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A look at the communication strategies of a Chinese state-owned media outlet

How does the Chinese government communicate with its citizens? Yuxi Nie obtained her PhD with her thesis on communication strategies of the Chinese state media agency Xinhua. She discovered that on social media, Xinhua communicated in different ways, depending on the target group.

Twitter versus Weibo

Xinhua uses the international platform Twitter and Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter. On Twitter, the agency mainly focuses on reaching an international audience, and on Weibo it tries to address the Chinese population. Yuxi Nie researched how Xinhua reports on the Belt and Road Initiative, a Chinese development policy that aims to improve cooperation between Eurasian countries.

She discovered significant differences between the domestic communication and the international communication of the news organization. She discovered that Xinhua reported about the Belt and Road Initiative on Weibo in a way that is very different from the one on Twitter. On Weibo, Xinhua often emphasized the authority of Chinese political leaders and spoke to the Chinese population as an in-group and portrayed other nationalities as an out-group. On Twitter, Xinhua used more objective language and stimulated public responses.

How does social media influence China's media policy-making?

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Different policies, different goals

The policy pursued by Xinhua News Agency, communication adjusted to the specific audience, has existed since 1961. Since 2001, they have been writing in more languages than just Chinese. Yuxi Nie suggests that this difference in policy exists because both types of communication serve a different purpose. According to her, the main purpose of domestic communication is to promote the country's social stability and self-confidence, while the purpose of international communication is to improve China's image in the world. An example is that Xinhua released many more positive messages about the Belt and Road Initiative than twitter accounts of non-Chinese news and media agencies.

Two birds with one stone

Yuxi Nie argues that the fact that Xinhua is serving these purposes at the same time points to instability in China and a division among the international community about China's rise on the world stage. Xinhua therefore juggles two roles: on the one hand they are the Chinese government’s mouthpiece, and on the other hand they are an objective news station to the global community. The development of ICT has made it easier for the Chinese government to promote their soft power (changing opinions and actions of others through conviction and attraction, ed.) to the international community.

Yuxi Nie obtained her PhD on 15 October 2019.

Tekst: Lieke Bakker
Video: Lieke Bakker, Yuxi Nie, Suzé Klok
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