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2021 | OriginalPaper | Chapter

Propaganda Gone Viral: A Theory of Chinese and Russian “COVID Diplomacy” in the Age of Social Media

Author : Noel Foster

Published in: The Russian Federation in Global Knowledge Warfare

Publisher: Springer International Publishing

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Abstract

How do authoritarian powers adapt to unexpected crises that challenge their capabilities and authority, and turn such crises in their favour? This chapter draws on the exogenous shock of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent “COVID diplomacy” to show how authoritarian powers, when confronted with unexpected crises, adapt. Beijing’s initial reaction to the emergence of COVID-19 arguably favoured its spread, while Moscow initially responded to the novel Coronavirus outbreak by minimizing its significance in state media while mismanaging the outbreak, even to the detriment of top leadership. However, both powers adapted and turned to “COVID-19 diplomacy” to serve pre-existing messaging objectives with domestic and foreign audiences, using targeted messaging in support of medical aid and outreach. Moscow used COVID diplomacy to reassure domestic audiences and win favour with select foreign audiences, while China gained favour with a broader audience. COVID diplomacy also reveals a longstanding objective: spreading epistemological nihilism in target audiences so as to render them more vulnerable to future messaging and more distrustful of their own media, institutions and state. This in turn serves as a mechanism through which these states achieve additional objectives.

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Footnotes
1
For a window onto the scholarly debate, see Staehr, Karsten (2015), Economic Growth and Convergence in the Baltic States: Caught in a Middle-Income Trap? Intereconomics, 50(5), pp. 274–280.
 
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Metadata
Title
Propaganda Gone Viral: A Theory of Chinese and Russian “COVID Diplomacy” in the Age of Social Media
Author
Noel Foster
Copyright Year
2021
Publisher
Springer International Publishing
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-73955-3_7

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