Methodology

For the study, a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods was used. The former, to collect statistical data from each of the Twitter accounts, and the latter, to perform content analysis of all tweets published by the selected accounts throughout the study period January 1 – June 30, 2020.

Several criteria were taken into account in the selection of the Twitter accounts subject of the study: first, verification of diplomatic relations between the People’s Republic of China and each of the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC).  Currently, the People’s Republic of China has diplomatic relations with the following LAC countries:

Antigua and Barbuda; Argentina; Bahamas; Barbados; Belize; Bolivia; Brazil; Chile; Colombia; Costa Rica; Cuba; Dominica; Dominican Republic; Ecuador; El Salvador; Grenada; Guyana; Jamaica; Mexico; Panama; Peru; Suriname; Trinidad and Tobago; Uruguay and Venezuela.

The second criterion for the selection of the Twitter accounts was the likelihood that these accounts were actually created by the representations and/or diplomatic representatives of the People’s Republic of China in LAC, given that many of them are not verified accounts. To this end, the following elements were considered:

  • Name of the account
  • Account description
  • Location of the account
  • Type of content published
  • Level of activity
  • Accounts followed
  • Followers

Accounts associated with any other diplomatic personnel, such as attachés, advisors, spokespersons, etc., were discarded. A total of 27 Twitter accounts were identified:

CountryOfficial relationsAccountInstitution / Name
Antigua and Barbudayes@ChinaEmbAntiguaEmbassy
Argentinayes@ChinaEmbArgEmbassy
Barbadosyes@YxiushengAmbassador – Yan Xiucheng
Bahamasyes
Boliviayes@WangJialei4Consul – Wang Jialei
Boliviayes@ConsuladoCHNSCSanta Cruz Consulate
Brazilyes@WanmingYangAmbassador – Yang Wanming
Brazilyes@EmbaixadaChinaEmbassy
Brazilyes@CGChinaLiYangConsul in Rio de Janeiro – Li Yang
Brazilyes@ConsulChinaRJRio de Janeiro Consulte
Brazilyes@CGChinaSPSao Paulo Consulate
Chileyes@ChinaEmbajadaEmbassy
Colombiayes@china_embajadaEmbassy
Costa Ricayes
Cubayes@EmbChinaCubaEmbassy
Dominican Republicyes@EmbZhangRunAmbassador – Zhang Run
Dominican Republicyes@ChinaEmbajadaRDEmbassy
Ecuadoryes@EmbajadaChinaEcEmbassy
El Salvadoryes@oujianhongAmbassador – Ou Jianhong
El Salvadoryes@EmbajadaChinaSVEmbassy
Grenadayes@DrZhaoyongchenAmbassador – Zhao Yongchen
Grenadayes@ChinaEmbGrenadaEmbassy
Guyanayes
Jamaicayes
Mexicoyes
Panamayes@weiasecasAmbassador – Wei Qiang
Peruyes@ChinaEmbPeruEmbassy
Surinameyes@AmbLiuQuanAmbassador – Liu Quan
Surinameyes@CHNEmbSurinameEmbassy
Trinidad and Tobagoyes@ChineseEmbinTTEmbassy
Venezuelayes@Li_BaorongAmbassador – Li Baorong
Venezuelayes@Emb_ChinaVenEmbassy

Of the 25 Chinese diplomatic representations in LAC, only 17 of them have Twitter accounts. Overall, between embassies, ambassadors, consulates, and consuls, 27 accounts were identified, of which 3 showed no activity during the study period: Antigua and Barbuda (@ChinaEmbAntigua); Suriname (CHNEmbSuriname) and Trinidad and Tobago (@ChineseEmbinTT).

By using the Twitonomy service, the following statistical data was collected for each of the accounts:

  • Date of account creation
  • Account verification by Twitter
  • Number of followers
  • Number of monthly tweets (Nov 2019 – June 2020)
  • Users most retweeted (January – June 2020)
  • Users most mentioned (January – June 2020)
  • Users most replied to (January – June 2020)
  • Hashtags most used (January – June 2020)

By consolidating and analyzing the data obtained from the accounts, the study was able to outline some general trends of China’s foreign policy as channeled through Twitter. Manual content analysis was carried out to assess the content published between January 1 – June 30, 2020, to determine the most relevant themes and the tone used in the accounts. Additionally, by combining the two methodologies for the items “users most mentioned” and “users most replied to”, the following categories were constructed:

  • LAC government entities: accounts of LAC presidents, prime ministers, ministers, members of parliament, and other government officials and entities.
  • General public: accounts of the general population in LAC.
  • Chinese government: accounts of entities and officials of the Chinese government.
  • Foreign governments: accounts of governments and officials outside of LAC.
  • Foreign governments: accounts of governments and officials outside of LAC.
  • Chinese media: multilingual accounts of Chinese official media.
  • Influencers: accounts of global and LAC public figures (writers, musicians, politicians, entrepreneurs).
  • Foreign media: accounts of media outlets outside LAC.
  • Chinese companies: accounts of Chinese companies, public and private.

Likewise, for the item “hashtags most used” the following categories were constructed considering the most relevant issues in each of the accounts analyzed:

  • COVID-19: direct mention to SARS Covid-19. The following hashtags were used: #COVID, #Covid-19, #Coronavirus; #Covid, #COVID-19, #Pandemia
  • China: China’s handling of the pandemic. The following hashtags were used: #China, #Wuhan, #Hubei
  • Solidarity: Call for unity and solidarity among countries in the fight against the pandemic. Various purposes: generation of support and trust towards China; counteract the effect of accusations about the origin of the virus, highlight China’s international cooperation in the fight against the pandemic. The following hashtags were used: #chinayuda, #Solidaridad, #Unidoscontraelvirus, #Handinhandwestand, #lasaludnosune, #togetherwecan, #vivalaamistad, #juntosvenceremos, #solidarityandcooperation, #estamosjuntosenesto, #unidosvenceremos
  • Bilateral cooperation: support and cooperation (tangible and intangible assets) with the host countries of the diplomatic representatives. The following hashtags were used:  #fuerza (name of the country), #(country), #quedateencasa.
  • Information veracity: emphasis on countering the spread of information regarding the virus’ origin, that the virus was created at a Chinese lab, China’s poor management in containing the virus, among other topics related to covid-19 perceived as harmful to China’s international image. The following hashtags were used: #info, #Importante, #debessaber, #realitycheck, #laverdad, #verdaderofalso
  • Chinese government: content concerning the Chinese government. The following hashtags were used: #Xijinping, #twosessions, #dossesionesy #whitepaper.
  • Promotion of China: promotion of China’s culture and tourism. The following hashtags were used: #splendidchina, #añonuevochino, #kungfu, #artechino, #patrimoniocultural, #patrimoniohistorico, #visitchinaonline.
  • USA: the US Government’s criticisms regarding China’s handling of the pandemic. The following hashtags were used: #EEUU y #eeuu, #inmoralidad, #racismo.
  • World Health Organization: Support and cooperation with the WHO. Defensive standpoint against US attacks to this organization. The following hashtags were used: #OMS and #WHO.
  • Technological advances / 5G: mention of China´s technological advances. Cooperation with LAC countries regarding Chinese technology. The following hashtags were used: #tecnologia, #5G.

Note

The countries of Latin America and the Caribbean were selected on the basis of their membership in the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).