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Influencing the Narrative: Beijing's Public Diplomacy in East Asia & the Pacific

February 11, 2020

Over the last two decades, leaders within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) have mobilized an impressive array of government agencies, media outlets, and educational institutions at home and abroad as a megaphone to sway popular opinion and influence behavior in line with its interests. Beijing’s moves to consolidate, expand, and professionalize its public diplomacy efforts have been met with enthusiasm in some cases and concern or even vocal resistance in others. Nowhere is this tension felt more strongly than among its closest neighbors: the twenty-five countries of the East Asia and Pacific. Meanwhile, the United States and other foreign powers are acting to address Beijing’s growing ambitions in the region and use of disinformation to expand its influence.

On February 11th, 2020, from 8:30-10:30am, AidData held an engaging panel discussion with leading thinkers and practitioners on which public diplomacy tools Beijing uses, with whom, and to what end in 25 countries across East Asia and the Pacific. AidData presented top-line findings from two recent reports, and the panelists explored the implications for both Beijing’s target audiences and strategic competitors. How can countries on the receiving end of Beijing’s overtures maximize the upsides of this attention while minimizing the risk of undue or malign influence in their economies and societies? What might other foreign powers do more, less, or differently if they want to maintain their own influence in the region vis-à-vis China?

Event Speakers:

  • Walter Douglas, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
  • Samantha Custer, Director of Policy Analysis, AidData at William & Mary
  • Mark Nelson, Senior Director, Center for International Media Assistance, National Endowment for Democracy
  • Robert Daly, Director, Kissinger Institute on China and the United States, Wilson Center
  • Mirka Martel, Head of Research, Evaluation, and Learning, Institute of International Education
  • Olivia Enos, Senior Policy Analyst, Heritage Foundation
  • Matthew Mingey, Research Analyst, Rhodium Group


Influencing the Narrative: How the Chinese government mobilizes media and students to burnish its image

Ties That Bind: Quantifying China's public diplomacy and its "good neighbor" effect

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