April 25, 2011

U.S. Public Diplomacy

The U.S.’s opinion of public diplomacy in the past has been, “what for?” We saw it (and still do to some extent) as a non-issue because we are, well America. I have to admit, sometimes it is hard for me as an American to understand why people wouldn’t like us, and then on other days I want to apply for dual citizenship in another country. But every country has its ups and downs and most understand this due to past and current histories of struggle, experiencing being at the very top of the world in terms of international relations and being at the bottom. As a relatively young and successful country the U.S. has not experienced the bottom. We have not had the humbling experience losing majorly and licking our wounds and gaining perspective. Most of us are like rich kids who have never had to experience a struggle like the harsh political realities that most countries have had to, at least not within the past two centuries. That is not to say that we are perfect and have never lost a battle or been hurt badly (Pearl Harbor, September 11th), but we have not experienced military coups, genocides, complete economic ruin, famines, etc. We have had a good run. This mindset is what Zaharna labeled “American exceptionalism,” but what this term necessarily implies is “All other mediocrity” and its surprises us to see that people don’t like that!

OK so enough critiquing, what are we to do about it? Well I don’t recommend self-inducing famine or creating a military coup but there are people within this country that can empathize or even identity with those who do not have the opportunity to live in countries that have similar opportunities and safeties. In class we talked about the power of communication and how the government needs to use more communication strategies in reaching new publics such as revamping our international broadcasting. However, if there is one thing I take away from public diplomacy and all of the concepts and countries studied it is this: nothing beats personal communication. It’s the most long-term form of public diplomacy, but to me it seems to be the strongest. There is nothing more genuine that one on one interface with someone to create trust, credibility and legitimacy. Of course this can go wrong and politicians need immediate effects, but it doesn’t matter how much money we pour into communication outlets if it’s falling in deaf ears. Personal understanding is the most tedious but effective way to change minds. So I think that exchanges are my favorite form of P.D. and the U.S. should engage in these more. But it has to be reciprocal, there have to be almost as many Americans going to developing nations and there are people coming to the states. Empathy must be two may in order to build mutual understanding and in turn help us understand what kind of communication will be the most effective from home. Will this work? I don’t know, but I personally root for Switzerland after the U.S. in every Olympic or international sporting event I watch just because I lived there.


R.S. Zaharna “Grand Strategy: From Battles to Bridges” in Battles to Bridges: US Strategic Communication and Public Diplomacy after 9/11 (2010)

Improving US PD with Bridges

This class has allow students to question PD’s complicated nature. While the definition of PD is not clear cut, PD is not just one concept but the interconnectedness of many ways or concepts to attract foreign publics to a positive image in order to manage the international system. The most exciting part about this emerging field of public diplomacy is that all actors in the international system must acknowledge and participate in it. Actors in PD must migrate and help frame stories in their best possible light, particularly the media. While Hilary Clinton articulates that more jobs are opening up for Foreign Service officers, US PD has a lot of room for improvement. The US could be branding itself better. Other countries are developing their more informal PD plans as the US is trying to win the war of information. US grand strategy efforts should be less spent on fighting the information war and more on building reciprocal cultural bridges to help other publics understand American culture and vice versa. Deep meaningful contacts in many places should be the American PD goal. The hardest part about making these contacts are managing them in the media and successfully planning and executing initiates that withstand time. People at all levels of society realize that their role in the international system can have an effect on how their state actor is perceived by other publics.

April 18, 2011

Japan's Culture Diplomacy

Last week we discussed in our class that Japan focuses on its pop culture as a tool of Public Diplomacy besides using branding. Their philosophy is to internationalize Japan, but at the same time to shield Japan from outside influences. We see an emphasis on branding, fashion, animations, and pop culture in Japanese Public Diplomacy.

Mr. Seiichi Kondo, a former diplomat who has been appointed as Commissioner of the Agency for Cultural Affairs, says "Public Diplomacy is not necessarily selling pop culture like Pokemon, though Pokemon is a Japanese cultural ambassador to the rest of the world." He adds that he does not draw a line between pop culture and high culture or sub-culture. "Culture is culture, and we promote whatever is liked by Japanese and non-Japanese."

The following is a press briefing of Mr. Kondo on Japan's Culture Diplomacy:

Informal PD: Solidifying Cool Japan

While Japan has a long history of traditional PD, it is emerging with a new more popular culture PD today through the soft power of anime and manga. Similar to China, Japan plans on educating the world about its culture. For instance, in 2006, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso proposed setting up a "Nobel Prize" for foreign "manga" cartoon artists and awarded talented Japanese artists the title of "Anime Ambassador". Aso, said Japan’s anime and manga could be the way to China’s heart. "What you have been doing ... has grabbed the hearts of young people in many countries, including China," he told an audience of some 100 students at the University of Digital Content in Tokyo’s Akihabara district. But does winning over people’s hearts equate to a legitimate and credible image within the international community? Japan, on occasion, has been known to have an odorless culture. So it is trying to set itself apart from that primarily through cultural diplomacy.

A brief look of images show Japan’s attempt to display its gastronomy, tourist destinations, electronics, hello kitty, and anime and manga culture. Just because one public likes another’s culture doesn’t necessarily equate to spectacular international relations between the two countries. There are many factors to consider if an actor has a successful PD policy. Furthermore, this form of PD targets a younger audience abroad. One thing is for sure, the younger generations are most open to change in the field of public diplomacy. Of course, making Japanese culture cool does not hurt Japan’s image but it does not necessarily mean that people trust in Japan as a leading global actor. Younger generations, however, are fueling new ideas to modernize traditional diplomacy and bring it to the world’s people. There are now large relief programs using social networking sites to raise relief funds for the earthquake/tsunami. The opportunities are endless for where PD can go…the only question is if whether or not the opportunities that became a reality successfully changed the image of the country in question.

April 16, 2011

J Pop Was Here

In Anne Allison’s article, “Attractions of the J-Wave for American Youth” she tries to explain why Japanese pop culture, specifically Anime and other television cartoons and action series from Japan have been so popular among American youth. She concludes by saying that it is because of its foreignness or strangeness that American children love and embrace the shows as something different and take it as their own while still being Japanese. This is opposed to adults who don’t understand the fad because they think of Japan as foreign, exotic and unknown as well but prefer to keep it that way.

Is this true? No one can deny that the popular culture coming from Japan isn’t like anything we had in America before it. It is definitely something new and exotic. But I am not sure if that is why young children love it. An alternate explanation could be that children have been collecting things for centuries, whether it was rocks, stamps, baseball cards etc. and trading them with friends. The Pokemon phenomenon could have just been that generations trading card du jour. It was definitely more exciting than stamps because of the technology it used. Sure you could trade cards as well, but then you could watch the television show and play the video can to solidify the Pokemon as a part of your everyday child life. Children also love pets, which is what the Pokemon essentially were. You had to play with them or train them and you had to take care of them. Were they exotic? To be sure, there is no naturally existing animal called a Pikachu that I know of, but is it Japanese exotic or just something new?

My brother loved Pokemon, I mean was SO obsessed and had all the cards and watched the show every week religiously and had all the games. I remember we couldn’t go out anywhere without him asking my mom to get him a pack of the cards. It was a problem (that’s the way it seemed to me anyway). But did it cause him to be more attracted to Japanese culture? Well as he got older he watched more Japanese cultural products like Dragon Ball Z and other Anime shows. I watched his best friend go through all of these phases as well. But while my brother moved on (although he still watches the cartoons from time to time) his best friend developed a love for Anime that can only be described as… insane (again, at least that’s what I think). He began to draw the comics that he saw and create his own in the Anime style. He actually started to learn a little Japanese and his dream became and still is to move to Japan and create his own comic book. This seemed utterly insane to me and not like a real life goal, but after reading about the J Pop wave I still think its insane of him but very clever on the part of the Japanese.

So what’s my end take on this? Does it work? My answer is it depends on the person and it seems as though there are a lot of people out there who are testaments to Japan’s cultural diplomacy. I can apply this phenomenon to my own life as well. My brother borrowed from a friend a game called Final Fantasy VII one summer. I was sitting in my room bored and I went to see what he was playing and why he and his friends were so animated. To his chagrin (and his friends) I was hooked and literally spent two weeks of my life completely and utterly engrossed in this game. It was SO good. The story had drama, love, a war, a distant land and honor- just utterly amazing. I ended up playing the game two times through with my brother in subsequent summers just going back to that game but I never like any successor games as much as Final Fantasy VIII or any other games that my brother brought home. Once school started I was over it and went back to my other hobbies and I haven’t played it in years. I liked the game because it was different and while the characters could be described as mildly Asian in appearance the game took place in an alternate universe, I had no idea of its ties to Japan. I just found out today that the game was created by a Japanese man and produced by Square Enix and Japanese company.

What has affected me personally about Japanese culture is what I would call its historical culture. Japanese food, the history of the geisha, Tom Cruise in the Last Samurai (just kidding- I did like the movie though...mostly for the Samurais); to me that stuff is bad ass. I don’t even get why they would have to create a popular culture when their historical culture is so new and already exotic to Western places. It was the exotic nature of Final Fantasy that attracted me to it and it’s that same idea that attracts me to Japan. I know that J Pop has been very successful for them and they want to cash in on this money cow while they can, but if they ever worry about the fad fading, I think they just have to look back to see how they can go forward.


Anne Allison “The Attractions of the J Wave for American Youth” in Watanabe Yusashi and Michael McConnell (Eds) Soft Power Superpowers: Cultural and National Assets of Japan and the United States (2008)

(Pop) Culture Diplomacy

From the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website: MOFA “began the "Anime Ambassador" project, with the aim of increasing interest in Japan through Anime.” As a diplomacy goal of creating “interest” in the country, Japanese pop culture has certainly been successful. By that metric, though, so have the United States and many other countries.

But at what point does cultural byproduct become cultural diplomacy? Government backing? Intentional dissemination? Or, like the case of Turkey’s soap operas that I talked about this week, does it just happen sometimes?

There are many TV shows, especially from the US, that are exported elsewhere. That doesn’t always seem to work out too well for us “diplomatically.” There are a lot of other TV shows from around the world, especially reality shows, that seem to be picked up and remade all the time, that become completely odorless, like a Korean television. Not really intentional or government sponsored, and maybe questionable on how well it portrays the country of origin.

For the Japanese, though, this seems to have worked out differently. They have come up with things that no one else seems to think of. And the West eats these cultural peculiarities up. Nintendo, like Toyota, have become household names, but are still very much Japanese. The first Wii commercials from a few years ago, for example:

Tomagotchi. And Pokemon. And Anime. And bento boxes. And the list goes on, and people in the US find them entertaining. But what does that ultimately mean for Japan-US relations?

Like the Turkish soap operas, its just an opportunity. In the Middle East, the historical tensions between the region have been minimized for some who see cultural similarities portrayed on TV. Japan has the opposite, cultural curiosities that entice a particular subset of the Western population. Whether that works out for the future of their public diplomatic interests remains to be seen.

Prof. Hayden also mentioned “Firefly” in class. The cultural conglomeration is particularly apparent in the clip (starting at 6:20 or so) with a few instances of the Chinese-English language mix in there too. Its kind of like walking through Chinatown in DC.

Gorram Fox canceled my show, Professor.

April 14, 2011

Nye on Soft Power, Superpowers and "The Rise of the Rest"

Joe Nye's been making the rounds lately, promoting his latest book. Here he's talking to Al Jazeera's Riz Khan, covering issues and concepts that are just much too familiar to our class :)


April 11, 2011

China's Soft Power

Though some scholars, like Yan Xuetong and Zhu Feng, challenge Nye’s conception of soft power and how that is applied to the Chinese case, the CCP seems to be fully behind the idea. Whether, as Li points out, soft power is a means to a variety of ends, like world status or self-defense, or to a specific policy goal, the PRC has embraced soft power and a variety of public diplomacy programs, like international broadcasting.

A main aspect of public diplomacy, or nation branding, depends on the message the government sends out not clashing horrendously with the actual situation in the country, or the actions they take. This doesn’t work out when human rights abuses and foreign misperceptions clash directly with their own view of themselves. China’s public diplomacy seems just as much about convincing their own population of their soft power and their cultural strengths as other countries. Wang explains this through a particular conception of public diplomacy, in that a meaning of propaganda has both internal and external aspects, a direct opposite from the Smith-Mundt Act in the US.

Nonetheless, Nye, of course, still recommends soft power as a goal and a method for China as it gains power in the world system:

Have I mentioned how much I love TED talks?

Turkey's soft power

Joseph Nye says that a country's soft power is embedded in its values, culture, and legitimate foreign policy. However, while researching for a paper on "Turkey's Public Diplomacy" I came across other tools of soft power that gives a certain country an edge over others. In the case of the U.S., its soft power flows from its hard power--a combination which makes it a smart power.

Since Turkey has no comparable hard power, it uses other tools to make its power 'smart' -- at least in its sphere of influence. The first tool in its arsenal of Public Diplomacy is its geographic location. Strategically located at the confluence of the East and West, Turkey is in a unique position to work as a bridge between the East and the West. It is in Anatolia where East meets West.

Secondly, its modern outlook with a secular democratic political system--especially after Kemal Atatürk made Turkey look Westward--makes it, if not a Western state, at least a look-alike of the West. Thus it made it possible for Turkey to identify itself with the modern world and be a candidate for EU membership. It also became a model for other Muslim countries in many respects.

Third, Turkey shares a long history with the Middle East, Caucasus, Central Asia and as far away as Afghanistan. It made things easier for Turkey to reconnect to and prop up its historical and cultural roots in these countries. Turkey has also racial, ethnic and linguistic affinities with many countries in the region, especially Caucasus and Central Asia.

These soft power tools or assets have put Turkey in a unique position by raising its stature as a spokesman of the Muslim world, who can talk to the West on their behalf. For the West, this spokesman is not unfamiliar, and also not so different. For the East, Turkey is one of them.

China’s Soft Power: Is a soft power war possible in Latin America?

Given China’s potential for growth in hard and soft power, it is vital that the US, in particular, be cognizant of Chinese public diplomacy efforts. Scholars agree, that in the case of China, that means evaluating China’s soft power. Maria Wey-Shen Siow, "Chinese Domestic Debates on Soft Power and Public Diplomacy," argues that the debate about soft power fluctuates somewhat between two bipolar extremes. She writes,
“On one hand there is immense domestic pride in Chinese growth and the historical depth of Chinese civilization. On the other hand, there is a tremendous awareness of China’s inadequacy in effectively communicating Chinese development as benign, and this has, in part, resulted in a sense of inferiority.”

While scholars argue about whether or not China is currently changing its image in a positive way, one thing is for certain, China is trying to spread its soft power in Latin America to widen its global reach and deepen its importance in other markets. Executing what R. Evan Ellis calls “modest influence”, China’s rise in Latin America has the potential to create competition and serious tension with the US. Spreading the Chinese notions of development and communism, China poses a threat to the US monopoly in the region. At the same time, however, there are limits to Chinese soft power. The language and cultural barrier is rather vast. Furthermore, the region also has ties to “India, Russia, Iran, and others” which is diluting China’s importance. Will this lead to a soft power war? Time will only tell how relations in the regions will develop given that the other state actors in the region also have similar cultural and language barriers.

April 8, 2011

And the Public Diplomacy Award Goes to...

If there were a red carpet award ceremony for PD efforts by
governments, China would win for country trying the hardest to use PD
to its full potential. The Chinese have taken to PD well and they mean
business with their programs. This to me means that China clearly
recognizes the power PD has. It is also no surprise that the Chinese
took to a diplomacy tool that’s sole purpose is to influence- its
right up their ally, what they have been trying to do within China all
along! This is one reason why I believe that the Chinese don’t have a
problem with using the word propaganda when it comes to PD, as Wang
says their word for PD is external propaganda as opposed to the
propaganda within the state.

Few can doubt that China has not only taken to PD, but has its various
tools and mechanisms worked for it? To be clear, I don’t think China
needs PD to help its supposed “rise” in the world. I think that its
rise, which is mostly economic based, makes other countries and
powers nervous. China knows this so it’s putting an image out there of
the friendly rising power. The Chinese realize that if they don’t keep
and create allies while it gains international notoriety its power
will be seen as a threat, which will hinder its rise.

One of the ways that China is trying to spread its influence is
through its cultural diplomacy, which is facilitated through its
Confucius Institutes. According to the China Daily there are 523
centers around the world today. These centers contain classrooms for
teaching Chinese and each one is supposed to partner with a
university or a cultural institution. While the spread of these
Institutes is a great cultural diplomacy effort by China, is it working?

Well personally, when I think of China I think of major human rights violations, specifically in the labor sector where workers are paid inadequate wages and children workers are abundant, but that from my undergraduate education. I also think of communism and limited access to the freedoms I have in America such as access to unfiltered information (that I know of) and a transparent government. However, I am not sure if this means that China’s public diplomacy isn’t convincing or working so much as the domestic policies in place in America make it so I am automatically distrustful of anything coming from China.

Whatever the case of my biases no one can deny that China’s public diplomacy strategies are ambitious and probably working very well in areas such as Africa where China provides a lot of economic support. So what will happen to China’s international public opinion is not set in stone, but it seems to be going in a good direction.


Yiwei Wang Public Diplomacy and the Rise of Chinese Soft Power, The ANNALS of the

American Academy of Political and Social Science 2008 616: 257-273




April 4, 2011

On Anholt

Simon Anholt uses nation branding as a way of transforming countries international images for the better. Is this different that a pubic relations campaign for a celebrity or a cereal? It doesn’t sound like it to me. Anholt talks about countries using tourism promotion, exported products, policy decision, investment, cultural exchanges and the people in the country as the way a country creates his identity. Maybe its because I have been reading articles related to public diplomacy all semester in this class and some what in International Communication, but all I can think is, “Duh?” While my comment may be sophomoric, that is exactly what I think of Anholt’s analysis. It seems to me like he is saying everything that everyone has ever said about public diplomacy, cultural diplomacy and even foreign policy to an extent and not even bothering to really repackage it as something innovative but rather just uses a new word to entitle the same regurgitated ideas. To be fair, I do not know if Anholt came before all the other readers in class. I could take the time and look at the publishing dates for all of those other papers, but instead I think that I can safely assume that Anholt is not the creator of all of the PD ideals that he espouses in his article.

When I heard nation branding, I guess I had an idea in my mind that it would be more of a business approach to the items that we have learned in PD class which have more of a governmental feel. In other words I thought he would have a new perspective. That is not what I found. However, all those things being said I do not think that his argument is a bad one, just intuitive and he doesn’t add any depth or innovations to the old ideas. Maybe this is a case of Anholt not wanting to give away his branding secrets, since Efe said in class that he sells his ideas to countries for lots of money, but I think that an example of how he uses these ideas in practice may have helped differentiate his ideas from the pack if not at least strengthen them.

In all I thought that the article was formulaic, but only time will tell if he actually is successful in his campaigns to change a nations brand in the international arena.

Place Branding: Where is its place in Cull's Framework?

My group decided to use Nicolas Cull’s PD framework for our group paper. So I have been spending a lot of time thinking about his five components of PD, which are: listening, advocacy, cultural diplomacy, exchange diplomacy, and international broadcasting. This week’s readings, however, are about place branding.

Place branding, as defined by Peter van Ham is “an effort to manage, if not necessarily wield, the social power of a geographical location by using strategies developed in the commercial sector” (van Ham 2020, pg 136). He continues, “It is closely linked to public diplomacy since place branding tries to affect the image and perception of foreign as well as domestic communities regarding territorial entities, be they states, regions, or cities” (van Ham 2020, pg 136). One can see that each component as a part of Cull’s framework helps to “manage” and guide a state’s image. While van Ham describes a place brand as “(amongst others [things]) determined by its culture, its political ideals, and its policies”, at times it is hard to fully fit place branding into Cull’s framework (van Ham 2020, pg 137). Of course, place branding is an important part of creating an established image through icons, logos, pictures, and marketing campaigns, but that alone does not necessarily equate to state successfully managing its international environment. Simple place branding alone will not manage perceptions of a place unless there has been political, economic, and social change to legitimize the place branding. In those cases, place branding gets watered down by all of the problems with the image itself.

Spain, for instance, was able to rebrand itself after the Franco dictatorship because of its dramatic political, social, and economic change. However, now it is attempting to rebrand its tourism industry through a new “Privilege Spain” campaign. Whether it will successful, only time can tell.

Branding Pakistan

Last week Pakistan got a bash right on its head for having no public diplomacy. It is always hard to speak for a country which does not speak for itself. "A Sinking Ship"--this is how Pakistan's public diplomacy was described by a group of our PD class.
We live in a world of images that are created mostly by the mass media. It is in the nature of the mass media to equate negativity with news. Positive things seldom make news, especially in this age of war on terror. People did not contribute generously to relief funds in the wake of devastating floods in Pakistan last year because it has been branded negatively by the Western media.
There is a litany of charges against Pakistan, but so far its government has not felt the need to engage with the people of other countries, especially the West, and tell them Pakistan's side of the story. In Pakistan, it is the extremists and terrorists who speak loudly with their daily actions. When other countries in the region--India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka--were getting a positive press for hosting the Cricket World Cup, Pakistan had been in the press for the negative reasons: suicide attacks, bomb blasts, assassinations and victimization of minorities.
If local newspapers are the face of a country, it is never rosy for Pakistan when I read them daily. The state of Pakistan seems to have receded, while terrorists and extremists shriek out at the world. This is how they brand their country as the government has fallen into a gentle slumber.

April 3, 2011

PD Quotes of the Week

Researching on Turkey's international broadcasting, I came across a great piece by Al Ahram from a year ago. Discussing the various aspects of Turkey's (then) new Arabic-language broadcaster, the article concludes:

"It is still unclear where Turkey's "soft-power" in the Arab world is heading. Erdogan is the only high profile politician in the region who criticises Israel -- Turkey's ally -- and prioritises the Palestinian question in his discourse on the Middle East. In a way this indirectly feeds Arab nationalism, which places the Palestinian question at the centre of its concerns. Ironically, Arab nationalism emerged in response to the Ottoman Empire. The dynamics might be too complex to decipher at this stage but this much is clear: the Turks have arrived."

Given all the events since, and especially the most recent "revolutions" in the MENA region, it is particularly interesting to follow Turkey's role in it all: providing guidance, leadership, as well as initiative and truly trying to live up to its projected image of being a "bridge between the East and the West."

Another interesting piece on a similar subject - that of Turkish Soap Operas - was published by Foreign Policy around the same time. Here's an excerpt:

"Four-hundred years after a nasty occupation of Arab land by the forefathers of these young Turks, the Arab world is embracing Turkey, opening its living rooms and flocking around their television sets to watch over 140 episodes of second-rate Turkish soap operas that don't even do well in Turkey itself.
If only the sultans knew that it could be done on the cheap, they could have dispatched these handsome men and beautiful women and assembled them to conquer hearts and minds in the Arab world on their behalves, saving the treasury endless amount of cash."

Great point. Indeed, modern technologies and the unavoidable transnational relationships that they have created, allow such interaction to take place. Of special note, of course, is the fact that the Arabs despised everything "Turkish" (OK, rather Ottoman, which was still associated with "Turkish") for centuries. The only explanations that come to my mind are:

- Time (but of course) and all the various developments and transformations that Turkey itself has undergone.

- Shared cultural heritage: unfortunately, there's no escaping it.

Public diplomacy implications? I guess it provides a great example, demonstrating yet again that unless there is a true change in attitude and behavior towards a people (i.e. by an actor itself) and unless there is common ground to communicate upon, achieving success in public diplomacy objectives will be very difficult, if not impossible. The source of communication and its perceived credibility on the subject matter. Nothing new, of course.

Measuring Engagement

With social media growing in popularity with the government and corporate types, its been too easy to measure the "effectiveness" of their campaigns based on the number of likes or comments on their page. But for anyone who has ever read the comments on anything on the Internet, that's probably not the best idea.

And as Prof. Hayden has pointed out, "engagement" is a squishy kind of word, a "smurf word," that can be made to mean whatever you want. And its certainly even harder quantify, or even qualify, in a report.

This MIT researcher wired his house with cameras in every room, and then made grad researchers sift through all the data they gathered over years of recording. The object? To see how and when his son learned language over time. Pretty cool.

But they also took the same idea and applied it to mass media, television shows and news, and juxtaposed, on a time axis, with what was being said online, through Twitter et al. They saw direct feedback on opinions, on what got people talking, and how long they kept talking about it.

You don't need their fancy MIT software to that, either, just some Internet-combing skills and too much time on your hands. But to see the data they pulled out in aggregate and over time, and graphed or visualized, is awesome.

Man, I love TED talks.


April 1, 2011

What a difference a decade makes

In the late 1990s, the US was still the dominant superpower, before the dot-bombs, before wars, before uncertainty and before Y2K. 10 years before that, the Soviet Union was still standing, albeit barely, and bi-polarity was still the norm of the Cold War. Now we have financial uncertainty, job insecurity, international instability and globalizing interactions. Accordingly, theory has move from soft power in public diplomacy towards "engagement," or long-term communication strategies with other nation-states. Anholt’s branding strategy theory has changed a little as well over the last decade.

As esteemed Guest Lecturer Efe Sevin pointed out, Anholt has chosen to update and asterisk his own* theory of nation branding from 10 years ago, from nation branding to "competitive identity." But the world has changed too, in his defense, and I’ve never been a fan of theories that can’t be put into practice.

The discussions of nation branding, public diplomacy, place management, engagement, all come to their value as a means to an end, if they affect policy and perceptions positively or negatively. People, or countries, will only fall for words so many times when actions don’t back them up. If relationships are based on credibility, it won’t necessarily make countries like one another any better, but at least there is some trust that actions, good or bad, will match their words.

That’s something that hasn’t changed at all.

March 28, 2011

Fran Drescher Goes to Washington

Public Diplomacy is no longer for the few and privileged Foreign Service Officers, says John Robert Kelley. Rather it is transforming in a way to include much more of the ‘P’ in ‘PD’. According to the Figure in Kelley’s article “The New Diplomacy: Evolution of a Revolution,” actors such as NGO’s, Religious Leaders, Intelligentsia Celebrities and Private Sector have an increasingly important role in Public Diplomacy and I would add to this the public itself as well as illustrated by the implementation of Public Diplomacy 2.0 in which two way communication from the public was encouraged and seen as the new wave of PD. I agree that in this increasingly technological world there is no way you can ignore the additional actors who play a role in Public Diplomacy but as mentioned, but as Kelley himself acknowledged diplomats are as integral to the act of public diplomacy as states themselves (which are the only reason we have diplomats in there current carnation anyway). So how much stock should we put in these actors? Can they really help? All signs point to yes… in certain cases. PD strategies are becoming more contingency based (appropriately so) and so many of the things listed above will be used in conjunction with one another in order to make an overall PD strategy that a country uses. The U.S., for example, uses all of the above in some form or other. My favorite non-governmental PD move is the use of actors, and I’m not being sarcastic. At first look making someone like, I don’t know, Fran Drescher a US ambassador is not music to ones ears. However she is the ambassador for “women's issues,” which is a cheesy title but not all together a bad idea. Drescher herself went had breast cancer, which is definitely a woman’s issue and also a very emotionally and physically draining experience. Having someone who has actually been through the experience makes the connection to other women more genuine, especially for something like a disease, which does not tend to respect national borders and international rules of conduct. Therefore addressing a universal issue with someone who can be more empathetic than most is a great strategy and is the ideal example of public diplomacy through new channels. Will this program work? Only time will tell. It won’t solve all foreign policy problems but it definitely helps give a face and personality to the once solely bureaucratic machine of PD.

Sources: John Robert Kelley, "The New Diplomacy: Evolution of a Revolution," Diplomacy & Statecraft, Volume 21, Issue 2, 2010, 1-21

Cricket Diplomacy

There are many things common between India and Pakistan like, languages, literature, music, religious traditions, and thousands of years of togetherness under local rulers and competing empires. There is only one issue that despite this commonality makes them distant neighbors: the Kashmir issue.
It is the dispute over Kashmir region that sharpens differences and blurs this commonness. However, the sports of cricket, which has deep roots in the subcontinent as a cultural tradition, is one other strand that weaves the peoples of India and Pakistan together. Cashing in on this cultural tradition, leaders of the two countries have used Cricket Diplomacy to thaw iciness in their relations.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, to the pleasant surprise of many, invited his Pakistani counterpart to watch the World Cup 2011 semi-final between the two countries' teams in Mohali, India, as part of Cricket Diplomacy. And Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani has concurred to watch the match alongside Mr. Singh.

It is not the first time for India and Pakistan to use cricket for diplomacy; it started in early 1980s when Indian and Pakistani armed forces had been eyeball to eyeball with each other. The Indian Express newspaper says:

"Cricket diplomacy is now very much a part of Indo-Pak diplomatic tradition. In 1987, Gen. Zia ul Haque [military ruler of Pakistan] invited himself to witness a cricket match in India as part of his effort to defuse tensions following a military confrontation. Gen. Musharraf [another military ruler of Pakistan] did much the same in April 2005, when he wrangled an invitation from Dr. Singh to witness an Indo-Pak cricket match in Delhi. The talks during that visit produced the basis for a serious bilateral negotiation on resolving the dispute over Jammu & Kashmir."

In 2005, Mr. Singh told the Indian Parliament that nothing brings the people of the subcontinent together more than our love for cricket and Bollywood. His predecessor Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, before sending them to Pakistan, advised the Indian cricket players: "Dil bhi jeeto!" [Win their hearts too].

Many commentators see the Indian Prime Minister's invite a smart diplomatic initiative through cricket undertaken after India and Pakistan resumed the dialogue process stalled in November 2008 when the Indian financial capital Mumbai was hit by terrorist attacks.

One commentator has rightly pointed out the potency of Cricket Diplomacy by observing: "Overnight, the mood of the media and the people, at least in Pakistan, has turned towards India." What politicians, generals and diplomats could not achieve in years, Cricket Diplomacy has done it in ways.

It is now up to the politicians to catch on the positive public sentiments and move on normalizing relations between India and Pakistan. Public Diplomacy does not resolve thorny issues, but it does build confidence and trust between peoples of two countries. When diplomats and politicians talk to each other in an atmosphere of trust, they can reach an understanding on issues that bedevil their relations.

Diplomacy is changing!! Repeat, Diplomacy is changing and will continue to do so!!

This week’s readings pertained to transformational diplomacy. That is, the process by which traditional diplomacy is being altered due to information and communication technologies (ICTs). Anthony Deos and Geoffrey Allen Pigman articulate,

“Diplomatic communication itself has been disintermediated by global media that bring information from around the globe to policymakers and general publics alike, often in real time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Increasingly, governments seeking to implement and legitimate a foreign policy seek to commu­ nicate and promote their policies directly to the affected foreign pub­ lics (as well as domestic publics) and must be prepared to react to and act on the responses of these publics. Just as publics have come to be participants in the escalation of conflict and hostility between govern­ ments, they have come to playa role in the use of diplomacy to mediate estrangement between actors (Oer Oerian, 1987).”

While this change is very exciting and gives individuals throughout the world a voice like they have never had before, it is also terrifying. Today’s world, in terms of national security, is very different than it once was. In light of global tensions caused by terrorism such as the US embassy bombings in Kenya, 9/11, and the March 11th bombings in Madrid, it is evident how media creates and perpetuates uncertainty in the international system based on the news story. Deos and Pigman go on to say, “there has been an increase in both number and influence of non-state actors, including multilateral institutions, global corporations, not-for-profit groups and other NGOs in the international diplomatic discourse”. The point is that more actors have more ability to render attention toward selected issues of importance. So communicating a clear identity in the midst of an overwhelming amount of information available to societies is inherently difficult because public diplomacy is constantly changing with every news update. It is relentless, which is why the more voices there are, the more fascinating, vital, and chaotic (at the same time) public diplomacy becomes. The alternative to public diplomacy, use of hard power, is simply not desired if conflicts can be calmly diffused through public diplomacy.

March 26, 2011

Public Diplomacy: not just for diplomats anymore

In reconceptualizing public diplomacy from propaganda, to soft power, and long-term communication, the actor has always been the state. The traditional roots of “diplomacy” and a realist attitude towards non-state actors has left the power of NGOs, institutions and active citizens outside the realm of public diplomacy. But that may no longer be possible, or wise, for states to do.

As Fisher wrote in “Music for the Jilted Generation,” the “practice of public diplomacy” is developing and the “barriers to entry,” like the Internet and other communications technologies, are decreasing rapidly and “this has the potential to break down the hierarchical producer and recipient relationship, and creates a means for collective action.” Fisher calls it “open source” diplomacy, where Kelley stresses the “new” public diplomacy with non-state actors, present from “take-offs” and not just the crash landings of critical strategic situations.

A state could use long-term “engagement” or relationship building techniques with the goal of increasing “social capital” with particular countries. But this takes a long time, could be expensive, might not work, and has proven itself to be very difficult to sway policymakers towards, despite the sense-making inherent to the theories of engagement.

Or, they could use intermediary organizations and spokespeople, where the message is no longer controlled directly by diplomats, but conveyed via stakeholders with better relationships and more credibility with target audiences. And perhaps, as Fisher’s use of the term “open source” suggests, it will cause more people to get involved and become stakeholders in foreign policy. It goes beyond traditional diplomacy, “to engaging on a genuinely symmetrical, peer-to-peer engagement aimed at engaging in collective effort with groups that were previously largely only considered as part of the target audience.” (Fisher)

March 24, 2011

DirecTV Commercials: Russia, You Have a Problem

Reposting from Global Chaos, yet again.


Not that it's anything new... and yet, it shows - once again - that Russia, along with several other former Communist/Socialist states, has a major image problem in the U.S. On numerous occasions before, I have discussed these stereotype issues on this blog, and this new DirecTV commercial only reiterates it all. (The commercial might have been around for quite a while, but since I do not own a TV - quite fortunately - I would ask for your understanding on the delayed response.)

Here's the "new" commercial, which seems to have been launched this month:

I have no words to explain how it is supposed to be related - if at all - to promoting a satellite TV service. But that aside: what images does it convey and what stereotypes of Russia, and Russians, is it playing on?

In a series of papers, Ivan Katchanovski has demonstrated the negative representation of Russia and some other former Soviet countries in American news coverage, as well as in popular culture. His analysis of a set of Hollywood movies has shown that:
"most of the movies, incorrectly present Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine as economically and technologically backward, extremely anti-American and anti-Semitic countries, which have pervasive “Russian mafia” and widespread female prostitution."

I couldn't not think of this excerpt when I saw this commercial "masterpiece".

Why is it a problem?

In his work on "imagology", William Chew has correctly pointed out that:
"[...] national stereotypes are generally rationalised by the spector as based on a supposedly objective reality, but [they also] tend to be omnipresent in comics, cinema, literature, computer games, public media, jokes and the like, and are constantly though not consciously invoked to confirm one’s auto-image, one’s national identity. Once established, they remain latent in the individual consciousness, or collective mentality, to be called upon when needed."

Just like on many occasions before, such representations only reinforce the not-so-positive images of Russia held by so many Americans, cashing in on long-held stereotypes. Unfortunately, the multitude of the people who will see this commercial will - most probably - never see a Russian ballet performance, for example, which will only help to perpetuate such negative attitudes.

This is a major issue to be addressed by Russia as a part of its public diplomacy effort. Of course, many would find this ingenious piece funny, and would argue that it works as great advertising... (for who, one might ask?) However, I wonder what the reaction would have been, had "the Russian" been replaced by an Israeli, for instance. (This is a rhetorical question, by the way. And yet, I would appreciate insights, if you're willing to share.)

In short, some more food for thought...

And just for your reference, here's the hideous "prequel", that has been on air for about a year now (to the best of my knowledge, that is).

I know you're dying to get DirecTV now, eh?

Does American Cultural Diplomacy have a pulse?

Mark Twain once said, “Culture is what is left after everything else is forgotten." Like Twain nailed it. It is impossible to be without culture. Richard T. Arndt, author of the "The Hush-Hush Debate: The Cultural Foundations of U.S. Public Diplomacy", discusses cultural diplomacy. He discusses its definition,

“To define cultural diplomacy, begin with cultural relations –which happen by themselves, a mosaic of human encounters fostered by films and media, trade, tourism, intermarriage, the arts of imagination, foreign study, books, neighborly gossip and chance encounters. Cultural diplomacy on the other hand only begins when a nation-state and its institutions step in and try to manage, to whatever extent they can, this natural two-way cultural flow so as better to advance broad national interests, preferably on both sides of borders. Some cultural relations are teaching opportunities, others learning situations; both processes educate the teachers as much as the student. The goal is to move from teacher-student relationships to collegiality.”

That said, American cultural diplomacy is highly reliant on its popular culture. But we have become too reliant on our inevitable popular culture to communicate to the world for us. While it is informal, it also convolutes the idea of American culture, which as John Brown points out is based on ideas rather than cultural tradition. Formal cultural diplomacy deserves greater attention and cognizance from the people, the government, and the private sector. Arndt points out that there used to be 200-odd libraries abroad and now we only have a dozen or so. Instead of cutting cultural staff overseas, US officials need to be increasing it. We may find that it would improve the international environment because of increased cultural understanding.

The US needs to be more careful of how other countries perceive us. For instance, while the movie Borat was a place branding nightmare in Kazakhstan, it also reflected poorly to some extent on Hollywood for its crude and culturally insensitive humor. Popular culture, as seen here, can prove to be a double edged sword- great for creating venue but it can also cause a lot of tension. In order to keep US cultural diplomacy alive, releases of movies like this one and formal acts of cultural diplomacy at US embassies around the world are the first step in creating a more solidified space to communicate through dialogue and collaboration with outside publics.

March 21, 2011

PD vs. CD

Richard T. Arndt, in his article entitled The Hush-Hush Debate: The Cultural Foundation of U.S. Public Diplomacy, draws a distinction between Cultural Diplomacy and Public Diplomacy calling for enlisting universities' role in bridging the gap between CD and PD.
PD, Arndt says, is the art of shaping, adjusting and communicating national policies to foreign governments and publics, while CD aims at a longer-range of policy to strengthen dialogue between a nation's intellectual and professional leaders and their students with counterparts in the world, based on the culture of the universities.
Academic and intellectual exchanges produce lasting effects in notions of nations, though in a slow process. The media of mass communication have been enlisted by nations to burnish their image because of their relatively quick effect. However, television and film industry always need a bit of exaggeration or hyperbole to emphasize its depiction of the society.
This is the problem that Hollywood creates an image of the U.S. which is far from the reality. Since its audience is global, Hollywood cannot focus on just American values or for that matter on any single nation's values to produce a widely-popular film. I think that is the reason that the mass media, including television, creates an image of a nation which may not be factual.
In such a situation Arndt's argument holds water that academia and students should be involved in the cultural diplomacy of the U.S.

March 19, 2011

Zogby: Americans Still Don't Get the Arabs

Here's a super-interesting discussion I came across recently with James Zogby on Americans' misunderstanding of the Middle East region, its people, and its consequent public diplomacy implications.

Some of the highlights include:

- Zogby: “I felt that with President Obama having the best of intentions, closing that gap was going to be a must, first. I don’t think public diplomacy begins with our selling of our message overseas as much as it begins with our understanding the region that we want to sell our message to, at home. We don’t understand the Arab world, so we talk at them, and not to them, not with them.” --> interesting case of differentiation between "transmission" and "ritual" views of communication, and the implications of confusion...

- Mentions the age-old concern about the lack of education on the region and the acquisition of that knowledge from the popular culture & Hollywood, instead.

- Clear disconnect between the issues that Arabs themselves pointed out as important/significant for them, and those that are promoted and even "pushed" by the U.S. --> such public diplomacy only backfires.

Yet, he still has some hope. Perhaps we should do, too.