The CPD Blog is intended to stimulate dialog among scholars and practitioners from around the world in the public diplomacy sphere. The opinions represented here are the authors' own and do not necessarily reflect CPD's views. For blogger guidelines, click here.

A Valentine to China

Feb 14, 2020

by

One of the indicators of a nation’s soft power is the export of its festivals beyond its borders. Festivals that are fun for participants and simultaneously offer a business opportunity find an especially eager audience.

Of the U.S. holidays, Halloween and Valentine’s Day seem to be doing especially well. As any Westerner who has traveled in East Asia knows, Valentine’s is a favorite in many young people, especially in urban centers. Chinese couples are reported to spend more than twice as much on gifts and treats to mark the day than Americans do. This year, of course, the day is overshadowed by restrictions associated with the current Covid-19 (Coronavirus) public health crisis in China, but all the more reason to send love to the citizens experiencing the crisis, and especially our peers in the Chinese public diplomacy studies community. 

Some are marking the day with action. At the Centre for Public Diplomacy at Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU), the students and their professor Zhou Xinyu see Valentine’s Day in the time of Coronavirus as a moment to act. They see misunderstanding of China around the world, especially in relation to the use of masks by Chinese citizens. 


People wear masks in the first instance as a gesture of civic responsibility.

Westerners often assume that masks are a sign that someone is fearful of their environment and even suspect that the people around them at the airport or in the street are diseased. Perhaps we Westerners feel that withholding ones face breaks some kind of unspoken contract with the world around and that we strangers have a right to be smiled at. That feeling has surfaced in debate around the burqa in Western Europe. 

The reality of Chinese masks is the reverse of this: People wear masks in the first instance as a gesture of civic responsibility. At a time when a society is wrestling with a virus that has the potential to become a global epidemic, these small gestures of love toward the community and the outside world accumulate to something much more valuable than a Hallmark card and a box of chocolate.

Seeking to dramatize this and understanding the importance of acknowledging the gestures of goodwill from friends and neighbors around the world, the BFSU students plan to post Valentine pictures of themselves in masks, which have been decorated with smiles to show their underlying emotions of love for others and gratitude for support from outside. The project has included the two cartoons illustrated here:

I send my own love back to the institution where I was so happy to teach back in March 2015. The students and colleagues are in my thoughts and I know we would be in theirs if the situation were reversed.

COMMENTS

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
2 COMMENT(S)

Thanks for your kindness and understanding

I am a student from BFSU and have participated in this warm-hearted activity. I am so grateful and excited to find out that you deeply understand our culture and vision. Thanks again for all the help and love from all over the world during this special period.

Replying to you post

Dear Shirley — you are most welcome. I’m glad you saw my piece and know we are thinking of you all. Nick Cull

STAY IN THE KNOW

Visit CPD's Online Library

Explore CPD's vast online database featuring the latest books, articles, speeches and information on international organizations dedicated to public diplomacy. 

Join the Conversation

Interested in contributing to the CPD Blog? We welcome your posts. Read our guidelines and find out how you can submit blogs and photo essays >