Friday, January 30, 2015

China and Mozambique: Soft Power and Media

What I'm reading: a new paper by Sérgio Chichava, Lara Côrtes and Aslak Orre on the coverage of China in the Mozambican media, and what this says about the Chinese soft power strategy. From the conclusion: 
Where representatives of Western donor nations, so predominant in the Mozambican political landscape, actively attempt to mould the Frelimo-based elite into its own image, China’s politicians emphasise that it cooperates – and does business – with that elite no matter what it may privately may think about its virtues and conduct. This may well be a successful diplomatic strategy in the short run. The above findings go in the direction of suggesting that in the long run, the close association – diplomatically, in business and in people’s minds – of China with Mozambique’s elite, could become an obstacle, in particular [when it] concerns the question of Chinese soft power. At least if Mozambique’s newspaper reports on China are anything to go by, China’s soft power builders need to give some thought on how to make more of its positive image (“the bankroller”) and that which could potentially be positive but has not yet made a considerable mark on the Mozambican media, Chinese culture and language. Similarly, how can it play down what seems to affects it negatively the most: Illicit resource extraction and corruption in Mozambique, and authoritarian governance in China.

Thanks to Sérgio for sending me a copy of the paper and to Henry Tugendhat at IDS Sussex for circulating a link to the online version in the Future Agricultures blog.


Anonymous said...

Nothing exists in vacuum, especially if it has anything to do with China, there is guaranteed to be a whole lot of opponents from every direction demonizing China's involvement in anything and everything

Mozambique's media is no exception - whom do you think gives the courage and the impetus to the Mozambican media to critique projects that China is involved in - whether it be illegal logging that harms Mozambique, or something that does good to the Mozambican society?

After all, the Mozambican media scene is dominated by state-run media, with truly independent media severely underfunded - and to have the Mozambican media to allocate the time and resources to cover (and criticize) China's involvement inside Mozambique it would takes a lot of help from 'angel daddies' abroad to accomplish such a feat

The media is but one of the many venues of 'power struggles' that is going on on the continent of Africa. The West is so afraid of China that they would do everything to smear China

I am not here to say that the Chinese inside Africa are all law abiding - surely there are criminals and greedy bunch mixed in, but the Chinese (and all the projects involving either China or Chinese individuals) have had more than their fair share of being blamed for all kinds of ailments

The tenet of the piece - the soft power - is thus, very timely and accurate, but if we take a few steps backward we would notice that no matter what China does, and no matter which project Chinese individuals are involved with, in any country inside the African continent, they will be put under the Western microscope and will be tagged with all kinds of (deserving or otherwise) labels, 99% of those tend to be negative in nature

The projects that I have been involved with (no, not in Mozambique, but elsewhere in Africa) are/were also scrutinized, many times, by 'interested parties', mainly, someone who have been sponsored by 'good hearted' Western entities

When we are allocated land by the government, they will accuse us of "stealing land from the Africans"

When we go out and buy land from African land owners, they turn around and say that we 'exploit the Africans'

When we employ African laborers, they say we are the neo-colonialists, and we treat our African co-workers like slaves

No matter what we do, they will sure exploit the negative aspect of it - and if they can't find any negative aspect, they will fabricate some

I have my fair share of these type of treatments - ask any Chinese business people in Africa and you will get an ear-full of the Western gauntlet that we have to through, every single time

Anonymous said...

Dear Ms. Deborah,

It's me again

I bring you a link -

In the link you will find a news piece about a riot in the Central African Republic, and embedded inside that news story, - the last sentence of the third paragraph - you will find a brief mention of a looting of a store owned by a Chinese

The truth is, in that riot alone --- according to the information that I have gathered from the Chinese diaspora in Africa, --- more than 30 Chinese shops have been ransacked / looted, some even burned

Now, to illustrate how the Western media treats the Chinese, we only have to read the news of same incident, as reported by BBC, CNN, Reuters, De Spiegel, whatever, you will notice that there is almost no mention of looting / ransacking of Chinese owned stores

We Chinese who are doing business in Africa aren't surprised at the treatment, in fact, we have already been conditioned by the kind of anti-Chinese news biases from the Western media

Want another striking example?

The same Western media will air a story of the beheading of two Japanese hostages in Syria, but none of them even bother to mention, not even a little peep, regarding the killing/beheading of Chinese workers in Cameroon by an equally crazy group, the Boko Haram

For some reasons, to the Western media, the Chinese are supposed to be at the bottom of the human hierarchy, and that we are supposed to suffer. It appears to many of us that the Western media finds great joy at when the Chinese suffer. I am no psychologist, but even I can see that this kind of mindset is out of the 'normal' and/or 'sane' psychological dimension

In other words, the Western mindset is sick !

Anonymous said...

Why oh why?

Dear Deborah,
It’s me again…
My colleague “Anonymous” gives us an Nigerian newspaper clipping about Congolese citizens who are not so happy with their president Kabila…. (it has nothing to do with the Central African republic).
More than 40 Chinese shop were looted (Chinese source of course, Western source can’t be trusted)...
But maybe my colleague can explain to us why those rioters looted only Chinese shops?
If he can’t, I can and those Congolese too….
and they aren’t “crazy” nor “sick”...