By Bagher Nassir

Chinese Twitter diplomacy on coronavirus

March 13, 2020 - 11:32

In January 2020 the coronavirus affected China’s image in the world. Turned to be a global fear, it influenced China’s international relations.

Like, everywhere in Iran social media users whispered their concerns about the new deadly pandemic disease. They also criticized Chinese tourists who were spending their New Year holidays in Iran. 

The continuation of Mahan Air flights to China increased concerns among journalists and social media users as well. 

Despite this, Chang Hua, the ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Tehran, started a direct communication to reduce the fear among the Iranians via his Twitter account. On January 26, he tweeted the photos of Chinese tourists visiting Iran’s heritage sites in Fars province. 

After a couple of days, he tweeted a picture of his official meeting with Iranian Health Minister Saeed Namaki with a caption in Farsi. This was the beginning of his attempt to make effective communication with social media users. According to his tweets, the Chines ambassador also met Mahan Air CEO and interviewed with journalists. 

In February 2020, when coronaviruses became an epidemic in Wuhan, where the disease first emerged, Iran’s government sent 2 million face masks to China to show solidarity with the people of China. Furthermore, the Iranian cinema director Majid Majidi wrote a letter to the people of China and wish them health and success to defeat the disease. Likewise, this attempt by Iran and celebrities featured in the Chinese ambassador’s Twitter account. 
The Iranian Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, also tweeted in Chinese, saying, “China not only prevented the epidemic from deteriorating at home but also prevented the epidemic from spreading internationally.” 

On February 19, in a show of solidarity with China and the victims of the deadly coronavirus, the Azadi Tower in Tehran was lit up with the pictures of Iran and China’s flags. The event was attended by the Chinese ambassador.

When Iran’s Health Ministry spokesperson confirmed for the first time that two patients in Qom had tested positive for coronavirus, Farsi Twitter users tried to find out how the Chinese have been coping with the phenomenon. Mr. Hua increased activity on Twitter by posting statements about the Chinese experience in confronting the virus. 

He also shared some videos in which Chinese journalists speak in Farsi and give some protection advice. The Chinese ambassador also expressed the Chinese people’s solidarity with the Iranians by sending first aid to Iran, collecting about $500,000 for the purpose. Five Chinese experts from the Red Cross Society of China also visited Tehran on Feb. 29 to discuss ways how to prevent and control the spread of the virus in Iran.

Simultaneously, the ambassador continued with his Twitter diplomacy. The exchange of tweets between Iranian and Chinese diplomats, recalls the classic Persian poem by Saadi who says: 
Human beings are members of a whole
In the creation of one essence and soul
If one member is afflicted with pain
Other members uneasy will remain
If you have no sympathy for human pain
The name of human you cannot retain
 

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