Tag Archives: Cultural Diplomacy

The Shutdown Diplomacy

The current US government shutdown isn’t unique: there have been eighteen shutdowns since fiscal year (FY) 1977. Under President Clinton the most recent shutdown took place. In 1995/1996 federal employees had to deal with two shutdowns, one for a period of five days, the other took 21 days. After the closure ended in January, political stability didn’t return immediately: in the first four months of the year, government was dependent on eight continuing resolutions (CRs) to keep agencies going. A CR is what Congress passes when they can’t pass appropriation bills. The CRs started to become pretty common during the 2000s. In FY2001 Congress passed about 20 CRs!

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.

Making Cultural Cooperation Popular

As we discuss different approaches and practices for successful public diplomacy, Japan’s concept of ‘cultural co-operation’ seems particularly interesting and underestimated in its power.

Described by Ogoura for the Journal of the East Asia Foundation, cultural co-operation implies “activities as helping developing countries to stage theatrical performances, providing them with lighting or recording equipment, furnishing showcases for museums and giving them technical assistance in arts management”. As Ogoura points out, in Japan’s case, this type of public diplomacy proved especially effective, positioning it as a strong international player on the stage of cultural diplomacy. The highlight of this strategy was the establishment of a special fund within UNESCO, dedicated to preservation of cultural heritage in developing countries.

It seems that the concept of cultural co-operation is particularly powerful and does not get enough attention in discussion about public diplomacy. Usually, when cultural diplomacy is discussed, the context implies use of a nation’s culture to attract attention and leverage the public image and the soft power of that nation on the international stage. However from a ‘giving is receiving’ perspective, it is a brilliant strategic move to invest in other nations’ cultures.

As we discussed in class, culture is an inherent and usually very emotional part of every national identity, that influences values, perceptions and behaviors on individual as well as on collective level. Therefore encouraging and strengthening cultural diversity is likely to buy a country powerful positive image and support from publics, as well as spark an interest towards that country’s culture in an indirect, subtle fashion.

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.” http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2013/10/10/commentary/japans-brand-as-good-as-the-people-behind-it/#.U0LQcm5s7HQ. 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).

Hollywood and Israel’s Cultural Diplomacy Venture

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ct_DZqypU5I&w=560&h=315]

 

Joseph Nye wrote an article in 2008, “Public Diplomacy and Soft Power,” discussing power as “the ability to affect others to obtain the outcomes you want.” This is a short definition of power, but one that can be used in the international communications realm easily. In discussing soft power and cultural diplomacy, they go hand in hand. Most of America’s soft power relates to exporting cultural products throughout the world. However, some countries have used Hollywood as a tool to help build cultural diplomacy with the rest of the world.

In a recent news article, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu collaborated with Hollywood producers to create a film series highlighting the tourist industry in Israel.

“It’s not only a vehicle to increase tourism, it’s also to dispel various calumnies about the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said.

Nye would definitely consider this type of vehicle a soft power approach to dispel the previous stereotypes of Israel. The proposed interest in their culture and the added influx of tourism can be a huge benefit for the country. Nye might have seen this as a way of shaping soft power.

“Once broadcast, Greenberg’s [the director’s] program is expected to draw at least 200,000 more tourists to Israel, according to Tourism Ministry estimates, giving its economy a boost and possibly setting yet another record,” the article explained.

Nye brings up another interesting term that I wanted to discuss. He thinks of hard power as diplomacy through threats and coercion., like Israel has been portrayed in the media with Palestine. However, Nye states that there can be a “smart power” that works to combine soft and hard powers in order to inform and influence. The upcoming movie might be able to influence other countries culturally, politically and diplomatically.

If the movie is viewed by different countries elite populations, then this could indeed affect viewpoints on foreign policy toward Israel. However, the unintended side-effect of this production could be that non-Western governments will view this as another Israeli partnership with the U.S. and could further perpetuate myths of coercion and incite further violence against the U.S. or Israel. Both sides of the coin have serious repercussions, but the overall viewpoint of Netanyahu is that it will help pull back the curtain on the history and culture of his country. Either way, it does bring the idea of using the media as a medium for strong discourse about perceived foreign stereotypes and possibly leading to a change in attitudes of foreign diplomacy toward Israel.

 

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 http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/03/world/americas/helping-foreign-students-thrive-on-us-campuses.html?hpw&rref=education&_r=0).  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 Diplomacy.org. 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.

 

Update for Week 8 – Cultural Diplomacy

Greetings, All.

I’m mindful of the possibility of intense weather and increased potential for losing electricity/internet connections in the next 24 hours, so I wanted to post this soonest.

As mentioned last week, Aimee Fullman will be our guest speaker this Wednesday. You can read about her work at http://www.aimeefullman.com/ .  Ms. Fullman cautions that the website is in need of updating, but on Wednesday she will share a very interesting, tailored slide presentation and more on her multi-faceted story working in the field of cultural relations. With her presentation during the second half of class, and several students leading discussion on readings, an inspiring class is in store.

Please also monitor Blackboard announcements and AU mail for updates (as long as I have electric/internet connectivity).

-Debbie Trent

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.