In 2011, Scotland became the most recent country to receive Chinese pandas as a sign of cooperation and friendship between the two states.
China’s use of pandas as tools of public diplomacy took its beginning as early as the 7th century when the country presented Japan with two of the animals. Panda diplomacy was revived in the 1950s and arguably reached its peak in the 1970s and 1980s, with the most ground-breaking case of the practice taking place in 1972. As Mao Zedung met with Richard Nixon after 25 years of isolation between China and the United States during the Cold War, China gave the United States two pandas as a sign of goodwill and friendship (www.guardian.co.uk and www.telegraph.co.uk.)
Two years later, the Republic also presented the United Kingdom with two of the animals as the doors to the West were slowly being opened (www.guardian.co.uk.)
Subsequently, an array of states, such as Australia, Canada, following a series of trade agreements, and most recently Scotland, have received a pair of the furry Chinese diplomats (Zhu, 2010, 11, http://www.telegraph.co.uk and http://www.thestar.com.)
Even Taiwan, with which China has had an incredibly strained relationship, accepted two pandas in 2008, after initially having rejected the offer in 2006, as a symbol of diplomatic ties being mended between the countries (Zhu, 2010, 11.)
In this way, China has arguably made use of pandas as peace offerings, to mend and strengthen diplomatic relations, with both foreign states and publics, and promote interstate cooperation throughout the world.
Nowadays however, the pandas are no longer given away but offered on loan, as they are considered an endangered species with only 1600 left in the wild (www.guardian.co.uk.)
Between 1941 and 1982, China gave 23 pandas to nine different countries.
Zhu, Z. (2010), China’s New Diplomacy – Rationale, Strategies and Significance, Ashgate Publishing Ltd., Surrey, England.
1,300 Years of Global Diplomacy Ends for China’s Giant Pandas (2007), the Guardian, accessed 10th May 2012.
A History of Panda Diplomacy (2011), the Telegraph, accessed 10th May 2012.
Harper in China: Pandas and More Trade Agreements (2012), the Star, accessed 10th May 2012.
Tian Tian and Yang Gyang the Giant Pandas Land in Scotland (2011), the Telegraph, accessed 10th May 2012.
This report review will seek to analyse “Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States” which was published by the White House, United States of America, in August of 2011.
The report puts forth the argument that local communities are instrumental in the state’s quest to curb radicalisation of American citizens, hereby minimising the threat of violent extremist actions undertaken by Americans, inspired by organisations such as al-Qaida, within their own borders. With this, the report highlights the importance of engaging local communities in dialogue and utilising public diplomacy and soft power policies in order to strengthen American unity and counter anti-American sentiments (pages 1-3.)
With this, the report is divided into three main parts.
Firstly, it sets forth the challenges the state faces when seeking to prevent domestic extremism, hereunder the attempts of extremist groups to recruit American citizens to carry out attacks on their own nation. With this, the report continuously underlines the pluralism, inclusiveness and unity of the United States, setting forth the argument that it is the collective responsibility of the American public and government to uphold the, arguably universal, American values and to not allow division of the nation (pages 1-2.)
Secondly, the report puts forth ways in which these challenges can be countered, as it argues that the most efficient tool in identifying extremist ideologies is local communities. In this way, the report puts forth the all-importance of families and local institutions being well-informed and aware of potential threats to their communities so these can be confronted (pages 2-3.)
Thirdly, the report states its overarching goals which is to “prevent violent extremists and their supporters from inspiring, radicalizing, financing, or recruiting individuals or groups in the United States to commit acts of violence” (page 3.) It repeatedly makes it clear that Muslim Americans are an important part of the American community and that the United States is not at war with Islam but simply with extremism (pages 3, 6-7.) Furthermore, it highlights the centrality of information sharing, relationship building and training which will prepare local communities to counter attempted radicalisation (pages 5-6.) Finally, the report suggests that the key to tackling domestic extremism is to be found in the continued promotion of American ideals through soft power policies, hereby undermining extremist propaganda (pages 6-7.)
One may argue that this report offers a good overview of the challenges presented by extremists seeking to radicalise American citizens. Furthermore, it effectively and clearly puts forth a number of ways in which these attempts may be countered, hereunder the utilisation of public outreach and the involvement of citizens acting as diplomats.
However, one may put forth the argument that the report is rather vague in its recommendations and conclusions. In this way, the exact role which local communities have to play arguably never becomes clear, and throughout the report it arguably remains ambiguous exactly why or how they are “best placed to recognize and confront the threat” (page 3.) In this way, the report arguably does not clarify the way in which people to people diplomacy may be a crucial in countering attacks on the United States carried out by American citizens themselves.
Furthermore, the report places great emphasis on the importance of the state developing programs, addressing the risk of radicalisation (page 3), but the content of these initiatives is arguably not specified either.
Also, one may argue that some of the proposed responses, such as arranging meetings with foreign experts and utilising public diplomacy though the outreach to foreign publics, hereby and making use of their experiences (page 6), appear to be long-term solutions to a seemingly acute issue.
With this, one may argue that the report leaves the reader with a number of unanswered questions, and that the vagueness of it indeed may undermine the effectiveness of its proposals.
“A Smarter, More Secure America”
This review will critically evaluate the report “A smarter, more secure America” written by Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) Commission on Smart Power. Since America’s image and influence are in decline, the report advocates for a smarter strategy from the new American administration. The paper argues that the United States should focus in five critical areas: alliances, partnerships, and institutions; global development; public diplomacy; economic integration; and technology and innovation. However, this paper will critically assess only the critical area of public diplomacy which the authors focus on citizen diplomacy.
Initially, the authors enhance the importance to revise public diplomacy in the United States. The American debate regarding this issue disagrees in the allocation of resources and institutional provisions. Also, since decision-makers have undermined public diplomacy as mere propaganda, it had proposed the creation of an independent agency but not the reviving of the United States Information Agency which was the agency responsible for . Also, the authors argue an “effective public diplomacy approach must include exchange of ideas, peoples and information through person-to-person educational and cultural exchanges” (Armitage and Nye 2007:49). Citizen diplomacy has proved to be very effective over the years and it promotes cultural understanding across the globe. Therefore, the report suggests a reinforcement and expansion of America’s study abroad programs and an increase of international students coming to the United States for study or research.
The proposal to create a new independent agency would positively benefit the American public diplomacy. An independent agency would distance public diplomacy from propaganda. In contrast, the creation of governmental institution would mean reviving USIA, which is often called the “Cold War agency” (Cull 2008:483). Therefore, it would be negatively associated with the Cold War and propaganda. In order for this agency to be successful and escape the negative connotation of propaganda, it requires independency from the government. Plus, this status would bring legitimacy and credibility to the institution. This would facilitate its work to promote the American values and ideals abroad since citizens do not consider suspicious information from autonomous organizations as they do from a governmental source (Leonard, Stead and Swewing 2002:56). This way, the establishment of an independent organization to undertake public diplomacy would facilitate and provide freedom to spread the American “message” to foreign audiences due to the separation from the its administration.
The report defends a growth in study programs abroad and an increase in international students coming to study or research in the US. Nonetheless, the authors did not develop the argument concerning the integration of international students in the campus life. Since there has been a growing sentiment of repulsion against America, some oppose their culture others oppose their policies, students from other countries should receive some support to avoid a cultural shock (Nye 2004:39). For instance, in 2009 a Nigerian man, previous student at an English University, attempted to explode a bomb while in a flight to the United States (Carter 2009). The student was “radicalised” while at University because he could not adjust to the Western culture (Rayner 2009). For this reason, he felt as an outsider and attempted to explode a bomb in an airplane about to land. Integration of a student in the campus environment might prevent this type of initiatives in the future. Furthermore, the Commission mentions the importance of programs to study abroad programs to foster mutual understanding between different cultures. American isolation in the past decade provoked an anti-America sentiment in different regions, particularly in the Middle East. The anti-America sentiment can be addressed if the country builds bridges with the foreign public (Zaharna 2010:167). This initiative of sending students to study abroad or the other around will build the necessary bridges specifically within or among the younger generation which will lead the world in the future.
Armitage, R. and Nye J., (2007) A Smarter, More Secure America: Report of the CSIS Commission on Smart Power.
Washignton D.C.: Center for Strategic and International Studies
Carter, H. (2009) Terror attack on US flight to Detroit investigated in London. [online] The Guardian. Available from: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/dec/26/plane-bomb-plot-detroit> Accessed on the 25th of April 2012
Cull, N. (2008) The Cold War and the United States Information Agency: American propaganda and public diplomacy, 1945-1989
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Nye, J. (2004) Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics
New York: Public Affairs
Leonard, M., Stead, C. and Swewing, C. (2002) Public diplomacy
London: Foreign Policy Centre
Rayner, G. (2009). Detroit terror attack: British university ‘complicit’ in radicalisation. The Telegraph [online]. [Accessed 21st April 2012]. Available from: <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/terrorism-in-the-uk/6906751/Detroit-terror-attack-British-university-complicit-in-radicalisation.html>.
Zaharna, R. (2010) Battles to bridges: U.S. strategic communication and public diplomacy after 9/11
Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan
Public Diplomacy for a New Era is a report written by Walter Douglas, senior visiting fellow from the Department of State at the Centre for Strategic & International Studies. The report attempts to analyse why the U.S., in its efforts to attempt to avert future terrorist attacks, is failing in getting its message across in Muslim countries. It is now widely accepted that successful PD involves a fair amount of listening. In his article, Public diplomacy: seven lessons for its future from its past, Prof.Nicholas Cull, asserts: ‘1. Public diplomacy begins with listening’ (Cull, 2010). Douglas however, believes that the realities of the situations, faced by those the U.S. is attempting to influence, are being neglected. If you show no interest in the lives and cultures of the people you are trying to influence, how can you expect these people to reciprocate, is the essence of his argument. But is it true, does the U.S. really not listen before delivering? Certainly in Barack Obama’s inaugural address he hinted at opening up a new two-way dialogue with the Muslim world when he said: ‘To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. Yet there still appears to be much ignorance of Islam in America, take for example the recent revelations that the NYPD had been conducting a large-scale spying operation on Muslim students at 16 colleges and universities including Yale. If they don’t understand or trust Muslim’s within their own communities how can they be expected to in others?
Douglas lays the blame for this ignorance at the, ‘one-size-fits-all’, if it works in the U.S. it will work anywhere, attitude adopted by Washington to anything foreign policy related. This point is reflected by an interesting point he makes regarding social media. Social media is being proclaimed as the new face of P.D. almost everywhere you look, and it certainly holds an important place in Western countries including the U.S. However, as Douglas points out ‘each country is different, but many Muslim countries are not wealthy enough or literate enough to support a large online culture’ (Douglas, 2012). Though consider the relevance social media played in the recent ‘Arab spring’, yes the masses may not have access to Facebook in poorer countries; but they do have mobile phones, and sending video and photo footage, and broadcasting text messages is not something out of reach or even unusual for mobile phone users in any country. A recent Pew report found that text messaging was a ‘global phenomenon’ (Project, 2011). The report also found that texting was most popular amongst the ‘poorest nations surveyed’. Although the report did back Douglas’ point to some extent: ‘Social networking is generally more common in higher income nations;….People in lower income nations who have online access use social networking at rates that are as high, or higher, than those found in affluent countries’ (Project, 2011) note the italics placed on the ‘who have’ this emphasis is the reports own. Really it depends on who you are trying to influence, if you are targeting the youth of a nation then social media is the way to go as those under 30 are most likely to use social networking sites. However if you are targeting the whole nation, including the older influential generation looking beyond social media is a must.
Douglas makes some other strong arguments, for instance ‘in Pakistan’ Douglas says ‘the English-language media reaches .01 percent of the media-consuming public’ (Douglas, 2012). Thus expecting citizens to understand and engage with P.D. strategies purely conducted in English is futile; ‘Look at the bibliography of most Western studies of the region. Vernacular sourcing is extremely rare… Do we believe that an authoritative report could be written on the United States without English-language sources?’ contends Douglas, and it is a very valid point indeed. Number two and three of Cull’s lessons are that: ‘Public diplomacy must be connected to policy’ and ‘Public diplomacy is not a performance for domestic consumption’ respectively (Cull, 2010), I would perhaps change these to public diplomacy entails 2.hearing and 3.understanding.
Cull, N. (2010). Public diplomacy: seven lessons for its future from its past. http://www.palgrave-journals.com/pb/journal/v6/n1/full/pb20104a.html: Palgrave.
Douglas, W. (2012). Public Diplomacy for a New Era. http://csis.org/files/publication/120413_gf_douglas.pdf: Centre for Strategic and International Studies.
Project, G. A. (2011). Global Digital Communication: Texting, Social Networking Popular Worldwide. http://pewglobal.org/files/2011/12/Pew-Global-Attitudes-Technology-Report-FINAL-December-20-2011.pdf: Pew Research Center.
What sense are we to make of citizen diplomats? (Sharp 2001, p.131), I cannot help but ask myself this same question. So much has been written on the evolution of diplomacy, and citizen diplomacy tends to fall within the components of this change, but, wait! Citizen diplomacy according to Sharp is not that much of a novelty, apparently, “the high politics of the twentieth century is full of examples of private citizens performing the functions of go-betweens, from Dahlerus and his visits to Halifax and Goering in the early 1940s to the role of private Norwegian citizens in setting up the “back channel” between Palestinians and Israelis in the early 1990s” (2001, p.137).
So what is citizen diplomacy? Hmm, another question I cannot seem to make sense of either, there are quite a number of definitions which I can only assume owe their meaning to the variant shades of citizen diplomacy. Citizen diplomacy has been defined through the concept of Track II diplomacy which refers to “the interactions among individuals or groups that take place outside an official negotiation process” (Kaye 2005, p.9), or more broadly by the ‘US center for citizen diplomacy’ organisation who defines it as: “the concept that the individual has the right, even the responsibility, to help shape U.S. foreign relations ‘one handshake at a time.’ Citizen diplomats can be students, teachers, athletes, artists, business people, humanitarians, adventurers or tourists. They are motivated by a responsibility to engage with the rest of the world in a meaningful, mutually beneficial dialogue” (http://uscenterforcitizendiplomacy.org)
I guess the definition supplied by the US Center can always be flipped to represent whichever country you represent, that is, if your country is as agonised as the Americans by how far down the reputation of their image abroad has diminished, enough for them to entrust individuals to do some diplomatic legwork. It is this latter definition of citizen diplomacy that gives me a slight uneasiness, like Sharp, I share his earlier reservations that diplomacy is “a difficult business best undertaken by professionals who represent the states” and not citizen diplomats who “represent no one but themselves and not very well at that” (2001, p.134).
I am sure the vision behind ‘American citizen diplomacy’ is honourable and well intended, it is well recognised that citizens of a country can help others to form an opinion of that country, but, can this really change foreign policy? It is all too known that national stereotypes can be notoriously difficult to overcome, and honestly, can citizen diplomacy shift this? I know I might be too much of a skeptic, and maybe there is some truth to Simon Anholt’s assessment that “the only remaining superpower is public opinion” (http://www.simonanholt.com), but really………..one handshake at a time?!!
The world as we look at it today has gone through visible cycles of change regarding how nations conduct their foreign policy relations to achieve political advantage, and even more paramount, economic presence in a less than stable fiscal state of affairs. One of these changes has been the global trend of public diplomacy dictating how states engage with publics, both foreign and local. China, like many of the major nations is powering its ‘soft power’ initiatives gradually, yet, with effective stealth. Where states in the west have reduced media support outside of its borders due to constraints brought about by the economic downturn of the past few years, China, however, is bucking the trend, as it reaches out to the foreign audiences of Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia.
This report is an analysis of how the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is “using various components of public diplomacy to influence the media in Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia” (Farah & Mosher 2010, p.4). It was co-authored by Douglas Farah and Andrew Mosher for ‘The Center for International Media Assistance’ (CIMA), a project of the National Endowment for Democracy which aims to “strengthen the support, raise the visibility, and improve the effectiveness of media assistance programs” to democracies around the world (http://cima.ned.org/). Where perceptions of countries are determined by a mixture of ingredients that include political and economic development, and the influence of culture, social systems and technology, this report highlights what the authors identified as China’s ‘primary purpose’ as it continues to assume an increasingly important status in the world, as it embraces new opportunities and at it paints over the flags of western countries who were once the curators of public diplomacy.
How does China want the rest of the world to see it? Well, the evaluation of the authors is as that of “a reliable friend and partner” with a positive image in the developing world (Farah & Mosher 2010, p.4). And how would China make strides towards this? The authors’ opinion is that, the Chinese government “seeks to fundamentally reshape much of the world’s media in its own image”, an image that is controlled by a government which does not pander to a ‘watchdog stance’ but one that has choices to what it disseminates (ibid). China, already has ties with parts of the developing world through their ‘development assistance’ investments, and public diplomacy is an extension of that interaction, but to what the authors see as a great deal of emphasis on forming alliances that are “anti-western” and ones that promote an “anti-western media model to combat what the Chinese regularly portray as part of an imperialist plan to distort the truth” by western media and governments (ibid).
The report states that media aid and the expansion of Chinese media has become an area of high priority for the PRC’s public diplomacy initiative. The report, however, points out that this aid often results in assisting “authoritarian governments expand control of their local media”. The report does a cross-section of Chinese public diplomacy in Zambia, Liberia, and Zimbabwe; it explores Chinese presence in Latin America and the growing role of the Confucius institutions, as well as, China’s ties in Southeast Asia. There is also mention of how China is trying to flex its muscle and exert some influence on nations that still have diplomatic relations with Taiwan; the PRC is resolute in demonstrating the benefits of a relationship with the PRC and isolating Taiwan remains a high priority.
So how is China rolling out its media aid and expansion to the mentioned regions of the world? According to the report, China is carrying out these efforts through “direct aid to state-run media in the form of radio transmitters and financing for national satellites, the provision of content and technology to allies and potential allies, the sharing of news, and training programs, and expense-paid trips for journalists to China”, a significant expansion of the PRC’s own media on the world stage, primarily through the Xinhua news agency, satellite and Internet TV channels controlled by Xinhua, and state-run television services is also a part of this strategy (2010, p.4).
In a market that is crowded with western English-language foreign news satellites, and a meagre sprinkling of alternative sources such as Al Jazeera and Russian TV, one would appreciate new sources of information such as those offered by the Chinese service, I am afraid though, that for me this report starkly highlights why I have reservations in Chinese media outreach as a channel for public diplomacy. For example, in 2008, Li Changchun, the communist party leader responsible for propaganda is cited in the report as summing up China’s motivation as: “In the modern age, whichever nation’s communication methods are most advanced, whichever nation’s communication capacity is strongest . . . has the most power to influence the world” (p.6), this stance I am afraid reverberates of the propaganda initiatives of the Cold War period between the West and the East, and to put it mildly is nothing but the emperor in new clothes.
China says these media initiatives are to woo public opinion in Africa and Latin America, but given what the authors assess as “China’s multi-billion dollar investments in commodity extraction and large scale infrastructure projects in Africa” I am hugely speculative that this public diplomacy gesture is insubstantial compared to the benefits that China receives in the grander scheme of things. The reports also states that PRC officials have repeatedly attacked the western media as “biased, unreliable, and full of propaganda” (2010, p.), I can’t help but laugh as words such as ‘kettle’, ‘pot’ and ‘black’ come to mind. The authors make a revelation that “the Chinese are exporting a form of journalism that resembles their own, far less free and independent than media in democracies” (p.11), of course we know that in as much as the PRC will claim that it is the voice of 1.3 billion Chinese people speaking, we all know whose voice is the loudest!
The Growing Role of the Confucius Institutes is analysed in the report, and the authors note that these government-funded agencies that “promote Chinese language, culture, and understanding and serve as centers for outreach to local media” are becoming very influential as a vital cog in China’s public diplomacy wheel. In Latin America, for example, the first institute was established in Mexico City in February 2006 and have continued to sprout all over (p23). The Confucius institutes in addition to language training courses, also teaches Chinese culture and there is “constant outreach to the local media to portray China in a positive light” (ibid), a venture which the report compares to “the bi-national associations the United States government operated prior to the Cold War” (ibid).
So what conclusions would I draw from this report? I have to say that, though brief and not very exhaustive, I found it interesting in its analysis, especially given how technology plays a significant role in public diplomacy. The report picked on insights that I thought had overtures to the insincerity of China’s public diplomacy front, Chinese authority may call their media efforts reaching out to foreign publics, but doesn’t charity begin at home? In my humble opinion their efforts are nothing more than ‘check book style diplomacy’!
The report, which was prepared by the United States Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy chaired by William J. Hybl, was submitted to “the President, Congress, Secretary of State and the American People” on June 25, 2008 (Hybl, 2008: 3). It was conducted in the belief that, although no single amendment could fix all the challenges faced by U.S. public diplomacy (PD), fixing the “human resources dimension” could have extensive results on the “overall effectiveness of [the] nation’s outreach to the world” (Ibid.). The report offers a fascinating examination about problems at the structural level and is able to point to an existing gap in previous analyses of U.S. PD. People working with PD should not be overlooked since it should be just as important to pay attention to the person sending the message on behalf of the U.S. as the magnitude of the messages send. While I have considered many other aspects of PD l too fell into the same trap with the U.S. officials and failed to consider the people part and therefore I found this report very interesting.
The report underlines seven current problems relating to the human resource dimension in logical order starting with the hiring of public diplomats, testing them (as a part of the recruiting process), training and evaluation specific to public diplomacy needs and finally turns to the bureaucratic matters concerning “the consolidation of the USIA into the state department in 1999” (Ibid: 5). These are divided into the seven chapters that form the main body of the report, with each section first explaining the problem and then giving recommendations for future improvements.
The first four chapters point that there is no emphasis on PD needs at the hiring, testing, training and evaluating PD professionals, therefore the report recommends:
- Role specific skill-sets should be considered when recruiting; candidates should be recruited specifically for PD careers (Ibid: 10)
- Examinations should accommodate tasks and questions that directly stress PD skills (Ibid: 12)
- Top quality courses should be established in areas important for PD officers, e.g. communication theory (Ibid: 17)
- Evaluation should include specific PD requirements, especially relating to outreach activities, which should include a specific “number of outreach events per ration period in order to be eligible for promotion that cycle” (Ibid: 23, italics added)
The remaining three chapters deal with bureaucratic matters relating to the merging of the USIA into the State Department. The first one deals with the overall integration, which has been generally successful, but:
- A review is needed over the “structure to determine if the current arrangement is functioning optimally” (Ibid: 28)
The second one with public affairs officers (the most senior PD post) and argues that instead of “reaching foreign audiences” they merely manage and administer (Ibid: 30). Therefore the report recommends:
- A review over the current model
- “At least one work requirement entailing substantive engagement with the host-country public” (Ibid: 32, italics added)
Finally, it is pointed out in the last chapter that as a career track PD is underrepresented at high posts and it is recommended that:
- Suitable PD candidates should be hired to “senior positions within the State Department” (Ibid: 35)
The report emphasises the specific needs of PD and the explicit approach concentrating on the structural level also highlights PD’s growing role. The report successfully underlines a potential gap in the thinking of enhanced PD, but crumbles in some of the recommendations, which emphasise too strongly setting up quotas for the personnel on PD positions. A much better approach would be that of quality and not of quantity. However, if the situation is as bad as the report suggests, the road to a more efficient future must start with something concrete and if the reports findings are taken on board with future
The United States Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy Report (2008) “Getting the People Part Right: A Report of U.S. Public Diplomacy, June 25, available at http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/106297.pdf (Accessed 05.05.2012)