President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to abandon closer ties with the EU in favor of Russia sparked anti-government demonstrations in Ukraine, dubbed EuroMaidan.
When a bill was passed by the Ukrainian parliament on January 16th limiting the right to demonstrate, the protests took a violent turn. During the past week of unrest, three protesters have died in Kiev with over 300 injured.
Several German government officials have publicly voiced their opinions on the matter. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier stated that he understood the views of the opposition, adding that “violence is not a solution, and we can say that to both sides.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed. Merkel spoke with President Yanukovych recently to persuade him to revoke the recent bill. She urged Yanukovych to lead a real dialogue with the opposition to discuss political reform. Other officials from the EU and the US have made similar statements in favor of the anti-government protesters.
On the other hand, Russian President Vladimir Putin criticized the EU for what could be interpreted as “political interference”. According to Putin, the trips made by EU and US officials have only furthered the crisis in Ukraine. At an EU-Russia summit in Brussels on Tuesday, he stated “I can imagine the reaction of our European partners if, in the midst of a crisis in Greece or any other country, our foreign minister would come to an anti-European rally and would urge people to do something.”
From a public diplomacy standpoint, the EU and US officials have played a large role for the Ukrainian protesters. The protests have not ceased and could be fueled by these Western officials publicly voicing their support for the opposition. But this raises some interesting questions in regards to PD. Are the actions taken by the EU and the US considered “political interference”, or is it public diplomacy? How thin is the line between interference and PD? What is the difference between the two?
In short: The tiny Arab monarchy of Qatar is investing big in the United States, building a massive residential business complex a couple of blocks north of Chinatown and launching the U.S. edition of Al-Jazeera from new studios in Manhattan. Part of the new development in D.C. will be an office for the Qatar Foundation International, which will teach about Arabic language and culture.
The big question that I think many will ask is: why bother? Why would a nation of 250,000 people (two million if you count non-citizens) put so much money into public diplomacy?
One crude but valid answer is that Qatar has money to burn. Thanks to its location above the world’s largest gas deposit, Qatar has the world’s highest GDP per capita, sitting just above the $100,000 mark. With that kind of money, dropping $650 million on D.C. real estate is not much of a big deal (and perhaps a good investment).
However, I think a second element needs to be considered here. We focus a lot on how public diplomacy can be used to help achieve foreign policy objectives, but is it possible that a country’s image abroad could be not just a means, but an end unto itself? In the Middle East, different nations pride themselves on different things. Saudi Arabia is the custodian of the two holy mosques, Iran pushes to become the second Middle Eastern nation to have nuclear weapons.
Without the population, land or overall size of economy, Qatar can never compete in areas like military might. So what can be known for instead? I think investments like Al Jazeera’s U.S. launch and the development downtown hint at the kind of nation that Qatar’s leadership wants to present to the world.
I first thought I was going to write something on a public diplomacy effort of a “supra-national” actor, the European Union, but as I started looking around for interesting articles, I came across this Huffington Post article about the “sub-national” public and cultural diplomacy efforts of the U.S. State of Hawaii: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-rockower/aloha-diplomacy-hawaiian-_b_4633759.html. I find the interest of “paradiplomacy,” or diplomatic relations carried out by sub-national actors, such as regions, states, and cities, to be of particular interest because often times it seems as if they have a greater chance for success than public diplomacy campaigns carried out by nations. I believe this is probably true for two reasons: 1) the scope and aims of public diplomacy campaigns by regions and cities are often smaller and better defined than those of nation-states: usually, to increase exports of their goods and to promote tourism, and 2) the campaigns are possibly less controversial because they are not tied, as nation-states’ public diplomacy often is, to overall foreign policy goals and especially military measures.
It remains to be seen what makes particular regional public diplomacy efforts such a success? In Paul Rockower’s article, he describes the exciting success of a tour around Brazil (sponsored by the State Department) of a Hawaiian slide guitar expert and hula master. Unsurprisingly, the unique music and dance of Hawaii and its so-called “spirit of Aloha” were much appreciated by Brazilians, according to the author. He goes on to list various other countries where he believes Hawaiian public diplomacy efforts would be successful, especially in East Asia, where Hawaii is benefitted by its already existent cultural ties, especially to Japan. However, as the author points out, Hawaii already is “blessed” with “the most distinctive brand in the” USA. This begs the question of what exactly could be the aims of Hawaii in embarking on public diplomacy campaigns? To attract more foreign tourist dollars? (The reasoning is not discussed by the author). It might be too easy to look at the case of public diplomacy of an already wildly popular and well-known place such as Hawaii, and conclude that international public diplomacy campaigns are a good idea for all sub-national actors.
A large portion of PD is about branding or what kind of messages we send out about ourselves. Hayden linked PD to the idea of “soft power” or “affecting others to obtain the outcomes you want” (6). One of the three major characteristics of soft power as Hayden describes it is the “attractiveness” of an actors culture and institutions” (6).
To a large extent, both the Peace Corps and the military are the face of US around the world, and all to often that face or image is conflicting. As Machado explains the “first function of the Peace Corpse Volunteers is that of cultural ambassadors.” Despite the Peace Corps efforts, there is limit to what can be done to improve the US’ image abroad, particularly because of our tendency to get involved militarily.
If the US wants to make the Peace Corp mandate something people abroad associates more with the US ( ie 1.Help meet the needs of developing nations for trained personnel 2) Provide a better understanding of Americans on the behalf of other peoples, and 3) Provide a better understanding of other peoples on the behalf of Americans ), then the US should make an effort to pursue and promote values that don’t necessitate military force. Or at the very least the US should recognize what kind of influence certain perceptions of the US have abroad and whether or not it undermines the US’s PD efforts.
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:
A recent NPR radio piece detailed the difficulties that the U.S. has had in brokering an agreement for troops staying in Afghanistan after the 2014 deadline. The two governments have been at odds with each other about the way forward for GIRoA. Karzai is making decisions in a black hole while getting terrible advice from his inner circle. He hasn’t been on the same page as the White House for quite some time and doesn’t believe that the U.S. will leave Afghanistan despite its constant threat. However, the biggest factor compounding the problem has been the White House using the media to conduct public diplomacy.
Instead of closed-door meetings and one-on-one diplomatic efforts, the back-and-forth threats have been playing out in the public sphere of the media. That is no way to conduct diplomacy. Governments shoot themselves in the foot each time they let their enemies or allies know of their intentions through the media. That’s like hearing about a friend that’s been lying to you from the playground gossip queen. It always feels like a low blow and can never amount to any positive reconciliation on each entities behalf.
Karzai hasn’t been making the right decisions, but he is being publicly criticized in the media by the White House. That further distances himself from reaching an agreement. The NPR piece mentioned that the “two governments don’t understand each other’s politics and don’t know how to talk to each other.” However, it is a more deep-rooted problem in public diplomacy today. Governments are not using the media to their advantage. Instead, the push for 24/7 instantaneous coverage has been a detriment to building strong, lasting state-to-state bonds. Throughout the semester, this is probably going to have a lasting impact on different state-to-state relations. However, the immediacy of the media can have huge positive impacts on state-to-non-state relations. For example, the White House can reach the people of Afghanistan in their homes through the media. The question is: Does this ability to reach the people help or hurt the White House’s ability to close a deal with GIRoA?
Edward Snowden’s disclosure of top-secret National Security Agency (NSA) documents to the media earlier this year highlighted the United States’ surveillance programs and metadata practices as a serious U.S. public diplomacy concern for the United States. During a recent overseas trip, I personally witnessed the United States’ damaged reputation in New Zealand as locals quickly expressed their alarm over the United States’ monitoring of friendly government leaders and foreign citizens. (Review this interactive map, which shows 29 countries where the NSA reportedly spied)
This article reveals the swift impact the leaks had on the German public. 49% of Germans trusted the U.S. government in July and now just 35% of Germans trust the U.S. government. In this article, Brazilian columnist Vanessa Barbara discusses how her Brazilian community expresses their frustration by writing notes to the NSA at the bottom of emails, sending illogical emails, and crafting serious emails about silly topics in an attempt to raise an NSA agent’s eyebrow. As National Public Radio reporter Tom Gjelten summed it up,”it is safe to say [people overseas] are angry.”
Since the damage is already done, I am curious how great of an impact the NSA’s actions will have on the U.S.’s public diplomacy efforts going forward and if it will negatively impact the work of non-state diplomatic efforts such as educational exchanges or business partnerships. As Nicholas Cull pointed out in this week’s reading, it is difficult to go at it alone, which is why I believe that President Obama, in his attempts to soothe frustrated allies, emphasized stronger intelligence partnerships. His address last Friday announcing his administration’s plan to curb the NSA’s capabilities reemphasized this promise, but naturally, many allies and friends abroad will remain skeptical.
In what was an attempt at a “goodwill mission,” Dennis Rodman and his squad of former NBA players competed with a North Korean team for Kim Jong Un’s 31st birthday. Although some have asserted that the game had positive effects for U.S./North Korean relations, many more have decried this instance of “Basketball Diplomacy” as an embarrassment.
Rodman (who, as of Sunday, was recently checked into an alcohol-rehabilitation center) may have not been the optimal ambassador for this instance of sports diplomacy in North Korea, but who would have been a better candidate? Should the game have even taken place? The media seems to think not.
Professor Rhonda Zaharna wrote an interesting take on the controversial event in Pyongyang, discussing the media’s role as a public diplomacy player (http://uscpublicdiplomacy.org/index.php/newswire/cpdblog_detail/culture_post_basketball_diplomacy_in_cnns_court/). She states that the U.S. team had apolitical motives for the trip, which were taken advantage of by the media. At the end of a politically charged interview with CNN news anchor Chris Cuomo, Rodman had an emotional outburst, which has been continually replayed and broadcast on many news outlets. Turning a seemingly innocent, apolitical game into controversy defeats the original purpose of “bringing people together through basketball.”
How much can the media affect the public’s perception on current events? How can it affect the public’s opinion of a foreign country? Without getting into whether the recent game was right or wrong, it is still important to consider the media’s role in public diplomacy.
Now naturally, Taiwan is pretty unique in that it has international recognition of its existence as a state as a key foreign policy objective. Nonetheless, I think it’s useful to explore how Taiwan uses PD to work towards that goal and exactly how far it can go.
Perhaps the baseline goal of PD is to at least have other publics around the world know who you are and how you are different from the nearly 200 other countries. A friend of mine visited a congressional testimony on the internal conflict in South Sudan, where a congressman had no clue what the country’s predominant religion/s were, what language is spoken there and what the fighting was about. For the busy foreign policy community, it seems that the agendas of many countries are ignored simply because people know little about them.
Back to Taiwan. The ROC government is smart in investing into tourism, media and cultural exchange as a way of promoting national identity. While there is next to no chance of major powers like the United States changing their official stance on China/Taiwan, improved rapport with global publics—especially in the Asia-Pacific region—is likely to increase support for its existence as an independent de-facto state. Especially so if Taiwan can clearly communicate how it is different from China, other than the fact that it is capitalist and democratic.
Creating Mandarin education centers around the world serves as a good competitor to mainland China’s Confucius Institutes, which give out fairly generous scholarships for people to learn the language and/or live in China. The fact that Taiwan is an open, democratic country gives it an advantage; some scholars may be put off by restrictions on what they can and can’t write while studying in China.
Summing up, I think that good PD can create favorable attitudes both among the public in other countries and within the policy community. This alone can at least put certain issues on the agenda.
See you all Wednesday, if the polar vortex doesn’t get us first.
I’m still very new to the field of public diplomacy and as such I am only beginning to understand the exact scope of what it entails. I’ve spent some time on the Take Five blog and while there are many great posts to read, one in particular caught my attention.
One of the many topics I am am interested in is the role of social media in influencing relations between not only governments but between non-state actors. Such diplomacy through social media is known as e-Diplomacy, as highlighted in the following linked blog. It was very interesting (albeit not surprising) to see the results of the research posted in this blog ( http://takefiveblog.org/2013/02/19/the-use-of-social-media-in-public-diplomacy-scanning-e-diplomacy-by-embassies-in-washington-dc/) which show that over half of the embassies researched use social media, and often use more than one social media platform at a time.
This research highlights that governments are recognizing the role and potential of social media in getting young people involved and interested in world events and issues. Traditionally public diplomacy tends to lie in the realm of governments interacting with each other, but with the popularity of social media in the public sphere this may be changing quickly (The so-called Facebook Revolution, anyone?). What this means for future policy making, if anything, would be interesting to research. It would also be interesting to see if people really are becoming more knowledgeable of world events and issues through the use of social media. Can “following” or “liking” an organization, program, or politician really influence the public significantly more than, say, watching the news? This would be difficult to measure, however, I feel that social media has the ability to highlight the interactive and synergistic potential of public diplomacy. I look forward to seeing what the future of e-diplomacy entails
Enjoy your weekend everyone.
Global and Comparative Perspectives on Public Diplomacy