Public Diplomacy of People’s Republic of China

By : Kisko Poluan, IR Student of LSPR

1. Public Diplomacy Strategy of People’s Republic of China

1.1 Public Diplomacy Strategies

Public diplomacy is entirely a new concept applied in recent years when China gain a lot of international community attention due to its rise of power, surpassing Japan and most of the Asian countries. The approach of engaging the public to conduct a diplomacy is a baptism of fire in Chinese culture but the idea of winning people’s heart and mind does exist since ancient time. We may refers this idea back to the Confucian philosopher named Mengzi (372-289 BC) asserts that, “There is a way for getting the world: if you get the people you will then get the world”. There is a way for getting the people: if you get their hearts you will then get the people. There is a way for getting their hearts: that which you desire, share with them in accumulating, and that which you dislike, do not inflict on them. People turn toward benevolence like water flowing downward”. (Hooghe, 2015)

Although in recent year, China has transformed into one of the key international player vis-à-vis 20 or 30 years ago albeit the countries long history and regional geopolitical influence. China realises that under the background of multi-polarization and globalization, public diplomacy is sine qua non in shaping country image. China has learnt from history that soft power is a key after having suffered a humiliating defeat in their own turf by the more powerful European.

Though engaging public is still a problem that need to be tackled, due to globalization China has to be more open, resulting in more people coming in and out of the country thus the question linger in how to change domestic and even international community perspective of the country with the pressure and exploitation by anti-Chinese hostile forces especially after the event at Tiananmen Square Protest or commonly said by the Mainland Chinese as “十六事件” or in english “June Fourth Incident”. This is when most of the Chinese leaders did not pay attention toward the result of that event only to realise that they had to break through isolation from the world (Lejli, 2011)

In order to address the aforementioned issue, China consolidate the social foundation of internal and external policies in order to guide the correct public perception which is significant in the development of the countries and to create a better understanding abroad. Only during this situation, the proper social foundation can be implemented in order to promote better China’s image especially toward the foreigner and Overseas Chinese.

Cultural Diplomacy is one of China strongest point in promulgating their public diplomacy but China must make a significant national reformation in order to meet their goal. China not only reforming from inside but has a lot of external agent to help the central government shape a better image of China.

Lejli(2011) in her journal said that “Early 1970s announced the second attempt by the end of China’s international isolation and starting with “ping-pong diplomacy” and pandas. Deng Xiaoping, the Chinese leader in that time, introduced “open-door policy” which resulted in the “bring” foreign businessmen and tourists that crowded China’s door and surged the investments. His public diplomacy considered to be very effective because it was supported by actions to open up and modernize China. (p.4)”

The openness introduced led to better understanding of China because through that openness, China was able to achieve better recognition although the objective is still far from being achieved. Cultural approach here inter alia language, food, panda, and religious belief has made most of the foreigners think how China is today. Chinese are always associated with Taoism and Confucianism; such Chinese ideas have mixed together with concept of globalization and modernisation. As the country were prone to excessive external cultural influx, the traditional values comes in contact, which clarify the whole world how China thinks and what it is today. (Lihua, et al., 2015)

1.2 Country’s Brand

On 5th Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee, the plan “Beautiful China” was introduced and included in national “13th Five-Year Plan”. In 2015, Chairman Xi Jin Ping said, “Man and nature are communities of life, and human beings must respect nature, conform to nature, and protect nature.” (Yu Su, 2017). China is reforming their country into beautiful yet viable place for travellers all over the world by selling nature and culture as their main attraction. All of provinces and region in China have started to promulgate tourism under the general theme of “Beautiful China”. (China to observe 2018 as “Beautiful China-Year of Integrated Tourism”, 2018)

Although China has myriads of tourist spot all over the countries, but still everyone are aware that their public service are inadequate. This issue has been pointed out by most of the people who ever came to China, branding the country as “Unhygienic”. To tackle this issue, China has announced the plan to build and upgrade more than thousands of public toilets as part of their strategy to attract tourist. (China to observe 2018 as “Beautiful China-Year of Integrated Tourism”, 2018)

One of the most intriguing part about China is that, everyone know that China is a communist state with state controlling everything and most of the people there are poor. For the last 8 years, China has transformed into one of the country where everybody could purchase iPhone X without even paying it in instalment and you can find Walmart and Carrefour everywhere throughout the country. Since the openness, more Chinese company has become privately owned in lieu of being owned by the state. The Centre for China and Globalization founding director Wang Huiyao said that, “Thirty years ago, all businesses in China were state-owned enterprises. Now, at least half of the enterprises are privately owned. That’s probable the image that China should show the world.” (Knowledge Wharton, 2016)

Gamers all over the world has recognised China as home for gamers. In this era of modernisation, electronic games has developed into something as lifestyle in China where the players are idolised and being treated equal to celebrity. Tencent, one of the Chinese giant in ICT industries have lead the company into one of the example of how Chinese tech industries developed. Tencent reportedly has owned the online game called, League of Legend, developed by Riot Games from United States after having only 30% of company stock in 2012 (Frank, 2015). Numerous world event in E-Sport (Electronic Sport) was held in China in past several years such as Dota 2 Asia Championship and League of Legends World Championship. (Liquidpedia, 2018)

There are several point that the writer would like to point out from the reason of why we are choosing China for this topic of interest. Firstly is because how fast China has reformed throughout the past 20 years. It is simply not easy for such a big nation to transform into world rising power in a blink of an eye. How they turn the point of view of the world community as a country with bad development into one of the most visited place in the world. Secondly, it is how they always keep their values and ideas and turn it as their nation identity. China is one of the nations with the greatest history. Plethora of wisdoms has been passed down throughout the generation and it is internationally recognised and being widely used. Although being hit with hyperglobalisation with many foreign ideas coming in, the Chinese still have a firm and strong characters to stand in the midst of modernisation.

1.3 Marketing The Brand

In marketing their brand, Chinese utilises variety of tools to help shape the perspective of international community. The use of media, internet, events, and even celebrity are being utilised to help promulgate Chinese national brand in the international market albeit most of the instrument are still within the perimeter of control of central government therefore the state take control over what being publicised. (Hooghe, 2015) China also seems to utilise world event in order to market their nation and national brand. Since 2014 World Cup in Brazil, we have seen Chinese Milk Company, Mengniu, in all of the stadium advertisement board. Chinese enterprise has entered the world of football where most of the sponsor of football club came from China. For instant, English Premier Club Crystal Palace football jersey can be seen with Chinese online gambling site as their sponsors so does Newcastle and West Bromwich Albion.

2. Analysis of Public Diplomacy Strategies of People’s Republic of China

A score ago, China was a country concealing themselves from outside world just like how their predecessors were during Imperial time until the British forced them to sign unequal treaty thus opening some cities in coastal area for the European invasion. China has modernised today, flowing together with the rapid change of global development. Few years ago, China are well known for their ability to copy the products of world famous brand especially in electronic and fashion area thus earning them a reputation that everything made from China are mostly fake. This branding surprisingly has made the business in China running quite well. Fake Apple’s product in Shenzhen, cheap Nike and Adidas sneakers in Beijing, making them number one choice of shopping destination. China quickly adapting to the shift in time. Although not relinquishing their socialist ideology, they were brave enough to handle the surge of critics from international communities about how the politburo run China to be “China Number One”. After the transition from Chairman Hu Jin Tao to Chairman Xi Jin Ping in 2012, this is where the turn event point for China. Chairman Xi introduced his “China Dream”.

Chairman Xi combined the idea of Socialism and Confucianism in his Chinese Dream program. Chairman Xi in his speech said that, “Today, we are closer, more confident and capable of achieving the goal of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation than at any time in history” (Xinhua, 2017). This rejuvenation refers to national union and mostly economic development. He eradicated corruptor and officials mostly from the Jiang Zhe Min era thus changing public opinion about him. People started to believe in him, thus he utilises this momentum to seize the opportunity to face globalization, opening China into the world.

According to Gilboa (2007), in the basic variant, a government uses its own means of communication, such as radio stations, to conduct public diplomacy. Chinese politburo had been utilising radio ever since the revolution time and of course, until now, it is still ran by the state. Radio station speaking Chinese Mandarin are spread from Northern China to Southern China, even Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan thus establishing and strengthening Chinese identity and instilling chauvinism to every Chinese listening to it and increasing popularity of Central Communist Party (CCP) in order for Chairman Xi Chinese Dream program to come into realization. Through the use of mass media, China are able to first make some changes from inside. Not only by using of mass media, slogan and banner quoting statement from country number one people along with quotation embracing socialism are also being used in every part of China, even inside the campus with international students.

Like the rest of the world, China also has been using information technology on their country. Chinese Foreign Ministry website for instant has followed the standard format like the most foreign ministries website. They provide basic information like list of embassies, countries foreign policies, and so on and so forth. (Sucharipa, 2000).

What is intriguing is that, China is playing passively. China is changing people’s mind from inside the country. The question probably lies in how massive Chinese are not only in Mainland but also outside the country. Using state-controlled media, the politburo has reflected on what they want to do, and what to achieve to the people by the use of “Chinese” owned social media. According to China Internet Network Information Centre, in 2017 the number of netizen in China has reached the number of 772 million (Ting, 2018). By utilising this great number accessing internet every day, Chinese government have successfully shape their national image by first tackling and addressing problem domestically thus influencing everyone including the foreigner living in China. Chinese domestic media nowadays has been pivotal in informing outside world. English language has been widely used in newspaper, website, and even radio. Chinese state television (CCTV) also provided international channel with English language service. (Ingrid, 2007)

With this way, China is trying to show the world that they are not aggressor country; they are friendly and trustable friend that you can count on. Although, also maximize the impact of shaping national image, some of media enterprise not only serve as CCP “propaganda mouthpiece” but also to increase their publicity and communication problem. Wang (2011) mentioned that, Central government realized that increasing transparency and release of communication may help in gaining public trust in effort by doing so also helps the country to project better image toward the outside world. Although the aforementioned sounded that China has broken through most of the world concern, to some extent, they are still labeled as human rights violator.

In his book, Wang (2011) also added that “China has considerable sources of soft power. Its culture, economic, development, and, to a certain extent, its foreign policy are attractive to many countries and offer enormous possibilities for public diplomacy. In the area of foreign policy, China’s leaders are increasingly willing to use their friendly relations with repressive regimes to help the international community push these regimes to end their crimes against their populations. But this will not be enough to compensate for the lack of Chinese progress on their own human rights. The international community (especially in the West) will not embrace China as a peaceful, harmonious, and responsible world power as long as journalists and political dissidents are arrested, lawyers and activists are prosecuted when fighting for civil rights, and prisoners are tortured in Chinese jails.”

China most likely has a favourable relation with countries such as Pakistan, Russia, and some countries in Africa, but the question of Tibet and Xinqiang still prohibit Chinese government to gain adequate trust necessary to build a “best friend-like” relation with the western countries. It is most likely that the distrust and miscommunication occurred between China and European is due to lack of knowledge about China and due to the gap of values where European uphold the value of democracy the most while China do not. (D’Hooghe, 2010). Despite those, the changes in Chinese public diplomacy are slowly shaping the image of China in outside world thus indirectly shaping the international opinion about China.

3. Recommendations Current China

Current China is better compared to several years ago although several change need to be addressed. Firstly, Chinese people need to be educated in cultural awareness. In this globalisation era, people are expected to welcome foreigner in their house or country. Although Chinese people are nice, if you obey and did not violate anything, they may occasionally offend their foreign counterpart. Despite having the strong root of Chinese spirit since ancient time, nevertheless some sense of respecting other people culture must be nurtured. Not forget to mention, China also need to move on from their historic trauma with another country and stop racism toward other culture and country that was once their enemy.

Secondly, foreigner are always complaining about the bureaucracy in administration and need to accept criticization for better public service. It is the duty of the government to always educate their people, although several part of coastal area of China are more proned to foreigner visitor than the central part of China, still the government need to deepened the penetration in educating its people. After all, Chinese are well known for their “barbaric” behaviour when it comes to manner.The central politburo need to put education of accepting foreign ideas into its people in order to improve their image inside and outside. This point also helps improve public diplomacy which depends on the role of its people thus requiring the state to be involved in strategic planning and deployment to ensure its effectiveness.

CCP also need to solve the diversity that is happening inside the country. Clash of cultural and language discrimination that is still going on need to be stopped and Chinese everywhere must unite for their country. In this case, CCP are responsible for this predicament due to their centralised concept. For instance, the discrimination toward the Cantonese in the South and vice versa toward the Northeners. Again, cultural awareness are imperative in this case

Lastly, Chinese government need to encourage the participation of NGO. This is to reflect the diversification of private diplomacy and letting the whole person dive in the process of private diplomacy and also to promote the transfer of the entire culture per se. Civil diplomacy is the most crucial part of the cultural construction and mechanism of the whole country.

References

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