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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Our PM Sri Narendra Modi with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang - Selfie

Barack Obama, David Cameron did one with the Danish prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt. Ellen DeGeneres had that  with Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts and a host of other stars at the Oscars. Now the Chinese premier and Indian prime minister have become the latest public figures to advertise their friendship in – what …………  ‘ a selfie !!’.  Sri Narendra Modiji is adept to using technology and selfies are integral part of his overseas trips – this one  was immediately liked on Facebook by its founder Mark Zuckerberg, who on various occasions has displayed his admiration for the Indian prime minister.

Forbes had a bigger clamour – calling it the ‘ most power selfie’   - it wrote it as the  two powerful men seen standing shoulder-to-shoulder at the Temple of Heaven in central Beijing.  The selfie garnered 2,200 shares within two hours of Modi posting it on his Twitter account @NarendraModi and is being billed a selfie of the world’s two mightiest. Modi and Li drive economic policy in their respective countries, two of the world’s fastest-growing large economies. Between them, India and China account for over a third of the world’s population.

“It’s selfie time! Thanks Premier Li” Modi said on his Twitter account where he posted the selfie. The Indian prime minister is one of the world’s most followed politicians on Twitter with 12.3 million followers. Modi has made it a ritual to shoot selfies in every country he has visited so far, including with leaders like Australia’s Tony Abbott. But China’s leaders are known to be chary of selfies and are rarely, if ever, seen in them.

The yoga-Tai chi demonstration, involving 400 young practitioners, also generated rave reviews from the Chinese media present, suggesting at least on the public diplomacy front, the PM’s China visit has struck the right note even as both countries continue to grapple with thorny diplomatic issues.  A Chinese commentary on Friday authored by strategic expert Liu Zongyi suggested Modi “may become a Nixon-style statesman”, referring to the US leader’s path-breaking China visit, “because of his pragmatism and capacity to resolve major contradictions between China and India”.

……… what makes this selfie so unique can be better understood from this article in :  Modi appears with Chinese premier Li Keqiang, standing in front of the Temple of Heaven in Beijing.  What makes this so notable?

Well, first of all, China’s top politicians—particularly, those on the very top—don’t really “do” selfies with other people. Just last month, Chinese president Xi Jinping appeared in what Chinese state media excitedly called his very first selfie, with Fadli Zon from the Indonesian parliament. (Li, as far as we can tell, has never appeared in a public selfie, pre-Modi.) But, second of all—and most amazingly—Modi swiftly put the photo right out on Twitter, just as he has been tweeting much of his trip in China.

Twitter, like Facebook and Google, is blocked in China by the “Great Firewall,” China’s state-run censorship machine that scrubs the internet so that Chinese citizens can’t see of any references critical to the Communist Party and its leaders, or that question their authority.  In order to tweet in China, then, Modi must have been using a Virtual Private Network (VPN), or software that allows him to go around the Great Firewall—something the Chinese authorities have been ruthlessly cracking down on in recent months as part of Xi’s ongoing, and some say brutal, increase in censorship.

Modi, of course, has built a reputation of using technology—particularly, social media—to build his carefully-managed public image. In the run up to the 2014 general elections in India, he brought in 3-D projection technology to simultaneously hold political rallies in multiple locations. Alongside, his massive social media presence, which then was focused on Facebook and Twitter, gave him very useful traction among India’s young voters.

Since becoming prime minister, Modi’s social media following has exploded. He is now the world’s second most followed world leader on Twitter (after US president Barack Obama). And on Facebook, he has over 28 million likes (and counting). If that wasn’t enough, Modi is also on LinkedIn, Instagram—and as of May 04, even on the Chinese microblogging site Sina Weibo.

That is  taste of ‘Namo technology’ for the Chinese

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

16th May 2015.

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