Buying Hearts and Minds?

This week I came across an interesting article by Professor Philip Selb for the Huffington Post. The article discusses the power of economy in public diplomacy and specifically various economic initiatives conducted by the US in the Middle East and their public diplomacy value.

Selb’s argument states that there is no better way for winning hearts and minds than “buying hearts and minds”. Selb is convinced that successful public diplomacy is based on fulfilling the needs of various foreign audiences and therefore developing a positive attitude towards the donating country. Specifically in the Middle East, various initiatives that provide jobs have proved to be extremely successful in creating stability and establishing partnerships with foreign publics.

This is an interesting perspective on how to craft public diplomacy. Creative initiatives could be born by mapping the needs of various societies and looking at the competitive advantage of a specific country with regards to those needs. Relevant organizations or governmental agencies within the ‘giving’ country can then address these needs through initiatives that provide jobs, healthcare, agricultural assistance, etc. The ‘giving countries’ can benefit not only from positive PD outcomes such as good image, stability and favorable public opinion among foreign audiences, but also from clear economic benefits of new partnerships and networks.

I might be wrong but I sense that today we have a certain ‘pool’ of public diplomacy activities such as academic exchanges, informational tours, exhibitions, etc. and the new initiatives are created within that pool.  As discussed in class, China’s investment in Africa is somewhat different and serves as a good example of Selb’s suggestion. The “needs paradigm” could be an interesting shift in the way foreign ministries and organizations begin their thinking about public diplomacy.





Empowering Women through Sports Diplomacy

When I was little, I used to watch the winter Olympics and dance around the house, pretending to be an ice skater. Although I was never as graceful, I grew to love the sport and had many idols like Tara Lipinski, Kristi Yamaguchi, and Sarah Hughes. So one can imagine my delight when I came across an article discussing Olympic ice skater, Michelle Kwan, and her current diplomatic efforts.

In the next week, Kwan will be speaking at the University of Tennessee to promote a program focused on sports diplomacy. The Michelle KwanEmpowering Women and Girls Through Sports Initiative is run through the U.S. Department of State, where Kwan is a senior adviser. The initiative brings together 24 women from 6 different countries from around the world to promote cultural diplomacy through sports.

“When women and girls can walk on the playing field, they are more likely to step into the classroom, the boardroom, and step out as leaders in society.” This quote stuck out at me from the U.S. State Department’s website. Not only is this initiative a great instance of cultural diplomacy, but it is also giving opportunity to women who are less privileged. By helping these women and girls succeed in sports, they will be more inclined to succeed in other aspects of their lives and other’s. Seeing Michelle Kwan use her Olympic status to promote awareness to help other women is not only a great example of cultural diplomacy, but celebrity diplomacy as well.

Achieving China’s Goals of a Peaceful Rise Through PD

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.


Mai’a Davis Cross’ Op-Ed titled “EU leaders should change tone when talking to rest of the world” indirectly raised an interesting point: when she mentions “The ultramodern African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, funded and build by China”. While China is known for its eagerness in providing visible infrastructure, the African Union’s organizational structure obviously resonates more with the EU’s than with China’s.

Today, the fourth EU-Africa Summit opened in Brussels. (While it seems to be referred to as such and not the EU-AU summit, leaders from both the EU and AU institutions are present). Various publications reflect interestingly on the PD aspect of it. On the one hand, an article republished on from The Inquirer (Monrovia) comments on the press release issued by the European Union Delegation to Liberia, which seems to be a rather thoughtful PD move: phrases such as “Leaders from Africa and the European Union are to discuss as equal partners”, “the everyday concerns of our citizens”; “improve the quality of hope of our population” are repeated throughout ( On the other hand there is a buzz about Mugabe’s boycott due to the EU’s refusal to issue his wife a visa ( and Jacob Zuma’s boycott due to the perceived “cherry-picking” of African leaders eligible to attend ( , reflecting not-so-equal partner relations.

Back to Cross’ Op-Ed, I think that beyond the content aspects (increasing political cooperation and economic strategies), it would make sense for the AU and EU to reflect on and learn from each other’s successes and failures in terms of organizational processes. It would not only be constructive for both, but if done transparently and wisely it could be a smarter PD move as well than just letting disgruntled actors vent on international media.

Update from U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy

Hello, All.

I wanted to pass along to those of you who might be interested…

The minutes and transcript from the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy’s March 5 public meeting on the President’s Young African Leaders Initiative are available at: .

The next ACPD public meeting is scheduled to take place on Thursday, May 8 from 10 to11:30 am. The topic is ‘Defining the Value of Cultural Diplomacy in National Security.’

-Debbie Trent

A New Star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame

Hollywood celebrities are flocking to China in droves to promote their most recent films. The impetus behind this new trend in trying to woo the Chinese on major Hollywood movies is the fact that mainland China’s box office is grossing big numbers. At the box office, the fourth quarter of 2009, China grossed $1.3 billion dollars – that is second in the world only to the U.S.

Some Hollywood films are grossing higher numbers at the Chinese box office than in the U.S. domestic market. This has Hollywood taking notice. Cinema is no longer a monopoly controlled by the U.S. China is realizing the power of the consumer: how it drives what is produced and the type of product supplied.

Artisan Gateway President Rance Pow said “With Chinese language film production and performance on the rise, wooing Chinese film patrons to cinemas becomes a competitive issue.” Chinese consumption driving demand allows for films catering to the taste of the Chinese public to enter the market and potentially thrive. One example of this is the film Oz: the Great and Powerful, a flop in the U.S. but a success in the East with a deal in the works for a sequel

China’s entry into the film market is a public diplomacy opportunity. Hollywood celebrities come to the country on a de facto cultural exchange; they share their works of art and learn about the interest of the Chinese. This serves as a good learning tool for both sides involved. The U.S. will begin to “understand” what appeals the Chinese audience and the Chinese become exposed to America in a non propagandist manner, organic public diplomacy at its best.

Thursday, April 3 — Guest Speaker on PD at SIS

Communicating India's Soft Power-Daya Thussu


This Thursday at 1 pm in SIS 300, Daya Thussu, Indian diplomat, will give a talk on PD around the world. Thussu  was recognized at the International Studies Association convention last week  with the Distinguished Scholar Award from the International Communication  Division, and is a leading figure in global media and international communication research. You are all encouraged to attend.

Historical Diplomacy: “It’s hard out here for a Hessian”

With this week’s readings focused on China, part of my country profile topic, it was hard not to respond solely to that subject. However, I had an unanticipated encounter today with a stranger that inspired me to write about something entirely different. (and possibly more domestically centered?) Anyways, I was walking down Wisconsin Ave, when I spot this guy:photoNo one else seemed to notice or stop and ask him what he was doing, thus being the kind of individual I am, I approached him. After I was unable to identify what army he belonged to he informed me he was dressed as  Hessian soldier and had been visiting schools to teach children about the Revolutionary War. Why a Hessian? and not an American solider? He specifically wanted to “undo the ‘scary/sleepy hollow’ image of the Hessians’ and show the positive aspects and contributions in the role this particular military group played in our nation’s history so long ago. I said to him that this reminded me a lot about what we had learned in class about cultural diplomacy, but perhaps on a very small and isolated scale. He agreed entirely, stating that it was important to reintroduce the history of a culture through different lenses in order to see the true spirit of a nation. He made this argument using the example of  how the Holocaust has, does, and will continue to impact the overall national image of Germany, usually overriding all the other major contributions of German scientists, philosophers, etc. throughout history.

This chance meeting inspired me to consider further the role national history plays in culture and the perception of a nation and its people by foreign powers. I rarely think of how non-Americans interpret our national history and the characteristics they assign to us because of our past. We’ve spoken in class of cultural diplomacy, which I feel has present and future time-oriented contest and goal, although based on longstanding traditions and values. I loved this idea, of taking back history in a way that allows outsiders and insiders both to rethink historical events, past organizations, and social groups. I’m not saying it’s the best idea to send a bunch of dressed up Abraham Lincolns abroad to roam the streets and schools…but I appreciate the sentiment that various perceptions of a nation’s history do exist, and if addressed properly through cultural diplomacy, could be effective in enriching a national reputation.

Setting conditions for cultural exchange?

I found this article by Seiichi Kondo, the former Commissioner of the Agency for Cultural Affairs of Japan, about his view about cultural diplomacy.

He was the first diplomat who turned into the commissioner, and had also worked as the first Director-General at Department of Public Diplomacy in Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Kondo states that the government should “create an environment that enables and encourages the free development of culture, while removing obstacles to the exchange with other cultures” but “should not intervene in cultural affairs nor set conditions for cultural exchange.” He also says “Cultural activities take on diplomatic meaning in consequence as they spread; no culture is and should be designed for diplomacy from the beginning” and that “it is a good thing that culture results in promoting national interests, and there is no problem in the government encouraging this.”

This resonates with Gienow-Hecht’s view about the characteristic of successful cultural diplomacy: distance between the agent of a cultural diplomacy program and a political agenda.

Yet, Kondo believes “the most effective way to disseminate Japanese culture is to invite talented artists rather than sending art works and artists abroad.”

In fact, the Agency is now providing a grant for international artists-in-residence program in Japan. Its guideline specifies that it should be used to cover the cost for foreign artists to stay in Japanese arts residencies but not for that of Japanese artists.

The foreign artists would have opportunities to interact with Japanese people during their stay and it is mutually beneficial. Still,  I think this is rather one-way and more about telling than listening.

As Deos, and many other authors of our reading says, successful diplomacy requires two-way or “bi-directional communication of listening.”

I think the grant should fund the cost for Japanese artists as well.