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The Initial Digitalization of Chinese Diplomacy (2019-2020): Establishing Global Communication Networks on Twitter

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The way in which Chinese diplomats communicate has changed recently,
from being mostly reactive and pragmatic to being rhetorically more combative.
This has generated strong academic, media, and policy interest.
However, less academic attention has been devoted to the employment
of social media for China’s new diplomatic communication strategy. By
analyzing the recent employment of Twitter by China’s Ministry of Foreign
Affairs (MFA), this article explores the initial digitalization of China’s public
diplomacy from November 2019 to February 2021. Approaching Twitter as
both a virtual network structure and an interactive strategic communication
process, we collected 61,000 tweets from Chinese diplomats plus 282,000
tweets from Chinese official media and applied data analytics to examine
how the MFA augmented its diplomatic digital presence by responding,
reposting/retweeting, mentioning, and hashtagging. We also used discourse
analysis to investigate how Chinese diplomats selected topics to
generate, diffuse, and affect hegemonic discourses. We argue that China’s
MFA initially adopted Twitter using a centrally controlled structure of topic,
rhetoric, and discourses as well as cohesive dissemination and augmenting
strategies. These communication structures created a self-referencing network
closely aligned with Chinese official media on Twitter.
TidsskriftJournal of Contemporary China
StatusE-pub ahead of print - 29 mar. 2023

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