All posts by Anqi H.

Next Step of the Virtual Dinner Guest Project Between AU and Egypt

Two weeks ago, my Media Production class at AU held a Virtual Dinner Guest project with a group of young people from Cairo, Egypt, as well as the head of the project – Eric Maddox.(See SKYPE DINNER CONNECTS CULTURE) The project aims to bridge cultural differences and misunderstandings by having groups of young people from two different countries hold a video conference. During the video conversation, the two sides 1. Eat, and 2. Discuss a variety of topics, including social and political issues in their countries, misconceptions they may have about each other’s culture, the state of media in their respective societies, and where they see their countries heading in the future.


After finishing our conversation, both teams got chance to select a topic question for each other to take to the street. They asked us to ask DC, “Do you think America is the best place to come to make a better life? Why or why not?”, while we asked them “What advice would you give the next generation of Egyptians? These answers are compiled into videos and shared a week or two later when the two sides reconvene for another video conference.

And here are the videos both sides done answering the questions.
AU Video
[vimeo 91496719 w=500 h=281]

The Virtual Dinner Guest Project: American U., Washington, D.C. – Cairo, Egypt from Eric Maddox on Vimeo.

Cairo Video
[vimeo 91476652 w=500 h=281]

The Virtual Dinner Guest Project: Cairo – American University, Washington, D.C. from Eric Maddox on Vimeo.

Skype Dinner Connects Culture – the Virtual Dinner Guest Project

One of the classes that I am taking is now doing the Virtual Dinner Guest Project with the founders in Cairo, Egypt. Unlike other formal or informal public diplomacy activities happens between the U.S and the Egypt, the Virtual Dinner Guest Project is definitely more provoking in terms of getting people from both countries to know each other.

The founder Eric Madoxx is hosting the virtual dinner between Egypt and the U.S.
The founder Eric Madoxx is hosting the virtual dinner between Egypt and the U.S.

Some ideas about this program:
“The Virtual Dinner Guest Project is an international multimedia initiative born from a simple premise: It is harder to ignore, vilify or harm those with whom we have broken bread.

The nuts and bolts of the project are straightforward. Imagine making a videoconference call from your dinner table while you and members of your community share a meal and a moderated discussion with people in another country. There is some strategy involved in the selection process, as countries that share less than amicable relations are actively sought out. Countries that suffer from overly facile media profiles of one another are also a point of focus.

The dinner table represents the world’s oldest and most universal social forum. The Virtual Dinner Guest project draws upon this notion and then extends the concept of the shared dining experience across borders and cultural divisions. Imagine dinner tables extending into the living room of a family in Cairo, the Yale University cafeteria or a rooftop Café in Tunis.

The Virtual Dinner Guest Project has actually realized all of the above scenarios. The project first launched from the US with a series of Virtual Dinners that connected Americans to participants in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, Kampala, Uganda and Karachi, Pakistan. The VDG Project ultimately intends to function as a platform for collaborative social entrepreneurship as well as a forum for international discourse.”

Missing MH370 and the Losing of Malaysia Public Image

Department of Civil Aviation Director General Azharuddin Abdul Rahman briefing reporters last week in Sepang, Malaysia Photograph by Daniel Chan/AP Photo
Department of Civil Aviation Director General Azharuddin Abdul Rahman briefing reporters last week in Sepang, Malaysia Photograph by Daniel Chan/AP Photo

The Malaysian government’s handling of the disappearance of Malaysia Airline Flight MH370, which went missing on March 8, has been criticized by many, including China, who have demanded that it be more transparent in managing the search operations, which entered its eleventh day Tuesday.

Over the past ten days, especially the first few days, the Vietnam searching team was the one always finding “new clues”, while the Malaysia government denying consistently. Therefore, time came to the eleventh day, the only thing we sure about was the plane gone missing, and nothing else.

The Malaysian government probably has done more over the past week to undermine the international image of Malaysia than anyone in the country’s nearly 60 years as an independent nation. For most of those six decades, until the disappearance of the Flight 370, the country received little international attention. If Malaysia made the news at all, it tended to get relatively favorable notice as a peaceful, multiethnic nation that had enjoyed some of the strongest economic growth in Asia. The government capitalized on this image as a welcoming and wealthy nation with an effective tourism campaign, launched in the late 1990s, called “Malaysia Truly Asia.” This campaign helped make Malaysia a leading destination.

The 10-day period since the mysterious disappearance of Flight 370 has seen the Malaysian government present to the world a concoction of false leads and conflicting answers, alongside seemingly evasive behavior. Nearly a week after the start of a multinational search off the waters off Malaysia’s east coast, the government revealed it had data suggesting the plane had flown in the other direction. Malaysia also released conflicting stories of when the plane’s communication with the ground was turned off, who turned it off, vague information as to who might be a suspect, and uncertain details about evidence collected.

Massive efforts have been put into this global search and rescue, until today, participatory country has risen to 26 which covers nearly half of the globe. While everyone is watching Malaysia, it is the time to challenge this country’s public diplomacy, since the dissatisfaction for the other side of the world is definitely detrimental to this country’s development.

U.S. – Canada ‘Loser Keeps Bieber’

"Loser Keeps Biber" Billboard in Chicago
It was a sad day for Team USA. The Canadian men’s ice hockey team has defeated the United States 1-0 in the semifinals. Looks like the U.S. lost the ‘bet.’

While Barack Obama and Stephen Harper were busy betting a case of beer on the U.S.-Canada men’s Olympics hockey semifinal game on last Friday, one Chicago billboard company was making the gutsiest bet of all time with Canada.

According to CBS news, the billboard, owned by Skokie-based freight broker Command Transportation, said that the loser of the highly anticipated contest “keeps (Justin) Bieber.” The pop star was born in Canada but resides in the States. After America’s loss on Friday, the company quickly admitted to making the “worst bet ever,” and put a photo of a bald eagle with a “Belieber” gold chain around its neck for good measure.

However, even though the Team USA lost the game and President Obama owes two cases of beer to Canada PM Harper, the two country connects even tighter through the fast-reacting media, especially social media like Twitter, and I am sure the Team USA would do a better job if knew the bet earlier.

New Wave of China Power

Apple’s iPhone 5S and 5C officially went on sale on China Mobile, the world’s largest carrier. Even though it already has 1.2m pre-orders, something even more exciting is happening in China.

Xiaomi Inc., the startup that has rattled China’s smartphone market with its fast-selling handsets, is looking to tap its international fan base for help as it tries to expand abroad, according to its new American executive.

Last year, Xiaomi Global hired their Vice President Hugo Barra, the former Google Inc. official who joined the Chinese company in October, said the smartphone maker—which in recent months began selling phones in Hong Kong and Taiwan—will likely next begin sales in Southeast Asia, though he didn’t give a time frame.

Xiaomi plans to make use of its fans in other markets to popularize its phones and overcome language and border barriers, Mr. Barra said. “We have fans everywhere,” Mr. Barra said in an interview, his first with foreign media in China. “We’re on a mission. We want to have an impact in the world.”

Started in 2010 by Chinese entrepreneur Lei Jun, closely held Xiaomi sells high-end phones for prices close to cost. Its flagship Mi 3 phone costs $326, less than half the price of top models from Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. Xiaomi, which is worth $10 billion according to its most recent round of fundraising, expects to sell about 20 million handsets in 2013.

It is fascinating to see another growing power in China. We’ll see how Hugo Barra could help this China-based technology company going global.

Shirley Temple, Actress and Diplomat, Dies at 85

Shirley TEMPLE

Shirley Temple, who charmed the nation as a child movie star in the 1930s and went on to become one of the nation’s diplomats in posts that included ambassador to Czechoslovakia during the Cold War, has died yesterday at 85.

The Associated Press illustrates that publicist Cheryl Kagan says Shirley Temple Black died late Monday evening at her home near San Francisco. Kagan tells the AP that Temple’s family and caregivers were with her.

In a statement, the family says:

“We salute her for a life of remarkable achievements as an actor, as a diplomat, and most importantly as our beloved mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and adored wife for fifty-five years of the late and much missed Charles Alden Black.”

The BBC also adds, “The actress found fame as a young girl in the 1930s in films like Bright Eyes, Stand Up and Cheer and Curly Top”. “After retiring from films in 1950 at the age of 21, Temple returned to the public eye as a Republican candidate for Congress and as a U.S. diplomat.”

She remained a cultural icon for decades after stepping down from the silver screen. She later received two lifetime achievement awards for her performing career.

In 1972, Shirley Temple successfully battled breast cancer. Funeral arrangements are pending. A remembrance guest book will be set up online at

News consulted:

China’s Panda Diplomacy

Giant panda bear cub Bao Bao moves around inside the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park January 6, 2014 in Washington, DC Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

China is famous for its pandas. But there are actually quite a few pandas in the United States if you’d like to see them, especially a new baby was just born at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. in last August and the baby girl looks like she is getting the right kind of love and attention across the whole nation; however, most of them don’treally live here, at least not permanently. They are on extended vacations of sorts, since China still holds their ownership as part of a lucrative panda lending program.

The newest baby panda cub at the National Zoo in Washington named Bao Bao (means baby). Prior to the new baby, her mother Mei Xiang and her mate Tian Tian had a son named Tai Shan in 2005.  He was the first panda cub born in the U.S. to survive more than a few days and Tai Shan became a crowd favorite. The original agreement between the U.S. and China was supposed to send Tai Shan back to China in 2007, when he was 2 years old.  However, the public requested more time with the little guy and China agreed to extend Tai Shan’s stay for another two years, which allowed him to live in the U.S., when George W. Bush went to China for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

In July 2009, Tai Shan’s trip was extended for another six months, by chance or intentionally, when Barack Obama visited China for the first time after he became president.

In January 2010, the two countries finally agreed that Tai Shan would ship off to his motherland before the Chinese New Year. Once again the public tried to keep the little panda in Washington, but the Chinese government eventually recalled Tai Shan, right after the White House spokesman announced that president Obama is going to meet with the Dalai Lama.

Over the past 30 years, panda has always been worked as the most effective diplomat for China in the global market, especially when dealing with the U.S. Certainly, as the new baby is getting the national wide attention, one can tell from Tai Shan’s journey that the new baby is going to give us something more than entertaining, instead, a deep insight forecast on US-China relations.

Confucius Institutes and China’s Soft Power

As a part of an on-going public diplomacy, I am very interested in how China’s Confucius Institutes sanitizing China’s image abroad, promoting its “soft power” globally.

According to the official announcement, Confucius Institutes are described as non-profit public institutions aligned with the government of the People’s Republic of China whose purpose is to promote Chinese language and culture, as well as facilitate cultural exchanges. This seemingly benign purpose leaves out a number of purposes both salient and sinister, namely, sanitizing China’s image abroad, promoting its “soft power” globally, and creating a new generation of China watchers who well-disposed towards the Communist dictatorship.

Other countries like France’s Alliance Francaises, Spain’s Instituto Cervantes, or Germany’s Goethe Institut also promoting their soft power in this way, by maintain their presence within established universities and exercise of control on the class curriculum. However, the mainstream media has been paying close attention to this controversy over the past two years, remarkably right after the U.S. State Department complicated visa extension for Confucius Institute teachers in 2012.

While the Confucius Institutes are sometimes compared to France’s Alliance Francaise and Germany’s Goethe-Institut, this is misleading. Unlike the other two, Confucius Institutes are neither independent from their government, nor are do they occupy their own interests. Instead, they are located within well-established universities and colleges around the world, and are directed and funded by the Office of Chinese Language Council International (Hanban), based in Beijing, which answers in turn to the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China and, chiefly, to the United Front Work Department of the Chinese Communist Party. In fact, the Chairman of the Confucius Institute is none other than Liu Yandong, who served as the head of the United Front Work Department from 2002 to 2007.

The United Front Work Department is aimed of subversion, cooption and control. During the Communist revolution, it subverted and coopted a number of other political parties, such as the Chinese Socialist Party, into serving the interests of the Communist Party. After the establishment of the PRC, it continued to control these parties, which were allowed to exist on sufferance, albeit as hollow shells, to create the illusion of “democracy” in China. That it has de facto control over the Hanban suggests, more strongly than anything else, what one of the chief purposes of the Confucius Institutes are, namely, to subvert, coopt, and ultimately control Western academic discourse on matters pertaining to China.

Objections to particular Confucius Institutes have also emerged. For example, in 2010, 174 University of Chicago faculty members signed a letter that, among other things, objected to the establishment of a Confucius Institute in absence of Faculty Senate approval. The letter described the institute as “an academically and politically ambiguous initiative sponsored by the government of the People’s Republic of China,” and asserted that, “Proceeding without due care to ensure the institute’s academic integrity, [the administration] has risked having the university’s reputation legitimate the spread of such Confucius Institutes in this country and beyond.”