Chinese diplomats take Twitter lessons from Trump

Foreign Affairs

Despite the fact that Twitter is banned in China, the Chinese Foreign Ministry has made its own Twitter account and is publishing surprisingly Trump-esque tweets full of insults, typos, and ALL-CAPS denials of well-documented facts (see this Washington Post article). It’s also deploying masterful whataboutism (click here for a good example), a classic propaganda technique that is particularly well suited for the social media age.

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Photo credit: SupChina illustration by Derek Zheng

Critics of U.S.-China engagement often complain that China has not learned very much in the way of cultural and political norms from America. But at least one cultural norm exemplified by a particularly influential American seems to have caught on in Beijing: the Trump-style tweet.

What is happening: Despite the fact that Twitter is banned in China, the Chinese Foreign Ministry has made its own Twitter account and is publishing surprisingly Trump-esque tweets full of insults, typos, and ALL-CAPS denials of well-documented facts (see this Washington Post article). It’s also deploying masterful whataboutism (click here for a good example), a classic propaganda technique that is particularly well suited for the social media age.

Is it working? Probably not. Countries that have recently had diplomatic tiffs with China, like Canada and Australia, now have record-low trust in China, and Central Asian neighbors like Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan are also bubbling with anti-China sentiment for a variety of reasons.

For the connoisseur: The champion of Twitter trolling among Chinese diplomats is Zhào Lìjiān 赵立坚, the former second-ranking official at China’s Pakistan mission. While he was in Pakistan in July this year, for instance, he defended China’s Xinjiang policy with old-fashioned racism. He was rewarded with his diatribes with a promotion.