Freedom of speech and the diversity of opinion that it engenders are not a reflection of seditious tendencies endangering state security even if they might threaten the regime in power.
Indian citizens could perhaps learn much from the Taiwanese election campaign, where various civic groups actively fact-checked each candidate’s speech and confronted them in real time over inconsistencies and inaccuracies.
India will need to match China with a capable and expanded foreign service working in coordination with political parties, business communities, intellectual elites and its diaspora but also display adherence to values that are genuinely attractive to the peoples of other nations to push an ‘Indian model’ of politics and development that can challenge the Chinese one.
Indian news media while free to publish what they wish to also have a responsibility to their audiences and to themselves to not offer column space to the Chinese (or anyone else) for grandstanding or the misrepresentation or selective presentation of facts.
The Indian and Chinese governments have set their ties a very low bar of achievement talking essentially soft issues like cultural exchanges which are low-hanging fruit but which are unlikely to help repair in a hurry the high degree of bilateral political mistrust
For democracies to compete with the Chinese model, they will have to ensure both economic and social well-being and political accountability.