There’s been a discernible change in how the Chinese government responds to criticism about their policies in Africa, particularly from other major powers like the U.S. Until recently, Chinese officials often avoided direct conflict with its critics, opting instead for low-key responses from official spokespeople in Beijing.
China’s ambassador to South Africa, Lin Songtian, is at the forefront of this new, more aggressive strategy. For the second time in two months, Ambassador Lin convened a press conference in Cape Town in February to rebut allegations that Beijing was spying on the African Union headquarters and then again in March he held another media event to push back against former U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s warnings to African governments about the risks of taking on too much Chinese debt.
Ambassador Lin is by no means the only Chinese official engaging the mediaon these issues but he is certainly the most pointed in his attacks. It would have been unthinkable just a few years ago for a senior official like Ambassador Lin to hold live, unscripted press conferences in a foreign country to take on China’s critics.
Eric & Cobus discuss how this radical departure from China’s earlier media engagement strategy no doubt reflects president Xi Jinping’s desire to project a more confident Chinese posture in its foreign policy.
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