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编者按:2020223日,我院兼职研究员沈诗伟在GLOBAL TIMES刊文COVID-19 tests China-Africa public health cooperation,文章介绍了自新冠肺炎病毒疫情爆发以来,非洲国家高度警惕,采取积极的防疫措施。非洲疾病预防控制中心迅速开展了早期应对工作,包括举办疫情防控培训课程,加强在入境点对COVID-19的检测和调查等。文章认为,非洲国家能够对疫情及时有效应对,与中国多年来在卫生公共领域对非洲的援助分不开。201512月中国国家主席习近平在中非合作论坛约翰内斯堡峰会开幕式上宣布的“中方将参与非洲疾控中心等公共卫生防控体系和能力建设”,旨在帮助非洲国家加强公共卫生和防疫体系,应对复杂严峻的公共卫生挑战。

2020225日,沈诗伟在中国国际电视台网站(CGTN)刊文Social media diplomacy, between China and world,文章关注到2020222日《经济学人》(The Economist)的一篇报道,即关注中国外交官如何使用twitter。文章认为,在社交媒体时代,这样的“外交”是中国外交官希望与世界交流、更好、更全面地了解中国的重要一步。事实上,美国、英国等西方国家的外交官在社交媒体非常活跃并取得了很好的效果。



COVID-19 tests China-Africa public health cooperation

File photo shows local medical members receiving training from a medical team of People's Liberation Army (PLA), to fight against Ebola disease at a hospital in Freetown, capital of Sierra Leone, December 10, 2014. Photo: Xinhua

Africa should keep high alert on the risks of COVID-19 spreading into the continent. Early preparedness and training conducted by the Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and its regional centers have shown Africa's increasing capacity to counter epidemics. And a continental strategy under discussion in Africa Union would unite the strength to counter COVID-19.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, Africa CDC has invested in preparedness and response to the disease. In Dakar, Senegal, Africa CDC conducted training sessions and supplied test kits to 16 African laboratories. In Nairobi, Kenya, training was conducted for 40 participants from nine countries on enhancing detection and investigation of COVID-19 at points-of-entry. According to WHO, many African countries are now capable of testing for COVID-19.

How has Africa CDC been so quick to respond to the epidemic? Formalized in 2015 and officially launched in 2017, the urgently needed Africa CDC is a milestone for the continent and a showcase of China's continuous support of Africa in public health sector.

In the past 60 years, Chinese public health professionals and medical aid teams have been working across 53 African countries to offer help to strengthen their vulnerable public health systems.

The Ebola outbreak in 2014 accelerated the Africa Union's determination to strengthen its pan-Africa epidemic control capacity. Since then, China has embarked on a systemic public health development aid program in Africa. Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC) has drafted cooperation plans, developed many public health training and disease-control programs in Africa, in collaboration with Africa CDC, WHO, US CDC and other partners.

Years of hard work have yielded good results. Today, Sierra Leon's well-equipped capacity for dealing with epidemics is built on the Sierra Leon-China Friendship Biological Laboratory (SLE-CHN Biosafety Lab), a Chinese-built Biosafety Level 3 laboratory up to WHO standards and the first-ever biosafety laboratory in Sierra Leon. At the 2015 Johannesburg Summit of Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), China committed to support the establishment of Africa CDC. 

By far, unprecedented measures adopted by China, a country with 1.4 billion people, have actually protected many other countries and regions. But how do Chinese living in Africa prepare themselves?

With years of experience in Africa, I have been carefully following the situation there since the outbreak. I know that many Chinese embassies, commercial chambers, companies and individuals in Africa have strengthened hygiene and disease control. Information is shared in groups of WeChat, a WhatsApp like social media in China. Chinese consular services and chambers inform all newly arrived Chinese to register and have a self-imposed home quarantine for 14 days.

However, the COVID-19 outbreak is not only a test for China-Africa public health cooperation and Africa's newly equipped CDC system, but also a battle on unverified information, even fake news, in the age of digitalization. Therefore, transparency and timely sharing of information have become crucial.

We have noticed that daily updates on social media like Twitter by African politicians, health officials, medical experts, Chinese embassies and diplomats have become important sources for media and residents to get updated. African people offer their best wishes to Chinese and get informed on the latest situation in China. For example, businesses had resumed in Yiwu, East China's Zhejiang Province, also a home for many African businessmen, showing the situation in some places is getting better.

When rumors and unverified messages appear, Chinese ambassadors and public health experts from Africa and WHO address concerns by holding press conferences that are broadcast live. Lin Songtian, Chinese Ambassador to South Africa, and John Nkengasong, director of Africa CDC, are two of them.

The emergency response to COVID-19 by African public health officials, experts and Chinese diplomats could be a good case study on China-Africa public health cooperation. China is supporting Africa CDC's five priority areas of the strategic plan 2017-21, including surveillance and disease intelligence, emergency preparedness and response in all technical components, and human capacity building.

As public health big data and epidemiology research become key themes in international public health cooperation, China and Africa could focus on more areas to address challenges presented by the sudden outbreak of epidemics, and support Africa in strengthening its public health control, prevention and treatment systems.


Social media diplomacy, between China and world

Editor's note: Shen Shiwei is a CGTN news editor and columnist, a non-resident fellow at the Institute of African Studies at Zhejiang Normal University and a research fellow at Charhar Institute. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

The February 22 edition of The Economist has turned its eye on how Chinese diplomats are tweeting. As more Chinese diplomats become active on Twitter, posting their daily work, sharing videos and relaying comments, it has become a convenient way for the public to get informed about China. Some official accounts even act like an official "spokesperson" or media source.

In the age of social media, such "diplomacy" is a major step forward for Chinese diplomats wishing to communicate with the world to create a better and more comprehensive understanding of China.

However, while many Chinese diplomats are just beginning to tweet, their foreign counterparts are already veterans on China's Weibo and other emerging Chinese social media platforms.

Foreign embassies in China has been practicing "Weibo diplomacy" or "Wei-diplomacy" for years. It's a remarkable publicity practice. To gain popularity in China, some politicians, like Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, have opened official accounts on Weibo. Trudeau opened his Weibo account in 2013.

The UK embassy in China launched its official Weibo account soon after the government distributed Twitter and public diplomacy guidance to cabinet members in 2009. Its account tends to behave like a newsroom, updating the public on high-level exchanges and visits of British officials and business representatives. Sometimes, the embassy also posts recruitment advertisements and visa policies.

Of the embassy accounts on Weibo, the U.S. embassy's account is probably one of the more active. Seminars on American society, culture, history, education, visa policies, U.S. politics and elections constitute the main contents. However, one of the most attractive topics on Weibo this January was perhaps the online "wars" between the U.S. embassy and Iranian embassy, centered on the Soleimani assassination. It is very interesting, especially since the two embassies are located opposite sides of a road in Beijing.

Photo shows the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China in Beijing, capital of China, April 6, 2018. /Xinhua Photo

In terms of promotion, many embassies have strategies and have hired special people to implement them.

"Durian activities" and "Thai food festival" are brands for the Thailand embassy in China. Every year, the Thai embassy will organize activities, invite influential online figures and interact with them online. Thailand is one of the most attractive destinations for Chinese tourists in recent years. Interactions, including "online quarrels" among Sweden, Norwegian and Denmark embassies in Beijing, sometimes trigger a wave of media coverage. Nowadays, the Scandinavian countries are emerging spots for Chinese travelers.

Beyond brand setting, home decorations could be a very attractive and unique edge.

Sushi, Mountain Fuji, kimonos and Japanese bullet train Shinkansen make up the Japanese embassy's Weibo account homepage. Joint promotion activities on China-Japan exchanges are the main themes among the Japanese embassy, consular offices, Japan's local tourism agencies, and influential Chinese travel vloggers.

The Israeli embassy in China would be a good example for a case study. The Middle East is a complex region with many sensitive topics. In its strategy, specialists operate Weibo and WeChat account to attract its target audience, interact with followers, shape public opinion on Israel and exert Israeli soft power. Israeli public diplomacy has been careful in handling sensitive issues and has set a good image among Chinese netizens. 

So far, its official Weibo account has 2.09 million followers, just a little bit fewer than the U.S. embassy's 2.68 million followers and the Canadian embassy's 2.33 million followers. But the embassy's publicity campaign is pretty impressive.

With newly emerged content platforms like Jinri Toutiao, many embassies and foreign organizations in China are trying to adjust their publicity approaches. Similar trends are emerging in international communication, as Chinese diplomats want to talk more with the locals, and the locals are eager to learn more about China. Therefore, to meet the increasing demand for Chinese stories, more Chinese diplomats have joined social media, including Twitter.

Today, social media is more influential than traditional media. As China becomes the world's second-largest economy, no country can be excluded from hot topics related to China. Therefore, more Chinese voices on social media could provide more perspectives for people to have a better, more vivid, comprehensive and balanced view of China.