Tag Archives: japan

The J-Wave

 

This week I had the pleasure of leading a class discussion on Anne Allison’s piece, “Attractions of the J-Wave for American Youth.” I have to admit that this article did resonate with me personally because I myself am fascinated with Japanese pop culture. My brother has been a fan of anime since before I can remember. My interest stemmed from stories and pictures that family members living in Japan shared with me. I began collecting everything Hello Kitty, researched geisha history and even visited Japan myself where I was able to see Harajuku first hand where I came across young women dressed similar to the ones in the photo above.

I have to agree with Allison when she states that the attraction to Japanese pop culture products is stemmed from attractions to what is different. Harajuku fashion, anime and geisha are something of a fantasy and it’s something about the unknown that always seems to draw you in.

These new models of global imagination do carry a lot of attractive power. My interest in Japan lead me to visit the country myself. I loved my experience! I was able to visit and see firsthand all of the magical places I had read about or seen on T.V. I do not mean to romanticize an entire country–but I do think that Japan is very fascinating. However, the author of the article suggests that their cultural products aren’t necessarily translating into soft power. Allison proposed in her article that soft power should be re-imagined. She thinks that it should be assessed not just in terms of interests it has for the producing country, but on how their cultural products are imagined. What do you think?

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.

Does the U.S. have something to learn from Japanese PD in the M.E.?

Tonight I lead the class discussion on Tadashi Ogawa’s article, “Origin and Development of Japan’s Public Diplomacy.” While most of the chapter was a historic overview of Public Diplomacy in Japan from the 1860’s to present day, there were some nuances that I pointed out which I would like to reiterate.

While reading the chapter, I couldn’t help but think about the significance of the fact that global publics mistrusted Japan the more the nation excelled in and promoted its hard power (in their case in reference to economic power). Because of this criticism and misunderstanding, Ogawa explained that Japan ramped up their public diplomacy efforts, creating the Japan Foundation (which operated under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) to foster cultural exchanges and Japanese language studies.

I also found Japan’s approach to PD in the Middle East to be quite fascinating. Ogawa explains that the Japanese approach advocates for allowing a period of healing for the countries in the M.E. in order for them to regain their dignity as a group of citizens. The Japanese believe that only then can you begin to guide the M.E. with culturally appropriate PD programs (especially in cases when these programs are being lead by nations strong in hard power).

Another thing I thought was worthy of note was Japan’s program to educate the Japanese people on the homeland about the cultures of the M.E. I thought this showed a lot of cultural sensitivity and was a good long-term way to foster connections and respect between the two cultures.

We had a very good discussion in class on the question I posed of whether or not we can draw comparisons to between Japan’s PD and the future of U.S. PD in relation to what we have done in the middle east. The responses were a bit divided, but I would love to continue the discussion here. So what do you think? Do we have something to learn from the Japanese approach, once we have had a chance to look back and access, and move forward with PD programs?

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).

Play nice, America and Japan

sandboxOne of my colleagues recently posted a blog about the danger in words and how they can amplify tensions between nations if used carelessly. This post loosely reminded me of an article published in the New York Times last week about the recent strain on Japan-U.S. relations. The Japanese have been discontent with their treatment by the Obama Administration since last year. They feel as though they’ve been kept at arms length and are that the U.S. riding the fence about their dispute with China over the control of islands in the East China Sea.

The article can be found here: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/20/world/asia/nationalistic-remarks-from-japan-lead-to-warnings-of-chill-with-us.html?ref=japan&_r=0

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe asked in a Youtube video, “Why doesn’t America treat Japan better?,” before quickly taking it down.  The video was in response to the Obama Administration expressing disappointment with the Prime Minister’s visit to a shrine honoring war criminals. Instances like this and others are putting stress on relations between the two countries–who have been allies for many years now, despite their turbulent past. Japan feels isolated from the U.S. while the United States views recent actions by the Japanese as being too nationalistic.

Words have undeniable power. Prime Minister Abe made a strong statement about the United States in his Youtube video. While it may have been made more out of frustration than anything, it has caused a big debate and now people are questioning just how stable relations are between the two countries. I’m sure that more can be done on both sides to appease hurt feelings. The article is also a testament to the fact that even amicable nations suffer public diplomacy stumbling blocks. What do you think about the “sticks and stones” spat between Japan and the United States?

Unoffical Allies

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The following articles published in Nippon.com high light the increasingly positive yet complex relationship between Japan and Taiwan. http://www.nippon.com/en/in-depth/a02201/ & http://www.nippon.com/en/in-depth/a02204/.

Despite not having an offical diplomatic relations since the 1970s, Japan’s popularity has risen in Taiwan and vis a versa.  Appreciation for Japan in Taiwan has grown so strong, it has even been given a name, hari. The attitude was perhapes highlighted the most when Taiwan gave about 20billion yen to Japan after the Tohoku earthquake.  Considering Japan’s  rather rocky relationship with other countries in the region  it has managed to garner a support in a small nation that for all purposes has not had any kind of formal relations since the 1970’s.

This has been driven by the desire to stay on the PRC’s good side but at the detriment of official relations with Taiwan.  Ultimately, it is the public on both sides who are driving the relationship. Japan hosts about 1 million Taiwanese tourists each year and Taiwan gets about the same number annually ( it has been fewer lately due to the decreasing value of the yen however).  As both articles allude to it is the culture of both nations that drive them to each other. Japan’s history in Taiwan may also have some amount of influence which the articles touch on but don’t go into too much detail. It is interesting that despite how recent the history is, the overall relationship is relatively positive, but of course that is not saying everyone is supports this sentiment. Hari Kyoko explains how the Taiwanese media has been to heckle people who show appreciation for Japan.

What was interesting from the article was that despite the lack of official diplomatic relations, the appreciation of each others culture through their music, food, attractions, business etiquette, values is what it ultimately at the heart of public diplomacy. PD does not always have to be about forging official ties, it can be as simple as appreciating another culture. This is one facet of soft power. In one of our past readings we discussed how it can be hard to determine what “success” in PD ultimately is.  Personally I believe that a large part of PD, intentional or not, is to show that that the other is human.

 

 

 

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.

Is Economy the New (Old) Game in Town?

This week I find it relevant to discuss the concept of economy as the new (or renewed) focus of public diplomacy initiatives. It is hard to forget Clinton’s famous ‘It’s the Economy, Stupid’ campaign slogan. Recently financial issues became particularly central to states’ rhetoric once again. Economy as public diplomacy strategy is broadly discussed in the course readings and in the media this week.

The first big economy and development headline this week was Bill Gates discussing his annual letter in interviews across media outlets. Gates focused on the importance of foreign aid and the great progress he sees the humanity making towards abolishing poverty and enhancing economic self-sufficiency.

Simultaneously big debates on economy are happening at the Annual World Economic Forum in Davos. One article at the Foreign Policy Magazine this week (http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2014/01/22/at_davos_developing_countries_advertise_themselves_more_than_companies_do) discusses few particularly interesting examples of how developing countries are trying to advertise themselves focusing on the economic opportunities they have to offer.

Finally Heng (2009) discusses the focus on economy and development as a leading public diplomacy strategy for Japan: “Japan sees its’ economic influence reflecting attractive values…Tokyo, in May 2008, doubled its aid targets to Africa by 2012.” (p. 290). China and Japan, along with many other states work to strengthen relations with developing countries and use strategic communication to portray themselves as trustworthy economic powers.

And so as the world remains affected by the financial turmoil, issues of economy seem to be a great prescription for effective public diplomacy strategy.

And if you haven’t seen Bill Gates promoting his letter virally, here it is:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ye_W7ZsRYM&feature=youtu.be]