Trends in Media Framing of China's Engagement in Africa and other Parts of the World.

Author:Eze, Victor C.

Introduction and Background

China has continued to experience rapid rise in different spheres of her national and international engagements since 1950 till date (Whyte, 2013). One of such engagements--the relationship between China and Africa--can be traced back to the 1950s (Pisani, 2014). After the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, China increasingly opened up to other global nations in economic relations and diplomatic ties. In order to create a more friendly relationship with other nations, China resorted to the practice of public diplomacy. According to Eisenman, Heginbotham and Mitchell (2007), China's increasing employment of 'soft power' is helping her to gain new friends from emerging regions of Africa, South East Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America. Brown (2012:1) notes that "China's rapid and successful expansion in Africa is due to multiple factors, including economic diplomacy that is clearly superior to that of the United States." According to Center on Public Diplomacy (2016), public diplomacy refers to the public, interactive dimension of diplomacy which is not only global in nature, but also involves a multitude of actors and networks. Nations employ it as a key mechanism through which they maintain mutual trust and productive relationships, and it has become important for building a secure world. According to Hanauer and Morris (2014:1), "China and its African partners interact in a wide range of political, economic, and military-related arenas in ways that advance mutual interests, but economic pursuits lie at the heart of Sino-African relations."

Various countries have been portrayed in the media in various ways. Similarly, the media have continued to frame China's activities in African in various ways (Wekesa, 2013; Umejei, 2015; Moahi, 2015). According to Dollar (2016), the media often portray China's engagement in Africa as enormous and may likely overpower the African continent. The degree to which the media accurately portray China's activities in Africa depends on the aggregation, assessment and or metadata breakdown of studies that have been undertaken by researchers in relations to media coverage of China's engagement in African. In line with the foregoing, this paper examines the methodological approaches of selected empirical studies in the media framing of China's engagement in other nations--especially African nations--in studies conducted in the last five years.

Framing Theory

Media framing refers to the fact that the media can impart a certain perspective, or "spin," to the events they cover and that this, in turn, can influence public attitudes on an issue (Wimmer and Dominick, 2009). It is the way the media portray events in the society. It is embedded in the broader context of media effects research (Scheufele, 1999). The news media generally portray events through episodic and thematic news frames (University of Oregon, 2016). The episodic news frame is the frame that focuses on events that involve human beings who are located in particular places and at a particular time. On the other hand, thematic news frame highlights public issues in a larger context by looking at general conditions of event or their outcomes.

Furthermore, the media subject issues to different frames. The frames can be positive frame, negative frame or indifferent frame depending on the audience and the type of information being presented. Media framing presents issues as logically equivalent alternatives portrayed in different ways or as emphasis frames, which explain reality by focusing on a relevant aspect of an issue (Druckman, 2001). In "equivalence frames", information is presented based on the same facts, but the frames in which it is portrayed change in order to create a reference-based perception. This process offers an inevitable influence over the individuals' perception of the media message, thereby leading to public opinion formation.

Media framing is also a process by which issues are portrayed in the news media. Media frames provide some form of boundaries around a news story, determining what is newsworthy and what is not. Media frame is the "central organising idea for news content that supplies a context and suggests what the issue is through the use of selection, emphasis, exclusion, and elaboration" (Tankard, 2001: 100). Thus, framing gets beneath the surface of news coverage and exposes hidden assumptions (Tankard, 2001: 97). It also recognises the "ability of a text to define a...

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