A high level conference on public diplomacy and China’s reputation in the world will take place in Beijing later this month. The event is co-sponsored by the Charhar Institute, China’s primary public diplomacy “tthink tank”, the Clingendael Institute of the Netherlands, the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the China-Europe Academic Network (CEAN). The title theme is “Geo-cultural Perspectives on Public Diplomacy – Trialogue among Chinese, European, and American Scholars.”
The forum brings together a mixed group of leading Chinese and international scholars, think-tankers, and practitioners to discuss a geo-cultural perspective on public diplomacy based on a China-Europe-US-Dialogue.
The event starts on May 19 at 9am (Beijing time) and will end at 4:30pm. I am not aware of any webcast or transcription, but I will share what I can after the event.
The conference opens with three 30min keynotes, including one by me:
Zhao Qizheng is the Vice Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Peoples Political Consultative Conerence and Dean of the School of Journalism and Communication at Renmin University. Amb. Markus Ederer is the EU Ambassador to China.
An hour-long “dialogue with journalists” follows the keynote. The second session of the day is “Debating China’s Public Diplomacy” with panelists speaking for 10min each. Tentative topics include “Is there a China model for public diplomacy?” and “What can China’s public diplomacy towards Pakistan tell us?”
The third session will be chaired by Clingendael’s Jan Melissen. Panelists, again with 10min each, include Phil Seib of USC’s Center on Public Diplomacy, Ronald Gratz, Wang Jay, and Ingrid d’Hooghe.
What would you highlight as positive examples of U.S. public diplomacy over the past ten years?
The timing of this report is critical. It comes on the heels of the recent U.S. visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao. More importantly, it comes at a time when the U.S. diplomacy budget, public and otherwise (is there really any diplomacy that is not in some part negotiated in public?), is under threat in today’s austere budget environment. At risk is the development and implementation of smart policies that, coupled with unfettered access to information to create knowledge, ultimately have a greater and more enduring bang for the buck than the kinetic effect of any smart munition.
Senator Lugar closes his letter that opens the report, a 2-page letter that you should read if you do not have the time or inclination to read even the report’s executive summary, with the hope the report will “stimulate dialogue within Congress.” It certainly should.
Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) will publish another major report on public diplomacy shortly. Written by Paul Foldi, senior professional staff on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, this report focuses on Chinese public diplomacy with the inevitable comparison to U.S. efforts. I was given a sneak peak at the report. It comes at a time when tough talk in Congress on the State Department’s budget could benefit from such an analysis of a country that is both a major competitor and partner across all aspects of national power and daily life.
This report is another in-depth investigation and commentary on a critical aspect of U.S. global engagement. It focuses on the China-United States exchange. This is the third report sponsored by Senator Lugar to reinvigorate public diplomacy. While the other two were on the Broadcasting Board of Governors (6/2010) and the American Centers (2/2009), this report focused primarily on China. The effect serves to expose not only the broad, extended, and expensive effort of the Chinese to engage foreign audiences, it also highlights opportunities and failed opportunities for the U.S.
For the practice, theory and organization of public diplomacy, is it helpful for the activities of a foreign government – or non-governmental organization for that matter – in the United States (or elsewhere) to be labeled as public diplomacy? Applying this label could contribute to increased understanding of public diplomacy’s methods and value in the Congress, the White House, the public and the media? Or it could be a harmful link to foreign “propaganda” and our own engagement efforts abroad?
Earlier this month, Aljazeera screened a movie titled The Colony by Brent Huffman and Xiaoli Zhou. Huffman and Zhou explored the “onslaught of Chinese economic might and its impact on long-standing African traditions.” This economic colonization, hence the title of the film, is not without its pitfalls with minimal assimilation, integration, or perception of mutual benefit. As Huffman notes,
Although there is communication between the two sides at a certain level, it is rather limited. Despite various differences in language, culture, and work ethics, the Chinese are not making enough of an effort to integrate into Senegalese society.
Although the Chinese businesses have brought some benefits to the local low-income consumers, their overall presence is viewed with suspicion and hostility by many Senegalese.
Last month, China hosted an event for Information Ministers from twenty developing countries titled “Actively Guiding Public Opinion and Building up Sound National Image.” According to Sierra Leone News:
The workshop focused on the cooperation and development between the Chinese and foreign media and information department encompassing political, economic, cultural and social aspects.
Participants raised grave concern about the negative media coverage given to developing countries despite efforts of these countries to match up with modern standards.
The Secretary General of the Information office in China, Mr. Feng Xwang said the western media controls the voice of news report thereby failing to report on the social life of the people. He said Africa, Asia and South America should join forces with China to strengthen their media landscape and bring new opportunities to the media sector.
Vice Minister of the Information Office in Beijing, China, Professor Wang Zhong Wei in his presentation threw light on the rapid development of the Chinese media industry over the last three decades. He said that their media industry has become dynamic, best structured in terms of content and diversity. He said the Chinese information office is ready to embrace collaboration with other media organizations in developing countries to assist in the re-branding of developing nations.
In her contribution, Sierra Leone Deputy Information and Communication Minister suggested the establishment of an African Radio and Television station that would help tell the stories of developing countries better.
[Deputy Information of Information] Madam Saidata Sesay informed her colleagues that her government has recently transformed the then only government mouth piece radio and TV station to a public corporation in the interest of good governance. She appealed to the Chinese Information Office to reactivate the Sierra Leone News Agency (SLENA) and to assist in the establishment of a media center which she believed would enhance media development and capacity building in that profession.
The paper essentially describes the Chinese as adjusting military strategy to incorporate all of the elements of power. In the U.S., this is called DIME, for Diplomacy, Information, Military, and Economic (or the expanded version that never gained the same traction: DIMELIF, DIME + Finance, Intelligence, Law Enforcement). Still, if you are interested in China, this is worth a read.
Other resources on the subject I strongly recommend are:
Dragon Bytes: Chinese Information War Theory and Practice from 1995-2003 by Tim Thomas (contact me to link you to Tim)
Decoding The Virtual Dragon – Critical Evolutions In The Science And Philosophy Of China’s Information Operations And Military Strategy, also by Tim Thomas.
This article offers a Chinese perspective of the elements and approaches of what is often called China’s ‘New Diplomacy’ and argues that China’s involvement in the development of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) can be regarded as an exemplary case of ‘China’s New Diplomacy.’ The article furthermore aims to contribute to the understanding of China’s emerging role in the international multilateral arena.
The concepts that together form China’s New Diplomacy, such as the New Security Concept, the New Development Approach, and the Harmonious World, have not only been brought into practice in China’s diplomacy towards the SCO but have also been adopted as principles for conducting diplomacy within the SCO. The SCO–and its predecessor, the Shanghai Five mechanism–started as a low profile organization which focused on building trust and solving security issues but has gradually grown into a serious regional organization which aims at mutually beneficial cooperation in the fields of politics, security, the economy, trade and energy.
Clingendael’s Discussion Papers in Diplomacy is a series focusing on diplomacy “as the mechanism of communication, negotiation and representation between states and other international actors.” Papers published since 2003 are available for download (PDF) on Clingendael’s site. Previous paper topics include: cultural diplomacy, nation branding, EU public diplomacy, and commercial diplomacy.
In 2000, China Central Television (CCTV) launched CCTV International, its 24-hour English-language news service aimed for the global audience. CCTV’s international broadcasting has since expanded to cover news -from a Chinese perspective- in French, Spanish, Russian, and since 2009, Arabic.
On July 1, 2010, China launched another international English language news channel to expand its soft power. According to a July 2, 2010 article from The Guardian by Tania Branigan, Chinese authorities hope the launch of state news agency Xinhua‘s CNC World channel will help promote China’s image and perspectives. Similar to CCTV’s international objective, Xinhua’s president said CNC would “present an international vision with a China perspective.” Currently, CNC world is airing only in Hong Kong and after its scheduled launch of global satellite coverage this fall, it hopes to reach 50 million viewers across Europe, North America and Africa in its first year.
On May 27, 2010, The National published an article about China’s engagement strategy, carried out by state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV), toward Arab television viewers in the Middle East and North Africa.
Many countries broadcast to the Middle East in Arabic, including France, Russia, and the U.S., but China is different: it broadcasts, from Beijing, to the region in Chinese with Arabic subtitles. Instead of focusing on news and current events in the Middle East, CCTV highlights Chinese culture and the arts. Simply, “…CCTV Arabic aims to tell the Arab world about China.“
Now a world power, China ambitiously aims to be part of the mainstream international media alongside CNN and BBC. This year, China will also reach milestones in its international broadcasting efforts as CCTV Arabic will mark its first anniversary in July and CCTV plans to open news bureaus in the Middle East later this year.