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Enhancing China's image through effective communication

By WANG LILI | China Daily | Updated: 2023-06-03 09:50


While addressing a group study session on May 31, 2021, President Xi Jinping stressed the importance of improving China's international communication to present a true, multi-dimensional and panoramic picture of China.

In recent years, as China's national strength continues to increase, China has also been facing increasingly challenging geopolitical obstacles and ideological bias. Led by the United States, some Western countries have been continuously smearing China's international image using issues such as human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.

Making China's international communication more effective to enhance the country's international image is essential to ensuring China plays a crucial role in global governance and helps build a community with a shared future for mankind.

We should first understand the global picture and attitude of public opinion, and listen to the voices of international audiences with an equal and inclusive attitude, and conduct dialogue and communication on this basis.

According to the layered approach to public opinion espoused by Norwegian sociologist Johan Galtung, based on channels of information acquisition and expression, there are three categories of public opinion: core, central and marginal. Core public opinion refers to governments' opinion, while central refers to elite public opinion, and marginal represents general public opinion. Elite public opinion primarily comes from think tanks, universities, the media and businesses.

International communication is essentially an ideological battle, where the intellectual community represented by think tanks and universities serves as the brain and agenda-setter of the battle of ideas. Therefore, Chinese think tanks and universities have to play an important role in international communication.

It is crucial for Chinese think tanks and universities to come up with innovative ideas by thoroughly studying Chinese thoughts, which will enhance the defining and interpretative power of Chinese scholars in the international public opinion sphere.

As knowledge-intensive institutions, think tanks and universities can bridge the gaps in global governance by using their intellectual innovation capability, disseminating public opinion, and establishing transnational think tank networks. They can provide platforms for consultation, dialogue and cooperation for countries so as to address global issues. This will help enhance China's rule-making capacity in global governance.

Also, China should fully leverage the cross-cultural communication power of movies and television programs in telling its story. Films and TV dramas have an advantage over other forms of media in disseminating ideas and shaping values through comprehensive audiovisual expressions. Unlike news media that transmit fragmented information, movies and TV dramas are able to construct a relatively close narrative structure to tell a complete story. And in cross-cultural communication, they can provide sufficient background information to help the audience better understand the message.

Countries around the world are telling their respective story to enhance their international image and soft power. Take the United States for example. Hollywood movies and the Fulbright Program have contributed to achieving the US' strategic communication objectives. It is, therefore, important for China to delve into the remarkable achievements of the Chinese modernization and use its movies and TV dramas to communicate with the rest of the world.

It is vital for China to have strategic determination and national confidence, strengthen its communication and integration between the global intellectual community, diplomatic circles and media industry.

China also ought to use an innovative communication strategy and narrative models in response to the changes in international public opinion. Following established communication principles and laws, the country's international communication should be audience-oriented, effective and ideas-driven, in order to present a credible, likable, and respectable image of China.

Furthermore, China should utilize digital communication to tell its story to the rest of the world.

In recent years, the US has labeled China's mainstream media as "foreign agents" or "foreign missions", and some countries claim the country's main social media platforms are "State-affiliated media". Besides, the global information landscape is undergoing comprehensive restructuring due to the influence of digital platforms, with international communication shifting from traditional media to social media.

Therefore, it is necessary to include "diverse subjects, diverse narratives", adapt to the trend of digital communication, and synergize mass communication and grassroots communication, traditional mainstream media and social media, as well as individual narratives and collective narratives to improve China's international communication.

We should realize that foreign audiences' perceptions of China today are not fully based on rationality and facts. Non-rational elements such as emotions, sentiments and public opinion play a more significant role than facts in their perceptions.

By offering "competitive truths" through diverse strategies, China can build relationships, thereby enhancing its "empathetic communication" ability. It is also important to skillfully use compelling and moving Chinese stories to attract more foreign audiences, in a bid to resolve differences and disputes, and minimize opposition through emotional resonance.

The author is deputy dean of the National Academy of Development and Strategy and a professor at the School of Journalism, Renmin University of China.

The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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