This week I’ll focus my efforts on two articles that addressed public diplomatic efforts during last year’s U.S. government shutdown. Earlier in the semester we read an article that framed the U.S. government shutdown as favorable to diplomatic efforts in China. Some of the bloggers in China viewed the U.S. shutdown as government transparency and the result of a free and democratic society controlling the government instead of vice versa. Here’s the post if you’re interesting in reading more.
However, Max Fisher, a journalist for the Washington Post, had a different take on how Asia and China viewed the fallout of the shutdown. Fisher viewed it as just another setback in America’s proposed Pivot to the Pacific. Since Obama was embroiled in congressional molasses, he wasn’t able to give his full attention to wooing Asian partners. Thus, many Asian countries are being pulled closer and closer to China’s orbit believing that America can’t be counted on for the long haul.
This has been a problem in America’s foreign policy toward eastern cultures for a long time. U.S. diplomats often entice the East with promises of capitalism, free-trade and economic benefits if they align themselves with the West. However, business propositions never trump relationships in this part of the world. Foolishly, Americans believe good business savvy trumps relationship building worldwide. Slowly, America is beginning to recognize that China’s regional influence is a combination of proximity, relationship building and economic stimulus.
The article by Rausch and Murtaugh, illustrates the importance of building relationships in politics. Though the U.S. Institute for Peace workers were in Libya working on Justice and Security while the U.S. government was being shutdown, they found similarities between the two countries. Every citizen wants the feeling of ownership during the diplomatic process. How can the U.S. stress the importance of citizens participating in government when their own government shuts down? Well, the USIP workers found common ground to create a useful dialogue about the realities of democracy.
In these two articles, there were two different takeaways from the fallout of the government shutdown. Overall, however, the shutdown didn’t help U.S. foreign policy and created a hurdle for U.S. public diplomacy efforts. We’ll see if we can recover or if our competitors truly gained an advantage.
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.
Yul Sohn in the “Middle Powers” article discusses network power as the ability to “utilize network position and convening capability to offset military and economic disadvantages.” The article provides the growing BRICS countries as an example of middle powers rise to prominence through their lateral networking. I bring this up as I intend to discuss particular relations between China and African nations, such as South Africa who has continued to invest in Chinese enterprises. Joseph Nye’s concept of “soft power” refers to the use of a nation’s culture, political values, and foreign policies as resources of expanding diplomatic influence. This type of influence for favorable foreign policy changes is highly evident across world regions today as technology allows diplomatic relations to be conducted across distances in real time, bringing about new international coalitions. Nicholas Cull, in “Bulging Ideas” suggests the synthesis approach of “smart power” wherein a “foreign policy integrates hard and soft power.” I believe these concepts from this week’s reading are both mutually inclusive and help to perpetuate one another. For example, network and soft power can be integral parts of a smart power strategy. As
A current and robust example of this strategic diplomacy is displayed by the continually increasingly Chinese FDI’s in African economies, which has reached over 3.4 billion US dollars. According to the Tanzania Daily News, African countries see China’s growing economy as a “win-win trade operation” which has allowed countries such as Mali, Ethiopia, Uganda, and more to enjoy an “extended value chain” to offset the unfavorable conditions of these nations. Sino-African trade levels, based largely off increased “agro-goods” exports from Africa, continue to solidify China’s position as Africa’s greatest trade partner. Tourism has also been an important form of diplomacy. For example, Chinese FDI’s in Tanzania targeted at “manufacturing and processing sectors” aims to promote infrastructural changes in order to provide easier travel through better tourism facilities, such as direct flights. China’s efforts in Africa speak directly to the earlier discussion on smart power strategies and a synthesis of hard and soft powers in order to influence foreign policy. African countries such as South Africa and Nigeria are now increasingly making reciprocal investments in Chinese enterprises. China saw opportunity for economic and political influence in these African nations, and with the use of soft power initiatives that in turn bolster China’s national identity in Africa, these ties continue to strengthen.
According to a recent article in the NY Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/31/nyregion/a-push-for-french-in-new-york-schools-from-france.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&smid=tw-nytimes&_r=0), Spanish and Chinese are the most popular second languages to take up in the United States. Bilingual French programs have taken off in New York City schools. The French government actually spearheaded these programs, which are located in several schools in Brooklyn and Manhattan. However, recent strains on the French governments’ budget has caused them to find other ways to fund these programs. Now, New Yorkers are providing private donations and starting fund-raising campaigns to keep these programs alive. Many people can argue that learning French as a second language is losing its allure and usefulness. If that is so, why has it taken off in this small group of NYC schools.
This form of public diplomacy directed by the French government is actually quite good. Somehow, they have increased the popularity of French in the biggest city in the United States. By introducing children to French at a young age, they are sharing French culture and reinforcing it’s economic and political ties with people of the United States at a time when Americans have pivoted to Asia. Furthermore, they have gotten the parents and students in the area so excited about it, that the government no longer has to foot a big part of the bill. Parents are fighting to get their children enrolled and raising millions of dollars in an effort to bring more of the French immersion programs to schools in their neighborhood. Although the quest for donations are targeted at more affluent families, the program wants to expand into less affluent neighborhoods and schools as well.
I’m not sure if there is a desire for similar programs such as this all over the country, but I can’t help but think that location is what is making these French bilingual programs popular. New York City is a hub for immigrants and many non-native English speakers reside there. The families and children of these families who are enrolled in this program are exposed to multiculturalism every day. If you aren’t a French speaker, and you live in a neighborhood with an authentic French restaurant, owned and operated by native French speakers, on every street corner; or come into contact with people from Haiti or parts of West Africa, your interest in French would likely be higher than someone in say South Carolina. In my opinion, in order for cultural public diplomacy initiatives to work, their has to be some sort of interest or advantage to the person in which the program is targeted. Kids who learn French in New York City will not only have more jobs opportunities one day, but they will be able to communicate with the native French speakers they come into contact with everyday. I think France has done well in boosting the popularity of a dying second language in the United States, however, I’m unsure of it’s potential success in other regions of the country.
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 BaoBao (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.
Last week I submitted a comment briefly centering on Taiwan’s complicated history and how it affects its current PD strategies, and this week I’ll focus on the efficacy of China’s current public diplomacy attempts (yes, yet another blog piece about China). I hope not to pigeonhole myself into writing solely about these two interconnected though distinct nations, but comparing and contrasting the nature of their PD strategies offer salient points for understanding the core values of public diplomacy.
Recently it was through reading this article as well as having a few conversations with other like-minded individuals that enlightened me to recognizing another face of public diplomacy. Last week we discussed sparingly about the differences, if any, between public diplomacy and propaganda. Although I still stand by my assertion that they are essentially one and the same in their basic goal of disseminating information with the goal of influencing decision-making processes, I also recognized the similarities between public diplomacy and marketing strategies. Both attempt to sell an image or brand to be consumed by target audiences.
As the article I linked to mentioned, understanding PD from this interpretation can explain why China constantly experiences failures with its soft power initiatives. China has attempted in recent years to convincing the world, especially the West, that it is committed to peacefully integrating itself into the current world order as it rises in economic power and political clout. But every soft power effort is undermined by aggressive tactics like naval confrontations in the South China Sea / Senkaku Islands and the recent ADIZ announcement (not to mention petty actions including their paltry aid contributions to the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan as punishment for South China Sea conflicts). Thus consumers have a difficult time separating the image of China as an aggressive, authoritarian state from that portrayed in their soft power efforts as a peaceful nation, which is why consumers are so reluctant to embrace this peaceful image of China. As the article also mentions, China does not help itself through its heavy censuring and control of any information released internationally as well as inability to target its core audience (Millenials) due to blocking of integral social media sites like Facebook.
Although I do apologize for contributing yet another piece about China, it really should attract a good majority of our focus as students of public diplomacy because both it and Taiwan offer strong, relevant case studies in how countries struggle with separating their hard power images from their public diplomacy efforts, how public diplomacy strategies are evolving in this Age of Technology, and what constitutes the basic core of each nation’s public diplomacy (hint: cultural identity).
Global and Comparative Perspectives on Public Diplomacy