Managing (Mis)perceptions: China, social media, and maritime Asia.

Activity: Academic talk or presentation typesInvited talk


Perceptions are crucial in international relations and can help facilitate or impede the foreign policy goals of individual states. How a state manages these perceptions has been a key ingredient in the literature on public diplomacy and soft power. As a rising power the People’s Republic of China (PRC or China) has been exposed to increasing scrutiny of its efforts to positively engage with the international community. In addition to the traditional tools of diplomatic missions, cultural exchanges, newspaper and television media coverage, and mega-events an emerging and crucial area in managing perceptions of states is online through social media. This paper will examine the similarities and differences between China’s online messaging to international and domestic audiences in the immediate run-up and aftermath of the South China Sea arbitration (The Republic of the Philippines vs. the People’s Republic of China) case by the Permanent Court of Arbitration. Rather than focusing on the outcomes of the award this paper is seeking to understand how China communicates its foreign policy preferences to different audiences. This is to engage with two discussions in the literature which have policy implications beyond academia. First, to what extent does the argument put forward by some scholars that China’s soft power strategy is about signalling to its domestic audience rather than international observers stand up in this case? Second, to what extent does this case suggest that China’s soft power strategy is misplaced and in need of review if the PRC wants to successfully manage international opinion. The paper will finish with some recommendations regarding social media exposure with the aim of helping to facilitate better cooperation between states.
Period28 Nov 2016
Event titleUnited Nations - The Nippon Foundation of Japan 2016 Alumni Meeting
Event typeOther
LocationNusa Dua, IndonesiaShow on map


  • China
  • social media
  • South China Sea
  • arbitration
  • soft power