China’s lunar rover Yutu has unfortunately come to its end after successfully landing on the surface of the moon last December and spending six weeks there. Last week Chinese state media Xinhua announced that Yutu was experiencing malfunctions that led the rover to shut down.
It is unfortunate that Yutu is unable to continue its voyage to explore the moon. However, it is the approach in which the news was reported that grabbed the attention of not only Chinese but Western news media. According to the Economist, updates on Yutu’s expedition have been reported from its own “diary”—in a first-person point of view—through Xinhua. Just before going “offline”, Yutu shared its last report:
“Hello everyone. Today is the 42nd day since I reached the moon. There are several bits of good news and one bit of bed news. Which do you want to hear first?”
In its good news, Yutu mentions it had collected valuable data after traveling more than 100 meters on the lunar surface. However, the bad news was that it was experiencing mechanical control abnormality.
In the account, “Some of my body parts will not obey their commends…I know there is a possibility I will not make it through this night.” Yutu goes on to mention, “I originally thought I could hop around here for three months, and tell everyone about all the kinds of big rocks I’d discover.”
In the end, Yutu signed off saying “Goodnight, Earth. Good night, humanity.”
Whereas in the past, Chinese state media would often try to cover up facts or shift the blame to others, the approach that Xinhua took this time in sharing this report not only inspired an outpouring of supportive messages on Chinese social media, but also “earned admiring and warmhearted coverage in Western news media”.
This new approach to communications not only demonstrates the state media’s eagerness to appeal to Chinese citizens, but also the country’s transformation of public diplomacy. While there is still more for China to learn on PD, there is no doubt that the country is gradually changing the way in which it handles PD.