Balancing Opportunities and Incentives: How Rising China’s Mediated Public Diplomacy Changes Under Crisis

Kentaro Nakamura


Although public diplomacy is widely practiced, the scope of its theory is limited mostly to Western countries. Addressing this limitation requires empirical evidence on non-Western countries, but beyond case studies, it is not theorized how non-Western countries strategize their public diplomacy. As a first step, this article explores China’s mediated public diplomacy during two crises: the Sino-U.S. trade war and the COVID-19 pandemic. Using machine learning, this study finds that the 2 crises affected mediated public diplomacy differently. The trade war provided both opportunities and incentives, which escalated both China’s positive advertisements and the negative campaign against the United States. However, China attempted to deflect attention during the pandemic. Chinese international media outlets started not to talk much about its economy and international activities after the pandemic outbreak, and instead they dramatically increased the negative mention of the United States. Therefore, China strategically coordinates its mediated public diplomacy according to the situation based on both incentives and opportunities.


mediated public diplomacy, international communications, soft power, image building, China

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