Exploring Digital Public Diplomacy Strategy related to the South China Sea Issue between China and ASEAN

Principal Investigator:
Zhao Huang, CPD-SIF Southeast Asia Research Fellow 2023-24

The South China Sea dispute has become a core geopolitical issue in Southeast Asia due to its rich natural resources and strategic importance. Moreover, because of the economic and geostrategic interests, countries around this area have overlapping territorial claims that make this 3.3 million square kilometers seemingly calm blue ocean one of the most disputed zones in the world. This year-long study aims to analyze the practice of digital public diplomacy mobilized by China and ASEAN countries in the context of launching their negotiations on the code of conduct (COC) in managing the South China Sea disputes and conflicts. It focuses on how China and ASEAN use Twitter to communicate their narratives, policies, and attitudes about the South China Sea before and during COC negotiations. This research will explore China’s intermestic digital public diplomacy strategy, network structures, dynamics, and the use of Twitter by ASEAN countries’ diplomats and foreign affairs departments in defending their geopolitical positions and policies regarding the South China Sea.

Antique map of South China Sea by Yongyuan Dai via Canva. com