HOW CHINA SPEAKS TO THE WORLD IN THE COVID-19 ERA China’s Political Communication and Mobilisation in Europe

Project: Research project

Project Details


This GRF project is the third installment of a transdisciplinary and comparative research that investigates how China speaks to the world. Our pilot study (2020) and follow-up research on China’s Twitter diplomacy (2021-2022) have examined the emergence of competing narratives of global propaganda/persuasion, and how the commodification of communication has complicated discourses on geopolitics. At the intersection of international relations, global communication, and diaspora studies, the present proposal aims at breaking new empirical and scientific grounds, by arguing for the centrality of communication in diasporic and public diplomacy.

The literature on diaspora governance, policies and strategies has recently proliferated, reflecting the growing number of states that surpass their territorial borders to actively engage with their overseas communities, thus shaping transnational relations. States reach out to their citizens overseas, with varying purposes, depending on the nature of their regimes.

Through our case study on China as a diaspora state and Beijing’s communication campaign towards Europe and the Chinese communities in Europe, we aim to conceptualise the nascent notion of the authoritarian diaspora state. Our project adopts a dual focus: the sending state (China) and the recipient states in Europe. We have carefully selected seven European countries that display different degrees of engagement with China and within the European Union: the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Hungary, Serbia and the United Kingdom.

Our central research question, How does China speak to the world?, is divided into four lines of inquiry and corresponding research methods:
(1) What does China’s communication campaign say about the Party-State’s outlook, roles and values?
(2) What do China’s diaspora strategies in the COVID-19 era consist of?
(3) How is China’s extraterritorial outreach perceived and reacted upon by the Chinese diaspora?
(4) And how do European peoples and states perceive and react to China’s global political campaign?

Drawing on the large amount of digital data harvested in our previous two research projects, we will use computational data-analytical and social-constructivist discourse-analytical method, as well as more ‘conventional’ qualitative data collection through desk research and field qualitative interviews, targeting different layers of the Chinese diaspora in Europe, including a probing of Chinese-language social media, and especially WeChat groups.

Ultimately, this project will deepen the public understanding on the Chinese migration to Europe within China-Europe tensions, and to provide readily available expertise to decision- makers in Europe and China.
Effective start/end date1/01/23 → …


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