Türkiye, Pakistan ve Etiyopya’da Twitter Ortamında 2. Kuşak ve Yol Forumu (2019): Kanaat Teknisyenlerinin Sosyal Ağ ve Söylem Analizi Araştırma Grubu
China's BRI in Transnational Perspective: Comparative Discourse Analysis of 'Opinion Technicians' in Ethiopia, Pakistan and Turkey
Dr. Abdulaziz Dino, Addis Ababa University School of Journalism and Communication
Ali Zain, Hacettepe University Graduate School of Social Sciences
Gökçe Özsu, Hacettepe University Graduate School of Social Sciences
Prof.Dr. Mutlu Binark, Hacettepe University Graduate Faculty of Communication
*the name of the contributors are written alphabetical order
China’s landmark project of “alternative globalization”, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is spread across Southeastern Asia to East Africa, Central Asia, and Eastern and Southeastern Europe with an aim to reconstruct the historic Silk Road as a new economic, political and cultural network among the participating countries. It involves construction of infrastructure, establishment of new centers for creation of opportunities and jobs, expansion of risk-resistance in national economies. Each participating country attaches discrete significance to the Belt and Road Initiative and puts extraordinary emphasis to secure their respective regional and economic interests. This research is an attempt to comparatively analyze the discourse practices adopted during and after China’s Second Belt Road Forum (2019) by officials, opinion technicians and leading institutions; here jointly referred as opinion technicians; on Twitter from Ethiopia, Pakistan and Turkey which are participating in the BRI from three significant regions Africa, South Asia and Eurasia respectively through application of Norman Fairclough’s technique of discourse analysis to understand how opinion technicians engage in pro-BRI and anti-BRI discourse in these countries. The similarities and differences among discourse practices employed in these countries will also be taken into consideration.
As per China’s official discourse, the BRI is part of alternative globalization and encompasses commercial and communication routes and infrastructure in countries along the ancient Silk Road which China considers its historical and cultural heritage for promotion of openness, peace, learning and shared interests. Although it primarily involves government and government institutions of participating countries, the political, economic, historical, cultural and geopolitical contexts of Ethiopia, Pakistan and Turkey in relationship to China can potentially affect the political engagement in these countries and also provide significant defining grounds to shape discourse regarding the BRI. For this, China has boosted its public and cultural diplomacy in the participating countries of the Belt and Road Initiative. In Turkey, it has established institutes at four universities and also started China-focused media coverage through China Radio International and Modern Silk Road Magazine. Ethio-Chinese Polytechnic College, Chinese language centers, Chinese-African Development Fund, Xinhua (Chinese official news agency) and representative offices of China Exim Bank have also been opened in Ethiopia. Meanwhile, Chinese diplomatic activities in Pakistan involve China-Pakistan Cultural Institute in Islamabad, Chinese Scholarship Program for Pakistani students, exchange program of journalists, effective operations of Chinese news agencies and arrangement of bilateral cultural and art festivals.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, also referred as CPEC, connects Pakistan’s Gawadar port located in Balochistan province and China’s Kashgar, shortening the Middle Eastern oil route for China. While Gawadar’s presence in Balochistan province, which has long faced separatist problem, triggers a debate regarding security of the CPEC, the port also poses a challenge to Chabahar port jointly developed by Iran and India. Additionally, India also objects CPEC due to passage of the trade route through disputed Kashmir region. Another aspect of debate on CPEC is that Punjab province has been granted a major share and nationalist political parties of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have developed a public discourse on Punjabization of the CPEC. The state institutions and non-government entities also engage in a certain public discourse to protect their interests due to historic relationship of Pakistan and China.
Likewise, Ethiopia is also a significant country in China’s Maritime Silk Road which connects African continent to the Indian Ocean at one direction and Europe on other side. The headquarters of African Union and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa are located in Ethiopia, making it significant in regional political and economic affairs. China’s political and diplomatic relations are now being transformed into strong economic partnership and the Ethiopian government has announced ambitious projects to connect 49 cities and also link Ethiopian railways to Sudan, South Sudan and Kenya which will further strengthen its regional economic and political position. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed participated in the Second Belt and Road Forum and enabled opinion technicians to develop a discourse on Chinese-Ethiopian relationship.
Turkey is also part of the Middle Corridor of the BRI which connects Central Asia to Europe through railways and roads. As part of its policy to look for an alternative of the West, Turkey decided to join the BRI to attract an enhanced Chinese investment. Under Middle Corridor, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railways, the Iron Silk Road, was opened in October 2017 which provided Turkey with alternatives to import and export goods from Central and South Asian countries. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan participated in the First Belt and Road Forum (2017) and also held a meeting with his Chinese counterpart in 2019 to strengthen relationship with China.
This study explains how diplomatic and foreign policies of the participating countries are being reshaped as a result of China’s alternative globalization and the BRI. The Twitter-content produced by the opinion technicians; who use different framings to highlight some aspects of the BRI and overlook few other factors by employing priming and producing content according to their preferred meanings and social knowledge; will be analyzed to compare the public discourses. As Pierre Bourdieu noted that public figures qualify to become opinion technicians who generate certain ideas among the public by reflecting a dominant opinion and ensuring its public acceptance, this study relies on assumption that these opinion technicians are representatives of dominant public discourse about the BRI in their respective countries. For development of representative samples for each country and their analysis, the opinion technicians who shared opinions about the BRI on Twitter during and immediately after the Second Belt and Road Forum 2019 are selected and subjected to qualitative analysis based on macro, meso and micro level themes within the scope of this research through Norman Fairclough’s critical discourse analysis framework to draw the comparative inferences based on text, discursive practice and social practice. The study will be an extraordinary scientific contribution to the field of media studies by providing basis for how the opinion technicians have framed and legitimized the BRI during a defined time period in three different participating countries based on their local politics and agendas.