Trust-based Mandarin diplomacy

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Trust-based Mandarin diplomacy

The author is a Beijing correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

When U.S. Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns posted a video on the embassy’s Weibo account on June 10, Chinese people welcomed it. In the video, Burns wrote, “I love the Forbidden City” in Mandarin.

On April 9, Chinese Ambassador to the U.S. Qin Kang wrote on Twitter about the 80th anniversary event for the Flying Tigers at the Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. “Ambassador Qin Kang wore a jacket from the Flying Tigers — the U.S. air battalion that helped China at the end of World War II — and Ambassador Burns visited the Great Wall and the Forbidden City. Thoughts and dignity overflow. Long live the China-U.S. friendship,” said the Chinese Embassy in Washington.

A master of Mandarin diplomacy penetrating into the hearts of 1.4 billion Chinese people is British Ambassador to China Caroline Wilson, who goes by her Chinese name, Wu Roulan. She is fluent in Mandarin, which she learned while studying in Beijing. On April 20, she visited the University of Cambridge for the Chinese Language Day designated by the UN in celebration of cultural diversity. She recited a poem by Xi Zhimo, who studied at Cambridge. She posted videos of Suzhou, Xiamen, Guizhou, and Kunming, filled with respect to Chinese culture. Despite the political tension between the UK and China, Ambassador Wilson’s Weibo account is an oasis.

Social media is already a battleground for diplomacy. In Spring, Ukraine and Russian Embassies fought over anti-war sentiment on Chinese Weibo.

In China, social media diplomacy encounters an ambush of censorship. The official Chinese translation of U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken’s speech on China policy was removed from the U.S. Embassy’s Weibo account last month. Diplomats are not protected on Chinese social media. British Ambassador Wilson was brought in by the European director of the foreign ministry when she mentioned freedom of speech in March 2021.

Meanwhile, Korea’s Mandarin diplomacy is still in its infancy. An official Chinese translation of President Yoon Suk-yeol’s inauguration speech cannot be found.

Recently, Chung Jae-ho, a professor of international relations at Seoul National University, was named as the 14th ambassador to China. China’s response is favorable. The Academy of Social Sciences welcomed him by introducing his recent book through social media.

The foundation of Mandarin diplomacy is mutual respect. The Yoon Suk-yeol government’s keyword in diplomacy with China is also mutual respect. In Chinese diplomatic terms, mutual respect means respecting the course of China’s Socialist development, core interests and traditional customs. The two leaders have already agreed on mutual respect over the phone. How will Korea be respected by China? It is the first task for the new Korean ambassador ahead of the 30th anniversary of the bilateral relations.
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