Tag Archives: public diplomacy

Propaganda is an Essential Tool of Public Diplomacy

Chinese Pepsi Poster

Deng Xioapeng quite arguably, led China into the modern era by using public diplomacy. His famous quotes “It doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white, so long if it catches mice”; and “to be rich is glorious”; changed the way the Chinese viewed the world and transformed their society. One year after he took over China, they normalized relations with the United States. Pepsi Cola built their first factory there shortly after and China officially enter the world economy.

The notion that public diplomacy is not propaganda is contrasted by every piece of evidence out there. The role of propaganda as a soft power is undeniable, and the stereotype of it being a bad thing is far removed from reality. Propaganda, by one definition, is nothing more than “the spreading of idea’s and information“; which is exactly what public diplomacy is. The role of public diplomacy and soft power in international affairs MUST be understood by all practitioners in the field of international communications. Those who are in denial of what they are doing are bound to be unskilled in the art of soft power and undoubtedly will end up as practitioners of hard power.

Those in denial of the role of propaganda in public diplomacy argue that “propaganda can only be one-sided, and manipulates facts”. This is far from the truth. The truth is, that propaganda’s role in public diplomacy has only been buried because the term itself has been undermined and given a bad name. A very exemplary (and quite flawed) argument can be viewed here. Propaganda can take many sides simultaneously, and often must to maintain the legitimacy of its message. As mentioned before, propaganda is the spreading of information as soft power. It must remain unbiased to maintain it’s legitimacy.

When Deng Xioapeng made his statements, he was propagating mere truths to the masses, and used the term “Chinese style socialism” to reinforce what he was saying. It was time for China to break free from it’s Moaist ideology and evolve into the modern era; and he “used the truth to set them free” so they could evolve. He wasn’t trying to undermine his nation’s system to become a flunky of another country. Three degrades later and China still maintains its culture and sovereignty. They just have a more modern way of life now.

Joseph Nye, in this lecture, describes public diplomacy and soft power as using the “art of attraction” to influence changes in human behavior peacefully. He argues that this “art of seduction” totally lacks coercion, and appeals to what people think. If people think they’re being lied to would they willingly ascribe to the lies? Just one lie and America could never be trusted again, so American propaganda would have to be used as nothing but the truth. Huntington’s “Clash of the Civilizations”,  according to Nye, is now more accurately described as a “clash of internal civilization” according to Nye . Nye argues that those who want to maintain power as a domestic resource would have practitioners of soft power believe that soft power is harmful  to our power by undermining much about it. This could explain why people believe that using the influence of information and attraction (propaganda) is a negative thing. Nye says in this lecture that soft power is used to create an enabling environment for policy between civilizations, so that could explain why peolpe with power would wish to undermine it and scare people away from using it in all it’s glory, including the propaganda aspect of it.

So what would the motivation be against using soft power and propaganda? Why would the United States choose to spend everything on hard power and next to nothing on soft power? I speculate that it has something to do with Washington culture of groupthink and neo-realist consensus to believe that Huntington’s “Clash of the Civilizations” will always ring true. I wonder if Huntington has noticed the positive changes taking place between China and the United States… The worlds two leading super powers have influenced each other to develop together in such a way that clashing would lead to mutual destruction. Ambassador Gary Locke has often said that the partnership of the United States and China is crucial to lifting the worlds populations out of poverty and into the modern era. Bill Gates has predicted that many of the symptoms of poverty will be globally cured in the coming decades.

So next time when public diplomacy professionals find themselves stuck in the Washington groupthink about public diplomacy and propaganda, they should realize the underlying reason why it’s given a bad name. Indeed, many power brokers have every reason in the world to want to prevent power from being diffused amongst the global masses even if it makes the world a better place… They must fear humane power would result in America being marginalized and less exceptional. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing… How can I “have my Pepsi and drink it too”; when there are hundreds of millions of people in the world who don’t even have access to potable water?

The Need for Synergy in Modern-Day Diplomacy

This week I found some of Kelley’s (2010) ideas slightly corresponding with my post from week 1 where I suggested that public diplomacy doesn’t really change the rules of the diplomatic ‘game’, but rather adds a publicly available dimension to it and creates an illusion of power in the hands of the people.

Kelley implies that public diplomacy has created a plethora of messages by non-state actors that forms various networks and alliances. There are big gaps between the positions of these different actors and between their positions and the official diplomatic messages. Despite the clear benefits of this more democratic form of conducting diplomacy, Kelley stresses the need for synergy in order to direct the power of separate actors to a concrete action. The best way to coordinate positions and create this synergy remains the official diplomatic channel that can unite the non-governmental actors and communicate the message to the relevant policy makers.

Moreover Kelley suggests that ‘big’ decisions such as signing of international treaties or legislation towards creation of new norms are still executed almost exclusively by official policy makers communicating through official diplomatic channels. Here as well, it implies from the article that the best way for the ‘new diplomats’ (p.293) to communicate their messages is still by joining forces with “their official counterparts” (p. 293).

So it looks like the essential power yet remains in the hands of the ‘old diplomats’ (ibid). The new types of diplomacy such as public and cultural diplomacy are important in filling in the gaps in governmental actions, however the new ways do not appear to replace the classic diplomatic communication between states. 

Survival Public Diplomacy: North Korea’s OGD and the Importance of Understanding Propaganda in Public Diplomacy

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Sin Son Ho, DPRK’s Special Delegate to the United Nations at the United Nations in New York held an unexpected press conference last week last week in which he called for practical measures to be taken to thaw tensions on the Korean peninsula in a direction to improve relations and reconcile national unity on the peninsula.

This very positive public rhetoric has left analysts guessing at it’s sincerity. Had this speech been given a year or two ago, analysts would be more optimistic than now. It is no secret that North Korea has the art of propaganda masterfully refined to a science, but what about their public diplomacy? With the sensationalism that occurs in mainstream media worldwide, coupled with North Korea’s untrustworthiness, the lines between fact and fiction are hard to decipher, but those who can do so are crucial to understanding this conflict.

In the past six months North Korea detained American Citizen Merrill Newman for “atrocities during the war”, purged the Uncle of their own leader, been infuriated by South Korean President Park’s world “hate tour” against them and the US Congress’ passing of a nine million dollar information warfare budget to be spent against them. Not to mention the fact that the international community has condemned their “basketball diplomacy” campaign, largely due to Dennis Rodman’s idiotic mentions of detained American Kenneth Bae who is sentenced to fifteen years of hard labor for “subversion to overthrow the State” with “Operation Jericho”.

To top it off, several slatternly journalists have created sensational stories such as the Unhasu Orchestra being machine-gunned to death, and Jang Sang Thaek’s execution being carried out by over a hundred starving dogs. This doesn’t help the credibility of western journalist anymore than it serves any positive purpose towards understanding why North Korea is the way it is and what it is really up to. To truly resolve the Korean conflict, the propagandists on all sides must learn how to report the facts and only the facts, communicate with transparency, and stop using information as warfare.

North Korea’s main objective is eternal survival and maintenance of their regime. Their propaganda often serves as the gatekeeper to their survival, as their isolation and information is their greatest weapon.In North Korea, it is not Kim Jung Un who is running the country, but a man named Cho Yun Jun, who’s job title is “First Vice Director with Chain-of-Command Over Organizational Structures” ,which is the number one position in the Organization and Guidance Department (OGD), which is the regimes institutional power that was set up by President Kim Il Sung during the founding of the regime to be the guardian of the regime, and to that effect, of “the throne”.

Jang Sang Thaeks purge was not a result of the flippant charges against him, which all North Korean’s are guilty of to some extent, but more of the result of the OGD using him as a pawn in their chess game to maintain state sovereignty after the failed 6.28 reform measures. They needed a scapegoat to push back the world against the thought that they were opening up.

Kim Jong Un may have wanted to reform the state, with Jang’s help, and many North Korean’s would like to see that happen, but as long as the OGD remains in power, no reform is possible. Kim Jong Un is nothing more than a symbolic figurehead. North Korea’s speech to the world about wanting peace is nothing more than a PR move to distract the world from their growing uneasiness at the external and internal behaviors of people who want reform badly. The speech should not be taken at face value, but as a sign that the regime is losing control. Hence the underlying reason for Kim Jong Un’s New Year’s Address which was focused on “Single Minded Unity”, which was a stark contrast from last years speech which was focused on “Idealogical Changes in Thinking Towards Progress and Education”.

This just goes to show the importance of understanding Public diplomacy and Propaganda in International Relations.

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?

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

Is the concept of national interest outdated?

Nicholas J. Cull points out that “Successful foreign policy increasingly requires partnerships. Some nations ― most prominently the United Kingdom ― now include “partnership” within their core definition of public diplomacy”[1].

Arguably that’s not so new, foreign policy has consisted of alliances for a good number of decades, hasn’t it? He goes on: “By defining foreign policy objectives around issues of mutual concern to a range of actors rather than narrow national agendas it is possible to enlist those actors and the networks that consider them credible into a common action.”[2]

Now here I do see some change. Change that could redefine more than foreign policy: change that could redefine the concept of national interest.

Couldn’t we say that most of the biggest issues we are facing today are of mutual concern, even more so than in the past? Think of climate change, the processes fueling terrorism/freedom fighting, or even if you want to think in economic terms: recent years especially have shown that economic concerns for one country never stay economic concern for just that one country.

Can you tell me an issue of concern in your country that is an issue of concern for your country only? Even if the issue itself appears to affect your country only, can you tell me than no other country in the world is facing a similar issue? If not, then wouldn’t pooling your research resources increase the likelihood of you both resolving that issue more quickly?

Another thought: take the issue of terrorism/freedom fighting. Have the aggressive military strategies, which resulted from thinking in terms of national interests, been productive or counterproductive in your opinion?

We can take a step back.

What is your country’s national interest?

From what I have gathered so far, the goal of public diplomacy is communication of an international actor’s policies to foreign publics with the ultimate goal of influencing them in such a way that it becomes easier for these policies’ aims to be achieved.

It thus seems to me that if you can’t answer the above question precisely, it is a bit difficult to strategize, let alone carry out, a comprehensive public diplomacy strategy. Yet I don’t think many people can come up with a very clear answer. Even if they did, I’m not sure if they’d all agree on it.

For example, a lot of government officials from all over the world seem to be employed with the ultimate goal of maximizing their country’s GDP, Gross National Product. Bhutan, however, has taken the decision to put their efforts into maximizing their GDH instead, Gross National Happiness. I am a citizen of one of the first countries that called themselves a democracy, and I don’t recall being given the choice between the two.

In fact, I don’t recall anyone thinking about the possibility of asking for a choice between the two. But if someone thought of asking for that choice, would the answer necessarily be so obvious as to make it an irrelevant question? I definitely don’t think so.

The point is that we have been thinking about issues very narrowly. Is the concept of national interest really that relevant?

One of the strategies of diplomacy has been exchange diplomacy. I have been an international student most of my life, and never thought before this program that I was part of a grander strategy designed to facilitate my host countries’ foreign policies, to carry out their national interests. Would that make you feel a little awkward? I guess it depends on how you answer this question: are these countries’ interests really different?


[1] Nicholas Cull, (2012), “Listening for the hoof beats: Implications of the rise of soft power and public diplomacy,” http://www.globalasia.org/V7N3_Fall_2012/Nicholas_J_Cull.html

[2] Ibid.