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Can the US government genuinely engage with foreign public?

Comor&Bean state that the American government’s embrace of engagement in PD is delusional because it is virtually an “effort at manipulation” to get foreign audience empathize with American policies, rather than “genuine dialogue.” They suggest the government revise this to “a rhetorical approach based on ethical communication,” which gives people “the right and prospective ability to obtain and judge messages and make decisions that affect them.”

 

This reminds of an interview I had with Dr. Curtis Sandberg, Senior VP for the Arts at Meridian International Center. He emphasized he always makes sure to deliver programs in the way audience can make their own decision, and tries not to tell audience to think in a certain way.

 

Moreover, last semester, for my “Cultural Leadership” class, I conducted interviews with leaders in intercultural field. One of the interviewees was Ms. Aimee Fullman. Ms. Fullman mentioned, when she wants to motivate people, she believes it is always important to ask questions, trying to figure out the significance of what they are doing together, in light of “where does this fit into their journey?” Although this interview itself was not about PD, I think her approach is very close to “genuine dialogue” Comor&Bean suggesting, rather than trying to manipulate others to agree with own value.

 

Comor&Bean say this approach is difficult to achieve since it is “a direct challenge to entrenched US foreign policy norms,” which implies it will take quite a long time for the government to make the shift.

 

Dr. Sandberg stated one of their advantages over the government is their flexibility. I’m now wondering whether the government really needs to apply this approach by itself? It might be better (or easier) to have more partnerships with non-governmental actors, which can operate with flexibility and independence in carrying out the initiatives?

 

-Emi

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?

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?

Seeing through the eyes of the audience

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The article below tells the story of a perplexing ad posted to the New York Times, which seems to promote nothing more than the consumption of bulgogi (Korean barbeque) at your local Korean restaurant:

http://n.pr/1lC9A5y

What is going on here? The NPR write who sees this ad digs a little deeper and finds that the ad—along with several equally strange ones—are linked to a website supported by a Korean fast food chain. At face value, the campaign seems to be related to food, but the website contains information about all kinds of Korean foreign policy matters, including the disputed Dokdo/Takeshima islands.

Firstly, I must first admit that this is technically not a public diplomacy effort- it is being pursued by a company rather than the government of Korea. However, there appears to be at least a gentle degree of support from the Korean government- state-operated TV channel Arirang ran a reportage on the ‘PD’ campaign in a very positive light.

However, I think this misguided application of PD techniques teaches an important knowledge: Think about how it will look to your audience. While the idea of food diplomacy and putting a soft touch to Korean PD sounds like a good idea, its execution left Americans more confused than persuaded. Another example of a PD ‘own goal’ is the naming of China’s English language network: CCTV, an acronym shared with closed-circuit television (aka video surveillance) in many English-speaking countries.

‘Doctor Zhivago’: A double-edged sword in Cultural-Literary Diplomacy

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As we navigate Japan’s cultural diplomacy this week, the “cultural” aspect of diplomacy is underscored once more. We think about how we perceive initiatives meant to captivate audience’s attention towards a certain nation and their policies, convictions, and norms. Usually, we focus on what a specific government or organization within a country is trying to transmit. But we rarely look at how other powerful institutions in competing nations frame other’s diplomatic assets. Indeed, that is the subject of an article in the Washington Post published on April 5, During Cold War, CIA used ‘Doctor Zhivago’ as a tool to undermine Soviet Union”.

As the novel, written by a Russian poet, was banned in the Soviet Union, the UK and the US seized the opportunity to use it as a soft power weapon to portray the USSR as the freedom-enemy it was, and to provide legitimacy and garner support for the war. In words of a CIA memo, “This book has great propaganda value, not only for its intrinsic message and thought-provoking nature, but also for the circumstances of its publication: we have the opportunity to make Soviet citizens wonder what is wrong with their government, when a fine literary work by the man acknowledged to be the greatest living Russian writer is not even available in his own country in his own language for his own people to read.” The CIA’s active involvement in helping distribute the novel clandestinely throughout Eastern-bloc circles echoed its efforts to use literature as double-edged swords for propaganda against communism and in favor of the Western position. Thanks to this, the novel won a Nobel Peace Prize- with all of the implications this had for the diplomatic wars of the time. Along with “1984”, “Animal Farm”, and “Dr Zhivago” the article states, “over the course of the Cold War, as many as 10 million copies of books and magazines were secretly distributed by the agency behind the Iron Curtain as part of a political warfare campaign.” In a concerted move by Western allies, the book was distributed widely to Russian citizens and caught global attention, as the US intended- even from the Vatican, which also helped disseminate it. It was a savvy move in the “Communism vs Freedom” Western diplomacy.

Empowering Women through Sports Diplomacy

When I was little, I used to watch the winter Olympics and dance around the house, pretending to be an ice skater. Although I was never as graceful, I grew to love the sport and had many idols like Tara Lipinski, Kristi Yamaguchi, and Sarah Hughes. So one can imagine my delight when I came across an article discussing Olympic ice skater, Michelle Kwan, and her current diplomatic efforts.

In the next week, Kwan will be speaking at the University of Tennessee to promote a program focused on sports diplomacy. The Michelle KwanEmpowering Women and Girls Through Sports Initiative is run through the U.S. Department of State, where Kwan is a senior adviser. The initiative brings together 24 women from 6 different countries from around the world to promote cultural diplomacy through sports.

“When women and girls can walk on the playing field, they are more likely to step into the classroom, the boardroom, and step out as leaders in society.” This quote stuck out at me from the U.S. State Department’s website. Not only is this initiative a great instance of cultural diplomacy, but it is also giving opportunity to women who are less privileged. By helping these women and girls succeed in sports, they will be more inclined to succeed in other aspects of their lives and other’s. Seeing Michelle Kwan use her Olympic status to promote awareness to help other women is not only a great example of cultural diplomacy, but celebrity diplomacy as well.

The Ukraine Crisis in the informational ‘bazaar’

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In his 2008 article Music for a jilted generation, Ali Fisher talks about the transformation of the public diplomacy sphere into a bazaar, or marketplace of ideas, as opposed to a cathedral. Some of the U.S. State Departments communications regarding the Ukraine crisis seem to reinforce this notion.

Earlier this month, the department’s press office made a release called President Putin’s Fiction: 10 False Claims About Ukraine. While the release was clearly biased towards the U.S. point of view, the ‘fact sheet’ format is reflective of the kind of attitude needed to influence publics in the bazaar environment.

Taking the fact-checker approach to press releases recognizes that public diplomacy is no longer a direct line from governments to individuals. This information gets shared on social media, seized upon by blogs (sympathetic and antipathetic) and used by journalists as references. In the current informational war, publics are more likely to respond to resources they can use to make up their own minds as opposed to the more rhetorical approach Russia is taking. That being said, the United States and Russia may be playing different games in that the latter has little regard to what western audiences think.

From here, I think more can be done to allow state public diplomacy efforts become more influential and widely received. The fact-check style is effective, but there are other formats that could be used at the state level. Infographics and maps are highly consumable and have potential for re-sharing on social media. Mainstream news outlets like the Washington Post are taking advantage of this trend, and I see no reason why governments shouldn’t follow suit.

Rising Hard Power in the Pacific

As the U.S. is looking to trim the number of troops serving in the military, the Austrailian Defence Force is recruiting U.S. servicemembers join its ranks. Many troops, especially enlisted servicemembers, stand to make more money in the Australian military. DAVID BYRON/U.S. AIR FORCE

 

 

I came across an interesting article while some of my military friends were considering retirement. They were thinking about doing their time in the U.S. military, retiring and then joining the Australian military to continue serving while getting two pay checks and a new experience.

According to the article, the Australian “government plans to increase defense spending — estimated at $26.5 billion this year — to $50 billion by 2023.”

This means that they have increased recruiting efforts to include foreign troops, as the U.S. military is being cutback. However, there hasn’t been much media attention to the increase of hard power in Australia and the rest of the world seems OK with this. They generally view the Aussies as a decent nation. How did this come about?

While reading  Joe Johnson’s views on how Swedes promote their culture and Yul Sohn’s article about Korean soft power and networked power, nothing really comes to mind about the public diplomacy efforts of the Aussies.  Those middle countries used branding to increase their public image, but I don’t think Foster’s beer is making the same soft power strides as Ikea and Samsung.

The Australians have been close allies to the Brits and Americans, and have fought in both Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the Aussies haven’t been condemned as much for doing so as their allies. And now they are doubling their defense budget and recruiting foreign troops. So what’s the lesson to take away from this? Make sure you’re isolated in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and you’ll seem harmless? Hardly. But I would be interested to hear anybody else’s opinion on how the Aussie’s have a better international image than their allies while continually increases their hard power stance.

Smart Power: China Plays Benefactor to African Nations

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.

http://allafrica.com/stories/201403250158.html?viewall=1

WWOOF: Cultural Diplomacy through Farming

World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (better known as WWOOF) is an organization linking volunteers to organic farms in over 100 different countries across the globe. In exchange for food and housing, volunteers help around the farm as needed. Through this program, volunteers spend time with their host family while learning about farming, sustainability, and culture in that particular country.

In March 2011, I found myself “WWOOFing” on a sheep farm in rural Germany for a month. Shortly after, I was working with a German farmer in the middle of Tuscany. Growing up in the suburbs, I was never truly exposed to farming. My experience on these farms really opened my eyes to the hard work that goes into farming and showed me a seldom explored side of Germany.

Paulus Schäferei in Neudorf-Platendorf, Germany
Picture from my experience with WWOOF at Paulus Schäferei in Neudorf-Platendorf, Germany.

This cultural exchange allows for exposure to foreign communities at a very low cost. WWOOF is a form of cultural diplomacy, which can be mutually beneficial to both the volunteers and the hosts. The volunteers act as ambassadors from their home countries, while the hosts share not only their home, but their insight and culture.

There is no strict definition to cultural diplomacy. As we heard through Aimee Fullman’s presentation and read in our March 5th readings, there are many different facets of cultural diplomacy. In the passage by Jessica Gienow-Hecht, “Searching for a Cultural Diplomacy”, she states cultural diplomacy is “a tool and a way of interacting with the outside world” (2010, p. 11). Although it is not a typical mode of cultural diplomacy, WWOOF is a tool that may be used to interact diplomatically with others from foreign countries.