Caitlin Byrne, “Introduction for the Special Issue: Recasting Soft Power for the Indo-Pacific,” Politics & Policy, Vol. 45, No. 5, October 2017, 684-705.
Byrne (Griffith University), guest editor of this P&P issue,
examines enduring features, themes, and complexities that shape soft power and “its associated public diplomacy practice” in the Indian Ocean-Asia Pacific (Indo-Pacific) region. Her essay calls for better understanding of the region as a geographic concept and urges increased attention to how its soft power and public diplomacy can contribute to a discourse dominated by European and American concepts and experiences. Byrne profiles analytical issues and contrasting approaches of contributing scholars.
-- Kejin Zhao (Tsinghua University), “China’s Public Diplomacy for International Public Goods”
-- Amit Singh (University of Delhi) and Amit Sarwal (Deakin University), “Paraspara, Encounters, and Confluences: India's Soft Power Objective in the Indo-Pacific Region”
-- Ellen Huijgh (University of Antwerp), “Indonesia's ‘Intermestic’ Public Diplomacy: Features and Future”
-- César Villanueva Rivas (Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico City), “Mexico’s Public Diplomacy Approach to the Indo-Pacific: A Thin Soft Power”
-- Natalie Laifer and Nicholas Kitchen (London School of Economics and Political Science), “Making Soft Power Work: Theory and Practice in Australia’s International Education Policy”
-- Stuart Murray (Bond University), “Sport’s Diplomacy in the Australian Context: Theory Into Strategy”
-- Robert G. Patman and Lloyd S. Davis (University of Otago), “Science Diplomacy in the Indo-Pacific Region: A Mixed but Promising Experience”
-- Efe Sevin (Reinhardt University, Georgia), “A Multilayered Approach to Public Diplomacy Evaluation: Pathways of Connection”
Juan Pablo Cardenal, Jacek Kucharczyk, Grigorij Mesežnikov, and Gabriela Pleschová, “Sharp Power: Rising Authoritarian Influence,” National Endowment for Democracy (NED), Washington, DC, December 2017.
In this report, NED (a nonprofit foundation funded by Congress) calls for a change in our thinking and vocabulary to take into account subversive “sharp power” instruments used by authoritarian countries to do real damage to democracies. It defines sharp power as the asymmetrical ability of a country to penetrate and manipulate information environments in targeted democracies abroad while raising barriers to external political and cultural influences at home. (See also The Economist’s article
on China annotated below.) Sharp power is not openly coercive (hard power); nor is it the ability to attract and co-opt (soft power). The case studies in this 156-page report examine efforts by China and Russia to wield sharp power, in addition to soft power and public diplomacy, in attempts to influence political outcomes and public opinion in four countries: Argentina, Peru, Poland, and Slovakia. The authors are members of the Network of Democracy Research Institute. NED Vice President Christopher Walker and senior staffer Jessica Ludwig provide a conceptual overview in their introduction, “From ‘Soft Power’ to ‘Sharp Power.’” See also, Christopher Walker and Jessica Ludwig, “The Meaning of Sharp Power: How Authoritarian States Project Influence,” Foreign Affairs,
Snapshot, November 16, 2017.
“How China’s ‘Sharp Power’ Is Muting Criticism Abroad And Stealthily Trying To Shape Public Opinion In Its Favor,” The Economist, December 16, 2017, 20-22.
cover story assesses China’s “sharp power” in the context of the National Endowment for Democracy’s meaning of the term. Sharp power “works by manipulation and pressure.” As described by Anne-Marie Brady (University of Canterbury, New Zealand) it is a “new global battle” to “guide, buy or coerce political influence.” (Sharp power differs from Joseph Nye’s (Harvard University) term “smart power,” which he uses to describe the combined uses of hard and soft power.) In the Economist’s
essay, China’s sharp power has three characteristics. It is pervasive, meaning it is targeted at foreign societies, not just China’s diaspora. It breeds self-censorship, e.g., academic publishers that censor databases of academic articles and film festivals that avoid screenings critical of China. It masks Chinese government ties through third parties. Countries targeted by China’s sharp power face a dilemma, the essay concludes, over-reaction or under-estimating the threat.
Robert Hutchings and Jeremi Suri, “The Making of an Effective Diplomat: A Global View,” The Foreign Service Journal, December 2017, 22-29.
Hutchings and Suri (University of Texas, Austin) summarize key judgments in their comparative study of the recruitment, training, organization, and promotion of diplomats in eight countries: Brazil, China, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, India, Russia, and Turkey. Their FSJ article profiles case studies, discusses similarities and differences, and identifies “best practices” relevant to reform in the US Foreign Service. The article is based on the project they directed, in collaboration with 15 graduate student research teams organized by country, at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. The detailed 194-page report is available online. See Robert Hutchings and Jeremi Suri, eds., “Developing Diplomats: Comparing Form and Culture Across Diplomatic Services,”
University of Texas, Austin, Policy Project Research Report 194, May 2017.
Michael Ignatieff, The Ordinary Virtues: Moral Order in a Divided World, (Harvard University Press, 2017).
Ignatieff (Central European University, Budapest) enhances our understanding of diplomacy’s global context with reflections on “moral globalization,” not as convergence into a single modernity, but as a “site of struggle.” Can multinational corporations and NGO advocates serve as the new entrepreneurs of moral globalization? Will a particular civilizational model (American, Chinese, or some rival’s) define political and moral order in the 21st
century? Ignatieff is less concerned here with these questions as often framed in universal terms by global elites. He also devotes minimal attention to generalities of moral reasoning in secular vocabularies (human rights, international humanitarian law, and environmentalism) and in religious vocabularies of global solidarity. Rather he seeks to understand how ordinary virtues – trust, tolerance, forgiveness, reconciliation, and resilience – emerge as unthinking guides to practice in the daily lives of individuals. How can ordinary virtues and good institutions work in difficult local circumstances? He explores this reasoning in case studies: diverse communities in Jackson Heights, New York; moral operating systems of Los Angeles as a global city; order, corruption, and public trust in Rio de Janeiro; war and reconciliation in Bosnia; the politics of moral narrative in Myanmar; resilience and the unimaginable in Fukushima; and whether virtue after apartheid will end in tyranny’s return in South Africa.
Marvin Kalb, The Year I Was Peter the Great: 1956 Khrushchev, Stalin’s Ghost, and a Young American in Russia, (Brookings Institution Press, 2017).
Acclaimed journalist Marvin Kalb in his first professional memoir tells stories of his experiences as a young man in the Soviet Union in 1956. Fluent in Russian, he went to Moscow to finish research for his Harvard PhD and serve as a diplomatic attaché assigned to translator / interpreter duties in the US embassy. In page after page of compelling writing, Kalb tells of occasional encounters with Khrushchev (who nicknamed him Peter the Great after a conversation on the relative merits of American and Lithuanian basketball players; you’ll have to read the book), travels throughout the country listening to Soviet citizens during the thaw of 1956, US Ambassador Charles Bohlen’s diplomacy, Edward R. Murrow’s role in his decision to become a journalist, and much more. It’s a great read at many levels, particularly its lessons for diplomats on listening, cross-cultural communication, spending time with ordinary people outside embassies, and learning to take political risks.
National Security Strategy of the United States of America, The White House, Washington, DC, December 2017.
President Trump’s national security strategy, like its predecessors, is a list of threats and capabilities wrapped in generalities. It is not an analysis of costs, risks, and benefits or a guide to spending and action priorities. Global warming is not mentioned as a threat. Military, intelligence, and economic tools of statecraft dominate. It makes brief reference to diplomats as a “forward deployed political capability” that builds “positive networks of relationships with partners,” “sustains dialogue,” “fosters areas of cooperation with competitors,” and “implements solutions to conflicts.” In vivid contrast to the Trump administration’s actual treatment of the State Department’s budget and people, it states, “We must upgrade our diplomatic capabilities to compete in the current environment and to embrace a competitive mindset.” Diplomats must “facilitate the cultural, educational, and people-to-people exchanges that create the networks of current and future political, civil society, and educational leaders who will extend a free and prosperous world.” Otherwise no mention is made of public affairs, democratization, international broadcasting, or other tools in diplomacy’s public dimension. The strategy does not use the terms “public diplomacy” or “strategic communication.”
Office of the Historian, US Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1917–1972, Volume VI, Public Diplomacy, 1961–1963, released online, December 5, 2017.
In this volume, State Department historians Kristin L. Ahlberg and Charles V. Hawley have compiled 153 documents that illuminate US public diplomacy during the John F. Kennedy administration. As described in the preface, they set public diplomacy in the context of “the Bay of Pigs invasion, the construction of the Berlin Wall, Laos, Vietnam, and the Cuban Missile Crisis” as well as “attempts to develop a national cultural policy, the importance of overseas polling, and the Department of State’s educational exchange activities.” The easily searched website contains lists of published and unpublished sources, abbreviations and terms, and names of persons and their institutional affiliations. By making its historical records available worldwide in this and earlier online volumes on public diplomacy, State making is making a significant contribution to the research of scholars and practitioners.
Brian Southwell, Emily A. Thorson, and Laura Sheble, eds., Misinformation and Mass Audiences, (University of Texas Press, 2018).
Southwell (University of North Carolina), Thorson (Syracuse University) and Sheble (University of North Carolina) have compiled sixteen scholarly essays on the phenomenon of “deliberately promoted and accidentally shared” misinformation. Drawing on “evidence and ideas from communication research, public health, psychology, political science, environmental studies, information science and other literatures,” they “explore what constitutes misinformation, how it spreads, and how best to counter it.”
Bruce Stokes, “US Adults Worry About Global Disregard For Their Nation,” December 12, 2017, YaleGlobal Online.
Stokes (Pew Research Center) examines reasons for a growing belief by Americans that the United States is less respected abroad since the election of President Trump. He finds substantial increases in concern about the US image among both Republicans and Democrats. His article draws on Pew’s 37-nation survey in 2017, “U.S. Image Suffers as Publics Around World Question Trump’s Leadership,”
which found a global median of 49% had a favorable opinion of the United States, a decline from 64% at the end of the Obama administration. Resurgent doubts, Stokes argues, can be attributed in part to lack of confidence in Trump and opposition to his policies on such issues as climate change, free trade and immigration.
Atushi Tago, “Public Diplomacy and Foreign Policy,” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics, Online publication, July 2017.
Tago (Kobe University) provides a cruising altitude overview of approaches to the study and practice of public diplomacy. His essay begins with a look at old and new definitions. He continues with discussions of nation branding, so-called public diplomacy 2.0, and computerized qualitative text analysis studies. Tago briefly summarizes research on policies and issues (Israel’s military operations against Hamas in Gaza, the US HIV/AIDs campaign PEPFAR, and Chinese and Japanese aircraft deployed in the East China Sea). He concludes with support for a “new public diplomacy” framework that illuminates roles for civil society actors and the promise of empirical research methods.
Daya Kishan Thussu, Hugo de Burgh and Anbin Shi, China's Media Go Global (Routledge, 2017).
Thussu, de Burgh (University of Westminster, UK), and Shi (Tsinghua University, China) have compiled a diverse collection of essays by leading Chinese and Western journalism and communications scholars on China’s media globalization. Areas of analytical focus include the global expansion of CCTV and China Radio International, soft power and the strategic context for China’s media policies, the effectiveness of China’s cultural centers in China’s public diplomacy, foreign correspondents in China, China’s financial media, its social media, and Chinese media in Africa and Southeast Asia.
US Department of State, Office of Inspector General, “Inspection of Embassy Beijing and Constituent Posts, China,” ISP-1-18-04, December 2017.
In the public diplomacy section of their report, State’s Inspectors found overall that embassy officers use a full range of tools and programs, and manage resources effectively, despite Chinese-government barriers to public engagement. Inspectors issued positive findings on strategic planning, financial management, alumni outreach, English language programs, and social media engagement, and five America Spaces in China. On the downside, Inspectors found the American Cultural Center to be “largely ineffective” and called for a suspension of new funding pending a formal evaluation of its programs.
US Government Accountability Office, Democracy Assistance, GAO-18-136, December 2017.
Combined annual expenditures for US democracy promotion activities total about $2 billion per year. GAO’s report evaluates and makes recommendations to improve funding accountability for democracy assistance activities conducted by the US Agency for International Development, Department of State, and National Endowment for Democracy. The report is useful for its detailed information on funding for “activities related to rule of law and human rights, good governance, political competition and consensus-building, and civil society” through for-profit and nonprofit partner organizations.
Odd Arne Westad, The Cold War: A World History, (Basic Books, 2017).
Westad (Harvard University) offers a view of the Cold War that is radically different from traditional accounts of conflict between two superpowers after World War II. For Westad, the Cold War “as an ideological conflict and as an international system” is a century long phenomenon that began with “the global transformations of the late nineteenth century and was buried as a result of tremendously rapid changes a hundred years later.” Its significance can be understood in profound changes in post-colonial Africa, Asia, and Latin America; the rise of US global hegemony; defeat of the Leninist Left; the political and social revolutions of the Chinese Communist party; a democratic consensus that became institutionalized in the European Union; the threat of nuclear destruction; and the rivalries in two world wars and global conflicts of the 1970s and 1980s. Westad’s world history is sweeping, different, and provocative. His Cold War did not influence everything, but it “did influence most things because of the centrality of its ideologies and the intensity of its adherents.”
William Lafi Youmans, An Unlikely Audience: Al Jazeera’s Struggle in America, (Oxford University Press, 2017).
Youmans (George Washington University) has written a definitive account of successes and failures in Al Jazeera’s attempt to compete in US media markets. More than a narrative of what happened, his book explores imaginative arguments relating to the central role of cities as “media ports of entry” for global media – drawing on his case studies of Al Jazeera’s strategies in Washington DC, New York, and San Francisco. Youmans’ argument challenges “methodological nationalism” in cross cultural communication. His book is a strong contribution to the literature on the interaction of “universalizing and particularizing” tendencies of global and local. And he adds considerably to our understanding of the growing importance of cities as interdependent actors and interdependent systems in politics, economics, and diplomacy. His research draws extensively on numerous interviews with Al Jazeera’s employees and his command of theoretical literature in media and communications studies.
Recent Blogs and Other Items of Interest
Gem From The Past
Thomas Sorenson, The Word War: The Story of American Propaganda, with a forward by Robert F. Kennedy, (Harper and Row Publishers, 1968).
The 2018 New Year signals another historical benchmark in US public diplomacy. Fifty years ago, Congress passed PL 90-494 (the Pell-Hays Bill). It established a Foreign Service Information Officer (FSIO) corps in USIA with the same rights, salary scale and retirement benefits as State Department Foreign Service Officers (FSOs), albeit the “I” in FSIO signaled functional and pecking order differences. 1968 was also the year veteran USIA field officer Tom Sorenson published his vivid coming of age description of the Agency’s field officers as a community of practice. Since 1951, Sorenson had served in Beirut, Baghdad, Cairo, and Washington. A former journalist and well-connected brother of John F. Kennedy’s speechwriter Ted Sorenson, he was appointed by Edward R. Murrow as the Agency’s Deputy Director (Policy and Plans). The Word War
, unusually in the secondary literature of the day, captured what public diplomacy professionals did overseas.
“Modern diplomacy is no longer conducted exclusively in hushed, high-ceilinged chanceries. It also takes place in the press, in the marketplace, and in the street, in a daily, unremitting war of words. This makes the overseas propagandist as much a diplomat, and sometimes as important a diplomat, as the embassy’s Political or Economic Officer.
“The first-rate American propagandist usually speaks the language of those he is seeking to persuade, and has a reasonable grasp of their history, aspirations, prejudices, motivations, and thought processes. He also is knowledgeable about the United States and its people, history, culture and policies. He understands the media of communication which are the tools of his trade, and can skillfully engage in one or more of the following: writing a news story, laying out a pamphlet, administering an exchange of persons program, making a speech, preparing a radio or film script, operating a public library, or designing an exhibit. He is willing to put up with monsoons, insects, and inadequate schooling for his children. He is willing to live on a government salary and away from the familiarity and security of his own country, amidst a different people of a different culture – and sometimes amidst hostility.
“The successful PAO is equally effective as an administrator, counselor, and communicator. He must plan a program, persuade his ambassador and Washington of its validity, and then direct his staff in carrying it out. He must counsel the senior embassy staff on the propaganda implications of what they were doing. He must be able to entertain gracefully and purposefully, for persuasion is as often effected over a drink as over a desk (pp. 56-57).”
Sorenson wrote with the flair of the journalist he had set out to be. His prose reflected the gender habits of his day. He was comfortable with the rhetoric of “propaganda” and “war of ideas.” His book is a remarkable early story of the rise of “an integral part of modern diplomacy.”