Przejdź do głównej treści

Widok zawartości stron Widok zawartości stron

Narrating the ‘new silk road’: Chinese ‘huayuquan’ (discourse power) in OBOR/BRI externally-directed propaganda

Narrating the ‘new silk road’: Chinese ‘huayuquan’ (discourse power) in OBOR/BRI externally-directed propaganda

NCN POLONEZ BIS-2 Grant for the dr David J. O’ Brien (Centre for International Studies and Development)

Project title: Narrating the ‘new silk road’: Chinese ‘huayuquan’ (discourse power) in OBOR/BRI externally-directed propaganda

Duration: October 2023 to October 2025

Principal Investigator: Dr David Joseph O’Brien (

Mentor: Dr hab. Marcin Grabowski

We are pleased to announce that the project entitled ‘Narrating the ‘new silk road’: Chinese ‘huayuquan’ (discourse power) in OBOR/BRI externally-directed propaganda’ prepared by dr David Joseph O’Brien, has received a grant from the prestigious programme POLONEZ BIS-2 of the Polish National Science Centre (Narodowe Centrum Nauki). The project enables the research stay of dr David J. O’Brien at the Centre for International Studies and Development at the Faculty of International and Political Studies of the Jagiellonian University for 2 years. The total cost of the project is ca. 1,2 million PLN.

Here is the project’s short description – and we invite you to follow its development

The project aims to map the ways in which China, the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) and their international agenda, are represented in Chinese externally-directed propaganda (‘exoprop’) regarding the Belt & Road Initiative (OBOR / BRI), and to explore the effectivity of this exoprop: the way it is perceived and interpreted by audiences beyond China’s borders.

Though there is a vast amount of research on Chinese propaganda, the majority of this focuses upon internally-directed media. There is extremely limited research on examples of media constructed primarily for external audiences, and even less exploring examples since Xi Jinping came to power (see Freymann 2021). Given the extent to which China is concerned with sculpting a particular national image in a global context, this absence is striking. There has, however, been an increase in English-language Chinese media produced in the past decade, which has been officially framed as a key means of ‘soft power’ – or, rather ‘discourse power’ (huayuquan) (Edney 2012). Chinese ‘discourse power’ is conceived of as a means of challenging ‘western hegemony’ beyond its borders by offering a ‘more accurate’ depiction of China as a nation, and its political program (Edney 2014). Such media come with a clear mandate and agenda, yet, as noted, there has been more limited scholarly attention to such examples.

In the wider context of concern over the use of propaganda in service of militarism and nationalism (as can be seen in Russia’s control of its own media in the context of the war against Ukraine), it is vitally important to explore the ways in which national images and international agendas are sculpted in state propaganda – perhaps particularly examples which seek to promote particular ideological positions or support in global audiences.

There has also been increased interest in ‘persuasive media’ – a more general term growing out of propaganda studies – in the context of Covid-19 (Higdon 2020). This has also caused a resurgence of interest in resilience to persuasion – the question of why people reject, not simply accept, media messages they may be exposed to (Compton et al 2021).

This proposed research project aims to analyse examples of Chinese exoprop concerning the BRI (including CGTN’s sixpart documentary series, as well as China Daily’s children-oriented ‘Belt and Road Bedtime Stories’ series), in order to explore how it uses the BRI as a vehicle for China’s national image, and the ways in which it seeks to interpellate international audiences.

The second part of this research project considers the effectiveness of this exoprop, exploring how such discourses and the BRI project more generally are perceived and made sense of outside China’s borders. This involves analysis of online comments on platforms where the docuseries are hosted, as well as analysis of surveys and focus groups carried out across a series of selected countries (Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Poland, Czechia, Germany, Ireland, UK). These countries have been selected since I already have research contacts in these locations (for initiating snowballing for surveys, and organising focus group interviews), but also because they represent countries with very different relationships with China and the BRI.

This research aims to address the significant gap around Chinese externally directed propaganda, and to explore the ways in which varied populations agentically navigate between their own socio-political-cultural contexts and the narratives and opportunities presented by China. It also seeks to contribute to the wider fields of the study of cultural and heritage diplomacy (of which the BRI is regularly positioned as an exemplar), and propaganda and persuasion in the digital age.