Tag Archives: week 4

China’s Cultural Power

chinese new year in londonLast week, I briefly addressed my Country Profile topic in our discussion by including an article that describes one of China’s public diplomacy programs known as the China-Africa Think Tank Forum. This past week, China has made the news once more for the notable increase of diplomacy, or more specifically “soft power,” that is popularizing Chinese language and culture all over the world. In China, the meaning of “soft power” not only carries diplomatic and economic objectives, but a consistent spread and revival of culture takes an unprecedented precedent. Pamment discusses the “diplomatic strategy for exerting influence” as a means of “developing relationships” through different channels, i.e. key media sources in order to reach large publics. He then adds, conveniently enough, a Chinese Proverb which basically says involving others is the best form of perpetuating mutual understanding. At the end of chapter 3, he addresses the topic of “cultural diplomacy.” He describes this area of PD as a way to use culture as a communication tool. China is in many ways capitalizing on its increased ability to promote its culture through not only the media, but the diaspora populations of Chinese people throughout the world also perpetuate the growth of a foreign understanding of Chinese influence.

As China’s economic power continues to grow, this emphasis on culture and language as a means of influencing both foreign and domestic perspectives is China’s way of making itself a more attractive nation. This is important in order to substantiate the increasing number of Chinese public diplomacy programs around the world. For example, there are now more than 50 Confucius Institutes in Africa alone. One of the elemental ways this is down is through the spread of Chinese language. Popularizing the use of Simplified Mandarin not only corroborates public interest in Chinese culture and history, but more predominantly makes China “valuable” in the world’s flow of information. Undoubtedly, these establishments such as the Confucius Institutes are meant to aid relationship-building between the countries; but for China, this is an equally economic endeavor (I’ll get into this further is my following posts on my Country Profile). My blog today was inspired by this article: http://rt.com/op-edge/growing-chinese-soft-power-638/


Parlez-vous Français?


According to a recent article in the NY Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/31/nyregion/a-push-for-french-in-new-york-schools-from-france.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&smid=tw-nytimes&_r=0), Spanish and Chinese are the most popular second languages to take up in the United States. Bilingual French programs have taken off in New York City schools. The French government actually spearheaded these programs, which are located in several schools in Brooklyn and Manhattan. However, recent strains on the French governments’ budget has caused them to find other ways to fund these programs. Now, New Yorkers are providing private donations and starting fund-raising campaigns to keep these programs alive. Many people can argue that learning French as a second language is losing its allure and usefulness. If that is so, why has it taken off in this small group of NYC schools.

This form of public diplomacy directed by the French government is actually quite good. Somehow, they have increased the popularity of French  in the biggest city in the United States. By introducing children to French at a young age, they are sharing French culture and reinforcing it’s economic and political ties with people of the United States at a time when Americans have pivoted to Asia. Furthermore, they have gotten the parents and students in the area so excited about it, that the government no longer has to foot a big part of the bill. Parents are fighting to get their children enrolled and raising millions of dollars in an effort to bring more of the French immersion programs to schools in their neighborhood. Although the quest for donations are targeted at more affluent families, the program wants to expand into less affluent neighborhoods  and schools as well.

I’m not sure if there is a desire for similar programs such as this all over the country, but I can’t help but think that location is what is making these French bilingual programs popular. New York City is a hub for immigrants and many non-native English speakers reside there. The families and children of these families who are enrolled in this program are exposed to multiculturalism every day. If you aren’t a French speaker, and you live in a neighborhood with an authentic French restaurant, owned and operated by native French speakers, on every street corner; or come into contact with people from Haiti or parts of West Africa, your interest in French would likely be higher than someone in say South Carolina. In my opinion, in order for cultural public diplomacy initiatives to work, their has to be some sort of interest or advantage to the person in which the program is targeted. Kids who learn French in New York City will not only have more jobs opportunities one day, but they will be able to communicate with the native French speakers they come into contact with everyday. I think France has done well in boosting the popularity of a dying second language in the United States, however, I’m unsure of it’s potential success in other regions of the country.



The Peril of Ignoring Domestic Audiences

Whilst scouring the web for intriguing articles concerning public diplomacy, I came across this blog, which is run by the U.N. In this article, the author synthesizes material learned from a conference titled “Digital Diplomacy + Social Good”, which was jointly led by the United Nations Foundation and the Digital Diplomacy Coalition, into eight salient tips for practitioners to better engage their audiences in this new age of technology.

I found that this article addressed several of the major themes of this class, with the first illustrating the evolution that public diplomacy is currently experiencing. Gone are the days where there existed a wide chasm between practitioner and audience as well as the monopolization of the entire process of public diplomacy by political elites. In its stead we observe a more inclusive definition of who a public diplomat is (we all are! All of the suggestions from the blog author can be used by top diplomats as well as common lay people to help influence others) while also recognizing the need for a stronger, more active engagement between practitioner and audience.

Furthermore, I thought this piece, when viewed from a domestic lens, dovetailed quite well with Huijgh’s article about the domestic dimension of public diplomacy. I feel we sometimes can get caught up with how we project ourselves to an international audience to the point we take for granted our domestic audience. This can lead to issues later on, especially since domestic members are potential diplomats in their own right. One need not look far to recognize that the U.S. government, with its series of major missteps including WikiLeaks, the Snowden Incident, and increasingly bitter, unproductive political catfights i.e. 2013 shutdown, is in very much need of damage control with its own citizens. All of the suggestions detailed in the article can be very much utilized by the government to help repair its image with its own citizens. Failure to do so will lead to issues within the international scene, which is best encapsulated by Huijgh’s prescient declaration that “internal legitimacy remains a precondition for international respect.”

China’s Panda Diplomacy

Giant panda bear cub Bao Bao moves around inside the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park January 6, 2014 in Washington, DC Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

China is famous for its pandas. But there are actually quite a few pandas in the United States if you’d like to see them, especially a new baby was just born at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. in last August and the baby girl looks like she is getting the right kind of love and attention across the whole nation; however, most of them don’treally live here, at least not permanently. They are on extended vacations of sorts, since China still holds their ownership as part of a lucrative panda lending program.

The newest baby panda cub at the National Zoo in Washington named Bao Bao (means baby). Prior to the new baby, her mother Mei Xiang and her mate Tian Tian had a son named Tai Shan in 2005.  He was the first panda cub born in the U.S. to survive more than a few days and Tai Shan became a crowd favorite. The original agreement between the U.S. and China was supposed to send Tai Shan back to China in 2007, when he was 2 years old.  However, the public requested more time with the little guy and China agreed to extend Tai Shan’s stay for another two years, which allowed him to live in the U.S., when George W. Bush went to China for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

In July 2009, Tai Shan’s trip was extended for another six months, by chance or intentionally, when Barack Obama visited China for the first time after he became president.

In January 2010, the two countries finally agreed that Tai Shan would ship off to his motherland before the Chinese New Year. Once again the public tried to keep the little panda in Washington, but the Chinese government eventually recalled Tai Shan, right after the White House spokesman announced that president Obama is going to meet with the Dalai Lama.

Over the past 30 years, panda has always been worked as the most effective diplomat for China in the global market, especially when dealing with the U.S. Certainly, as the new baby is getting the national wide attention, one can tell from Tai Shan’s journey that the new baby is going to give us something more than entertaining, instead, a deep insight forecast on US-China relations.

The Need for Synergy in Modern-Day Diplomacy

This week I found some of Kelley’s (2010) ideas slightly corresponding with my post from week 1 where I suggested that public diplomacy doesn’t really change the rules of the diplomatic ‘game’, but rather adds a publicly available dimension to it and creates an illusion of power in the hands of the people.

Kelley implies that public diplomacy has created a plethora of messages by non-state actors that forms various networks and alliances. There are big gaps between the positions of these different actors and between their positions and the official diplomatic messages. Despite the clear benefits of this more democratic form of conducting diplomacy, Kelley stresses the need for synergy in order to direct the power of separate actors to a concrete action. The best way to coordinate positions and create this synergy remains the official diplomatic channel that can unite the non-governmental actors and communicate the message to the relevant policy makers.

Moreover Kelley suggests that ‘big’ decisions such as signing of international treaties or legislation towards creation of new norms are still executed almost exclusively by official policy makers communicating through official diplomatic channels. Here as well, it implies from the article that the best way for the ‘new diplomats’ (p.293) to communicate their messages is still by joining forces with “their official counterparts” (p. 293).

So it looks like the essential power yet remains in the hands of the ‘old diplomats’ (ibid). The new types of diplomacy such as public and cultural diplomacy are important in filling in the gaps in governmental actions, however the new ways do not appear to replace the classic diplomatic communication between states.