What makes regional public diplomacy efforts a success?

hawaiiI first thought I was going to write something on a public diplomacy effort of a “supra-national” actor, the European Union, but as I started looking around for interesting articles, I came across this Huffington Post article about the “sub-national” public and cultural diplomacy efforts of the U.S. State of Hawaii: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-rockower/aloha-diplomacy-hawaiian-_b_4633759.html. I find the interest of “paradiplomacy,” or diplomatic relations carried out by sub-national actors, such as regions, states, and cities, to be of particular interest because often times it seems as if they have a greater chance for success than public diplomacy campaigns carried out by nations. I believe this is probably true for two reasons: 1) the scope and aims of public diplomacy campaigns by regions and cities are often smaller and better defined than those of nation-states: usually, to increase exports of their goods and to promote tourism, and 2) the campaigns are possibly less controversial because they are not tied, as nation-states’ public diplomacy often is, to overall foreign policy goals and especially military measures.

It remains to be seen what makes particular regional public diplomacy efforts such a success? In Paul Rockower’s article, he describes the exciting success of a tour around Brazil (sponsored by the State Department) of a Hawaiian slide guitar expert and hula master. Unsurprisingly, the unique music and dance of Hawaii and its so-called “spirit of Aloha” were much appreciated by Brazilians, according to the author. He goes on to list various other countries where he believes Hawaiian public diplomacy efforts would be successful, especially in East Asia, where Hawaii is benefitted by its already existent cultural ties, especially to Japan. However, as the author points out, Hawaii already is “blessed” with “the most distinctive brand in the” USA. This begs the question of what exactly could be the aims of Hawaii in embarking on public diplomacy campaigns? To attract more foreign tourist dollars? (The reasoning is not discussed by the author). It might be too easy to look at the case of public diplomacy of an already wildly popular and well-known place such as Hawaii, and conclude that international public diplomacy campaigns are a good idea for all sub-national actors.

Much of the discussion of public paradiplomacy focuses on large municipalities, especially on cities who work to improve their brand in order to attract high profile events, such as the Olympics and the World Cup. In some cases, this city diplomacy is used as a way primarily promote the national brand, as typified in the case of the public/cultural blitz surrounding the Beijing Olympics, which functioned more to soften and expand international views of China and the CCP (http://uscpublicdiplomacy.org/index.php/newswire/media_monitor_reports_detail/public_diplomacy_and_the_beijing_olympics_narratives_and_counter_narratives/). On the other hand, in the case of the London 2012 Olympics, the city government’s efforts to promote “green public diplomacy” (by promising to be the “greenest” Olympics yet) actually allowed the city to leverage this diplomacy in order to implement green initiatives and infrastructure in actual practice. In this case, the public diplomacy campaigns allowed and promoted by the city’s media because of the Olympics actually allowed it to make substantive changes at home, not just in the hearts and minds of people abroad (http://www.academia.edu/3058677/World_Politics_by_Other_Means_London_City_Diplomacy_and_the_Olympics). Finally, sometimes sub-national public diplomacy and branding campaigns can be seen as promoting an image contrasting the nation’s brand, as could be argued is the case with the city of Barcelona, which presents itself outside of the Spanish cultural brand (http://placesbrands.com/city-diplomacy-a-new-alternative-to-branding/).

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