All posts by pipersloan

Public Diplomacy and Nation Branding in Japan

I found an interesting article in the Japan Times’ Opinion Section entitled “Japan’s ‘brand’ as good as the people behind it.” In this article, Nancy Snow explains the importance of Japanese public diplomacy and nation branding, particularly in light of the 2020 Olympics which will be held in Tokyo. She talks about the establishment of the Japan Brand Fund, which was created with the goal of enhancing and promoting Japan’s unique cultural specificities by funding Japanese business opportunities overseas. Snow stresses the importance of PD efforts at the individual, people-to-people level, in both the formal and informal spectra. Specifically, Snow argues that in this day and age, it is crucial to include and take into account the prevalence of social media as tools for diplomacy.

According to the Ogawa article, the notion of public diplomacy in Japan has in recent years developed and expanded significantly, and has been utilized “as a tool for strategies of diplomacy, cultural promotion, trade, tourism and urban planning” (p. 270). The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and the Japan Foundation are tasked with furthering Japan’s diplomacy programs and endeavors; specifically, promoting Japanese culture and values abroad, as well as the Japanese language and studies, people-to-people exchanges, and the strengthening of foreign relations (p. 270-271). Ogawa states that MOFA had historically separated the realms of culture and PR; however, with the various reforms that were put in place in 2004, they are now treated concurrently, and culture has become a more intrinsic part of Japan’s diplomacy programs.

This highlights an important point in the Ogoura article, which is that Japanese society has undergone multiple and continuing transformations in recent decades and this has undeniably affected its role on the global scale.  Therefore, Ogoura maintains that Japan’s PD efforts are closely related to its cultural diplomacy since its image abroad is often linked to “Japan’s own culture or national identity.”

Finally, Ogawa’s article reveals an interesting dynamic of Japanese public diplomacy: its strategies for engagement and the furthering of relations with the Middle East. Ogawa explains that the main goal of Japan’s PD efforts in the region is to differentiate itself from Western diplomacy efforts there, and to encourage “intellectual exchange; support for cultural promotion in the Middle East; and promotion of better understanding of the Middle East among the Japanese” (p 280).

International Student Exchanges and Diplomacy

For this week’s blogging assignment, I have decided to delve into the realm of international education and exchanges, and how they relate to public and cultural diplomacy. Not only am I going to be studying educational exchanges as part of my group project this semester, but I also feel a personal connection to the topic, as I spent close to seven months interning for NAFSA: Association of International Educators.

The New York Times posted an article entitled “Helping Foreign Students Thrive on U.S. Campuses” a couple of days ago which deals with the shift that has occurred with respect to foreign students studying in the United States (Fischer, K. (2014). Helping Foreign Students Thrive on U.S. Campuses. New York Times: Americas: International Education. Retrieved from  Fischer explains that the emphasis has gone from recruiting international students to focusing on the actual needs and experiences of the students while they are studying in the U.S.

Fischer argues that there is not a lot of information or studies available that delve into international student retention and fulfillment. However, she cites that this is slowly changing, and reveals the results of a recent study conducted by Mr. C.K. Kwai, director of international programs at the University of Maine at Orono. One of the interesting elements Mr. Kwai found in his study was that on-campus employment usually led to higher retention rates, which implies that international students may feel more invested and integrated within the university by working on its campus.

Fischer states that NAFSA is currently partnering with World Education Services (both are nonprofit international education organizations) in order to conduct a nationwide study on the factors which are associated with the retention of foreign students and the success of their study abroad experiences. The results will be released at some point this year, and I look forward to reading the study and seeing what they have found on the subject.

Fischer also claims that most universities are not equipped or properly trained to address the needs of international students once they actually arrive and begin studying at their institution. It is extremely important that the needs and wants of the international students be met. David L. Di Maria, director of international programs and services at Kent State University, rightfully stated that “The best recruitment strategy is a good retention strategy” (Fischer).

International education exchanges have become increasingly important in today’s globalized and interdependent arena. From the theoretical knowledge I have gained from taking cross-cultural communication classes here at AU, as well as with my firsthand experience interning for NAFSA, I strongly believe that international education is an intrinsic part of cultural and public diplomacy, and should be treated as such.

Richard T. Arndt states that cultural diplomacy begins “[…] when a nation-state steps in and tries to manage, to whatever extent it can, this natural two-way cultural flow so as better to advance national interests, preferably on both sides of borders” (Arndt, R.T. (2010). The Hush-Hush Debate: The Cultural Foundations of U.S. Public Retrieved from Blackboard). One way to achieve this type of cultural exchange and collaboration is by pursuing international educational exchanges. This can help promote respect, understanding and communication among citizens from different national and cultural backgrounds – which in my opinion is an important component of diplomacy itself.

Nick Cull explains that cultural diplomacy is a form of public diplomacy, “[…] one method by which an international actor may conduct its foreign policy through engaging in a foreign public” (Cull, N. (2010). Jamming for Uncle Sam: Getting the Best From Cultural Diplomacy. Huffington Post: Arts & Culture. Retrieved from Blackboard). As I mentioned in class when I was leading the discussion on Pamments’ “Perspectives on the new public diplomacy,” cultural diplomacy can be distinguished from public diplomacy for many reasons, one of which is that, as Cull reiterates, cultural diplomacy has more long-term goals and endeavors.

As a final thought, one of my tasks at NAFSA was to listen to webinars on various issues related to international education, and verify that there were no typos in any written courses or textbooks. One of the webinars I found most interesting was on Chinese students in the United States, and how to integrate them within the university, both academically and culturally. This is a topic I’m extremely interested in, and one I look forward to learning more about as I pursue a career in diplomacy.


Learning foreign languages – an important part of PD

The USC Center on Public Diplomacy published an interesting blog post by Sharon Hudson-Dean entitled “Improving the ‘art’ of diplomacy with foreign languages.”

In her post, Hudson-Dean argues that foreign diplomacy is all the more effective when the diplomats engaging with foreign nations are able to speak and understand their language. She explains that the State Department is set apart from other foreign ministries across the globe, because U.S. diplomats within State’s FSI (Foreign Service Institute) spend many hours a day studying foreign languages and cultures (Hudson-Dean 2014).

In the title of her post, Hudson-Dean calls diplomacy an “art.” In order to be successful, diplomats must be as prepared as possible, and be able to demonstrate “cultural acuity” (Hudson-Dean 2014). To become knowledgeable and well-aware of the cultural specificities of a nation, it is not enough to simply study that country from afar. First-hand experience is crucial, and that experience can only be enhanced when diplomats are proficient in that nation’s language. It can be difficult to engage with foreign nations and members of a foreign society without being able to communicate effectively. Hudson-Dean highlights the example of American diplomats in Kyiv, who meet with the country’s leaders by speaking to them directly in Ukrainian and Russian (Hudson-Dean 2014). This is an important tool in the U.S.’ foreign policy with respect to Ukraine, particularly in light of this European nation’s recent and ongoing struggles.

At the end of her post, Hudson-Dean shares a very important quote by Nelson Mandela: “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart” (Hudson-Dean 2014). These words are extremely relevant in the realm of public and foreign diplomacy. Engaging with foreign nations in their own language demonstrates that the United States and its diplomats have a keen interest in that country. It shows that their nation and language are worthy enough to warrant the time and dedication U.S. diplomats and leaders take in order to successfully and respectfully interact with foreign nations. Moreover, having the ability to communicate with foreign officials and members of the public can only enhance the probability for success in any diplomatic endeavor, as both linguistic and cultural misunderstandings can be avoided.

I have taken many cross-cultural communication classes here at AU throughout both my undergraduate and graduate studies, and I have learned that culture is quintessential and inevitably comes into play when nations come into contact and engage with one another. Understanding a nation’s cultural context is crucial to achieving successful diplomacy abroad, and learning to speak the language is an important part of the equation.

In his chapter “Culture and Constructivism,” Van Ham explains the notions of constructivism and social power, and how they relate to international politics and relations. He defines social power as “[…] the capacity to produce, shape, and influence the motives, attitudes, roles, and interests of actors in international politics (by non-coercive means)” (Van Ham 47). Social power is similar to Joseph Nye’s soft power, in the sense that both are means of influence and persuasion that can be achieved without the use of coercion. A crucial component in the pursuit of effective social power is the knowledge and understanding of a nation’s culture, as mentioned above. According to Van Ham, “[…] culture is the central prism through which “reality” acquires meaning [and is] constructed, and hence is implicated with economic and political interest and motivations” (Van Ham 47). As Van Ham argues, culture transcends all boundaries, and inevitably comes into play in all realms of influence, including politics and economics.

Safety at the Olympic Games

This is the link to a piece written by Micah Zenko, which appeared on the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR) website.

Zenko reveals the obstacles and lack of cooperation between the United States and Russia in ensuring safety and protection at the upcoming Olympics in Sochi, in the face of terrorist threats made by Chechen militant groups. The lack of cooperation between both nations stems from what Zenko describes as “the reciprocal distrust between Russia and U.S. counterterrorism and intelligence agencies.”

The article explains that Russia and the United States are both reluctant and unwilling to provide certain information or intelligence which could help stop terrorist attacks, such as jamming technology which would disable radio-signal car bombs, because both nations fear that any information they provide could be used against them by the other.   Clearly, this is an issue that policymakers on both sides need to consider and a greater level of cooperation must be reached in order to keep people safe.

In his second chapter, Pamment delves into the realm of public diplomacy by studying its historical role as well as its future in an age of globalization and interdependence among nations, transnational organizations, and other non-state actors. Pamment argues that cooperation amongst these entities is extremely important, particularly in the case of international security. He states: “Concerns to international security such as terrorism and climate change demand multilateral action through coalitions of like-minded nations and transnational groups” (p. 28).   

How should US policymakers proceed in ensuring the safety of Americans who will be in Sochi for the Olympics, without compromising vital intelligence? Americans, both athletes and tourists traveling to Russia, are encouraged to not display signs of being American (Olympians are told to not wear their US team jackets out in public, for example). What else has been put in place, or should be done, in order to ensure people’s safety? Should transnational organizations get involved in this issue, with the idea that safety and security are the quintessential elements to consider? I am interested to hear what you all think!