China needs to improve the way it tells the world stories about itself and convince people that the ruling party is fighting for the happiness of all the Chinese people, Xi Jinping said.
The Chinese president’s comments at a Communist Party meeting on Tuesday come amid the country’s growing isolation from the global community and tension with the international media, largely fueled by international concerns about human rights abuses.
Suggesting continued concern over Beijing’s negative image, Xi said it was crucial for China to develop a stronger “international voice” that matches its national strength and global status, to present a “true, three-dimensional and comprehensive China” to the world, according to state news agency Xinhua.
“We must strengthen the propaganda and interpretation of the Communist Party of China and help foreigners to realize that the Communist Party of China [CCP] it really strives for the happiness of the Chinese people, ”the report quoted Xi as saying. The official English translation of Xinhua refers to “advertising” rather than “propaganda.”
While the rising world power has sought to increase its position on the world stage, relations with many Western nations have collapsed, largely driven by concerns about human rights abuses against ethnic minorities, particularly Muslims. in Xinjiang, the crackdown in Hong Kong, the aggression towards Taiwan and last year’s attempts to cover up the early spread of the coronavirus.
Worsening relations with the US and its allies such as Canada, the UK and Australia have seen tit-for-tat trade sanctions, the expulsion or intimidation of the foreign press, and increasingly belligerent comments from diplomats. China’s “wolf warrior,” a name that refers to combative diplomats who use their platform to aggressively defend China’s policies and belittle opponents.
Margaret Lewis, a professor and China specialist at Seton Hall Law School in New Jersey, said China’s ruling class has long explored how to “get its message across to international audiences,” particularly through the media channel. CGTN, which is broadcast in numerous countries but has also faced sanctions from foreign regulators for its conduct.
He said that Beijing had a different vision of human rights than other nations, which prioritized the right to development over independent human rights. This belief would still feature in any international message from the CCP.
“This is not a call for greater openness, transparency and accessibility,” he said.
“This is a call for the party state apparatus to present a sweeter view of what is happening. Nothing I have heard makes this seem like it is promoting freedom of the press. It’s that: the international media should listen more carefully to how we, the party state, believe that we are helping people and should report more ‘objectively’ about our successes. “
Xi’s comments sparked some speculation among analysts that he was calling on the “wolf warriors” to lower his tone, while strengthening the state’s public relations.
But Lewis said it wasn’t “one or the other.” “You can have ‘good cop, bad cop’ scenarios. You can have moments of more fiery rhetoric along with things that also present a more contrived and pleasant narrative, ”Lewis said.
Natasha Kassam, a China analyst at the Lowy Institute in Australia, said Beijing’s leadership was reading the same data as anyone else and could see that international opinion had “turned away quite decisively” in the past year.
“Their economic relations have not necessarily been damaged by negativity, but clearly there is at least some consideration as to whether it is sustainable to have such a negative image of China in the world,” Kassam said.
“At some level, this is acknowledging that something is wrong and that change is needed, but the change is in the message and not in the policy.”
The damage to China’s reputation comes at an uncomfortable time, just weeks after the 100th anniversary of the CCP’s formation. It promises to be a long and bombastic national celebration, but also an opportunity for Xi, who abolished term limits, to cement his leadership.
Kassam said the centennial would be a primarily national affair, but that it would also likely see increased efforts to delegitimize the voices of foreign critics. He said there is also likely to be a longer-term concern ahead of the 2022 Olympics and a poor international image damaging a “moment of national pride” for China.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism