Vaccine Diplomacy and Beyond: New Trends in Chinese Image-Building in Africa

Zimbabwean officials inspects the shipment of the Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines at Harare International Airport on March 16, 2021 in Harare, Zimbabwe. Image: Getty, Tafadzwa Ufumeli
Zimbabwean officials inspects the shipment of the Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines at Harare International Airport on March 16, 2021 in Harare, Zimbabwe. Image: Getty, Tafadzwa Ufumeli

In the face of growing tensions between the US and China, Beijing’s relationships with the Global South are taking on particular salience.

Summary:

  • Heightened tensions between the US and China are focusing attention on how China builds its image in the Global South, especially in Africa.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted China to experiment with new diplomatic tools, including using vaccines and PPE donations as forms of outreach.
  • These follow more general developments in Chinese public diplomacy, including the adoption of Twitter as a diplomatic tool. Yet, while Twitter is useful for outreach, Chinese diplomats have had less success in using it to shift the online conversation.
  • The COVID-related eviction of African migrants in the Chinese city of Guangzhou created a crisis for Chinese diplomacy. This paper shows that while the Chinese government treats Africa as a setting for innovation, the Guangzhou incident revealed that it still tends to revert to conventional public diplomatic tools in times of crisis.
22 Jul 2021
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Research by
Series
SAIIA Occasional Paper No 327, June 2021
Region
Global
SAIIA Programme
Foreign Policy
Tags
COVID-19
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