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Aug 16, 2019

Chinese diplomatic missions in Africa have long had a reputation for being inaccessible, even unapproachable. Ambassadors often shied away from unscripted public events, journalists seeking any kind of comment were largely brushed away and engagement with local NGOs and civil society actors was unheard of.

That's now starting to change.

Chinese ambassadors like Lin Songtian in Pretoria and Wu Peng in Nairobi are breaking the mold of the once stiff, media-shy Chinese envoy. Ambassador Lin is regularly seen walking the streets of Johannesburg, shaking hands, kissing babies and going on TV for live press conferences. Similarly, in Nairobi, Ambassador Wu, who reportedly speaks Swahili, is hosting at his embassy climate change activists who opposed China's support of coal power plant on Lamu Island.

All of this would have been unimaginable just a few years ago and points to a significant change in China's public diplomacy strategy in Africa, according to Cliff Mboya, a Kenyan-native and doctoral candidate at Fudan University in Shanghai.

Cliff is an expert in Chinese public diplomacy based the six years he worked as an Information and Public Affairs Officer at the Chinese embassy in Nairobi. Now, he's writing his dissertation on the topic and researching some of the significant changes that Beijing is now beginning to implement across Africa.

Cliff joins Eric & Cobus from Nairobi to discuss the current trends in Chinese public diplomacy in Africa.

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