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Story highlights

An animated Xi grows frustrated by his inability to intimidate Modi in Indian clip

In Xinhua's video, a man dressed in a turban and fake beard gesticulates to a laugh track

CNN —  

It’s a sight you’d expect to see in a colonial-era comedy act or a bad improvisation on the darkest corners of YouTube.

A video of a man wearing a turban and fake beard attempting a crude impression of an Indian was posted Wednesday on several verified social media channels operated by official Chinese news agency Xinhua News.

Entitled “7 Sins of India,” the 3 minute 20 second clip appears intended to attack India’s actions in an ongoing border dispute between the two neighboring countries.

But instead, Xinhua’s video quickly provoked strong reactions in India, China and around the world, where it was widely described as racist.

Retaliation from across the border was quick – Indian media released its own video Friday, an animation showing Chinese president Xi Jinping dancing to Gangnam Style while dressed as Winnie the Pooh.

Produced by privately owned media organization India Today the Bugs Bunny-style video follows Xi, dressed in military fatigues, as he attempts to get the attention of a chuckling Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Xinhua did not respond to a request for comment from CNN.

The videos are the latest exchange in an ongoing border dispute between India and China, after China was accused of building a road in territory belonging to Indian ally Bhutan.

In the Xinhua footage, which is in English and part of a series called The Spark, host Dier Wang explains the border conflict between India and China and outlines India’s alleged “seven sins” in the region.

Wang regularly mocks India throughout the segment, which then cuts to the “Indian” man, who gesticulates widely while reciting monosyllabic lines in English in a crude Indian accent overdubbed with a laugh track.

“It’s not okay in the 21st century to have someone dress up in a turban, mock an Indian accent. Shocking from official agency,” India Today’s China correspondent Ananth Krishnan wrote on Twitter.

Yuen Ying Chan, honorary professor and former director of the University of Hong Kong’s Journalism and Media Studies Center, told CNN the video was “despicable.”

“It’s disrespectful and it should be withdrawn and an apology’s in order … They’re trying to be cool, they try to make news interesting, they think it is cute,” she said.

Sixth Tone, an English-language website affiliated with Chinese state-run news outlet The Paper, originally published an article criticizing the video but it was pulled down shortly after with no explanation.

“Xinhua may end up facing the same question that the video’s presenter posed to India following Bhutan’s alleged rejection of their support: ‘How does it feel shooting yourself in the foot’,” the article originally said.

The Doklam dispute is the latest in a long-running series of territorial flare-ups between India and China.

Border dispute tensions high

In 1962, the two countries engaged in a bloody border war and skirmishes have continued to break out sporadically.

The current standoff, now entering its second month, centers on a thin strip of land in the junction with Bhutan. Though not a part of Indian territory, the area is close to the “chicken’s neck,” a strategic corridor that serves as a vital artery between Delhi and its far northeastern states.

The dispute began on June 16, when China accused Indian border guards in the northeastern state of Sikkim of crossing into its territory in southwestern Tibet, in an attempt to obstruct the construction of a new mountain road.

A Chinese soldier stands guard on the Chinese side of the ancient Nathu La border crossing between India and China in 2008.
AFP/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
A Chinese soldier stands guard on the Chinese side of the ancient Nathu La border crossing between India and China in 2008.

India has not denied its troops were present in the area. According to a statement released by the Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Indian personnel “approached the Chinese construction party and urged them to desist from changing the status quo.”

This was followed by a formal compliant, or demarche, issued by the Bhutanese government that accused China of constructing a road “inside Bhutanese territory” in “direct violation” of its territorial treaty obligations.

India and Bhutan have maintained historically strong relations. Bhutan cooperates closely with India in determining its foreign policy, and the Indian army is involved in the training of its armed forces.

China, which does not have formal diplomatic ties with Bhutan, has repeatedly denied that it has violated any treaties and has called India’s involvement in the issue “utterly unjustifiable.”

A Chinese soldier gestures as he stands near an Indian soldier at the ancient Nathu La border in 2008.
AFP/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
A Chinese soldier gestures as he stands near an Indian soldier at the ancient Nathu La border in 2008.

Speaking to reporters on July 24, China’s Defense Ministry spokesman Senior Col. Wu Qian promised to carry out further military drills in the region.

“We will preserve our sovereign territory and security interests at any cost,” he said.

The dispute comes at a time of deteriorating ties between India and China over several issues, including Chinese investment in Pakistan, its naval presence in the Indian Ocean and India’s unwillingness to join Beijing’s signature One Belt One Road initiative.

’A lot left to learn’

Xinhua is one of China’s largest state media organizations.

On Indian social media, the reactions varied from angry to amused while more than a few responded with racist abuse directed at the Chinese.

“Pretty rich of you to make fun of Indian accent, while the host here can’t even pronounce simple English words,” one user commented on the original Xinhua video.

Chan said Chinese state media had come a long way in recent years, but “there’s a lot left to learn.”

“China’s the second largest economy in the world, they want to expand their soft power, this is extremely self-defeating,” she said.

CNN’s Steve George contributed to this report