China’s President Xi Jinping is undergoing a significant image transformation in the eyes of the Chinese public, as the nation’s domestic propaganda machine actively shapes narratives surrounding his recent talks with US President Biden.
From addressing issues like the US shooting down a suspected surveillance balloon to the latest summit in California, the focus has shifted from contention to cooperation.
The recent US-China talks marked tangible progress, including the agreement to open a presidential hotline, resume military-to-military communications, and collaborate on curbing fentanyl production. This positive development follows eight months of strained relations, where Xi Jinping had previously attributed challenges in China’s economy to “all-round containment.”
Chinese state media now emphasizes Xi’s amicable interactions with Biden, showcasing images of the leaders strolling in gardens and engaging in discussions. The narrative aims to portray Xi as an equal to Biden, emphasizing his desire to stabilize US-China ties. It also sends a signal of approval to Chinese bureaucracy and businesses regarding engagement with Americans.
The Chinese propaganda machine highlights Xi’s willingness to be a “partner and friend” of the US, promoting the idea of ample room for bilateral cooperation. While key issues like US sanctions on chip exports remain unresolved, the focus has shifted to Xi’s past visits to the US, portraying him as a leader capable of managing China-US relations.
Xi’s connection to Iowa, evidenced by fireside chats, chocolates shared with Biden, and discussions with residents, is prominently featured. The narrative showcases Xi’s genuine fondness for Iowa while leveraging these ties for propaganda value. This strategic approach humanizes Xi, creating a connection with the American people and circumventing traditional media channels.
Chinese state media emphasizes the importance of people-to-people relations and cooperation, highlighting the potential benefits for the Asia-Pacific region. Despite official ties still being strained, the narrative aims to present a positive outlook on China-US relations.
However, even on censored Chinese social media, users have found ways to express critical comments on the official commentary, pointing out the absence of mention of critical issues like tariffs, chips, and studying overseas.
As China seeks to shape its image amidst global talks, the effectiveness of this charm offensive remains a subject of scrutiny both domestically and internationally.