After weeks spent defining, discussing, and debating concepts and notions of public diplomacy, we come to one of the most pressing issues facing the international order today – how China utilizes PD strategies to couch its emergence as a global stakeholder in ways amenable to the interests of the international order (through its so-called ‘charm offensive), at least to the point where China is not viewed as a rising aggressor (particularly viz a viz its relationship to the United States) but as a peaceful power. And although Russia is dominating current headlines as fears are stoked of a new cold war, the success of China’s charm offensive will significantly affect the terrain of the international system.
In Ingrid d’Hooghe’s article assigned for reading this week (of which I will present in class today), d’Hooghe stresses that China is fully embracing public diplomacy and soft power to advance its interests and promote its image as a peaceful emerging power. The strength of d’Hooghe’s article lies in the culminating section of her article, where she highlights (through the words of Cai Mingzhao, the Director of the SCIO) the idea of sub-national public diplomacy carried out by provincial and city governments and its counterparts in the rest of the world as a way to make foreign audiences “more open-minded towards China’s ideas and messages.”
I wholeheartedly endorse this strategy by China to accomplish its state goals, for the increasingly burgeoning presence of non-state actors like the Tai Initiative and recognition of the power of non-state diplomacy will allow China to actually realize a return on the immense amount of resources it is pouring into PD strategies. Accounts vary, but it is generally recognized that other countries’ perceptions of China has trended negatively in the past decade or so, suggesting that the charm offensive has failed (at least in the short-term). What’s more, the most visible product of its PD strategy, the Confucius Institutes, has been fraught with controversy. By encouraging more interaction and integration between NSAs like provincial/city governments and NGOs, China can find a way to alter other countries’ perception of its peaceful rise.