Racism! India’s strong reaction to German magazine’s tasteless cartoon

Der Spiegel’s cartoon on India overtaking China as the most populous nation irks Indians

NEW DELHI | Updated: 24 April, 2023 2:34 pm IST
English version of the controversial cartoon from Der Spiegel (Photo Credit: Twitter @PatChappatte)

Years after it published a cartoon showing then US President Donald Trump beheading the Statue of Liberty, the German weekly magazine Der Spiegel at it again.

The magazine riled Indians across the globe with its ‘racist’ cartoon titled, Bevölkerung: Indien überholt China which means Population: India overtakes China.

The cartoon shows an overloaded train, resembling the ones that run in India, with people sitting atop and holding the tricolour, purportedly moving ahead a bullet train that has a sticker of the Chinese national flag.

Various netizens also believed that it was an attempt to belittle India’s technological advances as it highlighted Chinese advancement with a bullet train and India’s age-old infrastructure.

The cartoon came against the backdrop of the recent United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) ‘State of World Population Report’ for 2023. The report estimated India’s population to be 1.4286 billion by mid-2023. The Chinese population, meanwhile, is estimated to be 1.4257 billion by the same period.

The cartoon evoked strong reactions from Indians, including Union ministers, senior officials, and political leaders, who termed it ‘racist’.

Reacting to the cartoon, Union Minister of State for Entrepreneurship, Skill Development, Electronics & Technology, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, tweeted, “Dear Cartoonist at @derspiegel Notwithstanding ur attempt at mocking India, its not smart to bet against India under PM @narendramodi ji In a few years Indias economy will be bigger than germany’s #NewIndia.”


Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national vice president Baijayant Jay Panda said, “In German, the name of influential magazine Der Spiegel means The Mirror. But going by this derogatory, racist cartoon, it should change its name to Rassistischer Troll. & considering Germany’s difficult history involving racism & the holocaust, Germans everywhere should force this race baiting publication to hold a mirror to its conscience.”


Kanchan Gupta, Senior Adviser, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, said, “Hi Germany, this is outrageously racist. @derspiegel caricaturing India in this manner has no resemblance to reality. Purpose is to show #India down and suck up to #China. This is as bad if not worse than the racist cartoon in @nytimes lampooning India’s successful Mars mission.”


“Cartoon by German Magazine ‘Der Spiegel’ is in bad taste. The Western World prefers to depict India as poor and struggling. They won’t show India’s Vande Bharat or upcoming bullet trains. Cannot wait for the next few years when India will overtake Germany as the 4th biggest GDP,” YSRCP Rajya Sabha MP Vijayasai Reddy V tweeted.


Many netizens believed that the cartoon showed the nervousness and insecurities of the West as India is rising and very soon will surpass various Western nations, including Germany, in terms of economy.

They also said that as the German economy is struggling following the Ukraine-Russia conflict, the cartoon is an attempt to please China with the aim of attracting their money.



According to the UNFPA’s report, India is on track to be the world’s most populous country. It also said that 68 per cent of India’s total population is between 15 and 64 years of age, which is considered the working population of a country. About 25 per cent is between 0-14 years; 18 per cent between 10 and 19 years, 26 per cent between 10 and 24 years, and 7 per cent above 65 years.

Last year, China remained the most populous country with an estimated 144.8 crore people, while India’s population was estimated at 140.6 crores.

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