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http://auctrl.wpengine.com/afghanistan
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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?

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?

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/).