South China Sea publicity campaign gears up

Updated 2016-07-05 08:44:27 Global Times

Focus on Chinese voices aims to rebalance public discourse: experts

One week before a UN arbitration panel issues its decision on a territorial dispute in the South China Sea, Beijing is promoting its stance through international seminars and videos on social media platforms in hopes of winning the support of international experts and the public.

The People's Daily released a series of 10 English-language videos on YouTube on July 1, in which scholars and political personnel from Singapore, Malaysia and China voiced opinions on the South China Sea issue that are similar to the Chinese government's stance.

Meanwhile, China Central Television posted a series of cartoons illustrating the history of the South China Sea on its official Facebook page in June.

"Compared to traditional media channels, new media has larger [readership], and the platforms are open to the public, so the government can hear different voices," Zhang Zhi'an, vice president of the School of Communication and Design at Sun Yat-sen University, told the Global Times.

According to Zhang, the U.S. and the Philippines currently dominate the public discourse on the South China Sea issue, and the Philippines intends to use the media to label China as a state that "does not obey international law."

China has also played an active role in hosting international seminars on the South China Sea in other countries.

Some 30 experts from Asia, Africa, Europe and the U.S. exchanged views at a seminar co-organized by Leiden University's Grotius Center for International Legal Studies and Wuhan University's Institute for Boundary and Ocean Studies on June 26, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

The attendees expressed objective opinions on the South China Sea issue, and the opinions of Chinese scholars brought them a new perspective on how complex the issue is, said Kong Lingjie, Deputy Director of the Institute of Boundary and Ocean Studies under Wuhan University.

Meanwhile, another seminar on the issue will be jointly held in Washington, DC on Wednesday by Beijing-based think tank Chongyang Institute of Financial Studies and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

"Inviting scholars central to the issue from both sides to talk in DC - the center of US think tanks - ahead of the ruling is a way to explore deep and open communication on the issue and could move U.S. think tanks to reflect on and enhance control of disparities," said Chen Xiaocheng, a research fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies.

China should guide public opinion, allowing more people worldwide to support and sympathize with China's stance and oppose the arbitration tribunal's ruling against China, Shen Dingli, associate dean of the Institute of International Studies at Fudan University, told Lianhe Zaobao. As for whether China's efforts will be effective, that depends on "whether China presents its argument reasonably."

"This practice would help make China's voices heard on this particular issue, but to be more effective, I think China needs to participate even more in various international lawmaking conferences," said Ei Sun Oh, a senior fellow with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University. "China needs to do all these things rather consistently, and it should do them in languages like English and French.

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