In Summary
  • Traditionally, the Chinese officials have been guarded, often ignoring media requests altogether or giving delayed updates.

  • But faced with negative publicity about mounting debt and alleged maltreatment of workers at Chinese-run firms, Beijing authorised diplomats to take on critics as they come, using social media.

Top Chinese diplomats in Nairobi were replaced in an apparent bid to protect the image of their country in Kenya, following negative publicity over the Standard Gauge Railway scandal.

Officially, Beijing says the changes, as those elsewhere, were routine but the Sunday Nation learnt the Embassy in Nairobi also started implementing a new policy that would see the new diplomats engage the public on social media.

IGNORING

Sources who spoke to the Sunday Nation last week on condition of anonymity say the new decision, a contradiction from back home where authorities clamp down on western social media, is informed by local realities in Kenya.

The Chinese Embassy, one of the oldest diplomatic missions in Kenya, also serves as ‘regional headquarters’ for Chinese affairs in the East and Central Africa region.

Traditionally, the Chinese officials have been guarded, often ignoring media requests altogether or giving delayed updates.

Faced with negative publicity about mounting debt and alleged maltreatment of workers at Chinese-run firms, Beijing authorised diplomats to take on critics as they come, using social media.

First, the diplomats themselves had to be changed. The first victim was Head of Mission, Ms Sun Baohong, who was quietly but swiftly ordered to return to Beijing for 'redeployment'.

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