All posts by monikayoung

Transforming US-Cuban relationships through interaction

cuba

In his article “The Relational Paradigm and Sustained Dialogue,” Harold Saunders speaks of the importance of “continuous interaction” in transforming the United States’ relationships with even “distant hostile” countries. His “relational paradigm” assumes that politics are based on open-ended, cumulative, and multi-level interactions between the “body politic” of two countries (including citizens in and out of official institutions). An example of how the United States’ relationship with one officially very “hostile” neighbor is being transformed through these sorts of “continuous interactions” is described in this Boston Globe article about recent US-Cuba relations:http://www.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2014/04/20/cuba-and-united-states-are-warily-slowly-thawing-relations/LDEqbKk2hkk4cVn22PuYDO/story.html

The article discusses how, through the “US interests section” in Havana, US and Cuban diplomats and experts are working quietly behind the scenesto cooperate on a range of issues, including combatting human trafficking, improving airline safety, and working on joint public health and environmental efforts. At the same time, American visits to Cuba have increased rapidly, and Americans are now the second largest nationality to visit the island, after Canadians.  Nearly 500,000 Cuban Americans visited last year (thanks to relaxed restrictions on their travel in 2009), as well as another 100,000 visitors on State Department sponsored cultural and educational exchanges. And a surprise announcement by the Cuban government last year that its citizens will now be allowed to apply to travel outside their country means that this exchange could become a two-way street. Despite the continued official hardline of the State Department on Cuba, these sorts of exchanges and cooperation are giving hope to many that relations are experiencing a thaw.

China’s “Panda Diplomacy” and China-EU relations

giant-panda

Just in time for our week of readings focusing on Chinese Public diplomacy efforts comes the first visit of a Chinese leader, President Xi Jingping, to European Union institutions in Brussels! Originally for this blog post, I wanted to focus on the Melisson and Cross piece for the Clingendael Institute about how the EU can address its own PD dilemma, but I’ll have to save that for later, because I ran across this priceless article that I think perfectly illustrates China’s “charm offensive” approach to Public Diplomacy: http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20140331/world/China-s-panda-diplomacy-to-ease-EU-talks.512925

Two pandas (Xing Hui and Hao Hao) are being used as official envoys for China; they were sent to visit a Belgian zoo a month ahead of Xi’s visit, partly in order to send a message to the EU that China is willing to take a less confrontational stance on trade issues and ready to resolve trade disputes. One of the top items of President Xi’s agenda in Europe is pushing the EU to consider a massive free-trade deal with China. Interestingly, the visit of the two furry ambassadors has had some unintended diplomatic consequences; it has irritated long standing regional rivalries in Belgium. The pandas are being housed in a zoo in the French-speaking region of Wallonia (hometown of Belgian PM Elio di Rupo), which has angered the largest zoo in the country, located in Dutch-speaking Flanders, and caused separatist Flanders politician Bart de Waver to show up on a TV talk show dressed as a panda! http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/china-s-xi-seeks-win-win/1054644.html

It remains to be seen whether Xi’s desire to show a softer, fuzzier side of China to the EU will have its intended effect: it’s being reported that most of the EU member states have resisted Chinese pressure to include references to a joint-trade pact in the joint statement that will be released after Xi’s visit with leaders in Brussels.

 

Canada’s ‘Environmentally Friendly’ Brand in Jeopardy?

http://www.desmog.ca/2014/01/14/harper-government-hires-international-firm-22-million-ad-campaign-promoting-oilsands

tarsands

In Evan Potter’s article on Canadian public diplomacy, he mentions that a large part of Canada’s “warm…fuzzy” international brand is its image of being “an environmentally friendly country”. According to the Canadian opposition party (NDP) House leader Nathan Cullen, this brand is being damaged under Stephen Harper’s Conservative government and its various controversial energy projects, including tar oil sands and the proposed Keystone XL pipeline to the United States. Perhaps in an effort to counter this damage, Harper’s government has rolledout a 22 billion dollar international ad campaign that blurs the line between public diplomacy and pure PR. The ads promote Canadian energy as an environmentally friendly, morally palatable alternative for the U.S. and Europe. These ads have been highly visible in DC metro stops since January. Although they tout Canada’s reputation of environmental friendliness, it seems doubtful that the campaign will do anything to dissuade the well-informed environmentalists who oppose the Keystone XL pipeline and the tar sands. I am not even sure if it will have any positive effect on the average American citizen who may know or care little about environmental issues. My own personal, immediate reaction was that the ads seemed propagandist and slightly desperate. In fact, they actually did a bit to damage my normally very positive image of Canada. There has to be a better way for Canadian PD to communicate and engage American publics about these sensitive but crucial issues, without, in the words of Nathan Cullen, engaging in “green-washing” about its damaged reputation as an environmentally conscious nation.

The Netherlands and ‘transformational PD’

levee-storm-3

During my practicum team’s recent research-gathering trip to The Hague, Netherlands over Spring Break, we visited the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and spoke to Marisa Witte, a policy officer of Public Diplomacy there. Although in the context of our research project, we were disappointed and surprised that PD in the Netherlands greatly downplays the role of student exchanges and cultural programming (to the point that they are not handled by the PD department at all), in retrospect and in light of the readings on transformational diplomacy, I realized how much the focused, practical approach to PD that the Netherlands currently takes fits into this theoretical concept. In his article “Rethinking advocacy for the globalisation age,” Daryl Copeland expresses his hope that transformational Public Diplomacy can be used not only to bridge cultural divides, but also to address the pressing global problems facing the world, including those of “environmental degradation”; the Netherlands is doing just that with its PD efforts to promote Dutch knowledge in the areas of water management. Ms. Witte explained to us how the Dutch foreign ministry has been doing work linking and promoting Dutch experts in water management with needs in similarly low-lying regions such as post-Katrina New Orleans. Because of this ‘seeding,’ the Dutch expertise in this area is now recognized to such an extent that after Hurricane Sandy in New York, Dutch experts were immediately some of the first people contacted in order to give advice. With the increase of global warming, this type of practical, direct, and transformational public diplomacy seems like a logical step for a small country that wants to make a positive impact on a global scale.

Hip Hop Diplomacy

In Arendt’s article this week about the value of cultural diplomats, he talks about the special set of tools these diplomats have when arranging cultural programming and knowing exactly what kind of people, artists, students, etc… to engage to make the most impact. Nick Cull’s Huffington Post article focuses on  three aspects of resurgent cultural diplomacy (especially through music): “the prestige gift”,  “cultural information”, and “dialogue and collaboration”.

I thought of these articles when reading this interview with Toni Blackman, the State Department’s first “hip hop ambassador”: http://www.forbes.com/sites/ruthblatt/2014/02/26/hip-hop-puts-america-in-a-good-light-through-the-state-departments-cultural-ambassador-program/

Since 2001, Blackman has been on assignment doing workshops, lectures, teaching master classes, performing concerts and collaborating and recording with local artists. In this way, her function fulfills all three of Cull’s criteria for successful cultural diplomacy: it can be considered both “a prestige gift” and  “cultural information”, as it brings light to one of the United States’ best known vernacular music traditions, and also, through her work with local hip-hop artists, it provides opportunity for “dialogue and collaboration.”

Hip-hop is uniquely positioned to be successful in public diplomacy efforts since, as Blackman explains, it is “accessible. You can create hip hop with a pencil and a pen on a desk or you don’t even need that you can beat box with your mouth and create a drum track.” This ease of creation, and the way it can be used in any language to express a range of emotions and social concerns, makes hip-hop a particularly universal tool.

One of the most powerful examples of cultural diplomacy working towards change that Blackman talks about is an assignment she undertook in the Congo, where she did an artist in residence workshop with local hip hop artists, male and female, and then collaborated on a public service announcement to end violence against women. In an example of the sort of give-and-take and collaboration that should ideally be part of more cultural diplomacy efforts, Blackman paired up with a Congolese hip-hop leader to facilitate the workshop and the project.

You can find the resulting video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=coIkYlzQlNY

The “world’s best loved country?” South Korea: public diplomacy in the service of like-ability or national interests?

hallyu

Last week, during the beginning of our discussion on soft power, there was an interesting debate on the extents of the effectiveness of this power. Questions were raised about the uses of public diplomacy/cultural diplomacy: should their effectiveness be measured by their ability to further national interests? Or is the diffusion of a nation’s soft power internationally, even when it is not backed by a specific, strategic plan, always something good for that nation in and of itself? Although our discussion revolved around the disconnect between the “hard power” and “soft power” efforts of great powers like the United States, I found myself thinking about it again in the context of middle powers when reading the article for this week on the Korean/Hallyu Wave by Wu-Suk Cho.

Cho lauds his country, with good reason, for the sustainability and universality of its cultural exports (ranging from kpop to TV dramas to food to rising interest in the Korean language). Cho mentions the wide global spread of the Hallyu Wave: Korean dramas are particularly popular in Southeast Asia, India, China, Latin America, and Eastern Europe. In a Nippon.com article on a recent symposium on soft power in East Asia, Kwong Yongseok, a Korean professor teaching in Japan, claims that South Korea is “aiming, through its public diplomacy, to become the world’s best loved country.” (http://www.nippon.com/en/features/c00721/)

This raises a question: is being “liked” an adequate goal of public diplomacy? It seems interesting that in many of the  countries mentioned by Cho where Hallyu has become popular (besides China),  South Korea, as a middle power, seems to have less national interests at play (for example, in Latin American or Eastern European countries). On the other hand, Ogura Kazuo (former Japanese ambassador to France) believes that in Japan, a country with which South Korea has ongoing national security issues, the influence of South Korean pop culture has faded recently, as historical tensions have come to the fore. Kazuo believes that while cultural, knowledge, and material exchange has increased dramatically between South Korea, Japan, and China, favorable views of each other have not increased. He believes that an abundance of “national sentiment” and historical distrust (especially of China and South Korea vis-a-vis Japan) between the countries has neutralized some PD efforts, and created a domestic atmosphere that makes politicians unwilling to enter into “negotiations to improve relations.”

In an article on Korea’s PD efforts on the USC Center for Public Diplomacy blog, Philip Seib also advocates for a harder line use of PD in which “being ‘liked’ is secondary to goals grounded in global and regional realpolitik.” (http://uscpublicdiplomacy.org/index.php/newswire/cpdblog_detail/korea_is_redefining_its_role_in_public_diplomacy/) He believes that South Korea would do well to present itself in contrast to China as a leader in the East Asian region by emphasizing the cultural, intellectual and political freedoms enjoyed by its citizens. He believes that the high visibility of Korean cultural products on social media such as YouTube can be used to point to this freedom, but that the quantity of these products means little “unless there is a strategy behind it.” At the end of his article, Cho makes a similar argument, calling for the intervention of government and diplomatic officials to make a “long-term strategic plan” for the Korean wave.

Finally, discussing the places where Korean PD has fallen short, Kwong bemoans the sometimes egocentrism of Korea’s efforts to promote its culture abroad. He believes that in the future, PD efforts should transition to “learning more about other cultures.” On this topic, it is interesting to note that a few days ago, a South Korean publisher,  RH Korea Inc, launched the first comprehensive Korean magazine on Japanese culture, called Boon. (http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0001010161, http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/02/07/national/south-korean-publisher-defies-strains-issues-japanese-culture-magazine/#.UwJdS7R0p8s) The editorial team of the magazine insist that the magazine is even more necessary because of the recent bilateral tensions between the two countries, with the editor-in-chief, Oh Sok-chul, claiming that if people are steady in their enjoyment of another country’s culture, they will be less “shaken” by political problems with that country.

What makes regional public diplomacy efforts a success?

hawaiiI first thought I was going to write something on a public diplomacy effort of a “supra-national” actor, the European Union, but as I started looking around for interesting articles, I came across this Huffington Post article about the “sub-national” public and cultural diplomacy efforts of the U.S. State of Hawaii: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-rockower/aloha-diplomacy-hawaiian-_b_4633759.html. I find the interest of “paradiplomacy,” or diplomatic relations carried out by sub-national actors, such as regions, states, and cities, to be of particular interest because often times it seems as if they have a greater chance for success than public diplomacy campaigns carried out by nations. I believe this is probably true for two reasons: 1) the scope and aims of public diplomacy campaigns by regions and cities are often smaller and better defined than those of nation-states: usually, to increase exports of their goods and to promote tourism, and 2) the campaigns are possibly less controversial because they are not tied, as nation-states’ public diplomacy often is, to overall foreign policy goals and especially military measures.

It remains to be seen what makes particular regional public diplomacy efforts such a success? In Paul Rockower’s article, he describes the exciting success of a tour around Brazil (sponsored by the State Department) of a Hawaiian slide guitar expert and hula master. Unsurprisingly, the unique music and dance of Hawaii and its so-called “spirit of Aloha” were much appreciated by Brazilians, according to the author. He goes on to list various other countries where he believes Hawaiian public diplomacy efforts would be successful, especially in East Asia, where Hawaii is benefitted by its already existent cultural ties, especially to Japan. However, as the author points out, Hawaii already is “blessed” with “the most distinctive brand in the” USA. This begs the question of what exactly could be the aims of Hawaii in embarking on public diplomacy campaigns? To attract more foreign tourist dollars? (The reasoning is not discussed by the author). It might be too easy to look at the case of public diplomacy of an already wildly popular and well-known place such as Hawaii, and conclude that international public diplomacy campaigns are a good idea for all sub-national actors.

Much of the discussion of public paradiplomacy focuses on large municipalities, especially on cities who work to improve their brand in order to attract high profile events, such as the Olympics and the World Cup. In some cases, this city diplomacy is used as a way primarily promote the national brand, as typified in the case of the public/cultural blitz surrounding the Beijing Olympics, which functioned more to soften and expand international views of China and the CCP (http://uscpublicdiplomacy.org/index.php/newswire/media_monitor_reports_detail/public_diplomacy_and_the_beijing_olympics_narratives_and_counter_narratives/). On the other hand, in the case of the London 2012 Olympics, the city government’s efforts to promote “green public diplomacy” (by promising to be the “greenest” Olympics yet) actually allowed the city to leverage this diplomacy in order to implement green initiatives and infrastructure in actual practice. In this case, the public diplomacy campaigns allowed and promoted by the city’s media because of the Olympics actually allowed it to make substantive changes at home, not just in the hearts and minds of people abroad (http://www.academia.edu/3058677/World_Politics_by_Other_Means_London_City_Diplomacy_and_the_Olympics). Finally, sometimes sub-national public diplomacy and branding campaigns can be seen as promoting an image contrasting the nation’s brand, as could be argued is the case with the city of Barcelona, which presents itself outside of the Spanish cultural brand (http://placesbrands.com/city-diplomacy-a-new-alternative-to-branding/).