China’s President Xi Jinping has asked officials to strengthen the country’s international communication to present an image of a “reliable, loveable and respectable China” in an attempt to repair the country’s image and win a battle of narratives with the west.
President Xi made the remarks on Monday addressing a group study session of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) Central Committee, according to a report by Chinese state news agency.
At the meeting, Chinese President told CPC officials, it was important for China to tell its story in a positive way. “It is necessary to make friends, unite and win over the majority, and constantly expand the circle of friends, when it comes to international public opinion,” he was quoted by Xinhua as saying. He said the country should be “open and confident, but also modest and humble” in its communication with the world.
Analysts said President Xi’s remarks marked a rare admission of Beijing’s isolation in international arena as its image has been marred by an aggressive “Wolf Warrior” diplomacy and ineffective propaganda and it tries to counter west’s criticism on a range of issues including the origins of the Covid-19 virus, allegations of human rights abuses and territorial disputes. Observers say negative perceptions of China are at record high levels in many parts of the world.
After Xi took over the reins in 2012, China had adopted more assertive and aggressive stance giving itself the role of a “major country” in world affairs and done away with CPC’s famous “hide-and-bide” strategy of keeping a low international profile and wait for the right time. Now, China believes, its time has come, and no one can deny it its rightful place in accordance with its national strength.
Signal ahead of 100th Anniversary
Xi highlighted the need to “create a favorable external public opinion environment” and strengthen communications “under the new situation” to secure its rise, state news agency Xinhua reported on Tuesday. “It is necessary to speed up the construction of Chinese discourse and the Chinese narrative system, and use Chinese theories to interpret Chinese practice,” he told the Politburo. The focus would be on improving the party’s global image and countering criticism about its omnipresent role in China’s development. CPC is planning to hold grand celebrations on its 100th Anniversary on 1st July.
It is seen as Beijing’s attempt to shift the unfavorable narratives in its ideological and geopolitical wrangling with Western democracies. “Xi’s remarks came at a time when Washington has renewed the calls for an international investigation into the origins of the coronavirus which has gained momentum in recent weeks,” he said. Beijing and Washington’s battle to control global narratives has been building since the trade war erupted in 2018, and the rhetoric has escalated over the pandemic and vaccine diplomacy. In this “war of narratives”, Chinese officials and state media outlets have frequently criticized foreign journalists’ reports on China accusing them of bias against China.
Tell China’s stories well through a team of professionals to communicate with different audiences
It is not the first time Xi has called on party cadres and state media to “tell China’s stories well” to present a better and positive picture of China to the world. On 1st June, in a letter to China’s flagship English newspaper, China Daily, on its 40th anniversary, Xi said, “It should also better introduce China’s development philosophy, path and achievements, better present a true, multidimensional and panoramic view of China and make new contributions to promoting exchanges and communication between China and the world.”
President Xi who is also the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party and Chairman of the Central Military Commission listed goals including building a team of professionals to meet the country’s international communication needs and embracing new ways to communicate with different audiences.
Experts say, President Xi does not seem to be satisfied with the way Chinese officials are engaging and communicating with the world, but they pointed out only reorienting its communications strategy would not be enough, real positive actions by China showing its intent to improve relations with other countries is what is required.