• Written by Wanning Sun, Professor of Media and Cultural Studies, University of Technology Sydney
Australian media coverage of China can feel alienating to Chinese migrants, but most still hold a positive view of their adopted country. Lukas Coch/AAP

The Australian government has indicated that “diaspora communities” are crucial to Australia’s public diplomacy mission to promote the country abroad. It has also identified online and social media as essential “public diplomacy tools”.

But in terms of projecting an attractive image of Australia to potential tourists, students and investors in China, the task is not that simple.

Too often, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s earnest soft power goals are undermined by various political agendas and concerns over foreign interference and national security.

As for the media, the ABC has attempted to connect with Chinese audiences by offering some of its online content in Mandarin. But the ABC’s coverage can still feel alienating to Chinese migrants. This stems from a feeling that much of its reporting conforms to a pre-determined narrative of the danger of China’s rising influence in the country.


Read more: How Australia’s Mandarin speakers get their news


What Chinese migrants think of Australia

The role of Chinese migrants in public diplomacy, meanwhile, is little understood.

Earlier this year, we conducted a survey of more than 800 Australia-based, Mandarin-speaking social media users as part of a study of Chinese-language digital and social media in Australia.

Our aim was to determine how Chinese migrants view both Australia and China, how news coverage of both countries shapes these views, and whether they feel they have a role to play in promoting either country.


Read more: Morrison says China knows 'where Australia is coming from', after meeting Chinese vice-president


We asked participants whether they have generally positive views about their experience of living or studying in Australia and how often they share these views with potential Chinese visitors or migrants to Australia.

Perhaps surprisingly, our survey respondents answered with a resounding “yes”, despite the alienation they sometimes feel from English-language media and a sense their allegiance to Australia is regularly being questioned.

When asked how often they share positive stories about Australia via Chinese social media platforms, 72% of respondents said they often or sometimes shared such information.



A similar level of pro-Australian sentiment was evident when participants were asked how often they share negative stories about Australia from the local Chinese media or English-language media. (For example, stories about the high cost of living, racism against Chinese or the boring lifestyle.) Nearly 77% said they rarely or never share such stories.

When asked with whom they share positive or negative stories about Australia, nearly two-thirds said “Chinese people living in China”, while 28% said Chinese immigrants living elsewhere in the world.

Interestingly, our survey participants’ willingness to promote Australia to Chinese people worldwide did not mean they had negative views about China. Nearly 80% said they would also be willing to promote China to Australians as a tourist destination or potential place for business opportunities.

Not overly pro-China on sensitive issues

This speaks to the ability of Chinese migrants to sustain dual loyalties to Australia and China, without much apparent conflict between the two.

Our respondents also showed a considerable degree of sophistication in their views on China–Australia relations and issues the Australian media typically present in a polarising manner. When asked whether they sided with China or Australia on these issues, we saw an interesting split.



For example, a significant number of participants said they sided with China in relation to disputes over Huawei (73%) and the South China Sea (79%). However, support for China was dramatically lower in relation to China’s influence in Australia (40%), trade disputes (38%) and, perhaps most surprisingly to many Australians, human rights (just 22%).

Even though they didn’t back China on these last four issues, participants didn’t give their unambiguous support to the Australian viewpoint, either. The number of respondents who chose “not sure” on these four issues ranged between 32% and 45%.

Human rights was the only issue where more respondents sided with the Australian viewpoint rather than China’s (46% compared to 22%).

Negative news on China leads to unhappiness

Similarly, when respondents were asked how they felt about negative news about China or the Chinese government in the Australian media, they expressed a range of opinions.



Respondents were nearly equally split on the fairness of such reporting, with 27% saying they felt the Western media portrayed China in an overly negative light and 22% saying they felt such reporting allowed them to know the truth about China.

The most popular response, however, was telling: 35% of participants said they felt unhappy because of the hostility of the Australian media to China, regardless of whether or not the reporting was truthful.

This suggests that while most Chinese-Australians are generally supportive of Australia, the mainstream media’s narrow focus on China’s influence seems to impact negatively on their happiness and overall feeling of connectedness with Australian society.


Read more: Megaphone diplomacy is good for selling papers, but harmful for Australia-China relations


What this means for public diplomacy

Overall, Chinese migrants in Australia are spreading a positive message about the country voluntarily. They do so without any support from the Australian government, and despite the often negative reporting about China in the Australian media and hyperbolic public aspersions cast on them.

Based on our findings, it would behove the Australian government to try and find ways to harness this largely bottom-up, pro-Australian, word-of-mouth energy in the service of public diplomacy.

This is especially important now, given the dire state of diplomatic relations between our two countries.

Wanning Sun receives funding from the Australian Research Council.

Authors: Wanning Sun, Professor of Media and Cultural Studies, University of Technology Sydney

Read more http://theconversation.com/new-research-shows-chinese-migrants-dont-always-side-with-china-and-are-happy-to-promote-australia-126677

Carbon pricing: it's a proven way to reduce emissions but everyone's too scared to mention it

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese sought to claim the climate policy high ground last week with his commitment to a net-zero emissions target by 2050. But figures on Australia’s emissions fro...

Tony Wood, Program Director, Energy, Grattan Institute - avatar Tony Wood, Program Director, Energy, Grattan Institute

'I don't want anybody to see me using it': cashless welfare cards do more harm than good

ShutterstockThe Australian government touts compulsory income management as a way to stop welfare payments being spent on alcohol, drugs or gambling. The Howard government introduced the BasicsCard...

Greg Marston, Head of School, School of Social Science, The University of Queensland - avatar Greg Marston, Head of School, School of Social Science, The University of Queensland

'They wouldn't let me call anybody': women in mental health wards need better protection from sexual assault

ShutterstockMental health inpatient units should be safe and healing places. But we’ve found women staying in these units are being threatened, harassed and sexually and physically assaulted by...

Juliet Watson, Senior Lecturer, Housing and Homelessness, RMIT University - avatar Juliet Watson, Senior Lecturer, Housing and Homelessness, RMIT University

Stone tools show humans in India survived the cataclysmic Toba eruption 74,000 years ago

Christina Neudorf, Author providedAbout 74,000 years ago a volcanic eruption at what is now Lake Toba in Sumatra, Indonesia, created one of the most dramatic natural disasters of the past 2 million y...

Chris Clarkson, Professor in Archaeology, The University of Queensland - avatar Chris Clarkson, Professor in Archaeology, The University of Queensland

Five Australian universities get the bulk of philanthropic donations

Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-NDPhilanthropy is a growing source of revenue for Australian universities. It’s essential to advancing quality research, equity and learning. On average, Au...

Omer Yezdani, Director, Office of Planning and Strategic Management, Australian Catholic University - avatar Omer Yezdani, Director, Office of Planning and Strategic Management, Australian Catholic University

Older and poorer: Retirement Income Review can't ignore the changing role of home

natasaelena/ShutterstockThe assumption that retired people have minimal housing costs underpins the settings of our retirement incomes system. But the real state of housing for older Australians toda...

Emma Dawson, Honorary Fellow, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Melbourne - avatar Emma Dawson, Honorary Fellow, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Melbourne

The jobs market is nowhere near as good as you've heard, and it's changing us

We are continually being told that more of us are employed than ever before. Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe points out (correctly) that a higher proportion of us are in jobs than at any other tim...

Michael Keating, Visiting Fellow, College of Business & Economics, Australian National University - avatar Michael Keating, Visiting Fellow, College of Business & Economics, Australian National University

100 years of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari: the film that inspired Virginia Woolf, David Bowie and Tim Burton

Decla-Bioscop AGBerlin. February 26 1920. A new silent film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, is released to unsuspecting German audiences and quickly becomes a worldwide sensation. “When will I d...

Ben McCann, Associate Professor of French Studies, University of Adelaide - avatar Ben McCann, Associate Professor of French Studies, University of Adelaide

Compact Comforts: The Big Benefits of Small Cars

With the ever-increasing rise in fuel prices, more and more people are switching to compact cars in 2020. Small cars are renowned for having the lowest road tax and the best fuel economy. However, t...

News Company - avatar News Company

Sick and Tired of Your Dead End Job? Try Teaching!

Tired of the same old grind at the office? Want an opportunity to impact lives both in your community and around the world? Do you love to travel and have new experiences? Teaching English is the perfect job for you! All you need is a willingness to ...

News Company - avatar News Company

The Impact of an Aging Population in Australia

There’s an issue on the horizon that Australia needs to prepare for. The portion of elderly citizens that make up the country’s overall population is increasing, and we might not have the infrastructure in place to support this. Australians h...

News Company - avatar News Company