The two-level game of China’s public diplomacy effort

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedingBook Chapter


Chinese policymakers have generally understood that China’s rise to international prominence and global leadership would bring with it challenges, especially regarding the perceptions of others. To allay the fears of outsiders about its rise, China has spent billions on public diplomacy initiatives. Yet, China has little to show for this, as external perceptions of China have grown increasingly negative. This chapter argues that part of China’s problem in building international relationships is that foreign policymakers are facing a particularly challenging two-level game: a situation where they are confronted with simultaneously navigating politics at the domestic and international levels. Using the case of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs social media accounts during the era of the COVID-19 pandemic, the official narratives being pushed domestically and internationally are examined and compared. Internationally, China projects a narrative of benevolent great power but, domestically, the narratives coalesce more around nationalist assertions. At a time when the digital revolution has made social media a central aspect of society, the sizeable disconnect between the narratives and policies at the heart of China’s domestic and international games means that public diplomacy strategies will continue to prove ineffective in propelling China into a position of global leadership.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCommunicating China: past, present and future
EditorsXiaoling Zhang, Corey Shultz
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2022


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