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The Role of China’s Public Diplomacy in Promoting the Belt and Road Initiative in Oman through Communication: An Examination of the Integrated Model of Public Diplomacy

Abstract

The shift from government-to-government diplomacy to government-to-people, or even people-to-people diplomacy, brings about an absolute map to be filled and reveals the similarities between public relations (PR) and public diplomacy (PD). Public diplomacy involves such activities as cultural exchange programs, academic exchanges and business-community interactions; the objective of all these activities is to influence public opinion on a global scale. The current research aims to identify, explore and evaluate the role of China’s public diplomacy model, which has been practiced in the Sultanate of Oman, through communication implemented by Chinese trans-national corporations (TNCs) (specifically, the Wanfang Oman Company) to promote China’s domestic and international objectives within Oman, particularly the Chinese initiative “One Belt One Road”. The theoretical framework of this research examines the integrated model of public diplomacy; i.e., applying a public diplomacy approach based on public relations theory. Correspondingly, the author employed Cull’s (2008) public diplomacy approach, based on Grunig and Hunt’s (1984) four model of public relations. The methodology of this research analyses secondary data taken from the literature and provides a historical review of the China-Oman Industrial Zone, the Wanfang Company’s official website, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reports, various news items and official speeches given by the Chinese ambassador to Oman. It also analyses primary data by conducting in depth-interviews of 39 Omani students at the Ningxia Polytechnic University in China to explore the message content of students’ social media platforms. Based on the results of this analysis, the author provides a number of recommendations to aid Chinese Public Diplomacy in achieving its core objective of promoting Belt and Road initiative in Omani society. For example, Chinese public diplomacy players should focus on the two-way communication model, particularly through social media; as such tools can effectively enhance the mediated public diplomacy approach.

Hamed Al-Hasni

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