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:
Today, as we embark on the journey of deepening our knowledge about public diplomacy in the 21st century, I’d like to consider one particular idea that keeps coming to my mind: Is public diplomacy really a new working sphere for diplomacy and conduct of international affairs or is it just a new dimension in the long-existing framework?
The idea came to me with the publication of the NSA scandal and the revelations that have been coming since then. It seems to me that Snowden has shown us how very little do we know about the ‘real’ diplomacy and the ‘behind the scenes’ of international politics. I believe that current revelations are just the tip of the iceberg and that (unfortunately?) conduct of state affairs remains mainly in the hands of politicians and state actors while secrecy still dominates this conduct.
Across the readings for this week of the course (Hocking, Cull, Pamment) the need for wise conduct of relations with foreign publics is emphasized as a key to successful public diplomacy. It is true that public image of a country has become significantly more important than in the past and the social media, as well as the existence of non-governmental players and interests groups push the states and their diplomats towards more openness, accountability and public engagement. However in my opinion what we are facing is just a technical change. In politics, just as in private business, the public arena now plays an important role. Yet issues decided openly through this public arena are ones of low urgency or danger. Decisions regarding wars, big money, significant social changes, as was revealed by Snowden, are still conducted away from the public eye.
As globalization continues and the power of non-governmental players and interest groups rises, we might witness a change. Nevertheless for now public diplomacy seems to be just a new dimension of diplomacy, handled by adding a public affairs officer to a typical embassy team.