Thursday, June 28, 2012

Improvements to US Public Diplomacy

-          Given the lessons learned from practice abroad and from conceptual/theoretical proposals, how should the United States respond to the challenges facing its public diplomacy?

One of the biggest concerns in U.S. public diplomacy is consistency.   As Nakamura states in the 2009 article on Current issues in public diplomacy, there are some people that are concerned that touting American values is ineffective.  Many of the values such as human rights that America supports are also things that foreign publics either don’t agree with or think that the U.S. doesn’t uphold.  Political incidents like Stuxnet and Guantanamo make the U.S. appear deceptive.  When people are able to cite specific examples of the U.S. violating its own principles they question everything that is said.  Using these American values, while effective in the past, can create more mistrust.
                I think a greater focus on how individual Americans can shape public diplomacy would be much more effective.  It can be difficult when people generalize a whole population’s attitudes and actions based on one individual that they meet.  However this can also be beneficial when they meet someone they really like.  With globalization and new technologies more and more people are affecting public diplomacy.  I think that one of the best ways to improve our public diplomacy is by educating Americans on other people.  Having a greater understanding of the people and cultures that we interact with online, and visit on vacation will make it much easier to make a good impression.  People all over the world view American movies, but when it comes to foreign audiences Americans are clueless.  I think a greater effort could be made to make people more aware of the impressions they make on others when they are abroad and how this affects the overall American image.  Even doing something like partnering with airlines, so that when someone books a ticket somewhere they receive an email with information on the cultural background, history, current events, maybe even a video with how to say the five most important phrases in x language.  Informing people will make them better able to present the U.S abroad.  Since information people receive from an unofficial source is often seen as more trustworthy.
                Most importantly I think work can be done to improve the programs in place.  Ensuring that student and professionals that come here leave with a positive image of the U.S.  Being abroad away from your support network can be very difficult. Leaving the transition up to a certain company or organization can have hazard results. Doing things like organizing fun events with people from their home country and Americans interested in learning about that place could help people feel more engaged.  Even trying to pair someone with an American with similar interests that is trying to learn their native tounge, but who also serves as an insider into navigating a new place.  Having insider advice on places to visit in a city, or someone you know immediately who you can grab coffee with on a bad day, can really make a different when going through culture shock.  I think greater efforts can be made to make those living here from abroad feel apart of a community, which will improve their opinion of the U.S.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The strengths and weaknesses of India's PD

What are the principal challenges and resources available to India’s public diplomacy efforts?

India has a population of over a billion people. And its geographic location makes it capable of great influence in its region.  This presents a great challenge to India but with work it could also be one of its greatest strengths in promoting its public diplomacy agenda.  One of the influential aspects to India’s public diplomacy is its cultural resistance to influence.  India’s decision in 2005 to join the UN democracy fund is an example of this dualism, a desire to modernize and take on an active role internationally and a belief in not forcing your ideology on others.   In his evaluation of India’s public diplomacy Christian Wagner notes that “India’s new engagement seems to be a compromise between growing Western demands for a more pro-active policy to support democracy and the Indian approach of not ‘exporting ideology’”.
              There are three major problems for Indian public diplomacy.  The most prevalent is the lack of consistency between the messages being sent and reality.  For example, according the Freedom House study India’s Press is considered only partly free.  This contradicts the message that India is trying to send of being the worlds’ largest democracy and helping to shape other countries systems.  In order for India’s public diplomacy to be more effective they also must make internal ajustments.
              Secondly a major deterrent to expanding their pubic diplomacy programs is a lack of staff in government positions.  They are barely able to keep current programs running, let alone having the time to develop new programs or expand current ones.  They simply lack the time to implement creative solutions to expanding their public diplomacy.  This leads to the final problem, the population size.  The limit of the government to expand its public diplomacy is due in part size and the sheer number of people requiring services.
              While the large population is a deterrent to the growth of India’s public diplomacy it is also its greatest assets.   It’s large diaspora community is already inadvertently conducting citizen diplomacy.  India has an enormous youth population and by mobilizing them and creating opportunities for citizen participation they could reach many more people.
              India’s rapid population growth has also led to rapid development.  There are many NGO’s in India’s cities that have successfully helped managed this development.  Their successes can be shared with other developing nations as was recommended by the project lead Maya Babla in the study on India’s public diplomacy.  Their nation’s relative success in handling the many pressing issues brought about this rapid population growth, and also their failures presents a unique opportunity to connect with other nations experiencing similar difficulties in order to share ideas on tackling the problems created by a population boom.
              Finally India needs to focus more attention on their unique culture.  While Bollywood produces more movies than Hollywood they aren’t effective in articulating the same cultural goals that U.S. movies do.  By utilizing the “robust media system” that they already have in place internally they can better promote India. They just need to coordinate more with those locally that are already conducting or have the ability to conduct Public Diplomacy in order to turn these local programs into something that can influence the international community.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Cat robots and other Japanese pop culture

Question 2 
Japan’s public diplomacy has changed and adjusted to a world where PD is influenced by regular people and not just governments. The soft power of a country is determined more by citizens of other countries, along with their governments, instead of just their governments. According to Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “The reason for this is that the world has become increasingly democratized. That is, public opinion enjoys much greater influence on diplomacy than before. … What we have now is an era in which diplomacy at the national level is affected dramatically by the climate of opinion arising from the average person” (quoted in Nakamura). 

Because of this, Japan has begun to reach out more to people through its pop culture. This includes building a Japan Creative Centre (JCC) in Singapore to promote Japanese culture and ideals throughout Asia. It also includes a national Manga award that is given to people who promote manga outside the country and finally, a cat robot Anime Ambassador.

One of the first objectives Japan wants to address with its pop culture diplomacy is the idea that Japan is a good model of a country that became developed and is prospering economically and socially. Japan wants its culture and value system to be seen as useful to other countries. Pop culture obviously represents their culture, but it also portrays a culture with a focus on creative arts and a culture in which people have time in their daily lives for leisure to enjoy this culture.

Japan also wants to show other Asian countries they are an important partner economically and socially. Pop culture does exhibit a certain economic prosperity, but it is also simply not enough to convince others that they are a crucial ally. You can’t guarantee that everyone will even like their pop culture. I for one am not a big fan of anime and I think in many parts of the world, it can carry a bit of a nerd stigma.

And finally, Japan wants eradicate all the negative images of an imperial, war-mongering country that it picked up during WWII. But as Nakamura says, pop culture will also not be quite enough to erase such a negative perception. For one, some people feel Japan is ignoring the entire issue. By neither addressing nor apologizing for their involvement in the war, they are angering some countries. It’s also difficult to get by on such an insubstantial PD strategy when other countries, like China and South Korea , actively use Japan’s involvement in the war as part of their own PD strategies.

Overall, pop culture definitely adds ways Japan can leverage their public diplomacy, but it cannot by any stretch support a public diplomacy program on its own. 

Taiwanese Public Diplomacy

In his article Gary Rawnsley discusses Taiwan’s approach to public diplomacy.  He begins by framing the argument in terms of what countries should be focusing on.  One of Taiwan’s major challenges is gaining recognition in the international community.  In order to do this they need to focus more on the appeal that they have to Western nations. 

This is the tactic that Joseph Nye argues will work the best because currently it is Western countries, like the U.S. that are dictating the global norms.  “The countries that are likely to be more attractive and gain soft power in the information age are those with multiple channels of communication that help to frame issues; whose dominant culture and ideas are closer to prevailing global norms.”  Basically if Taiwan wants gain recognition they need to be focusing their public diplomacy on the characteristics that will appeal to the West.

For Taiwan they need to be emphasizing their democracy over other characteristics. By doing this they will be more appealing to other countries and will have greater success in raising their profile internationally.  Previously they had focused on the idea that they were preserving the traditional Chinese culture, but this is something that is going to be harder to understand for western audiences.

Most importantly Taiwan needs to scale back its public diplomacy focused on culture.  Rawnsley describes Taiwan as having “electoral volatility”, the polarization of their parties makes it difficult to create a cohesive Taiwanese identity.  There is no clear vision on what being Taiwanese is.  There is revolving debate about who it is that gets to create this identity.  As the parties in power change so does the current identity; making it incredibly difficult to place brand.

As a result Taiwan hasn’t been utilizing soft power to its full extent.  By focusing more on characteristics that appeal to the West it has a chance of regaining ground.  Especially for a smaller country like Taiwan, soft power and public diplomacy is one of the best ways they can gain influence.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Taiwan's Soft Power Potential

Taiwan is a really unique country when it comes to the practice of public diplomacy. Many of its challenges come from the fact that it is not internationally recognized by any of the major global powers. Very few countries recognize Taiwan at all as a nation. It’s also not included as a part of most international organizations. It basically has a lack of international status. Taiwan also has this conflict between its national identity: are they Chinese or Taiwanese?

Besides all the issues that come from their history and lack of i9nclusion in the international power structure, Taiwan also has a big challenge when it comes to soft power because of its highly competitive elections. That means that domestic popular opinion is extremely important within Taiwan. Many of their soft power decisions are based not upon foreign policy, but rather domestic election issues. So instead of focusing on contentious issues for their soft power, they focus on culture. As Rawnsley says, they portray themselves as the preserver of traditional Chinese culture. They emphasize going beyond democracy for their soft power. The problem with that is that they are wasting a lot of soft power opportunity.

The biggest opportunity Taiwan has is that they can promote themselves as democracy, something China is obviously not. It is something the major powers, like the U.S. often stress, so Taiwan should be capitalizing on it more. The reason they don’t is often because they don’t want to offend anyone in domestic election. Rawnsley suggests they should take a more “holistic” approach towards their soft power and include politics and history, as well as culture. Then they wouldn’t just be focusing on contentious political issues, but they also wouldn’t be wasting their soft power potential. This could possibly have more tangible results than culture on its own could have. It would also prove to be less objective. Those are both complaints that Rawnsley and others have about Taiwan’s current soft power strategies.

China's Discourse on Soft Power & Public Diplomacy

(Week 4) Blog Response - Question 4:

In the realm of international relations (IR) today, every strategic decision and new foreign policy agenda created, like a chess game, is greatly weighed upon the move of one's opponent.  For China in particular, viewing the U.S. and many other prominent nation-states as competitors on the international stage, was one of the major reason's for China's embark on its own discourse of public diplomacy (PD).  

China's forwardness to engage in PD, is a notably new attempt made by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to utilize the soft power approach of engagement with other nation-states around the world, while promoting a positive image of China.  In an effort to promote soft power, and the attractiveness of Chinese culture, the CCP established the Confucius Institutes in 2004.  These institutes have been very successful in providing foreign publics with an opportunity to gain a better understanding of both Chinese culture and language.  However, while popular in certain nation-states, the Confucius Institutes have not assisted CCP in tackling one of China's major hurdles of establishing a strong sense of trust with many Western nation-states, specifically Western European nations.  In this aspect, China's soft power approach and methods appears self-limited because the CCP does not effectively utilize soft power (Craig Hayden 2012, p. 172).  Soft power, is an agglomeration of many elements of a state and the society (Shanthi Kalathil 2011).  The CCP, is a perfect case example of a state government trying to utilize soft power in transforming its foreign relations via communications to a connected global network, and not choosing to explore additional soft power concepts that would recommend placing a stronger emphasis on civil society engagement and public activeness.  As stated in an ISD (Institute for The Study of Diplomacy) report, China's Soft Power in the Information Age: Think Again, the CCP can not unilaterally decide to accrue soft power, because soft power is not solely generated by the state, but also by its culture, businesses, and most importantly, its people (Kalathil 2011).  

From my analysis on the readings, recent news reports, journal articles, and academic books, soft power effectiveness works best in a nation-state with strong governmental body, and an engaged civil society.  Deemed as a collective society by nature, the CCP in my opinion needs to re-assess the roadblocks that it faces from its present soft power approach and incorporate new diverse elements; such readdressing whom its soft power approach will be directed towards specifically.  As previously stated earlier, the CCP is working towards establishing a positive image of itself as a strong part of its foreign policy agenda. China, already enjoys, close-ties with developing nation-states in Africa, Asia, and Latin America (Yiwei Wang 2008, p. 264).  These nation-states, view China positively compared to its regional neighbors (ie. India, Korea, and Vietnam) and Western nations (ie. France, Germany, and the UK), whom are worried of China's rapid rise on the international stage.  In targeting nation-states, in which China currently does not have close-ties, the CCP's soft power and PD initiatives should be focused on reaching out to European nations, individually.

As a nation-state with an abundant amount of resources politically, economically, and culturally, utilizing all three within its continued PD efforts and soft power framework, would be a most suited supplement to the traditional hard power approach, once commonly practiced.  But, overall, the CCP must work to overcome its own constraints (ie. collectivism ideology) in its usage of soft power, and be open to providing support to Chinese businesses, domestic non-governmental organizations, and maybe even its civil society, in being actively engaged in soft power usage.  This might greatly assist in reducing outside perceptions of a "China threat", which presently proves to be one of the major obstacles preventing China from being viewed positively.  However, realistically thinking, this would be a major step for the CCP to take, especially since their perception of 'openness' and 'public engagement' are quote "Western ideals and values", and not considered the Chinese approach, or style in IR.  

Works Cited: 
Craig Hayden (2012) “China: Cultivating a Global Soft Power” in
Rhetoric of Soft Power, Chapter 5. 

Shanthi Kalathil (2011) “China’s Soft power in the Information Age:
Think Again” ISD Working Papers in New Diplomacy. Pages 1-12.

Yiwei Wang (2008) Public Diplomacy and the Rise of Chinese Soft Power,
The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 616. Pages 257-273.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Soft Power in China vs U.S.

Question 1: How has the concept of soft power and public diplomacy been interpreted in the context of China? How is it distinct? 

            The concept of soft power and public diplomacy is typically interpreted in the context of China through the “China threat theory” (Yiwei, 258). If you view international relations from our Westernized viewpoint (which it typically is), we usually interpret China’s sustained high rates of economic growth and technological development, as a threat to our “superpower position” in the world.  However how does their public diplomacy and soft power play a role in the hierarchical structure of our global society?
For China itself, how public diplomacy is viewed, promoted, and maintained is quite different than what we do to promote our ideals in Western countries.  There is a huge distinction between how China believes they can achieve their foreign policy goals, and in actuality how it is interpreted and translated to not be inline with the beliefs in most Western societies.  The Chinese assume that Chinese concepts are too culturally specific to be understood by Westerners, but if the Chinese government expresses itself like other countries through international relation jargon, they will lose their authentic Chinese characteristics and will be criticized by the Chinese people for being too Westernized. This is because there is a huge differentiation between how China is traditionally a collective society and the West is more individualistic. Ellis makes a good point in his article when he states that soft power is based on perceptions and emotion, and not necessarily on objective reality.  Though we believe that the “China threat theory” is largely due to their sustained market growth, part of their soft power and public diplomacy efforts is projecting themselves as a strong, big nation with a long history that can combat with a strong, big nation like the United States.