lørdag 31. juli 2021

David Bandurski: Telling "the China story" isn't easy

China’s strategic thinkers expend a lot of time and a lot of ink these days on the question of how the country can project a positive image across the world. The basic idea is that if China can strengthen its “discourse power” (话语权) by “telling China’s story well” – Xi Jinping’s catchphrase in the arena of public diplomacy and soft power – then its strategic priorities globally can move ahead smoothly.

If there is one underlying flaw in all of this strategizing, however, it may be the fundamental difficulty China’s planners have in grappling honestly with the country’s own conduct and framing as a possible source of global perception problems.

Recently, the Shanghai Institute of International Studies cooperated with the Liaison Department of the CCP Central Committee and other official organizations to hold a seminar on “Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy” (习近平外交思想) and “theoretical innovation of the Party’s foreign work” (对外工作). A number of the presentations at the seminar were published through the official WeChat public account of SIIS as a related series, and these were cross-shared at The Paper, a digital newspaper run by the Shanghai United Media Group (SUMG), which is controlled by the Shanghai committee of the CCP.

The Shanghai Institute of International Studies (SIIS) is one of China’s most important government-affiliated think tanks on foreign policy. As David Shambaugh has explained, SIIS, like many government institutions dealing with international affairs, performs a “dual function,” both projecting Chinese talking points (as part of a general “soft power” push) and “[collecting] views and intelligence from foreign experts and officials.”