A series of Twitter debuts by Chinese ambassadors since 2019 reflects a concerted, deliberate effort to shape global and domestic narratives about China and COVID-19. This paper presents the first systematic study of China’s Twitter diplomacy using quantitative and qualitative analysis of more than 32,000 Chinese ambassador Tweets. It finds that ambassadors used original posts and retweets to address topics including China’s defeat of the virus, provision of medical supplies and other aid abroad, the importance of international cooperation, the World Health Organization, and other countries’ pandemic responses. At the same time, however, ambassadors sharply criticized U.S. statements about China and the U.S. COVID-19 response. By combining positive messaging with digital displays of anger, Chinese diplomats construct narratives about COVID-19 that promote China as a responsible international leader while fostering favorable public opinion at home. More broadly, Twitter diplomacy reflects the pluralization of global narratives on key issues involving China and its officials’ embrace of Western social media platforms to pursue discourse power on a global scale.
Leutert is the GLP-Ming Z. Mei Chair of Chinese Economics and Trade. Her research focuses on Chinese political economy, specifically the historical evolution and global expansion of China's state-owned enterprises. Other areas of her research include leadership in China's public sector, China’s early reform and opening, corporate governance in state-owned enterprises, and international investment and trade. Her research is forthcoming or has been published in The China Quarterly, China Perspectives, and Asia Policy. Her commentary has been featured in media outlets including the Financial Times, New York Times, Reuters, Washington Post, and South China Morning Post.
This event is organized by the Columbia Harvard China and the World Program and cosponsored by the Weatherhead East Asian Institute at Columbia University.