Tag Archives: week 2

Pitfalls of Public Diplomacy Through the Media

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http://www.zimbio.com/Afghanistan/articles/tcNI-RXSAAl/Troop+downsize+Afghanistan+2014+under+consideration

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?

Only time will tell and the clock is ticking…

NANGARHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – An Afghan boy, who fell a few days ago, is held by his father as U.S. Army Pfc. Jonathan V. Bachtel, a forward observer from Burleson, Texas, assigned to Troop C, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, Task Force Raider, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Task Force Bronco provides security during a patrol in Rodat District in eastern Afghanistan's Nangarhar Province, July 18. The boy is related to a wood worker who just received news that his business will receive a small business grant to help stimulate the economy and provide for his family. (Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Mark Burrell, 210th MPAD)
NANGARHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – An Afghan boy, who fell a few days ago, is held by his father as U.S. Army Pfc. Jonathan V. Bachtel, a forward observer from Burleson, Texas, assigned to Troop C, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, Task Force Raider, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Task Force Bronco provides security during a patrol in Rodat District in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province, July 18. The boy is related to a wood worker who just received news that his business will receive a small business grant to help stimulate the economy and provide for his family. (Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Mark Burrell, 210th MPAD)

Confucius Institutes and China’s Soft Power

As a part of an on-going public diplomacy, I am very interested in how China’s Confucius Institutes sanitizing China’s image abroad, promoting its “soft power” globally.

According to the official announcement, Confucius Institutes are described as non-profit public institutions aligned with the government of the People’s Republic of China whose purpose is to promote Chinese language and culture, as well as facilitate cultural exchanges. This seemingly benign purpose leaves out a number of purposes both salient and sinister, namely, sanitizing China’s image abroad, promoting its “soft power” globally, and creating a new generation of China watchers who well-disposed towards the Communist dictatorship.

Other countries like France’s Alliance Francaises, Spain’s Instituto Cervantes, or Germany’s Goethe Institut also promoting their soft power in this way, by maintain their presence within established universities and exercise of control on the class curriculum. However, the mainstream media has been paying close attention to this controversy over the past two years, remarkably right after the U.S. State Department complicated visa extension for Confucius Institute teachers in 2012.

While the Confucius Institutes are sometimes compared to France’s Alliance Francaise and Germany’s Goethe-Institut, this is misleading. Unlike the other two, Confucius Institutes are neither independent from their government, nor are do they occupy their own interests. Instead, they are located within well-established universities and colleges around the world, and are directed and funded by the Office of Chinese Language Council International (Hanban), based in Beijing, which answers in turn to the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China and, chiefly, to the United Front Work Department of the Chinese Communist Party. In fact, the Chairman of the Confucius Institute is none other than Liu Yandong, who served as the head of the United Front Work Department from 2002 to 2007.

The United Front Work Department is aimed of subversion, cooption and control. During the Communist revolution, it subverted and coopted a number of other political parties, such as the Chinese Socialist Party, into serving the interests of the Communist Party. After the establishment of the PRC, it continued to control these parties, which were allowed to exist on sufferance, albeit as hollow shells, to create the illusion of “democracy” in China. That it has de facto control over the Hanban suggests, more strongly than anything else, what one of the chief purposes of the Confucius Institutes are, namely, to subvert, coopt, and ultimately control Western academic discourse on matters pertaining to China.

Objections to particular Confucius Institutes have also emerged. For example, in 2010, 174 University of Chicago faculty members signed a letter that, among other things, objected to the establishment of a Confucius Institute in absence of Faculty Senate approval. The letter described the institute as “an academically and politically ambiguous initiative sponsored by the government of the People’s Republic of China,” and asserted that, “Proceeding without due care to ensure the institute’s academic integrity, [the administration] has risked having the university’s reputation legitimate the spread of such Confucius Institutes in this country and beyond.”

Public Sphere and Public Diplomacy- New Addition to an Old Framework?

Hi,

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.

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