China's Pandemic Diplomacy


Denny Roy

Asia Pacific Issues, No. 144


Honolulu: East-West Center

Publication Date: September 2020
Binding: paper
Pages: 8
Free Download: PDF


The COVID-19 pandemic threatened to damage China’s international reputation just as the Chinese government under Xi Jinping was peaking in its promotion of China as a model political system and superior international citizen. Beijing launched a massive diplomatic effort aimed at both foreign governments and foreign societies. The goal was to overcome initial negative publicity and to recast China as an efficient and heroic country in the eyes of international public opinion. The crisis created an opening for China to make gains in its international leadership credentials as the world saw the superpower United States falter. Ultimately, however, Chinese pandemic diplomacy contributed to a net decrease in China’s global prestige, largely because domestic political imperatives motivated behavior that generated international disapproval and distrust for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) government. This paper summarizes the content of Chinese pandemic diplomacy through the key period of January through May 20201, identifies specific strengths and weaknesses of China’s effort, and briefly assesses its global impact.