 NADCAP-approved special processes, including electroplating, anodizing, paint, and NDT. Moreover, the company provides assembly, testing, and other value-added services to its esteemed client base.

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Tesla eyes India market as Elon Musk makes bold AI prediction

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In a recent X Spaces session with Nicolai Tangen, CEO of Norges Bank Investment Management, Tesla CEO Elon Musk emphasized the importance of electric vehicles (EVs) in India, stating that it’s a natural progression for every country to embrace them. Musk highlighted India’s status as the most populous country globally and stressed that electric cars should be accessible to Indian consumers like they are in other parts of the world.

Musk’s comments coincide with Tesla’s intensified efforts to expand its presence in the Indian market. Sources reveal that the state governments of Maharashtra and Gujarat have extended enticing land offers to Tesla for the establishment of a cutting-edge EV manufacturing plant. The proposed investment for this venture ranges between USD 2 billion to USD 3 billion, demonstrating Tesla’s commitment to both domestic and international markets.

This move aligns with India’s new EV policy, which aims to attract investments from global EV manufacturers and promote the adoption of advanced EV technology among Indian consumers. The policy emphasizes the importance of domestic value addition (DVA) and sets specific localization targets for manufacturers establishing operations in India.

To incentivize investment, the government has introduced measures such as customs duty exemptions and import quotas for EVs based on the level of investment made by manufacturers. These initiatives aim to position India as a preferred destination for EV manufacturing and contribute to the country’s Make in India initiative.

In anticipation of these developments, Tesla plans to dispatch a team of experts to explore suitable locations across India for the proposed manufacturing facility. Musk’s previous statement about visiting India in 2024 further underscores the company’s eagerness to enter the Indian market and collaborate with local stakeholders.

Tesla’s expansion into India represents a significant step forward in the global EV landscape and underscores the company’s commitment to sustainable transportation solutions. With India poised to become a key market for electric vehicles, Tesla’s entry is expected to drive innovation and accelerate the adoption of EVs in the country.

As the electric vehicle market continues to evolve, Tesla’s entry into India holds the potential to reshape the automotive industry and contribute to India’s transition towards a greener and more sustainable future.

Tesla’s entry into the Indian market not only signifies a pivotal moment for the country’s automotive industry but also presents an opportunity for Tesla to capitalize on India’s growing demand for electric vehicles. With the Indian government’s focus on promoting clean energy initiatives and reducing carbon emissions, Tesla’s electric vehicles align perfectly with India’s sustainable development goals.

Moreover, Tesla’s presence in India is expected to stimulate job creation and economic growth, particularly in the manufacturing sector. The establishment of a state-of-the-art manufacturing plant will not only provide employment opportunities for local residents but also foster the development of ancillary industries and supply chains.

In addition to manufacturing, Tesla’s entry into India is poised to catalyze advancements in EV infrastructure and technology. As Tesla vehicles become more accessible to Indian consumers, there will be a corresponding need for charging infrastructure and support services. This presents opportunities for collaboration with local businesses and government agencies to build a robust EV ecosystem.

Furthermore, Tesla’s entry into India could spur competition and innovation in the domestic automotive market, encouraging other manufacturers to invest in electric vehicle technology. This competition could lead to advancements in battery technology, vehicle performance, and affordability, ultimately benefiting consumers.

Overall, Tesla’s decision to establish a manufacturing presence in India reflects the country’s growing importance in the global automotive industry and underscores India’s potential as a key market for electric vehicles. As Tesla’s footprint expands across the country, its impact on India’s economy, environment, and technological landscape is expected to be profound.

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Air India, BIAL Partner to Create South India’s Top Aviation Hub

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Air India and Tata Group airlines will partner with BIAL to improve airport services and connectivity at Bengaluru’s Kempegowda International Airport, including setting up an exclusive lounge for premium passengers.

Air India and Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL) have entered into an agreement aimed at bolstering Bengaluru’s status as a premier aviation hub for southern India. The collaboration seeks to enhance air travel connectivity to and from India over the next five years.

Under the agreement, Air India, along with other Tata Group airlines such as AIX and Vistara, will work closely with BIAL to improve international connectivity, operational efficiency, and passenger experience at Kempegowda International Airport, Bengaluru (KIAB or BLR airport). This includes plans to strengthen the group’s presence at the airport and establish a dedicated domestic lounge for premium and frequent travelers of Tata Group airlines.

Furthermore, Air India has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Government of Karnataka to develop maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) facilities at the Bengaluru airport. This partnership aims to stimulate the MRO ecosystem and create over 1,200 new job opportunities in the state.

Campbell Wilson, CEO and MD of Air India, emphasized the importance of airline-airport synergy in enhancing customer experience and operational efficiency. He expressed enthusiasm for strengthening Air India’s relationship with BIAL and expanding its presence at the airport, as well as establishing a major MRO center.

Hari Marar, MD and CEO of Bangalore International Airport Limited, highlighted the BLR airport’s commitment to becoming the international gateway in Southern and Central India. He stated that the collaboration with Air India aligns with the Ministry of Civil Aviation’s vision of developing Indian airports as hubs and aims to enhance the passenger experience. Marar also expressed ambitions to capture a significant share of long-haul routes from Bengaluru Airport over the next five years.

In related news, Air India announced the appointment of Jayaraj Shanmugam as its Head of Global Airport Operations, effective April 15. Shanmugam, who previously served as the chief operating officer (COO) at BIAL, brings extensive experience to his new role.

The collaboration between Air India and BIAL represents a significant milestone in the transformation of Bengaluru into a key aviation hub in the region. By leveraging each other’s strengths and resources, the partnership aims to not only enhance air connectivity but also contribute to the economic growth of Karnataka by generating job opportunities through the establishment of MRO facilities.

Jayaraj Shanmugam’s appointment as the Head of Global Airport Operations further solidifies Air India’s commitment to optimizing its airport operations and providing a seamless travel experience for passengers. His extensive experience in airport management, coupled with his previous role at BIAL, positions him well to drive operational excellence and efficiency within the airline.

As the aviation industry continues to evolve, alliances between airlines and airports are becoming increasingly vital to meet the growing demands of travelers and enhance overall competitiveness. The strategic collaboration between Air India and BIAL sets a precedent for future partnerships in the aviation sector, emphasizing the importance of cooperation and synergy to achieve common goals.

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March sees strong growth in Indian pharma market, up by 9.5%

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The Indian pharmaceutical market (IPM) experienced a notable 9.5 percent increase in sales in March, reflecting robust value growth across various therapy segments, except for respiratory. According to data from research firm Pharmarack, all therapies demonstrated positive value growth, contributing to the overall expansion of the market.

Sheetal Sapale, Vice President-Commercial at Pharmarack, noted that while many pharmaceutical companies showed double-digit value growth, unit growth remained a challenge. The growth in sales during March was primarily driven by value growth and new introductions, particularly in the anti-diabetic segment.

Several factors contributed to the uptick in sales, including new product introductions and patent expiries. For instance, there were multiple launches in the hematinic market following the loss of exclusivity rights for iron supplement Orofer FCM in October 2023. Additionally, patent expiries for drugs like Linagliptin and Dulaglutide further fueled competition in the anti-diabetic segment.

In March, Alkem emerged as one of the few companies reporting positive unit and value growth, with a 15.1 percent increase in value and an 11.3 percent increase in units sold. Other key players such as Cadilla, Fourrts, and Natco Pharma also witnessed double-digit value and unit growth during the month.

The top-selling medicine brands in March included Glaxo Smith Kline’s Augmentin and USV’s Glycomet GP, with Augmentin achieving sales of Rs 73 crore. Despite facing challenges in unit growth, Augmentin reported a 10 percent increase in value sales. Mankind’s Manforce condom brand retained its position as the third top-selling brand, despite negative unit and value growth.

Cipla’s Foracort inhaler maintained its fourth position in the respiratory segment, with sales totaling Rs 50 crore. Abbott’s Type 2 diabetes/weight management drug Rybelsus demonstrated remarkable growth, with a double-digit value growth rate of 7 percent and a staggering 75 percent increase in units sold in March.

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