New P.D. and the Restructuring of “Traditional” Communication Models

As a communication masters student, I bet it comes as no surprise that studying and analyzing communication systems theory is a large interest of mine. Thus, this week’s reading of the conclusion in Pammet’s Introduction chapter inspired an internal debate on how developing technologies, and their effects of international diplomatic involvement, has entirely reshaped what we know of as traditional communication models.  In face-to-face communicaiton, the senders and encoders are synonymous, and that is also true of the decoders/receivers. In what Pammet describes as “old PD,” international actors had already begun to divide these traditional communication roles in that the encoding and decoding responsibilities more often than not take place within media outlets and other public forums that allowed political leaders to expand the reach of their message as well as their potential audience. Today, as social media and digital communication narrow the geographic and intellectual gaps between governments and citizens, the traditional roles of encoding and decoding take on entirely different, multinational structures which allow instantaneous feedback. The beauty and curse of these development is where culture, or perceptions of reality, are the last step in transmitting messages from one institution to another, regardless of size. Thus, with a new interactive and interconnected forms of communication systems, how is it possible to predict what encoding and decoding channels our public diplomacy and foreign policy initiatives will either aid or detract from the overall message and strategy? How powerful can the use of “soft power” be when as number of mediums through which the messages must pass in order to effectively influence the hearts and minds of those from entirely different cultures grows exponentially? is it possible to be that culturally pluralistic? Or must we need to accept what my mother has been trying to tell me since middle school that “you can’t make everyone happy”? I digress…I’ve attached the link to a really great article discussing the evolving role of soft power, specifically in regards to the developing transnational BRICs community. It carries similar sentiments and questions that I previously proposed about how we should approach obstacles in public diplomacy:  “a more constructive approach to this dilemma of expanding BRICS influence through soft power means should not lie in adopting new concepts to project their power but rather to focus on building intra-group trust between the BRICS.” The article emphasizes soft power as a necessary and increasingly important topic in supporting the growth of the BRICs, but so far their efforts and means of adjusting it’s diplomatic goals through communication and media systems has shown that internal restructuring or an introspective approach is equally elemental in successfully and effectively implementing international “new PD.”

http://allafrica.com/stories/201401170646.html?viewall=1

Ukraine: PD vs. Political Interference?

President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to abandon closer ties with the EU in favor of Russia sparked anti-government demonstrations in Ukraine, dubbed EuroMaidan.

Ukrainian students from different educational institutions shout slogans during their march in Kiev, Ukraine, 26 November 2013. More two thousands students gathered for support of Ukrainian Euro integration in downtown capital as they declared a strike. EPA/SERGEY DOLZHENKO

When a bill was passed by the Ukrainian parliament on January 16th limiting the right to demonstrate, the protests took a violent turn. During the past week of unrest, three protesters have died in Kiev with over 300 injured.

Several German government officials have publicly voiced their opinions on the matter. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier stated that he understood the views of the opposition, adding that “violence is not a solution, and we can say that to both sides.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed. Merkel spoke with President Yanukovych recently to persuade him to revoke the recent bill. She urged Yanukovych to lead a real dialogue with the opposition to discuss political reform. Other officials from the EU and the US have made similar statements in favor of the anti-government protesters.

On the other hand, Russian President Vladimir Putin criticized the EU for what could be interpreted as “political interference”. According to Putin, the trips made by EU and US officials have only furthered the crisis in Ukraine. At an EU-Russia summit in Brussels on Tuesday, he stated “I can imagine the reaction of our European partners if, in the midst of a crisis in Greece or any other country, our foreign minister would come to an anti-European rally and would urge people to do something.”

From a public diplomacy standpoint, the EU and US officials have played a large role for the Ukrainian protesters. The protests have not ceased and could be fueled by these Western officials publicly voicing their support for the opposition. But this raises some interesting questions in regards to PD.  Are the actions taken by the EU and the US considered “political interference”, or is it public diplomacy?  How thin is the line between interference and PD? What is the difference between the two?

Why is Qatar spending so much money in the United States?

I thought I’d shift from my usual habitat of East Asia and look into something closer to home that sparked my curiosity late last year:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/capitalbusiness/qatar-foundation-to-open-cultural-center-in-citycenterdc/2013/10/15/c5ff7192-359e-11e3-80c6-7e6dd8d22d8f_story.html

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Construction at the CityCenter Project in downtown D.C.

 

 In short: The tiny Arab monarchy of Qatar is investing big in the United States, building a massive residential business complex a couple of blocks north of Chinatown and launching the U.S. edition of Al-Jazeera from new studios in Manhattan. Part of the new development in D.C. will be an office for the Qatar Foundation International, which will teach about Arabic language and culture.

 The big question that I think many will ask is: why bother? Why would a nation of 250,000 people (two million if you count non-citizens) put so much money into public diplomacy?

 One crude but valid answer is that Qatar has money to burn. Thanks to its location above the world’s largest gas deposit, Qatar has the world’s highest GDP per capita, sitting just above the $100,000 mark.  With that kind of money, dropping $650 million on D.C. real estate is not much of a big deal (and perhaps a good investment).

 However, I think a second element needs to be considered here. We focus a lot on how public diplomacy can be used to help achieve foreign policy objectives, but is it possible that a country’s image abroad could be not just a means, but an end unto itself? In the Middle East, different nations pride themselves on different things. Saudi Arabia is the custodian of the two holy mosques, Iran pushes to become the second Middle Eastern nation to have nuclear weapons.

 Without the population, land or overall size of economy, Qatar can never compete in areas like military might. So what can be known for instead? I think investments like Al Jazeera’s U.S. launch and the development downtown hint at the kind of nation that Qatar’s leadership wants to present to the world.

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/).

Transforming Arms into Art

Transforming Arms into Art

Throne of weapons. © Kester 2004

Throne of weapons. © Kester 2004

After the Mozambique civil war, millions of weapons left in the country. In 1995, the Christian Council of Mozambique started Transforming Arms into Tools project, which offered people farming equipment and tools in exchange for guns. Then a group of Mozambican artists turned them into sculptures.

I wonder this is a part of the ‘new’ public diplomacy Pamment describes.

Firstly, it says the project is supported by the Mozambique government. Exhibitions of the sculptures were held in twelve countries. Furthermore, I found that an exhibition came to Japan last summer, which was realized by a Japanese professor of African studies, who learned about this project and asked the artists to create new artworks to display.
In the BBC website, Carey from British Museum says the sculpture speaks the will to “overcome violence through practical and creative means which resonates with people at a personal and collective level.” Also, the article describes the sculpture, “unusually for such a commemorative piece,” it “speaks to us of hope and resolution.” Moreover, an audience of the exhibition made a comment on the website that he was so impressed that he’d like to help teach people to make sculptures in Africa.

According to Pamment, while the ‘old’ public diplomacy has been a “one-way flow of information”, a ‘new’ public diplomacy” is “two-way engagement with the public.” He also mentions that audiences are now “active and greater emphasis is placed on how they make meaning and how they feed back into the communication process.”

This project seems to have been quite successful in physically transforming the weapons into artworks, and changing the negative image of violence into peace. The project also generated two-way engagement of the public, which eventually brought new artworks to Japan, and might bring an audience to Mozambique to teach people to make sculptures.

Emi

——

Other related articles I referred to:

-“Transforming Arms into Tools”, ALMA,

http://www.almalink.org/transtool.htm

-Mescla, the website of a furniture designer Carla Botosso, who have been involved in the projects.

http://www.mescla.dk/projects.html

-The article about the exhibition of the sculptures in Japan

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201307110071

-“A History of the World: Throne of Weapons,” BBC

http://www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld/objects/97OnxVXaQkehlbliKKDB6A

Analyzing China’s Struggles With Its Soft Power Initiatives

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Last week I submitted a comment briefly centering on Taiwan’s complicated history and how it affects its current PD strategies, and this week I’ll focus on the efficacy of China’s current public diplomacy attempts (yes, yet another blog piece about China). I hope not to pigeonhole myself into writing solely about these two interconnected though distinct nations, but comparing and contrasting the nature of their PD strategies offer salient points for understanding the core values of public diplomacy.

Recently it was through reading this article as well as having a few conversations with other like-minded individuals that enlightened me to recognizing another face of public diplomacy. Last week we discussed sparingly about the differences, if any, between public diplomacy and propaganda. Although I still stand by my assertion that they are essentially one and the same in their basic goal of disseminating information with the goal of influencing decision-making processes, I also recognized the similarities between public diplomacy and marketing strategies. Both attempt to sell an image or brand to be consumed by target audiences.

As the article I linked to mentioned, understanding PD from this interpretation can explain why China constantly experiences failures with its soft power initiatives. China has attempted in recent years to convincing the world, especially the West, that it is committed to peacefully integrating itself into the current world order as it rises in economic power and political clout. But every soft power effort is undermined by aggressive tactics like naval confrontations in the South China Sea / Senkaku Islands and the recent ADIZ announcement (not to mention petty actions including their paltry aid contributions to the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan as punishment for South China Sea conflicts). Thus consumers have a difficult time separating the image of China as an aggressive, authoritarian state from that portrayed in their soft power efforts as a peaceful nation, which is why consumers are so reluctant to embrace this peaceful image of China. As the article also mentions, China does not help itself through its heavy censuring and control of any information released internationally as well as inability to target its core audience (Millenials) due to blocking of integral social media sites like Facebook.

Although I do apologize for contributing yet another piece about China, it really should attract a good majority of our focus as students of public diplomacy because both it and Taiwan offer strong, relevant case studies in how countries struggle with separating their hard power images from their public diplomacy efforts, how public diplomacy strategies are evolving in this Age of Technology, and what constitutes the basic core of each nation’s public diplomacy (hint: cultural identity).

Perceptions Abroad

 A large portion of PD is about branding or what kind of messages we send out about ourselves. Hayden linked PD to the idea of “soft power” or “affecting others to obtain the outcomes you want” (6). One of the three major characteristics of soft power as Hayden describes it is the “attractiveness” of an actors culture and institutions” (6).

This article from the Huffington post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mario-machado/service-as-diplomacy-the _b_3937024.html?utm_source=Daily+Media+Digest&utm_campaign=8907ea41ec-Media_Digest_9_23_13&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e87ea75dce-8907ea41ec-215172549 written by Mario Machado highlights some of  images that the US tends to portray of itself, in particular those that come from the military and of the Peace Corps. Unfortunately, as Machado describes, the most powerful  and lasting image of the two is that of the US military. The US  as it is pictured abroad is not necessarily seen a peaceful, despite the efforts of  the  Peace Corps or other organizations who offer humanitarian aid to developing nations.

To a large extent, both the Peace Corps and the military are the face of US  around the world, and all to often that face or image is conflicting. As Machado explains the “first function of the Peace Corps Volunteers is that of cultural ambassadors.” Despite the Peace Corps efforts, there is limit to what can be done to improve the US’ image abroad, particularly because of our tendency to get involved militarily.

 If the US wants to make the Peace Corp mandate something people abroad associates more with the US ( i.e. 1) Help meet the needs of developing nations for trained personnel 2) Provide a better understanding of Americans on the behalf of other peoples, and 3) Provide a better understanding of other peoples on the behalf of Americans ), then the US should make an effort to pursue and promote  values that don’t necessitate military force. Or at the very least the US should recognize what kind of influence certain  perceptions of the US have abroad and whether or not it undermines the US’s PD efforts.

-Stacey Massuda