Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Strategic Communication: U.S.-China Public and Cultural Diplomacy

While not new concepts, public and cultural diplomacy have subsequently become embracing elements within the realm of international relations for not only establishing close communication, but also developing long-term relationships.  In the case of the U.S. and China, over the past few years both nations have increased the use of soft power methods to promote their respective cultures, values, and ideals by interacting with other states, and more importantly engaging with the foreign public. 

Utilizing two soft power methods of diplomacy the U.S. and China are pursuing new forms of statecraft within their engagement with one another.  One strong reason behind this statement relates to the Chinese government's Confucius Institute initiative, which first began in 2004.  This public and cultural diplomacy initiative made by China, was established to promote cultural exchanges and the learning of Chinese language and culture.  

Viewed as an instrument of soft power the Confucius Institutes,which are housed by host institutions, (majorly higher education institutions)  focus on building more peaceful relationships between China and other nations, by promoting a deeper understanding of Chinese culture, values, and ideals. Following suit, this past year, the  U.S. approved funding  new introductory American Cultural Centers in China.  These centers, similar to the Confucius Institutes, promote cultural and education exchange.  However, not focusing on English-language learning the American Cultural Centers provide a venue for Chinese citizens to engage with U.S. citizens and develop a greater understanding of the U.S. and American culture.

As major trade and investment partners, China and the U.S. have acknowledged that in creating a more collaborative partnership, both nations need to also strengthen their understanding of each other's cultures.  Using strategic communication, one of the three dimensions of public diplomacy,[1]  to develop closer bilateral relations, both countries have placed a strong emphasis on people-to-people exchanges through public and cultural diplomacy efforts. 

Pursuing these initiatives, both countries have shown that they are progressively working toward becoming more focused global partners[2], through their outreach approach toward gaining foreign audience attention; and for the U.S. specifically, an inward approach toward supporting its own citizen engagement to participate in this cultural exchange. 
[1] Metzgar, T. Emily.  Public Diplomacy, Smith-Mundt, and the American Public. (2012). Communication Law and Policy, 17:1, 67-101. Retrieved from: eAmericanPublic.pdf. Accessed on November 28, 2012.
* According to Joseph S. Nye, there are three dimensions to public diplomacy:daily communication, strategic communication and development of long-term relationships.  Equally important, all nations exercise some form of public diplomacy in order to create and sustain connections with foreign publics in hopes of making the world an easier place to implement their preferred foreign policies.  
[2] Hachigian, Nina. Re-thinking U.S.-China relations.19 November 2012. Retrieved from:


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your informative post on cultural diplomacy efforts from both the U.S. and China. Cultural institutes such as the American Centers and Confucius Institutes you mentioned definitely play an important role in fostering cultural exchange and diplomacy. Even in Taiwan, where the U.S. does not maintain official representation, there remains the American Institute in Taiwan. Another interesting manifestation of cultural exchange efforts between the two countries is the State Department initiative called "100,000 Strong", which aims to send 100,000 American students to China on exchange programs to increase cultural understanding and increase the numbers of Mandarin speakers in the U.S. It will definitely be interesting to see how exchanges between the two nations play out in the years to come, especially in the first few years of the new leadership in Beijing.