A dissertation submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree
Master of Arts in International Relations
in the Department of Political Sciences at the
I would like to express my gratitude to the following people for their assistance and
support in the completion of my dissertation:
Professor Anton du Plessis, I thank you for your patience, guidance, continuous
advice and your graciousness throughout this study. I will forever be grateful to you.
My parents, I do not have the words to express how eternally grateful I am for your
unconditional love and support. Your prayers and motivation have carried me. I love
you dearly.
My husband Ben and my sons Christiaan and Divan, thank you for your continued
encouragement, support and unwavering love.
My brother, your perseverance continually amazes me. You are an inspiration.
My lecturers and colleagues at the University of Pretoria and the University of South
Africa, thank you for your continued support in all my endeavours. The lessons I
learnt from you have inspired me and will never be far from my heart.
My family and friends, I will always be grateful for your continued love and support
throughout the years.
Finally, my Lord and Saviour, thank you for all the blessings I have received. Thank
You for teaching me patience during this time and giving me the strength to complete
this goal I set for myself.
Table of Contents
Tables and Figures
List of Abbreviations
General introduction and research theme
Aim and relevance of the study
Literature overview
Identification and demarcation of the research problem
Structure of the study
Foreign policy and diplomacy
Foreign policy
2.2.1 Defining diplomacy
2.2.2 The uses and functions of diplomacy
2.2.3 The focus and actors of contemporary diplomacy
Power in the foreign policy environment
‘Hard power’ and ‘soft power’ in international relations
Public diplomacy: a conceptualisation
Defining public diplomacy
The origins of public diplomacy
The development of public diplomacy
The nature of public diplomacy
4.4.1 The components of public diplomacy
4.4.2 The scope of public diplomacy
Nation branding and cultural diplomacy
Nation branding and image: marketing the state
Cultural diplomacy
The convergence of nation branding, cultural diplomacy
and public diplomacy
Propaganda and public diplomacy
Defining propaganda
The nature of propaganda
6.2.1 Types of propaganda
6.2.2 Characteristics of propaganda
The convergence of propaganda and public diplomacy
The historical context of China’s public diplomacy
China’s Imperial heritage
China’s ‘Century of Humiliation’
China under Communism
The foreign policy context of China’s public diplomacy
The public diplomacy of China
The background context of China’s public diplomacy
The nature and scope of China’s public diplomacy
4.2.1 The characteristics of China’s public diplomacy
4.2.2 The actors and institutions of China’s public diplomacy
4.2.3 The instruments of China’s public diplomacy
Core objectives of China’s public diplomacy
4.3.1 China’s economic-based public diplomacy
4.3.2 China’s culture-based public diplomacy
The limits of China’s public diplomacy
The China ‘brand’ and public diplomacy
China’s regional public diplomacy
China’s regional public diplomacy strategy
China’s regional public diplomacy relations
China’s public diplomacy relation with ASEAN and Southeast Asia 120
China’s multi-lateral relations with ASEAN
China’s bilateral relations with Southeast Asian countries
China’s public diplomacy relations with Japan
China’s public diplomacy relations with Taiwan
China’s international public diplomacy
China’s peaceful rise in the international system
China’s public diplomacy towards Africa
China’s courting of Africa
The implications of China’s presence in Africa
China’s public diplomacy towards Latin America
China’s public diplomacy towards the European Union
China’s public diplomacy towards the United States
Analytical and theoretical framework of the study
Overview of key findings on the nature of public diplomacy
Overview of key findings on the regional and international scope of
China’s public diplomacy
Concluding findings
Recommendations for further study
Table 1: Functions of diplomacy
Table 2: ‘Hard power’ versus ‘soft power’
Table 3: Variables of ‘hard power’ and ‘soft power’
Table 4: The hard side of ‘soft power’
Table 5: The phases of public diplomacy
Figure 1: Public Diplomacy
Figure 2: Components of public diplomacy
Figure 3: Office of Foreign Propaganda/State Council Information Office
ASEAN Ministerial Meeting
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation
Association of Southeast Asian Nations
Approved Tourist Destination
British Broadcasting Corporation
Chinese Academy of Social Sciences
Chinese Communist Party (variant)
Chinese Central Television
Comprehensive Economic Cooperation
Closer Economic Partnership Arrangements
Central Intelligence Agency
Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs
Cable News Network
Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign
Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference
Declaration of Conduct of Parties
European Commission
European Union
Foreign Direct Investment
Free Trade Agreement
International Criminal Court
Institute of Foreign Affairs
Inter-Governmental Organisation
International Monetary Fund
Institute of Southeast Asian Studies
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Most Favoured Nation
Multi-National Corporation
Memorandum of Understanding
North Atlantic Treaty Organisation
Non-Governmental Organisation
Office of War Information
People’s Liberation Army
People’s Republic of China
Republic of Korea
State Council Information Office
Special Economic Zone
Shanghai Institute for International Studies
Seniors Official Meeting
Treaty of Amity and Cooperation
United Kingdom
United Nations
United Nations Security Councils
United States (of America)
United States Information Agency
Voice of America
World Health Organisation
World Trade Organisation
Ming Dynasty
First known Chinese journey to the West
Capital punishment introduced on maritime trade and naval
Ferdinand Magellan reaches the China Sea
Qing Dynasty
Mid-17th century
European traders settle on China’s east coast
European mercantile operations restricted to the port of Canton
The British/English East India Company’s monopoly of the opium
trade collapses
The Chinese Imperial court sends Lin Zexu as a special commissioner
to Canton
First Opium War
‘Unequal Treaties’ between United Kingdom/Britain and China
Taiping Rebellion
Taiping forces take the former Imperial capital Nanking
Second Opium War
British and French troops occupy Peking
Japan enforces the legal protection of foreign direct investments in
Sino-Japanese war
German troops occupy the seaport-town Qingdao (Shandong
Jun. -Sep. 1898
‘Hundred Days Reform’ of Emporer Guangxu
21 Sep. 1898
Empress Dowager Cixi comes into power; Guangxu is placed under
house arrest
Boxer Rebellion
20 Jun. 1900
German envoy Klemens Freiherr von Ketteler is murdered in Peking
Jul. 1900
German troops sent to quell the Boxer Rebellion
7 Sep. 1901
‘Boxer Protocol’ is established
Constitutional monarchy is established
Emperor Guangxu and Empress Dowager Cixi die
End of Qing Dynasty; Republic of China established
Dec. 1911
Sun Yat-sen is appointed ‘provisional president’
1 Jan. 1912
Sun Yat-sen proclaims the republic
12 Feb. 1912
Pu Yi, the last emperor of China, abdicates
Feb. 1913
Election of first Chinese parliament (nationalistic Guomindang victory)
First World War: China allies with Great Britain, France and Japan
against Germany
4 May 1919
‘Fourth-May Movement’
First United Front (Kuomintang [KMT]-Communist Party of China
[CPC] Alliance) formed to end warlordism in China
Sun Yat-sen dies and General Chiang Kai-shek proclaims a
dictatorship in Nanking (Nanking-decade)
First Civil War in China
‘Long March’
Japan invades North China
Second United Front of KMT and CPC to resist Japanese Invasion
Second Civil War in China
A coalition government is formed under KMT leadership
The Civil War breaks out again and ends in a Communist victory. Mao
in Moscow: Sino-Soviet treaty of friendship
The Mao Era
1 Oct. 1949
Founding of the People’s Republic of China
The Korean War
First five-year plan (focused on the development of heavy industry)
Apr. 1954
Abolishment of private business completed
Deng Xiaoping: General Secretary of the Party and vice-Premier
Feb. 1957
‘Hundred Flowers Campaign’ is launched
Jul. 1958
Khrushchev arrives on a secret visit in Beijing
‘Great Leap Forward’ – Moa’s campaign to modernise China’s
Jul. 1960
China and Soviet Union split
Publication of the ‘Mao-Bible’
16 Oct. 1964
China tests its first nuclear weapon
The ‘Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution’
Apr. 1971
China-US ping-pong diplomacy
Jul. 1971
Secret mission of US national security advisor, Henry Kissinger, to
Oct. 1971
The PRC represents China in the UN
Feb. 1972
US President Richard Nixon visits China
11 May 1974
Deng Xiaoping becomes Prime Minister
9 Sep. 1976
Mao Zedong dies
Era of Reconstruction
Deng assumes command of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA)
Deng’s ‘Four Modernisations’ of market economy
The Shenzhen Special Economic Zone (SEZ) is established.
Thousands of students go West on Chinese government scholarships.
First private craftsmen and small services permitted since 1956
First student rallies in Hebei province spread to Beijing and Shanghai
Time magazine declares Deng Xiaoping ‘Man of the Year’
Independence movement peaks in a rebellion in the Tibetan capital
Lhasa. State of emergency declared in Lhasa
15 May 1989
Soviet head of state Mikhail Gorbachev visits China, the first in 30
17 May 1989
More than one million workers, employees and students protest
against the Chinese leadership in Beijing
20 May 1989
State of emergency declared in eight districts of Beijing
4 Jun. 1989
Tiananmen square uprising
9 Jul. 1989
Deng’s ‘Four Point guideline’: repression of the protest movement;
improvement of economic parameters; continuation of the open-door
policy; and coordinated economic development
10 Jan. 1990
State of emergency lifted in Beijing
Oct. 1990
EU foreign ministers lift sanctions on China
27 Mar. 1993
Jiang Zemin inaugurated as President
China the ‘Rising Power’
19 Feb. 1997
Deng Xiaoping dies
30 Jun. 1997
Handover of the British crown colony Hong Kong to China
14 Aug. 1997
Onset of the Asian crisis
27 Oct. 1997
Jiang Zemin visits the US
Jun. 1998
US President Bill Clinton visits China
7 May 1999
US missiles destroy the Chinese embassy in Belgrade
China becomes a member of the World Trade Organisation
Hu Jintao inaugurated as President
SARS crisis. Change of government – new policy of social adjustment
under Prime Minister Wen Jiabao
Oct. 2003
China’s first manned spaceflight is launched
Preparations for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games are undertaken
Chapter 1
General introduction and research theme
The end of the Cold War significantly changed the nature of contemporary
international politics and subsequent international relations. The fall of the Soviet
Union; the end of bipolarity and the emergence of a multi-polar international arena;
the creation of several new states; as well as the inclusion of an increasing number
of non-state actors in the international system greatly affected the manner in which
states interact with one another. These events allowed the addition and formalisation
of new communication methods through which international interaction, or more
specifically diplomatic relations, could take place. In addition, the progress of
globalisation created the so-called ‘global village’ and permitted non-state actors
(Multinational Corporations [MNCs], Non-Governmental Organisations [NGOs], civil
society and the general public) to act, react and pressurise governments on
important issues. It is, therefore, evident that the nature of international politics as
well as the methods by and the areas in which international relations take place,
have changed. Taking this into account, the evolution of the international system and
inter-state relations necessitated more progressive and inclusive foreign policy
structures and diplomatic methods.
Foreign policy manages the interactions of states and provides the means, strategies
and approaches through which national governments achieve their goals in their
relations with other states and non-state actors (see Du Plessis 2006:121; Hill
2003:13; Jackson & Sørensen 2007:223). Two important aspects of foreign policy
need to be highlighted at this point. Firstly, foreign policy is a set of goals and
objectives that a government deems important at a specific time for its own national
interests; and secondly, governments cannot fulfil their foreign policy goals without
the necessary instruments to bridge the domestic and international spheres. The
most important instrument of foreign policy – diplomacy – provides a human face to
foreign policy, directs the pursuit of foreign policy objectives and acts as a catalyst
through which foreign policy objectives are met. Diplomacy is, therefore, the
traditional means by which states, as well as other state and non-state actors,
through formal and other representatives, communicate, coordinate and secure
particular or wider interests with foreign counterparts to achieve the goals set out in
their foreign policies (Barston 2006:1; Berridge 2005:1).
The complexity and interconnectedness of the international political environment has
changed the practice of diplomacy. Specifically, advanced communication methods,
better-informed and participating non-state actors and the growth of influential,
informed foreign publics have, to some extent, eroded traditional diplomacy. Where
diplomacy is the main instrument of foreign policy, it evolved to a point where other
instruments emerged from it. Subsequently, governments and policy-makers have
realised the advantages of an informed foreign public and have introduced
alternative methods whereby foreign publics could affect foreign policy outcomes.
Primarily, diplomacy focused on hard or material (military and economic) power
factors in the international arena. However, with the introduction of larger diplomatic
audiences, diplomacy now includes soft power factors, such as national identity,
image, norms, values, culture and ideology. In light of this, the focus of this study is
on public diplomacy, a mode 1 of diplomacy specifically attuned to soft power.
Although not a new phenomenon, public diplomacy became more formalised and
institutionalised during the post-Cold War era (see Chapter 2). It is also evident that
in a considerable number of states, the strategic use of public diplomacy to achieve
foreign policy goals has become an important asset to governments and foreign
Aim and relevance of the study
Against this background, the aim of this study is to analyse the development, scope
and utilisation of public diplomacy in the People’s Republic of China (PRC, hereafter
China), both at a regional and an international level, between 1997 and 2007. There
is, however, a dual context to this study. Firstly, considering that public diplomacy is
regarded as a predominantly liberal-democratic activity, China’s use of public
Public diplomacy is both a mode and a method of diplomacy, i.e. another way in which diplomacy
manifests and is used. Public diplomacy is also an instrument through which foreign policy goals are
pursued and met. As with diplomacy, different instruments emerge from public diplomacy to
accomplish public diplomacy goals.
diplomacy is of interest since China is a one-party state with a centralist authoritarian
regime. In addition, the influence of Eastern philosophy, specifically Confucianism,
on the conduct of Chinese public diplomacy has to be considered. Secondly, since
China is a ‘rising power’, its public diplomacy goals and activities directed
respectively to its regional and international counterparts are of contemporary
interest, hence the need to consider whether China differentiates between its
immediate regional and international imperatives in the pursuit of its foreign goals.
Public diplomacy, and more specifically China’s understanding and use of public
diplomacy, is both theoretically and practically relevant. The theoretical relevance of
this study stems from the fact that public diplomacy is a contemporary instrument of
foreign policy and mode of diplomacy. The process of public diplomacy has become
more formalised and institutionalised after the Cold War and in the past two
decades, public diplomacy has garnered more interest and gained international
importance. Furthermore, public diplomacy has evolved to allow inclusivity in
reaching the ‘hearts and minds’ of foreign publics. Nation branding and cultural
diplomacy, which are components of public diplomacy, have further advanced its
effectiveness both domestically and internationally. However, public diplomacy has
also attracted many sceptics who argue that it is a euphemism for propaganda.
Arguments that public diplomacy is ‘beautified’ propaganda and that it has become
more complex has provided scholars the opportunity to refine the study, nature and
conceptualisation thereof. The use of case studies on selected states allows for
comparative analyses of public diplomacy. Hence the analysis of the nature and
scope of China’s public diplomacy, as that of a non-Western ‘rising power’, is of
academic relevance.
The practical relevance of this study centres on the development and use of China’s
public diplomacy. This allows for impact-assessments of how China’s rise in power
affects different political, economic, military, social and cultural scenarios and
outcomes. Although the Chinese government uses the terms ‘peaceful rise’ and
‘peaceful development’ to describe its rise in power and advance its interests in a
non-threatening manner, its sincerity is questioned by some of its regional and
international counterparts. Therefore, it is necessary to assess whether this strategic
‘logo’ of its public diplomacy truly represents a peaceful approach to cooperation with
its regional and international counterparts.
Literature overview
In light of the aforementioned, it is essential to consider previous and related
research on the field of study and to determine the availability of relevant sources. In
this respect, literature on the following four themes is considered:
(a) The theoretical context of diplomacy and public diplomacy: This study
analyses public diplomacy, yet due to the fact that it is a mode of diplomacy, the
perusal of literature on diplomatic studies is necessary. Childs (quoted in Pliscke
1979:1) states that diplomacy is the method used by one state to make its foreign
policy understood and accepted by another, making diplomacy the necessary means
and process by which foreign policy is carried out. This view highlights several
aspects of diplomacy. Firstly, diplomacy is essential for governments to realise their
policy goals abroad. Secondly, diplomacy is the ‘translator’ of policy so that it can be
understood by foreign officials. And thirdly, although new methods of diplomacy are
required to suit the globalised international system, its essence – to ensure that
relations between state and non-state actors run fluently and that all interests are
met and respected – is unchangeable.
The literature on diplomacy is immense. Books such as Barston’s Modern Diplomacy
(2006); Berridge’s Diplomacy: Theory and Practice (2005, 2010); Pigman’s
Contemporary Diplomacy: Representation and Communication in a Globalised World
(2010); Hamilton & Langhorne’s The Practice of Diplomacy: Its Evolution, Theory
and Administration (1995); Pliscke’s Modern Diplomacy (1979); and Watson’s
Diplomacy: The Dialogue between States (1982) capture the essence, activity and
processes of diplomacy. These titles also reflect changes in the international system
and recognise the need for diplomacy to accommodate new methods of diplomatic
interaction and new actors in the international arena. The spectrum of diplomacy
before the end of the Cold War mostly covered ‘war-diplomacy’, bilateral diplomacy,
negotiation, mediation and summit diplomacy. However, diplomacy evolved to
include emerging economic, environmental, social and cultural issues on the
international policy agenda, which states now have to deal with on a multilateral
level. These studies indicate the various issue-focused types of diplomacy such as
ministerial diplomacy, oil diplomacy, East-West diplomacy, economic diplomacy and
environmental diplomacy, which demonstrate the specific multifaceted character of
diplomacy (see Barston, 2006; Watson, 1982; Pliscke, 1979; Hamilton & Langhorne,
1995; Berridge, 2005, 2010). Furthermore, this signifies that the outlook of diplomacy
is changing; that the focus of diplomats need to move away from pure ‘political’
diplomacy to include the various new issues evident in the international system.
Concerning the different methods of diplomacy, the abovementioned studies make
little or no mention of public diplomacy. At the time of their writing, propaganda was
still a popular topic, due to its longevity, and public diplomacy had not reached a
level where it justified detailed discussion. Pliscke (1979) mentions public diplomacy
only briefly. Berridge (2005, 2010) and Hill (2003) give a concise explanation of
where public diplomacy fits in with diplomacy. Yet, propaganda is mentioned more
(often used interchangeably with public diplomacy) and the main focus is on
diplomacy and foreign policy in general. Pigman (2010) dedicates a chapter to public
diplomacy, but questions its significance, and considers it to be merely ‘soft’
There are, however, some exceptions. Regarding its nature, scope and
development, The New Public Diplomacy: Soft Power in International Relations
(Melissen, 2005a), focuses specifically on public diplomacy as a ‘new’ study-field in
International Relations. Melissen (2005a) analyses and discusses the method and
use of public diplomacy in the sphere of diplomacy by linking theory with practice
through relevant case studies. Melissen (2005a:xix) acknowledges that confusion
and scepticism still surround public diplomacy, which he defines as “the relationship
between diplomats and the foreign publics with whom they work.” This definition,
although limited in scope, adequately indicates foreign publics’ involvement in
diplomatic relations, as a departure from traditional conceptualisations of diplomacy.
He also mentions that there is a lack of analysis of deeper trends on how official
communications with foreign publics are integrated with wider diplomatic practice
and whether it is a successful method of diplomacy. In addition, he admits that the
distinction between public diplomacy and propaganda is not obvious (Melissen
2005a:xix-xx). Therefore, it is crucial to provide a representative and inclusive
definition of public diplomacy to clearly distinguish it from propaganda.
Another comprehensive book in the study of public diplomacy is the Routledge
Handbook of Public Diplomacy (Snow & Taylor, 2009). These authors succeed in
clarifying the concept of public diplomacy and differentiating public diplomacy from
propaganda where many other publications fail to do so. However, although the
literature on post-Cold War public diplomacy is increasing, it mostly deals with the
United States (US) and how public diplomacy aided its war on terror. While Melissen
and Snow and Taylor do focus on other states, their main focus is on the
development of US public diplomacy. The chapters on other states provide little
insight of the public diplomacy of these states. There are publications and books,
such as Leonard, Small and Rose’s British Public Diplomacy in the ‘Age of Schisms’
(2005) and Potter’s Canada and the New Public Diplomacy (2002), that specifically
discuss public diplomacy in the United Kingdom (UK) and Canada respectively, but
the success of public diplomacy cannot be measured by solely focussing on
developed states. Although the use of public diplomacy is a new practice in many
states, the literature on different case studies is still limited.
(b) Soft power and public diplomacy: Power, particularly state power, that is
related to and analysed in conjunction with public diplomacy, is a contributory
element to this study. Literature that explains power and the role it plays in
international relations includes Keohane and Nye’s Power and Interdependence
(1989); Nye’s Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power (1990a); and
Phillips Shively’s Power & Choice: An Introduction to Political Science (2008).
Dunne, Kurki and Smith’s International Relations Theories: Discipline and Diversity
(2007) and Sullivan’s Power in Contemporary International Politics (1990) relate
power to realism and neo-realism and mention the new configuration of power in the
contemporary international system, which includes China as a ‘rising power’.
Huntington’s The Lonely Superpower (1999) provides an overview of new
dimensions of power in the 21st century and what it means to be a ‘rising power’.
However, Huntington’s analysis and the other literature do not indicate how power
relates to and affects the public diplomatic activities of states.
A term that is always associated with public diplomacy is soft power. The term was
coined by Joseph S. Nye in Bound in Lead: The Changing Nature of American
Power (1990), and further developed in his book The Paradox of American Power:
Why the World’s Only Superpower Can’t go at it Alone (2002), and Soft Power: The
Means to Success in World Politics (2004a). Due to these publications, governments
and policy-makers began to recognise and understand the importance of winning
‘the hearts and minds’ of foreign publics. Although Nye first coined and developed
this concept, antecedents of it can be found in the work of Hans J. Morgenthau, The
Restoration of American Politics (1962). As a realist, he recognised the importance
of the quality of diplomacy as a determinant of power. Furthermore, Morgenthau
identifies nine elements of national power, among them national character, national
morale, the quality of diplomacy and the quality of government. These elements are
closely associated with what Nye (1990a:26) describes as intangible components of
soft power resources or assets that generate attraction. A state’s soft power rests
primarily on three resources: its culture (being attractive to others), its political values
(when lived up to locally and internationally) and its foreign policies (when seen as
legitimate and having authority).
(c) Nation branding and cultural diplomacy: Nation branding (or state branding) is
a relatively new term in International Relations, but is fundamental to the study of
public diplomacy. Branding generally centres on the study of marketing, advertising
and sales promotions, yet the term also applies to diplomatic studies. Only a few
publications deal exclusively with nation branding and most are authored by the
‘father of nation branding’, Simon Anholt. These include Brand New Justice: The
Upside of Global Branding (2003); Competitive Identity: The New Brand
Management for Nations, Cities and Regions (2007); and Brand America – The
Mother of All Brands (co-authored with J. Hildreth, 2004). Nation branding, especially
in the political sphere, is on the increase, as evidenced by the journal of Public
Diplomacy and Place Branding, also edited by Anholt. This journal focuses on nation
branding, public diplomacy and cultural diplomacy and how these concepts are
linked. Many of this journal’s articles deal with states ‘transmitting’ their image
abroad by either using one or all three methods of image projection at the same
time. Anholt’s (2005:119; 2006:271; 2008:4) argument is that the international
system has become integrated and that it is difficult to identify, and differentiate
between, states as single entities, especially in a regional context. Therefore, it is
imperative for states to use nation branding, public diplomacy and cultural diplomacy
to prosper in and engage with the world.
The aforementioned is especially true regarding the loss of cultural distinction in the
integrated international system. Cultures have transcended borders and terms such
as ‘Americanisation’, ‘Westernisation’ and ‘Chinafication’ are used to describe their
global spread. Therefore, cultural diplomacy is important to retain cultural identity. An
article that expresses this is Globalisation and Cultural Diplomacy: Art, Culture and
National Agenda (Feigenbaum, 2001). It specifically conveys the idea that cultural
identity is the glue of societies and that it is apparent in a globalised world that states
should review their cultural heritage (Feigenbaum 2001:19). This study provides
information on the link between nation branding, cultural diplomacy and public
diplomacy. However, literature on China’s use of nation branding and cultural
diplomacy with public diplomacy is lacking.
(d) Propaganda or public diplomacy? Unlike public diplomacy, in-depth literature
on propaganda is readily available. Although not the main focus of this study, a
perusal of the literature on propaganda is necessary to define and distinguish it from
public diplomacy. Literature on propaganda, especially its defining characteristics
and the activity itself, include Marlin’s Propaganda and the Ethics of Persuasion
(2003); Jackall’s Propaganda (1995); Smith’s Propaganda (1989); and Berridge’s
chapter on propaganda in Diplomacy: Theory and Practice (2005). Jowett and
O’Donnell’s Readings in Propaganda and Persuasion: New and Classic Essays
(2006) add to this by emphasising the various contemporary practices of
propaganda. They establish that propaganda “is the potential of the few to [influence]
the destiny of many” and this entails techniques, which range over a wide array of
symbolic and physical acts that alter and manipulate public attitudes (Jowett &
O’Donnell 2006:22). From this conceptualisation it is evident that public diplomacy
and propaganda could easily be confused and used interchangeably. Therefore it is
important to have a clear understanding of what public diplomacy is and what it is
not. It is evident that literature on propaganda is more advanced and inclusive than
that on public diplomacy.
Whether public diplomacy is a euphemism for propaganda has long been debated.
Although public diplomacy and propaganda have many of the same goals, the most
important of which is to influence public attitudes and opinions, the difference
between these two terms is sufficiently clear. Berridge (2010:179) draws attention to
the distinction between ‘white propaganda’ and ‘black propaganda’ – the former
admitting its source, while the latter does not. He describes public diplomacy as a
modern name for ‘white propaganda’ directed mainly at foreign publics. Generally,
propaganda is portrayed as a “deceitful and dangerous practice, especially when
distinguishing feature is that propaganda, for the most part, is uni-directionally aimed
at a target state. On the contrary, public diplomacy, in principle, is based on
reciprocity. In the contemporary political arena, where information is readily available
to the general public and communication avenues between governments and their
citizens (and foreign publics) have broadened, government officials can no longer
afford to practice ‘black propaganda’ (Berridge 2010:179,182; Pigman 2010:123).
Distinguishing between public diplomacy and propaganda as ‘white’ and ‘black’
propaganda respectively is a somewhat simplistic way to view complex activities.
Nevertheless, it assists in differentiating between these opposing terms.
(e) China, the ‘rising power’: Most contemporary literature on China reflects its rise
in power, especially at the economic and political level. Itoh’s China in the 21st
Century: Politics, Economy and Society (1997), Teather and Yee’s China in
Transition: Issues and Policies (1999) and Fewsmith’s China since Tiananmen
(2001) discuss the transformations of China’s political and economic policies, as well
as its relations with its regional counterparts and the international community. They
also consider China’s rise and assess the future significance of China’s policy
changes in the 21st century. Shenkar’s The Chinese Century: The Rising Chinese
Economy and its Impact on the Global Economy, the Balance of Power and your Job
(2006) analyses China’s rise to power and specifically addresses China’s regional
and international relations, and whether it tilts the international balance of power.
Mills and Skidmore’s Toward China Inc? Assessing the Implications for Africa
(2004); Goodman and Segal’s China Rising: Nationalism and Interdependence
(1997); and Cole’s The Sleeping Dragon Awakens: Ramifications of Chinese
Influence in Latin America (2006) analyse the relations and interests China has in
Africa and Latin America, as well as the subsequent effects China’s form of
government and foreign policy have on these continents and the rest of the world.
China’s rise to power is often met with scepticism and fear, especially in the West.
Many deem China as the ‘yellow peril’ and question the sincerity of its ‘peaceful rise’.
Sieren’s The China Code: What’s left for us? (2007); Yuan’s Is There is a Greater
China Identity? Security and Economic Dilemma (2007); Scott’s China Stands up:
the PRC and the International System (2007); Muirheads’s China a Yellow Peril?
Western Relationships with China (2009); and Deng’s China’s Struggle for Status:
The Realignment of International Relations (2008) view China’s rise as a threat to
the current international balance of power. The term ‘peaceful rise’ is questioned and
it is concluded that the Chinese government uses the term as a smokescreen to hide
its real intentions.
Therefore, China’s rise raises the question whether its soft power should be
measured in terms of its ‘peaceful development’ or whether it has ulterior motives.
Kerr, Harris and Yaqing’s China’s New Diplomacy: Tactical or Fundamental
Change? (2008); Kang’s China Rising: Peace, Power and Order in East Asia (2007);
Deng’s China’s Struggle for Status: The Realignment of International Relations
(2008); Johnston’s Is China a Status Quo Power? (2003); Huiyun’s Is China a
Revisionist Power? (2009) and Ding’s Analysing Rising Power from the Perspective
of Soft Power: A New Look at China’s Rise to the Status Quo Power (2010); raise
individual perspectives to the debate, yet none agree on whether China’s soft power
strategy is peaceable or threatening. They raise valid points, but adopt a ‘wait-andsee’ attitude.
(f) China’s public diplomacy: Several publications refer to and amongst others,
analyse the use of soft power in China. Gries’ China’s New Nationalism: Pride,
Politics and Diplomacy (2005); Ingrid d’Hooghe’s (in Melissen, 2005a) Public
Diplomacy in the People’s Republic of China (2005); Farndon’s China Rises: How
China’s Astonishing Growth Will Change the World (2007) and Fishman’s China Inc:
The Relentless Rise of the Next Great Superpower (2006) address the rise of China
and inter alia analyse its use of soft power (public diplomacy). However, it is
Kurlantzick’s Charm Offensive: How China’s Soft Power is Transforming the World
(2007) that provides an insider’s perspective of how China’s transformation and its
move towards a soft power strategy paved the way to it ‘charming and courting’ the
international community to meet its domestic and foreign policy needs.
There are numerous publications on China, specifically on its history, foreign policy
objectives, public diplomacy and inter-state relations (regionally and internationally).
Yet none of these publications reveal whether or not China alters its public
diplomacy agenda in accordance with its regional and international audience
respectively, and this lacuna provides a niche for and justifies this study.
Identification and demarcation of the research problem
As indicated, the use of public diplomacy is not a new phenomenon and has only
been formalised and institutionalised during the early 1990s. However, public
diplomacy is still a subject of contention. Aspects such as its definition, the actors
involved, whether or not it produces results, and whether or not it is in effect
propaganda, are all contested. In this respect, China’s use of public diplomacy is no
exception, as it is a non-Western ‘rising power’. Another point of interest, and a
particular focus of this study, is whether or not China’s public diplomacy differs on
regional and international levels. The duality of the meaning and utility of public
diplomacy generates two interrelated research questions: Firstly, in an exploratorydescriptive context, what are the meaning, nature and scope of public diplomacy and
to what extent does China’s public diplomacy correspond to this predominantly
Western construct? Secondly, in a descriptive-analytical context, does China’s public
diplomacy in pursuit of its foreign policy goals differ at regional and international
levels or not?
As an exploratory proposition, the assumption in response to the first question is that
public diplomacy has generic features which are, to a limited extent, tempered by a
state’s national traits. As an explanatory proposition, the assumption is that China’s
use of public diplomacy in pursuit of its foreign policy goals differs at regional level
and international levels. This is in part dependent on, and evidenced by, different
power relations and China’s use of soft power. A state’s public diplomacy differs from
area to area, regionally and internationally. In China’s case it is contended that any
ambiguity in this regard is due, firstly, to different perceptions of its power status –
regionally it is seen as a hegemon and internationally it is seen as a rising power;
and secondly, to the difference in its regional and international foreign policy goals.
Therefore, it is argued that China varies its use of soft power, expressed in the form
of public diplomacy, towards its respective audiences and its needs. Related aspects
that coincide with the above are whether China differentiates between forms of soft
power, i.e. public diplomacy and propaganda, in relation to both its regional and
international audiences, respectively.
The research problem is demarcated conceptually, geographically and temporally.
As this study focuses specifically on China’s public diplomacy, the conceptual
demarcation requires the definition and explanation of public diplomacy. Hence,
consideration is given to public diplomacy as an instrument of soft power, within the
context of foreign policy and diplomacy; to related soft power instruments,
specifically nation branding and cultural diplomacy, that can further public diplomacy
outcomes; and to the difference and similarities between public diplomacy and
propaganda. The concept of power is also clarified with reference to the notion of
‘rising power’ and how this influences public diplomacy. In terms of geographic
demarcation, the case study focuses on the People’s Republic of China and its use
of public diplomacy at regional and international level.
The temporal demarcation of this study is the post-Cold War era (1997-2007), an era
during which China’s rise is most apparent and which includes the formative years of
China’s public diplomacy strategy. Since Deng Xiaoping’s ‘opening-up’ policy was
announced in 1979 and, more specifically, due to the policy changes made by former
President Jiang Zemin to establish international trade relations and provide
resources for the state’s growing needs, China has established itself as a powerful
international actor. The ‘opening-up’ of China to international relations necessitated
the use of soft power (together with hard power) to achieve its foreign policy goals.
Conducting this study within this timeframe provides an adequate platform to
establish the characteristics of China’s public diplomacy and its use of soft power
prior to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. This event is arguably one of the greatest
platforms for disseminating a nation’s soft power and public diplomacy, and would
account for another study altogether. Therefore, the post-Cold War period from 1997
to 2007 allows for an adequate and informative analysis.
The timeframe of this diplomatic history case study is significant in the following
respects: Firstly, after the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Soviet Union, the
US became the sole hegemon in the international system. This presented China with
the opportunity to emerge as a regional power, without having to contend with Soviet
influence and interference. Secondly, with the reincorporation of Hong Kong and
Macau in the 1990s, China could, to some extent, put the resentments of the socalled ‘Century of Humiliation’ to rest. Thirdly, the Asian Financial Crisis and
economic meltdown (1997-1998) had little effect on China, enabling it to surpass
Japan as the regional economic power. Fourthly, the rising power of China became
more evident in the new millennium. After the terror attacks of 11 September 2001,
the US ‘War on Terror’ and credit crisis paved the way for the expanding Chinese
economy. Finally, Africa and South America started looking ‘East’ for developmental
aid and due to China’s increasing demand for raw materials and energy resources,
mutually beneficial diplomatic ties were established between China and South
American and African countries.
The demarcation supports the validity of China as a diplomatic history case study.
More specifically, the use of public diplomacy by a non-democratic state indicates
the unconventionality of this study as a whole, especially when determining whether
China’s public diplomacy differs on a regional and international level, respectively.
The research design applied to this topic is that of a literature-documentary study, in
respect of the diplomatic history (1997-2007) of a single state.
A theoretical approach of analytic eclecticism (see Sil & Katzenstein 2010:411-412)
is followed. Analytic eclecticism maintains “efforts to complement, engage, and
selectively utilise theoretical constructs embedded in contending research traditions”
and is especially functional in comparative analysis. Accordingly, the methodological
approach to this study is embedded in the theories of neo-realism, neo-liberal
institutionalism and constructivism. Neo-realism underlines the importance of the
balance of power, as well as the competition between states, either to gain power at
the expense of others or to make sure that the balance of power remains stable.
Neo-realists acknowledge diplomacy (and therefore its progeny, public diplomacy) as
a state-centric method of ‘controlling’ foreign relations to promote and realise a
state’s interests and goals, and include non-state actors that could facilitate these
endeavours. This study also discusses how a state’s power status (in this case,
China as a ‘rising power’) influences its foreign policy goals, how such foreign policy
goals are met, as well as foreign policy outcomes.
In contrast to neo-realism, neo-liberal institutionalism and constructivism focus on
soft power aspects. National reputation and image projection have become an
integral part of foreign policy-making. Neo-liberal institutionalism emphasises the
efficacy of reputation and image in international relations and cooperation. The most
important aspect of a state’s reputation is the confidence of others that it will keep to
its commitments even when a particular situation makes it appear unfavourable to do
so. If a state legitimises its power in the eyes of others, it encounters fewer
challenges to its aspirations and if a state’s culture and ideology are attractive,
others are more willing to align with it (Ding 2008:629). Thus, a state’s reputation and
national image serve as important channels and resources for exercising power,
especially soft power.
persuasion, identity, socialisation and ideology (Checkel 2008:72-73) and, in this
sense, complements both neo-realism and neo-liberal institutionalism. It emphasises
the social element of behaviour, irrespective of whether it is between persons or
states. Constructivism emphasises the importance of normative and material
structures. It focuses on how normative factors shape political action and advance
the idea of self-presentation, especially where states present their self-identity to
indicate ‘power and influence’ and project image-formation to other audiences within
a social milieu (Mor 2007:664; Reus-Smith 2009:212). Mor (2007:666) also states
that self-presentation through public diplomacy and nation branding is a strategic
power resource, and that “by manipulating others’ perceptions of identities,” states
are able project an image that would allow them to achieve preset goals. Therefore,
constructivism bridges the gap between neo-realism and the social ‘behavioural’
sphere of international politics.
Within the context of this eclectic theoretical analytic approach, this study applies
qualitative, descriptive-analytical and case study methods. Although not a
comparative analysis as such, the study contains comparative elements to determine
how China’s use of public diplomacy differs at regional and international level,
Structure of the study
The study is divided into three main parts, namely the methodological and theoretical
framework (Chapters One and Two), the main discussion of the diplomatic case
study (Chapters Three and Four) and the final evaluation and recommendations
(Chapter Five).
As the introductory chapter, Chapter One provides the rationale for the study and,
based on a literature overview, identifies and demarcates the research question with
reference to the conceptual, geographic and temporal parameters thereof. The
chapter also covers the methodological approach and the structure of the study.
Chapter Two, as an extended and critical literature review, clarifies the meaning,
nature and scope of public diplomacy, with reference to the related concepts of
foreign policy and diplomacy. Due to the foreign policy environment mostly
supporting the realm of power politics, the related concept of power – soft power in
particular – is discussed, with specific emphasis on how it affects the practice of
public diplomacy, nation branding and cultural diplomacy. Finally, as public
diplomacy is sometimes regarded as a euphemism for propaganda, the two
concepts are differentiated and related to one another. Chapters One and Two,
therefore, provide the conceptual-theoretical exploration and framework for this
Chapter Three provides a historical and contextual background to the case study.
Adding to a brief historical overview, it contextualises the nature of China’s foreign
policy and establishes the characteristics of China’s diplomatic structures and
diplomatic style within the foreign policy context. With reference to applicable
conceptual-theoretical elements explored in the previous chapter, this chapter also
describes China’s approach to the use of public diplomacy, its conceptualisation
thereof, as well as the institutions that are involved. Hence it explores and describes
the development, meaning, nature and scope of China’s post-1997 public diplomacy.
Chapter Four focuses on China’s public diplomacy towards its regional and
international counterparts during the time-frame of 1997 to 2007. On a regional level,
China is presented as a regional power. The main emphasis is on the extent to
which China’s status as a regional hegemon affects the conduct and outcome of its
regional public diplomacy and on the strategies China utilises to woo its regional
neighbours. On an international level, the emphasis is on China’s status as a ‘rising
power’ and the influence thereof on its public diplomacy.
As a concluding evaluation, Chapter Five presents the findings of the study and
considers whether the research problem and questions have been addressed and
answered. It also makes practical recommendations for a future research agenda.
As an instrument of foreign policy, public diplomacy not only presents a new
approach to and method of communication in international relations, but also
broadens the receiving audience in that it involves the relations between foreign
representatives and foreign publics. As the central theme of this study, public
diplomacy is utilised in a conceptual-theoretical context to analyse and understand
how states forward information to a broader public and how that information is
received and used. Although not a new phenomenon, public diplomacy has become
more formalised and institutionalised over the last few decades. Governments and
policy-makers have realised the advantages of a politically informed foreign public
and therefore public diplomacy presents an important method to meet foreign policy
goals and expand international relations.
This study is relevant at a theoretical and practical level. With the growing interest in
public diplomacy, it is necessary to analyse how individual states use public
diplomacy and to what effect they do so. This study aims, firstly, to determine the
defining characteristics of public diplomacy. Secondly, it aims to analyse China’s
foreign policy and its subsequent use of public diplomacy to achieve foreign policy
goals. Thirdly, it aims to determine whether and how China’s public diplomacy differs
at regional and international levels. It is also necessary to analyse the impact of
China’s ‘rising power’ status and whether this affects the conduct and outcomes of
its public diplomacy. China’s ‘rising power’ status could be perceived as either
beneficial or threatening to its regional and international counterparts, and this
perception may well affect public diplomacy outcomes.
As a point of departure and as a framework for analysis, the context, nature and
scope of public diplomacy are discussed in the following chapter.
Chapter 2
Globalisation has made political communication methods and processes, especially
state-to-state communication, simpler and faster. The development and growth of
new communication systems and media in the late 19th and 20th centuries paved the
way for easier and quicker communication over larger geographic areas, which
ultimately altered the nature of international relations. Also, the emergence of
information technology and mass media in the late 20th century made the global
political arena more accessible to ‘public actors’. In light of these developments,
governments have realised the advantages of a politically informed public. It
provided for the development of new methods, amongst others public diplomacy, to
influence the opinions of state and non-state actors on a wide range of political,
economic, social and cultural issues.
As driving forces of international relations, foreign policy and diplomacy adapted to
these developments. As such, various modes of diplomacy are utilised to
accommodate the move away from a state-centric approach to diplomacy. Public
diplomacy, as one of these modes, creates a means through which governments
could inform and influence foreign publics in pursuit of foreign policy goals and
objectives. In this respect, public diplomacy is both an instrument of foreign policy (to
inform foreign publics of national interests) and a method of diplomacy (to implement
and meet foreign policy goals).
The aim of this chapter is to discuss the characteristics of foreign policy and
diplomacy, and to introduce public diplomacy as an instrument of foreign policy and
as a method of diplomacy. Essentially, public diplomacy not only assists in foreign
policy making and influencing foreign publics, but is also used by governments as a
method of reputation management; i.e. a means to advertise itself to the rest of the
world. To succeed in these activities, public diplomacy incorporates nation branding
and cultural diplomacy to further engage and influence foreign publics. As an
ancillary of diplomacy, propaganda is also discussed, due to the argument that
public diplomacy is a euphemism for propaganda and that these concepts are
Furthermore, public diplomacy is closely related to the different facets of power in
international relations. Therefore, ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ power are discussed. In most part,
international politics have been driven by hard power, i.e. states’ military and
economic might. However, with advances in communication and information
technology, states now rely more on soft power, along with hard power, to advance
foreign policy strategies and engage with foreign publics to ‘advertise’ themselves. In
addition, states that are considered to be ‘rising’ powers arguably use soft power,
and more specifically public diplomacy, differently to states that are referred to as
major powers. Thus the emphasis on how a ‘rising’ power portrays itself, through its
use of public diplomacy, national branding and cultural diplomacy.
Foreign Policy and diplomacy
Foreign policy and diplomacy are different sides of the same coin. The former is the
policy itself which consists of the national goals and interests governments would like
to achieve and further internationally, whereas the latter is one of the means by
which these goals and interests are achieved and promoted. Considering that the
global arena is interconnected and that the competition for resources has
heightened, it is important for national governments to maintain close ties with other
governments through continuous diplomatic relations. This highlights the expedience
of foreign policy and diplomacy to continually adapt to changes in the international
arena. Accordingly, this section explains the definition, nature and scope of foreign
policy. Linked to this, diplomacy is discussed as an instrument of foreign policy,
thereby contextualising and introducing public diplomacy as a method of diplomacy.
Foreign policy
At the onset, the analysis of foreign policy must commence with a clear definition of
the concept, considering that it is contested. Scholars and practitioners disagree on
an inclusive definition that clarifies the process and practice of foreign policy. This is
even more problematic because of new issues on the foreign policy agenda.
Therefore the definition of foreign policy should include both the traditional and
‘modern’ elements with which it has to contend.
Vale and Mphaisha (1999:89) define foreign policy as the “sum total of all activities
by which international actors act, react and interact” with their external environment.
Hill (2003:3) gives a similar definition by defining foreign policy as the sum total of
“official external relations conducted by an independent actor” (usually the state) in
the international arena. In contrast, the definition of Webber and Smith (2002:10) is
more inclusive and broadens the scope of foreign policy. They assert that foreign
policy comprises of the “goals sought, values set, decisions made and actions taken
by states, and the national governments acting on their behalf, in the context of the
external relations of national societies”. Therefore, foreign policy attempts to create,
administer and control the foreign relations of national societies. Like Webber and
Smith, Jackson and Sørensen (2007:223) assert that foreign policy involves goals,
strategies, methods and guidelines, used by national governments to conduct
international relations. However, contrary to Webber and Smith, they clarify that not
only does the conduct of international relations take place between two or more
governments, but also between governments and international organisations and
other non-governmental actors.
In light of the above and for the purposes of this study, foreign policy is regarded as
the sum total of all official activities (setting and achieving goals, projecting values
and images, making decisions and taking action) undertaken by a national
government, on behalf of the state, to which external state and non-state actors act,
react and interact in the international arena. This definition includes all possible
activities of foreign policy and recognises all official, government-appointed actors
and non-state actors, as influencers and receivers of foreign policy. Also, foreign
policy regulates the conduct of international relations between state and non-state
Irrespective of their number and the fact that certain definitions of foreign policy are
more inclusive than others, most of them exhibit similarities. Firstly, foreign policy is
seen as an official government objective which allows the inclusion of all government
inputs and mechanisms that regulate the external affairs of states (see Du Plessis
2006:120; Hill 2003:3; Jackson & Sørensen 2007:223). Foreign policy, therefore, is a
predominantly state-centric activity, yet it allows for the inputs of other state and nonstate actors that act on behalf of or from within the state, such as IGOs, NGOs and
MNCs. Secondly, foreign policy is both a reaction to and an action directed at the
international environment (see Du Plessis 2006:120; Hill 2003:3; Mansbach &
Rafferty 2008:346). When inputs are received by foreign policy officials from an
external source an action and/or reaction, even in the form of non-action is expected.
Thirdly, foreign policy involves objectives that are based on both extrinsic and
intrinsic motivations, which culminate in decisions and actions. These motivated
decisions and actions are based on external and internal social values, principles,
intentions, interests, purposes and objectives, but are also concerned with resource
allocation and suitable methods to execute policy objectives (see Du Plessis
2006:121; Hill 2003:4; Mansbach & Rafferty 2008:347). Finally, foreign policy is
based on the establishment of relations with other actors. Therefore, foreign policy
observes, develops, controls, adjusts and alters circumstances or problems external
to the state, which create the fundamental conditions to further relations between
these actors on a continuous basis (see Du Plessis 2006:121; Hudson 2008:12;
Mansbach & Rafferty 2008:348).
However, an additional element of foreign policy, mostly excluded from foreign policy
definitions, is that the success of a state’s foreign policy depends on how it engages
with and shapes the views and attitudes held by foreign populations (Amr & Singer
2008:213). As a result, foreign policy is fundamentally much more complex than the
establishment of international relations with foreign states; it is also concerned with
the formation of ideas and the shaping of views and attitudes, whereby foreign
publics put pressure on their governments to conform to the policies of other states.
It is necessary to keep in mind that both the practice of foreign policy and the nature
of foreign policy-making have changed, due to the effects of globalisation. New state
and non-state actors have broadened the spectrum of external relations. Non-state
actors, also have the opportunity to put pressure on governments to conform to their
own agendas and those of other states (Du Plessis 2006:122; Webber & Smith
2002:20). In addition, foreign policy should not be considered as being ‘external’ to
domestic politics; domestic politics play an integral role in the formulation of foreign
policy. Therefore, foreign policy bridges the divide between the ‘domestic’ and the
‘international’ domains of policy. Government departments also play a role in the
foreign policy-making process. National interests and goals are foreclosed by the
policies of various departments, and are, therefore, also pursued through foreign
relations with other states (see Du Plessis 2006:122; Hill 2003:23; Webber & Smith
2002:17, Barnett 2008:200; Mansbach & Rafferty 2008:347).
Furthermore, foreign policy has moved away from the traditional ‘high politics’, such
as political-military concerns, involving state security, sovereignty and independence,
to ‘low politics’, which is concerned with administrative, technical and normative
issues of a socio-economic and cultural nature. The move away from high politics
does not mean its redundancy. High politics merely converged with low politics,
creating the opportunity for a multifaceted foreign policy agenda. Currently, neither
high politics, nor low politics are permanently categorised and their issues do not
occupy fixed positions or levels of importance on the international agenda. In
addition, the use of soft power techniques is becoming more prominent in the pursuit
of policy goals (Du Plessis 2006:122; Webber & Smith 2002:45).
It is clear that the nature and scope of foreign policy has changed along with the
altered international environment. Hence, the following conclusions: Firstly, foreign
policy operates within the domestic and international arenas. The interdependence
of these spheres means that activities occurring within them may have favourable or
damaging effects on the policies of the actors involved. Secondly, the agenda of
foreign policy has changed to include both ‘low politics’ and ‘high politics’,
highlighting current trends in international politics. Thirdly, the actors involved in
foreign policy-making have changed. Apart from states and IGOs, non-state actors,
such as NGOs, MNCs, civil society, interest groups and private individuals are
involved in foreign policy formulation and also influence governments to adjust their
foreign policies. Lastly, the motivation behind foreign policy-making has changed to
the extent that foreign policy objectives and decisions are based not only on extrinsic
influences, but on intrinsic normative incentives as well.
The globalisation of mass media created an international environment where a more
informed international public is involved in the political sphere. Therefore,
governments are more willing to include domestic and foreign publics in policy
formulation. As a result, foreign policy objectives now include the influencing of
foreign publics to change their opinions on both domestic and international issues
and activities. Together with the changing of opinions, foreign policy objectives also
include the projecting of a state’s image to international publics to further assist the
pursuit of national interests and foreign policy goals. Accordingly, foreign policy
instruments, diplomacy in particular, had to conform to the changing nature of
international relations. That being so, the following section explores the concept,
practice and scope of diplomacy in a globalised era and considers the fact that
diplomacy had evolved to a level that includes the international public.
Similar to foreign policy, the definition of diplomacy is not unambiguous. Diplomacy
is perceived differently by scholars and practitioners due to its multifaceted nature in
a multi-centric international arena (White 2005:338; Murray 2008:22). Traditionally,
diplomacy was seen as a (realist) state-centric activity. However, the scope of and
participants in diplomacy have become multi-centric due to the inclusion of new
actors and the emergence of new issues in the international arena. Therefore, the
nature of the international arena dictates that the style of diplomacy be flexible to
adapt to the changing international environment (Plischke 1979:xi; Murray 2008:24).
2.2.1 Defining diplomacy
Diplomacy is seen as the focal point of international relations. Accordingly, it is
defined as the means by which relations between international actors are regulated;
its acts of communication, consultation and negotiation are essential to peaceful
relations between states (Jönsson & Hall 2005:1; Hamilton & Langhorne 1995:1).
However, since each government has a specific take on its own policy objectives
and ambitions, the means by which it implements its foreign policy are widely
observed (Plischke 1979:xi). Therefore, it is argued that diplomacy is an art or
science, a skill, a practice, an institution and/or a process whereby international
relations take place.
According to Gilboa (2001:1) and Berridge (2005:1) diplomacy is an essential
political activity and the concept has come to denote various aspects, namely foreign
policy implementation; a means to pursue negotiation; one of the areas of the
foreign-service; and the act of negotiation itself. To illustrate: diplomacy is defined as
“the application of tact and intelligence to the conduct of official relations between the
governments of independent states” (Satow 1979:24). More concisely still, diplomacy
is the “conduct of business between states by peaceful means” (Murray 2008:22).
Similarly, Eilts (1979:4) describes diplomacy as the art or science involved in the
relations between sovereign states by means of official agents, and according to
international law, the method or process employed in the managing of international
negotiations. From a state perspective diplomacy is also concerned with articulating,
coordinating and securing foreign policy interests, using “correspondence, private
talks, exchanges of views, lobbying, visits, threats and other related activities”
(Barston 2006:1). Thus, diplomacy has come to encapsulate various activities and it
denotes a diverse range of interests.
These definitions highlight important aspects of diplomacy, namely its main function,
i.e. the art of resolving international complexities peacefully; its principal agents, i.e.
the conduct of relations between sovereign states by means of official governmentappointed agents or foreign representatives; and its principle task, i.e. the
management of international relations by negotiation and the pursuit of foreign policy
goals (Melissen 2005a:4; Jönsson & Hall 2005:3). For the purpose of this study,
diplomacy refers to the means of communication through which state representatives
and other international actors communicate and defend their interests, grievances,
threats and ultimatums. It is a way in which states determine positions, query
information and persuade other states and actors to support their own position
(Gilboa 2001:1). Diplomacy is, thus, a fundamental process of interstate contact and
interaction in the international environment. Foreign policy is essential in the process
of international relations and diplomacy is the means by which foreign policy is
carried out (see Plischke 1979:xiii, 1 and Lerche & Said 1979:19). Accordingly
diplomacy is the instrument through which foreign policy is implemented and
communications between states are regulated. In addition, these main functions of
implementation and regulation are supported by other specific diplomatic functions.
2.2.2 The uses and functions of diplomacy
Several uses of diplomacy can be identified: firstly, diplomacy is used as a means to
adjust and regulate. It allows states to modify their positions on an issue in order to
establish a stable relationship. Its ‘directness’ of communication, non-coercive
nature, subtleness and flexibility contribute to its effectiveness. Secondly, diplomacy
is used as a means of persuasion. Developing arguments and extending wagers,
both persuasive devices, fall within the domain of the méthode diplomatique (Lerche
& Said 1979:20). Thirdly, diplomacy is a technique of coercion. Considering that
diplomacy itself involves putting significant pressure on state counterparts, coercive
actions are initially communicated diplomatically. For example, coercion may be
applied in an ultimatum, by the setting of a time limit for the conclusion of an
arrangement, or by the registration of a formal or informal protest or complaint (see
George 1994:9; Lauren 1994:26-45; Lerche & Said 1979:20). Lastly, diplomacy is a
technique for reaching agreement. Only through diplomatic procedures can formal
written agreements be drawn up and signed. This is the most binding of international
commitments offered within international relations (Lerche & Said 1979:21).
Based on these uses of diplomacy, Barston (2006:2) distinguishes between six
information/communication, international negotiation, duty of
protection and
normative/legal (see Table 1). These functions of diplomacy are very important for
the stability of the international arena. Firstly, the official or ceremonial function is
concerned with formal representation, protocol and participation in the diplomatic
sphere of a national capital or international institution. Associated normally with
traditional diplomacy, these aspects continue to play an important role in state
sovereignty and in the notion of international society (see Barston 2006:2; Berridge
2010:105; Leguey-Feilleux 2009:201).
Secondly, the managerial function has to do with the management of short-term
routine issues in bilateral and multilateral relations, for instance coordination,
consultation, lobbying adjustment and the agenda of official or private visits. The
managerial function includes the protection and management of interests, which for
most states are dominated by tourism, financial, economic and resource issues,
along with threat management. Threat management, in the diplomatic context,
specifically refers to coping with unfavourable developments affecting the key
interests of states. Other management activities include the explanation and
justification of a particular decision or policy. These specific functions rely greatly on
diplomatic negotiating skill and on linguistic and technical expertise (Barston 2006:3).
Table 1: Functions of diplomacy
• Protocol
• Representation
• Visits
• Day-to-day dilemmas
• Promotion of interests (political, economic, scientific, military, tourism)
• Explanation and defence of policy
• Strengthening bilateral relations
• Bilateral coordination
• Multilateral coordination
Information and communication
• Assessment and reporting
• Monitoring
International negotiation
Duty of protection
Contribution to international order
• Normative
• Rule making
• Mediation or peaceful settlement of issues
Source: Barston, 2006:2
Thirdly, the information and communication function includes the acquiring and
assessment of information, including acting as listening posts or as early warning
systems. A foreign mission should identify key issues and domestic or external
trends, together with their repercussions, in order to advise or warn the sending
government. This monitoring function provides an analysis of short- or long-term
developments relating to a state, region, organisation, individual or issue. As such,
monitoring is described as the acquisition of data from public sources in a receiving
state, for example from the press, television, radio, journals and other media outlets,
including reporting on or the presentation of the sending state in the receiving state
(Barston 2006:3; Leguey-Feilleux 2009:194).
Fourthly, international negotiation has become one of the most important functions of
diplomacy and is at the core of most other functions. Negotiations are discussions
between officially appointed representatives of governments, to achieve agreements
to the way forward on issues that are either of shared concern or issues of dispute
between them (Berridge 2005:27). Due to the diplomatic system encompassing a
broader field than the work done by ambassadors or resident missions, negotiation
becomes an operational focus, especially when moving to the levels of multilateral
diplomacy, summitry and mediation (Barston 2006:3; Leguey-Feilleux 2009:5).
Fifthly, the duty of protection is a traditional diplomatic function, which has become
more important in contemporary diplomacy. The growing mobility of citizens and
international conflict have all produced various types of protection problems which
embassies and consulates must deal with. Finally, the diplomatic functions relating to
conflict, disputes and international order require the creation, drafting and
amendment of a wide variety of international rules of a normative and regulatory kind
that provide structure in the international system (Barston 2006:4). In addition, along
with negotiation, the pursuit of international order also includes diplomatic mediation
and the peaceful settlement of disputes.
These functions are closely related to evolving events and issues such as
international crises, human and natural disasters or outbreaks of violence, whereby
diplomacy aims to decrease tension, clarify and seek acceptable settlement
procedures, and through personal contact, facilitate bilateral and multilateral
relations (Barston 2006:10). In other words, diplomacy constantly responds to world
events and adjusts to the interconnectivity of states and other international actors.
This being the case, diplomacy evolves continuously in order to remain a permanent
asset in a changing international environment.
2.2.3 The focus and actors of contemporary diplomacy
The practice of diplomacy dates back to antiquity where Egyptian, Mesopotamian,
Byzantine, Chinese, and Indian records, predating Christianity, document the
sending and receiving of envoys (Eilts 1979:6; Jönsson & Hall 2003:196). Despite
these earlier origins, modern diplomacy and institutionalised diplomatic services
originated from the development of the state, especially during the latter half of the
19th century (Murray 2008:23). As such, diplomacy was based on state sovereignty
and the fundamental role of diplomatic services was to act as a channel of
communication between governments. However, the content of diplomacy has
widened and war and peace are no longer the only concerns of diplomacy. At one
level, the changes in the content of contemporary diplomacy are reflected in
diplomatic niche areas such as oil diplomacy, resource diplomacy, knowledge
diplomacy, human rights diplomacy and nuclear diplomacy. What currently
comprises diplomacy goes beyond the narrow politico-strategic idea associated with
the term. It is no longer apt to view diplomacy in a restrictive and formal sense as
being the preserve of foreign ministries and diplomatic service personnel (Eilts
1979:6; Murray 2008:22).
Not only has the focus of diplomacy broadened, but the channels of diplomacy have
changed as well. Where previously there were one or two paths of diplomatic
communication, there are now many channels, networks and alternate environments
through which diplomacy takes place. Also, patterns of asymmetric and multilateral
diplomacy are appearing, involving a wide range of actors. ‘Political’ diplomats,
advisers, envoys, and officials from a wide range of ‘domestic’ ministries or agencies
now meet with their foreign counterparts, directly (Barston 2006:1; Murray 2008:26).
The contemporary diplomatic environment, allows non-state actors to apply basic
diplomatic functions such as negotiation skills, visible representation, effective
communication, filtered information and political reporting from overseas, and
symbolism. Thus, a host government could communicate transnationally with or
through MNCs, NGOs and ‘private’ individuals. Also, large MNCs, such as Microsoft,
understand the need to develop their own ‘task-defined’ diplomatic composition to
serve their particular needs and to develop local diplomatic expertise (Murray
In light of the above, it is necessary to highlight the technological, economic, political
and social factors that led to the development of the different types of diplomacy.
Primarily, the information revolution rapidly expanded and developed information and
communication technologies. The Internet, broadcast satellites and cable systems,
resulted in a sharp reduction in communication costs, a massive increase in
international communication capabilities and an increase in the ability to share and
access information. The use of these technologies by the media, the increase of
outlets and the
mass media,
communicates events within a 24-hour news cycle, have played an important role in
the development of diplomacy (Jönsson & Hall 2003:198, 207; Vickers 2004:182).
Other significant factors include the increased ability of citizens and NGOs (from
transnational pressure groups to transnational terrorist organisations) to access and
use information and communication technologies. The increased ability to share
information with likeminded citizens and groups, and the development of critical
thinking in citizens within democratic states, resulted in a need to garner popular
support for policy. Emphasis on international issues (e.g. global warming,
international crime, transnational terrorist networks, refugees and migration) and the
proliferation of norms and values (e.g. democracy and human rights) are increasingly
multifaceted and transnational in nature. Diplomacy must also contend with the shift
from state security to human security, which include international concern over
cooperative security issues (e.g. weapons of mass destruction, the proliferation and
spread of small arms and the need for international peacekeeping missions) which
require multilateral decision-making and involve the lobbying of domestic and foreign
audiences as well as governments (Vickers 2004:183).
Ultimately, these developments affect the ways in which governments conduct their
diplomacy. As such, public communication is at present the centre of diplomatic
practice. Governments provide opportunities for public participation, taking into
account that citizens are developing new skills of global engagement by using
information and communication technologies and accessing the media on a number
of foreign policy issues. It is, therefore, evident that governments find it more difficult
to keep diplomacy restricted to a government activity (Jönsson & Hall 2003:204).
The public dimension of diplomacy increasingly includes an active, participatory
public, as non-state actors have access to communication systems which previously
were only accessible to states and MNCs. Also, public participation not only includes
public opinion, but also public consultation, involvement and action (Vickers
2004:186). It is therefore apparent that the rigid practice of traditional diplomacy has
fundamentally changed to include a more ‘public’ diplomacy.
The evolution in communication and information technologies, the capability to
broadcast significant world events to almost every place on the globe, and the
creation and expansion of the Internet have lead to the globalisation of electronic
communication and to the worldwide growth in journalism and broadcast networks.
Apart from having had a major impact on the nature and scope of foreign policy and
diplomacy, these changes have also altered the meaning of power in contemporary
world politics. The next section analyses how these changes affect the role of power
in the foreign policy environment, as well as the shift from the traditional
determinants of power (hard power), to the more contemporary means (soft power).
Power in the foreign policy environment
The information age not only altered foreign policy making and implementation, but
also the means by which foreign policy goals are achieved. Conversely, the foreign
policy environment is not the only facet of international relations that has altered.
Notions of power and power resources have changed as well.
Power is defined as the ability of a state to influence, control or alter the behaviour of
others to get the outcomes it wants (Nye 2004a:154). The ability to control others is
often associated with the possession of certain resources. Therefore, politicians and
diplomats commonly define power as the possession of population, territory, natural
resources, economic size, military forces and political stability (Nye 1990b:154).
However, traditional instruments of power are insufficient to deal with the new issues
of world politics. New power resources, such as the capacity for effective and faster
communication and for developing and using multilateral institutions, may prove
more significant. Furthermore, the changing nature of international politics also made
intangible forms of power more important. National cohesion, a collective culture and
international institutions are taking on additional significance (Nye 1990b:164).
Today, the definition of power minimises the emphasis of military force, geography,
population and raw materials, while factors such as technology, communication,
education, persuasion and economic growth are becoming more significant in
international power (Nye 1990b:161). A country may attain the outcomes it wants in
world politics because other countries want to follow it, admiring its values, following
its example and/or aiming to reach its level of prosperity and openness (Nye
2008:94; Rugh 2009:4).
In view of the above, this section analyses fundamental facets of power in the
international arena, namely the use of hard and soft power, which are the means
through which states pursue their foreign policy goals.
‘Hard power’ and ‘soft power’ in international relations
International actors can achieve foreign policy outcomes in three ways: coerce with
threats; induce behavioural change with payments; or attract and co-opt. The first
and second options involve ‘hard power’, which is the use of a country’s military or
economic power, or ‘sticks and carrots’. The third option involves ‘soft power’. The
latter is defined as the ability to get others to do what they would otherwise not do
and to achieve desired outcomes through attraction rather than coercion or payment
(see McDowell 2008:13; Nye 2004b:256; Nye 2008:94; Rugh 2009:4; Snow 2009:3).
The difference between hard and soft power resides in government behaviours,
resources, and policies (see Table 2 and Table 3). As a result, hard power manifests
through coercive military and economic policies and actions, whereas soft power is
based on attraction and co-option through, amongst others, public diplomacy. Hard
power, by definition, is based on material elements and facts; soft power is based on
intangible elements and values. Hard power is necessary to maintain global stability,
whereas soft power spreads, validates and reinforces common norms and values,
beliefs and lifestyles. Hard power threatens and deters, while soft power seduces
and persuades (Fraser 2003:10; Noya 2005:54). Global influence cannot depend
solely on economic strength, military muscle and coercive capabilities. Although,
hard power is needed for an implied threat and should be used when necessary,
states should also depend on the assertion of soft power, i.e. the global appeal of
lifestyles, culture, forms of distraction, norms and values (Fraser 2003:18). In other
words, it is important to understand the interplay between politics, security and
strategy, and economics and the means by which by the world is described in a
rational and persuasive manner.
While military and economic power is
indispensable to any state’s ‘power’ status, soft power has become a strategic
resource of international affairs (Chouliaraki 2003:2; Fraser 2003:9).
Table 2: ‘Hard power’ versus ‘soft power’
Hard Power
Soft Power
Attraction; agenda-
setting; co-option
Force; threats;
Values, culture;
policies; institutions
Aid; bribes
Public diplomacy;
diplomacy; war;
bilateral and
Source: Gilboa, 2008: 55-77
Recent trends in communication and information technologies and changes in
political issues have transformed the contemporary meaning of power. It is a state’s
or leader’s image and control of information flow, not just military and economic
power, that determine an actor’s international status. In the information age, the
nature and utility of soft power is evidently becoming increasingly important and it is
at times even replacing the more traditional forms of power. However, it depends
largely on the persuasiveness of information. Where the threat and use of military
force were seen as the power resource in the international system, information about
what is taking place is becoming an important commodity in international relations
(Gilboa 2001:2; Nye 1990b:167).
Table 3: Variables of ‘hard power’ and ‘soft power’
Hard Power
Soft Power
Persuasion, ideology
Tangible reality
Image, symbols
Economic, military
Cultural values
External control
Credibility and prestige
Direct (controllable by government)
Indirect (not controllable)
Not intentional
Source: Noya, 2005:54
Soft power works by convincing others that they should follow you or by getting them
to agree to norms and institutions that produce behaviour you want. Thus, it is
important to attract others and not force them to change through the threat of military
or economic means only. If a country can make its position attractive in the eyes of
others and strengthen international institutions that encourage that attraction, it may
not need to increase its traditional military or economic resources (Nye 1999:pna;
Ding 2010:260).
However, soft power is subject to criticism. Critics, such as Ferguson (in Noya
2005:55) have argued that soft power is a confusing concept and that it suffers from
theoretical deficiencies. He suggests that soft power is not a type of power at all,
because any resource, even military force, can be soft when applied, for example, to
humanitarian aid. “Soft power is simply the velvet glove that covers the iron fist”
(Noya 2005:55) (See Table 4). The media and the public, often the main targets of
soft power, perceive power as hard power and do not necessarily see a difference
between the two. For states, however, soft power depends largely on hard power.
Soft power may be relevant to one state, but may have no or little significance for
Table 4: The hard side of ‘soft power’
Hard Power
Soft Power
Attractiveness of brand
Credibility of institutions
Network externalities of languages*
*A quasi-monopoly of a language (e.g. English) as lingua franca, results in a network produced by the
demand for languages.
Source: Noya 2005:56
Korb and Boornstin (in Gilboa 2008:62) argue that the concepts of hard power and
soft power should be discarded and replaced with the term ‘integrated power’,
because the two types are ‘partners’ and not alternatives. For them, integrated
power means fronting and utilising alliances; developing new strategies and
combining them with conventional strategies; and ending divisions between defence,
homeland security, diplomacy, energy and foreign aid (Gilboa 2008:62). Finally, even
if soft power is a valid concept it may still lead to repulsion rather than attraction. For
example it is argued that the ‘artistic hegemony’ or ‘cultural imperialism’ that the US
is said to practice, creates more antipathy and even anger (Gilboa 2008:61).
Alternatively, Noya (2005:56) argues that soft power should be referred to as
‘symbolic power’, and is equivalent to state recognition or legitimisation. Nye (in
Leonard 2002:50) argues that the power of influence can complement more
traditional forms of power based on economic or military influence. Such ‘soft power’
can rest on the attractiveness of its own ability to set the agenda in ways that shape
the preferences of others. However, many governments have yet to reshape their
own diplomatic structures to adapt to this change in the international environment
(Leonard 2002:50).
A soft power advantage rests primarily on four dimensions: where a state’s culture
and ideas match prevailing global norms – in places where it is attractive to others; a
state’s political values – when a state’s credibility is enhanced by domestic and
international behaviour; a state’s foreign policy – when foreign policy is seen as
legitimate and having moral authority; and a state’s communication reach – when a
state has greater access to multiple communications channels that can influence
how issues are framed in global new media (see Nye 2008:96; Snow 2009:4; Ding
2010:260). When these dimensions of soft power are realised, power manifests
through public diplomacy. Public diplomacy is linked to soft power, and soft power is
arguable the only agreed upon term in the public diplomacy lexicon, especially in its
application and definition.
Therefore, public diplomacy attempts to attract by drawing attention to these
dimensions through, inter alia, broadcasting, cultural exports and/or exchange
programmes. If the content of a country’s culture, values and policies are not
attractive, public diplomacy cannot produce successful soft power outcomes (Nye
2008:95). Nonetheless, public diplomacy has become one of the most vital assets of
a state’s foreign policy, particularly since the role of traditional diplomacy has
declined. No longer just an instrument of foreign policy, public diplomacy has
become its indispensable public face (Roberts 2007:52).
Considering the changing impact of soft power on the international environment,
which is mostly driven by hard power, it is necessary to further discuss public
diplomacy as a manifestation of soft power in the context of foreign policy.
Public diplomacy: a conceptualisation
In the contemporary interdependent world certain national affairs have become
global. As a result, issues such as failing economies, questionable trade relations,
finance, human rights abuses, the environment, pandemics and organised crime
have to be dealt with at the international level (Riordan 2003:3). Also, the context of
international relations have been revolutionised by the rapid advances of
technological discoveries allowing international events to be communicated to the
international community at a faster rate. In addition, due to the escalated interaction
between nations and people, more public participation and expression of opinions on
a wide range of issues are noticeable, especially when it concerns national interests
(Critchlow 2003:12; Roberts 2007:49). Mass tourism has given the general public a
greater knowledge of and interest in foreign countries. When this is combined with
the information of international affairs relayed in real time by global media networks
and the Internet, domestic public opinion enters the foreign policy sphere (Gilboa
2008: 69; Riordan 2003:4). The global spread of ideologically-loaded norms and
values combined with ‘the battle of hearts and minds’ define a new area in
international politics which governments can no longer afford to ignore (Mor
In light of the above, it is clear that international relations has evolved to the extent
that the public and other non-state actors are involved in influencing government
advancements. This makes public diplomacy a viable instrument for states to
advance their policies and gain public confidence (See Figure 1).
Figure 1: Public Diplomacy
Source: Hessarbani, 2011:1
Defining public diplomacy
Of late, much emphasis has been placed on the practice of public diplomacy which
in essence can be described as an effort by governments to develop government-topeople relations and make foreign policies better understood abroad. Technological
advancements has made this goal easier to achieve, but has broadened public
diplomacy as a practice. To better understand the concept, this section defines
public diplomacy with reference to its objectives, the actors involved, the audience
and the content, all of which play an important role in the practice of public
The first category of definitions mentions the aims or objectives of public diplomacy.
In this case public diplomacy is defined as the direct communication with foreign
publics, “with the aim of affecting their thinking and, ultimately, that of their
governments” (Gilboa 2008:57). This definition does not indicate who controls this
communication, due to the misperception that only governments utilise public
diplomacy, which is not always the case. This definition also implies a dual influence
process. Firstly, it is a direct form of communication designed to create positive
public opinion in other states; and secondly, it is a means through which informed
foreign publics can exert pressure on their governments to adopt friendly policies
toward the country relaying public diplomacy.
A second category of definitions is based on the actors involved. There is an
important distinction here in terms of importance; meaning government-employed
public diplomacy deals mostly with policy-related issues. Should government involve
other actors, such as corporations, the public diplomacy usually deals with nation
branding and cultural diplomacy, for example. To this end, Melissen (2005a:xix) and
Cull (2008:31) define public diplomacy as the relationship between diplomats or
other government appointed officials and the foreign publics with whom they work to
accomplish government’s foreign policy goals. Signitzer and Coombs (quoted in
Gilboa 2008:57) similarly define public diplomacy as “the way in which both
government and private individuals and groups influence directly or indirectly those
public attitudes and opinions which bear directly on another government’s foreign
policy decisions”.
The third category of public diplomacy definitions is based on the content of public
diplomacy. As mentioned, public diplomacy includes foreign policy formulation,
influencing opinions, persuasion and image cultivation, cultural diplomacy and nation
branding. As a result, Tuch (cited in Gilboa 2008:57) defines public diplomacy as a
process where a government communicates with foreign publics in an attempt to
convey an understanding of its nation’s ideas and ideals, its institutions and culture,
as well as its national policies and policy goals. Mor (2006:157) similarly defines
public diplomacy as the act of persuading foreign elites and publics that “the policies
and the actions of the state deserve their and their government’s support”. Fouts
(cited in Taylor 2008:51) broadens the context of public diplomacy, in that he defines
public diplomacy as a “government reaching out to a public or polity to explain its
cultures, values, policies, beliefs and, by association, to improve its relationship,
image and reputation with that country”.
The final category of definitions is provided by Rawnsley (in Gilboa 2008:58) and
deals with the audience receiving the public diplomacy messages. He specifically
distinguishes between public diplomacy and media diplomacy by audience. In terms
of public diplomacy, he suggests that policy-makers use the media to address
foreign publics; and in respect of media diplomacy, policy-makers address
government officials. Gilboa (2008:58) expands this distinction by classifying public
diplomacy according to interrelated principles: direction – one-way communication
versus two-way communication; and purpose – symmetrical versus asymmetrical
and two-way symmetrical versus two-way asymmetrical. One-way communication
refers to information distribution from one side to another, while two-way
communication means information exchange between two or more sides. In
asymmetrical relations the goal is to change the opinion, policy or behaviour of
another state, whereas symmetrical relations refer to the willingness on the part of
the state to change its own policy or behaviour. Conversely, two-way asymmetrical
relations are based on strategic communication, which is the formulation of
messages capable of persuading the public in the target state to behave according
to the interests of the state public diplomacy. Two-way symmetrical relations allow
for changes in the policy and behaviour of both the state using public diplomacy and
the target state (Nelson and Izadi 2009:340-341).
To summarise: the core idea of public diplomacy is the direct communication with
foreign publics, with the aim of affecting their thinking and ultimately, that of their
governments. In terms of content, it describes activities, directed abroad in the fields
of information, education and culture, whose objective is to influence a foreign
government, by influencing its citizens. The mass media and international
broadcasting in particular, are just a few of the channels used in public diplomacy.
Others include cultural and scientific exchanges of students, scholars, intellectuals
and artists; participation in festivals and exhibitions; building and maintaining cultural
centres; teaching a language; and establishing local friendship leagues and trade
Public diplomacy is a complex practice and therefore submitting it to one definition
would do the term injustice. The reason for this complexity is due to a long history of
amalgamations of different elements, which contribute to the objectives of
communicating with foreign publics.
The origins of public diplomacy
The practice of relations between governments and foreign publics is not a new
phenomenon. It is the concept ‘public diplomacy’ that is new. While public diplomacy
had been used by practitioners for at least thirty years, the activities now recognised
as ‘public diplomacy’, were previously known as ‘international and cultural
programmes’. Governments establishing contact with foreign publics in peacetime is
also relatively new. In wartime, such communication methods – often called
psychological warfare (known more commonly as propaganda) – have existed for a
long time. Prior to the invention of the radio foreign publics could hardly be reached.
Diplomacy had a very restricted government-to-government scope and direct
communication with host publics was deemed to be undiplomatic (Maarek 2003:157;
Roberts 2007:37). Today, however, governments expect their policies to reach public
‘ears’; government-to-public communication has become part of and plays an
important role in international relations (Leguey-Feilleux 2009:191).
Diplomatic activity aimed at foreign publics can be traced back as far as Ancient
Greece, the Roman Empire, the Italian Renaissance, and the Byzantium Empire.
However, it was not until the printing press was invented that the scale of official
communications with foreign publics changed. “It was Gutenberg’s invention that
cleared the way for true pioneers in international public relations, such as Cardinal
Richelieu in early 17th century France” (Melissen 2005b:1). The French went to great
lengths in improving their country’s image abroad compared to other European
powers, and they put enormous effort into managing their country’s reputation,
regarding it as one of the main sources of a nation’s power. Other countries followed
suit, such as Turkey after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire (Melissen 2005b:2). In
the late 1800s public diplomacy became a more official act in the sense that ‘offices
of public diplomacy’ was set up by government officials. For example, after its defeat
in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871), the French government sought to repair
the nation’s crushed reputation by promoting its language and literature through the
Alliance Française created in 1883. Although the Alliance Française was founded as
an organisation to teach French primarily in the French colonies, the endorsement of
French culture abroad became a noteworthy component of French diplomacy in
other countries as well. (Nye 2008:96; Roberts 2007:38).
The term public diplomacy was first coined in 1965 by Edmund Gullion, Dean of the
Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts.
Yet, Gullion’s phrase was not so much a new coinage in 1965 as a fresh use of an
established phrase. Ironically, the new use of an old term was necessary because
the older term – propaganda, which Gullion preferred – had accumulated many
negative connotations (Nelles 2004:69). The earliest use of the phrase ‘public
diplomacy’ was in an article of the Times in January 1856. Contextually, in a piece
criticising the posturing of President Franklin Pierce, it was used as a synonym for
civility. To quote: “The statesmen of America must recollect that if they have to make
a certain impression on us, they have also to set an example for their own people
and there are a few examples so catching as those of public diplomacy” (Cull
2009a:19). The first American use of the term was in a January 1871 public article of
the New York Times, which reported on a Congressional debate. Representative
Samuel S. Cox, spoke in resentful tones against secret intrigue to annex the
Republic of Dominica, noting that he believed in “open, public diplomacy” (Cull
2009a:19). Thus, in the latter context the direction of diplomacy moved away from
closed or ‘secret’ diplomacy to ‘open’ diplomacy. ‘Public diplomacy’, in this case,
meant ‘open’ diplomacy directed to the public, although the concepts were used
President Wilson himself used the phrase in his so-called ‘Four Principles’ speech to
Congress in February 1918, in which he relayed the response of the German
Chancellor, Georg von Hertling, to the ‘Fourteen Points’, noting: “He accepts the
principle of public diplomacy” (Cull 2009a:20). Wilson’s phrase was adapted from
Hertling’s original speech to the Reichstag in January 1918 in which he endorsed
what he called” Publizität der diplomatischen Abmachungen” (meaning ‘publicity of
diplomatic agreements’). In this context the use of public diplomacy was openly
introduced, but not entirely accepted as a term to denote the ‘open’ dialogue
between states, politicians and their publics.
The development of public diplomacy
Keeping the above in mind, the development of public diplomacy is discussed in light
of several events: the advent of the radio and technological inventions; and the
creation of public diplomacy programmes by governments to win the ‘hearts and
minds’ of foreign audiences.
When the radio was invented in the early 20th century the means to reach foreign
publics immediately improved. For example, the Soviet Union used radio broadcasts
to encourage other peoples to rise against their governments, and the Nazi regime in
Germany acted similarly upon gaining power in 1933 (Roberts 2007:37; Nye
2008:97). The advent of the radio also led many governments into the arena of
foreign-language broadcasting and in the 1930s Communist and fascist groups
competed to promote favourable images to foreign publics (Nye 2008:98). After the
US entered World War II, the American government established the Voice of
America (VOA), modelled after the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), which
started broadcasting in February 1942 in four languages (English, French, German
and Italian). Later that year, the Office of War Information (OWI) was established and
the VOA became its principal programme (Cull 2009b: 27; Roberts 2007:40).
In 1934, driven by Nazi Germany’s aggressive and globally directed propaganda
campaigns, the British government created the British Council, a semi-governmental
cultural organisation. The British Council representatives worked abroad outside
British embassies and legations, much like the Alliance Française. Its purpose was
to familiarise foreign publics with British cultural achievements and thereby create a
climate in which British foreign policy objectives would be positively received by
publics abroad and consequently, by foreign governments. The US initiated similar
programmes, due to belligerent Nazi propaganda in Latin America. President
Franklin Roosevelt established in 1938 the Inter-Departmental Committee for
Scientific and Cultural Cooperation. In the same year, the State Department created
the Division of Cultural Relations (Nye 2008:28). In 1940, a new agency came into
existence, later known as the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs (CIAA), headed
by Nelson Rockefeller. Its mission was to further ‘hemispheric’ unity, including
cultural relations with Latin American countries (Roberts 2007:39). In terms of
explaining foreign policy to foreign publics, the US State Department, in 1938,
created the Division of Current Information (whose origin goes back to 1921 and
whose original purpose was furthering the State Department’s relations with the
American Press Corps) which objectives were broadened to include foreign
broadcasting. Thus, prior to the US entry into World War II, the US had already
established a small “peacetime programme to reach the hearts and minds of publics
abroad” (Roberts 2007:40).
The post-World War II years saw a re-emergence of the term public diplomacy. In
1946, during the inaugural session of the United Nations General Assembly in
October, the Belgian Minister Paul-Henri Spaak spoke enthusiastically of “this age of
public diplomacy” (quoted in Cull 2009a:20). In the UK, the Times on 14 March 1946
denounced public diplomacy as “catch-phrases and slogans masquerading as
principles of foreign policy,” and sanctioned a call from diplomat and politician Harold
Nicolson for a return to public diplomacy (Cull 2009a:21). In late 1944, the State
Department created the position of Assistant Secretary of State for Public and
Cultural Affairs. This move was based on the US government’s realisation that
foreign policy had increased in importance during the war and needed greater
attention by the State Department in its relations with the media, the American public
and with foreign publics as well. The term, ‘public affairs’, was used to indicate this
information activity, which primarily explained US foreign policy to domestic publics
(Roberts 2007:40). However, the more contemporary use of the term public
diplomacy originated in the US in the 1950s when practitioners of the international
information and cultural programmes searched for a term for these activities that
would indicate their relationship to foreign policy. The term “public affairs” was ruled
out because it was used with reference to domestic audiences. After several other
possibilities were explored, such as communications diplomacy, the information and
cultural programmes were combined and public diplomacy became the generally
accepted term (Roberts 2007:44). Soon afterwards, in 1953, the US Information
Agency (USIA) was created and all information and cultural activities were
transferred from the State Department (Cull 2009b:30; Roberts 2007:43).
During the Cold War, the US and the Soviet Union developed and extensively used
public diplomacy in order to shape public attitudes all over the world towards their
respective ideologies. Their main weapon was international broadcasting, which
included the creation and use of new and established radio stations, such as the
VOA, Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe on the US side and Radio Moscow on
the Soviet side. In the late 1980s the US government added overseas television
programmes, such as Worldnet (Gilboa 2001:5; Rugh 2009:18; Nelles 2004:70).
During the Reagan years (1981-1989) both an increased expenditure on public
diplomacy and a widening use of the term in congressional hearings, scholarship,
journalism, and among practitioners became apparent. Subsequently, the Reagan
administration established Radio and Television Martí designed to destabilise the
Castro regime in Cuba. In the 1990s the term public diplomacy finally entered
common use in foreign policy circles and US President Bill Clinton established Radio
Free Asia, mainly to promote democracy and the protection of human rights in
China, and Radio Free Iraq, to challenge Saddam Hussein’s regime (Cull 2009a:2122; Gilboa 2001:5).
With the end of the Cold War, the US public diplomacy budget was cut severely. It
took the terrorists attacks of 11 September 2001 (9/11) for the US to ‘reinstate’ public
diplomacy campaigns (Nye 2008:98; Nelles 2004:73). The post-9/11 declaration of
war on terrorism revived public diplomacy, not only in the US, but internationally as
well. As such, it was largely aimed at anti-American/Islamic militants and manifested
in garnishing public support for the interventions in the Muslim majority countries of
Afghanistan and Iraq (Nye 2008:101, Nelles 2004:74).
As a summary of the above, the act of government officials corresponding with
foreign publics can divided into four development phases, namely the pre-World
Wars phase; the World Wars phase; the Cold War phase; and the post-9/11 phase
(see Table 5). These phases indicate that governments’ interest in foreign publics is
all but a new phenomenon and it is evident that public diplomacy activities evolved
into propaganda, especially during the time of the two World Wars and the Cold War.
After the Cold War both public diplomacy and propaganda activities diminished to
almost non-activity, specifically by Europe and the US. It was only after 9/11 that the
practice of public diplomacy regained its importance. During this phase international
actors’ involvement in public diplomacy activities increased. Also, public diplomacy
evolved to the extent that one of its objectives (image projection) – established in the
study field of Marketing, hence the name ‘nation branding’ – is now deemed as an
instrument of public diplomacy. Apparent in this phase is that public diplomacy is a
dominating factor (over propaganda) in the US’s ‘War against Terror’.
(a) The pre-World Wars phase: Public diplomacy during the pre-World Wars years
was mostly based on the ‘forwarding of culture’ to foreign publics and repairing state
image. France, after its defeat in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871), became the
forerunner in cultural-public diplomacy by promoting its language and literature
through the Alliance Française created in 1883. The Alliance Française’s main
objective was, to teach French primarily in the French colonies but also in other
countries, being the first governmental endeavour to reach foreign publics. Prior to
World War I, public diplomacy was not as widely used. It was only during World War
I and World War II, that public diplomacy became an asset, in not only winning the
‘hearts and minds’ of foreign publics, but also winning the battle.
(b) The World Wars phase: The World Wars phase was characterised mainly by
the introduction of the radio. Prior to that direct-communication with foreign publics
was not only difficult but unheard of. During World War I the term “public diplomacy”
was widely used to describe a cluster of new diplomatic practices. These practices
ranged from successive German statements on submarine warfare policy, through
public declarations of terms for peace, to US president’s Woodrow Wilson’s idealistic
vision – expressed in the opening of his “Fourteen Points” speech of 8 January 1918
– of an entire international system founded on “open covenants of peace, openly
arrived at” (Cull 2009a:20). Many writers at the time preferred to use the phrase
“open diplomacy”, but “public diplomacy” had its support and was given further
impetus by the use of the French phrase, diplomatie publique.
The phase was dominated by propaganda, the argument being, that propaganda is
another face of public diplomacy. During World War II in particular, public diplomacy
programmes were based on the spread of information and cultural relations. The
propaganda element of public diplomacy, perfected by the Nazi’s, were responded to
by the US and Europe. Radio stations were utilised (such as the VOA and Radio
Free Europe) to communicate with foreign publics, mostly projecting messages of
liberation and peace. To counter Nazi propaganda, the UK through the British
Council, familiarised foreign publics with British cultural achievements and thereby
created a climate in which British foreign policy objectives would be positively
received by publics abroad and consequently, by foreign governments. It is mostly
due to (successful) Nazi propaganda, that, towards the end of World War II,
propaganda was by far the more popular method to use in influencing foreign
publics, and its use dominated the Cold War.
(c) The Cold War Phase: By the 1950s the usage of the term public diplomacy
became embedded in the realm of international information and propaganda. It was
not so much that term was being used differently but rather that diplomacy was being
practiced and understood differently, and key diplomatic events were now
recognised as explicit works of public performance (Gilboa 2008:55). Public
diplomacy as propaganda was dominated by campaigns to gain support for the two
superpowers. The battle for the ‘hearts and minds’ of foreign publics were at the
centre of both powers’ strategies. What made this even easier is the fact that global
media networks, such as Cable News Network (CNN) and BBC, transmitted
propaganda messages at a faster pace and satellite transmission, arguably, started
the phenomenon of a ‘more informed public’.
(d) The Post-9/11 Phase: A new phase in the development of public diplomacy
started after the terror attacks on 11 September 2001, in New York and Washington
by Islamic fundamentalists. Public diplomacy dominates the post-9/11 environment,
especially after public diplomacy was regarded as a secondary element to
international politics in the 1990s, specifically by the US (Hocking 2005:28; Snow &
Taylor 2009:ix). The post-9/11 international environment is characterised by the
reintroduction of public diplomacy, dominating propaganda, which is used to win the
‘war on terror’. A new characteristic of public diplomacy, nation branding, add to
public diplomacy’s new popularity. Nation branding, the marketing of states abroad,
extended the objectives of public diplomacy, informing publics of other states,
without the significant political element that publics have come to distrust. Nation
branding and cultural diplomacy have also merged, to the extent that the ‘whole
package’ of a state is projected to influence opinions of both states and their publics.
Table 5: The phases of public diplomacy
Phase 1: Pre-World Wars
Public Diplomacy based on Cultural Relations
Phase 2: World War I & II
Maximum Propaganda + Minimum Public
Phase 3: Cold War
Phase 4: Post-9/11
Maximum Public Diplomacy + Minimum
From the above, it is evident that public diplomacy has been utilized for many years.
Yet, it is only since the beginning of the 20th century, in particular with the
advancement of modern technology, that governments have realised the importance
of public diplomacy and the open communication between governments and the
publics they serve and target.
The nature of public diplomacy
The public diplomacy arena comprises a multitude of components that are
collectively labelled as or associated with ‘public diplomacy’. These include
international broadcasting and technology, public opinion, cultural diplomacy, nation
branding, diplomatic strategy, history and propaganda. These components are
important in terms of how public diplomacy is formalised and projected. However,
other factors also play an important role in the public diplomacy environment such as
the participating actors, the international environment and the issues with which
public diplomacy is involved. This section analyses the components of public
diplomacy and concludes with a discussion of the scope of public diplomacy.
4.4.1 The components of public diplomacy
The components of public diplomacy constitute an important part of the overall public
diplomacy framework (see Figure 2). Each component, although not all present at
the same time or sometimes overlapping, presents an optimal public diplomacy
customized specifically to suit a state’s image-projection to other states, non-state
actors and foreign publics. Each component is briefly explained, followed by a
separate discussion of propaganda, nation branding and cultural diplomacy.
(a) International broadcasting, mass media and technology: The role of
international broadcasting has become increasingly important in winning the ‘hearts
and minds’ of foreign publics. In short, international broadcasting is an attempt to
affect and manage public opinion, and engage with foreign publics through the use
of different broadcasting methods and technologies, such as radio, television,
newspapers and the Internet (Cull 2008:34; Taylor 2008:57). These broadcasting
technologies initiated an exponential rise in the ability to distribute information, views
and images globally and give citizens and groups greater access to political
information than ever before (Maarek & Wolfsfeld 2003:1).
Broadcasting media and technologies are therefore ‘magnifying glasses’ that
enhance or diminish public concerns and shape the viewpoints of the public.
Broadcasting media are filters that can give diverse accounts of the same people
and events, and they are prisms that can bend opinions to the benefit or detriment of
the broadcasted persons or states (Taylor 2008:58). Foreign public’s opinions are
mainly formed by international broadcasters, who report on world events, and it has
become harder for governments to control information flows.
Therefore, it is important to utilise public diplomacy to encourage the presentation of
truths that are less damaging to a state’s image, and alter or influence the
perceptions of foreign publics (Quelch & Jocz 2005:23). Mass media channels, for
example, are used to affect the general public directly, while official channels, are
orientated toward elite audiences believed to have an influence on public opinion.
The mass media focus on current affairs, while official channels deal more with
fundamental long-term perceptions of states and societies (Zaharna 2009:90; Mor
2006:162). International broadcasting overlaps with other components and functions
of public diplomacy, such as listening, monitoring research functions, advocacy work,
cultural diplomacy in its cultural content and exchange programmes (Cull 2008:34).
Due to this overlapping feature, international broadcasting is an important medium
for achieving public diplomacy goals.
(b) Public Opinion: The free flow of information, due to the decline in cost in
information technology, substantially empowered the global public to form an opinion
on any event in the international arena (Wyne 2009:40). Public diplomacy techniques
are used domestically by politicians, corporations and advocacy groups to influence
the attitudes and perceptions, or more specifically, the public opinion of foreign
publics (Taylor 2008:53). One of the goals of public diplomacy is to project a positive
image to the global public, which in turn would constitute a favourable opinion toward
the ‘projecting country’. Public opinion is measured by worldwide surveys on public
opinion toward various countries, organisations and international issues. The data is
used to assemble indexes, measuring and ranking countries on significant topics
such as, ‘democracy’, ‘economic stability’, ‘security’, etc. These indexes provide
valuable information about the image of countries and have considerable leverage in
a country’s creation and use of public diplomacy (Gilboa 2008:63).
Another element that affects the outcome of public opinion polls is the relations
between states. For example, during the Cold War countries favouring the US and its
allies would produce positive public opinion indexes toward other allied countries, but
would have unfavourable opinions toward the Soviet Union and its allies. In terms of
the Second Gulf War, the US, UK and other countries participating in the ‘war on
terror’ are in an unfavourable position in the Muslim world because of antiAmericanism. Therefore, positive and negative public opinion can be formed purely
in terms of ‘association’ and is not so much based on ‘truth’ and ‘direct relations’
(Gilboa 2008:63; Wyne 2009:45).
Figure 2: Components of Public Diplomacy
Source: Gilboa, 2008:74 (adapted)
(c) Diplomatic strategy: The speed and effectiveness of information and
communication technologies have established an increased need for governments to
communicate directly with foreign publics. Accordingly, public diplomacy has become
fully integrated with, and more central to governments’ grand strategy approaches to
Communication, education and persuasion have become contemporary techniques
of foreign relations at the expense of military strength. Therefore, the integration and
application of force, diplomacy and communication (the significant factor) is required
for a successful grand strategy. Herein lays the aspects of power (a central element
in grand strategy) or more specifically the combination of hard and soft power
(Gilboa 2008:61).
In this case, public diplomacy is closely associated with propaganda (a
predominantly hard power oriented activity) in that public diplomacy is a major
component, in this instance, in strategic and tactical planning. “Due to the mediasaturated environment of international conflicts, the strategy space is compressed
and therefore public diplomacy must be given priority over tactics” (Mor 2006:160).
For this principle to be implemented a coherent perception of political goals must be
communicated to the tactical level and an organisational structure must be in place
to centralise, direct and monitor ongoing public diplomacy (Gilboa 2008:62). This
component of public diplomacy introduces it directly to the policy-making
environment and accentuates its importance as a mode of diplomacy and a
communication method.
(d) History: The history of a country plays an important part in the formulation of its
public diplomacy. History books teach populations that their country and their people
are better than others, and politicians and the media exploit these beliefs and
prejudices for their benefit (Taylor 2008:51). Most countries’ political traditions spring
from their cultural heritage and many countries are still viewed, positively or
negatively, based on their past activities. History is also relevant to cultural
diplomacy and nation branding components of public diplomacy.
(e) Exchange diplomacy: An attempt to manage the international environment by
sending citizens overseas and reciprocally accepting citizens from overseas for a
period of study and/or acculturation is known as exchange diplomacy. While this can
be conceptualised as a one-way process, the element of reciprocity makes this area
of public diplomacy the mainstay of the concept of mutuality – the vision of an
international learning experience in which both parties benefit; mutual understanding
is cultivated (Cull 2008:33). In the US, specifically, the importance of exchange
programs is frequently reiterated by policy-makers, as it seen as a fundamental
building block to public diplomacy (Mueller 2008:103; Zaharna 2009:93).
Advocacy: Advocacy is undertaking a communication activity to actively
promote a particular policy, idea, or government interest in the minds of a foreign
public. This includes embassy press relations (the ‘hard end’ of policy promotions)
and informational work (somewhat softer and less directed to hard-and-fast policy
goals). Elements of advocacy can be found in all areas of public diplomacy, and its
short-term use has lead to a bias toward this dimension of public diplomacy and a
tendency to place it at the centre of public diplomatic structures (Cull 2008:32).
It is evident that public diplomacy comprises of a combination of components that
are utilised to ‘win the hearts and minds’ of foreign publics. Public diplomacy is,
therefore, a complex process or activity that utilises various components from
various sub-fields to achieve foreign policy outcomes.
4.4.2 The scope of public diplomacy
The practise of public diplomacy is not a new phenomenon, yet the environment
wherein it is applied has changed dramatically. The ‘global village’ brought on by
globalisation, reinforces the idea that state and non-state actors are better informed
and more interested in what goes on beyond state borders. Governments have
realised that achieving national interests and foreign policy goals can be severely
constrained in the context of public opinion. As such, political influence is
increasingly becoming a matter of shaping how foreign publics define the meaning of
facts, understand events and perceive other actors in the international system.
Public diplomacy, in other words, bridges the gap between government policymakers (specifically in the field of foreign policy). Governments, therefore, use public
diplomacy to secure popular legitimacy for particular foreign and domestic policies
(see Pigman & Deos 2008:86; Taylor 2008:53; Rasmussen 2009:1-2). Public
diplomacy accommodates the changing environment, as well as the ‘old’ and ‘new’
actors involved in international relations. In addition, as the motivations of national
government change in accordance with the surrounding political environment, so do
the goals of public diplomacy.
(a) The salience of public diplomacy: The upsurge of public diplomacy in the postCold War era raises questions on the causes of this trend. The advent of the 21st
century produced an advanced public diplomacy agenda, particularly in economically
and politically advanced states. The following factors contributed to this: the
increased importance of (international) public opinion; the rise of more intrusive
global media; increased global transparency; and the rise of a homogenising global
culture (Westernisation) leading to a desire to protect cultural transparency (Gilboa
2008:58). First and foremost, it is the revolution of communication and information
technologies (for example, global news networks and the Internet) that created an
interconnected environment where the ‘private’ and the ‘public’ can no longer be
separated. Globalisation effectively created an environment filled with ‘white noise’,
which accelerated governments’ need to be ‘heard’ and ‘seen’ in the ‘cacophony’ of
international relations. Foreign policy and diplomacy could, therefore, no longer
function as government activities outside the public eye. In fact, governments
recognise the benefit of including public opinion in its decision- and policy-making
processes – a development that formalised and institutionalised public diplomacy
(Gilboa 2008:56). Global communication and information systems became the
central source of information and domestic and foreign publics have the opportunity,
through public diplomacy, to raise concerns and exchange ideas about domestic and
global issues. This is linked to the evolution of communication and information
technology. The proliferation of developments in fibre optics, cable and satellite
communications further perforated geographical and policy boundaries and altered
the ways and means by which states, NGOs, communities, firms and individuals
would traditionally exchange, seek and target information (Gilboa 2008:56; Hocking
(b) The actors of public diplomacy: Traditionally, domestic and foreign publics
were classified as passive objects in government foreign policy activities. Presently,
public diplomacy redefined domestic and foreign publics as active role players in
international relations. The transnational non-state actors involved in public
diplomacy’s formulation and promotion have made public diplomacy recognisable
and meaningful to a heterogeneous arena of publics, even as traditional elites in
government continue to dominate media coverage with their reports and initiatives to
overcome negative or indifferent attitudes (Snow & Taylor 2009:ix). Therefore, public
diplomacy is an instrument used not only by governments to establish relationships
with foreign publics but also by IGOs (for example the United Nations [UN], the North
Atlantic Treaty Organisation [NATO] and European Union [EU]), NGOs (for example,
Doctors without Borders and Red Cross) and even individuals (for example, the
humanitarian work of Jimmy Carter, Nelson Mandela and Bill Clinton). National
leaders, in particular, have the power to shape foreigners’ opinions for their countries
in a good and bad way (Taylor 2008:51).
It is mainly the growth of civil society and global social movements that is changing
the character of multilateral diplomacy and the active participation of non-state actors
in international affairs has redefined their importance. The utilisation of new
technologies offer these actors a means for direct action (or reaction), which was
previously not allowed or unavailable. In addition, mass media is able to act both as
agenda-setter and as gatekeeper – determining and regulating flows of information
to publics and supporting the goals of official diplomacy. The mass media has
advanced to the extent that it is not only a component of governments’ public
diplomacy strategies, but is now also capable of determining foreign policy,
especially in humanitarian crises. Better known as the ‘CNN-effect’, the result is an
unprecedented degree of global transparency in public affairs which enable
and groups
information directly,
making diplomatic
confidentially during negotiations harder to maintain (Hocking 2005:30-31).
(c) Imaging and Branding: Another activity that has become part of public
diplomacy practise is the obsession and preoccupation of states to ‘rebrand’
themselves to be globally more attractive. This urge to project a positive state image,
is interpreted as a defensive reaction to globalisation whereby governments,
pressured by internal and external forces, seek to redefine their states’ identity and
role in a competitive international environment. Image and reputation management
aim to fulfil a range of objectives, from making target audiences more familiar with a
country to influencing the actions of other foreign investors. Image (re)branding has
resulted in image management shifting from policy elites to a broader collection of
‘administrators’. Here, public diplomacy is based on the premise that the image and
reputation management of a state are open to the public, which can create an
enabling or disabling environment of state branding (Hocking 2005:31).
(d) Objectives of public diplomacy: A state’s public diplomacy is based on selfinterests as well as on the building of relationships, values and historical experiences
that shape its identity, starting from understanding other countries’ needs, cultures,
and peoples and then looking for areas of commonality. If these factors all work
concurrently, public diplomacy can achieve a variety of objectives, such as
increasing familiarity – making people think about a country and updating their
images of it; increasing appreciation – creating positive perceptions of a country and
getting others to see issues from its perspective; engaging people – encouraging
people to see a country as an attractive destination for tourism and study, and
encouraging them to buy its products and subscribe to its values; and influencing
people’s behaviour – getting companies to invest, encouraging public support for a
country’s positions and convincing politicians to turn to it as an ally (Hendrikson
(e) Dimensions of public diplomacy: To achieve these objectives, governments
must be actively involved in creating a public diplomacy that operates in three
communicate on day-to-day issues, in other words align traditional diplomacy and
public diplomacy with the current ‘news cycle’ (Leonard 2002:50). Secondly, since
governments convey their stances on particular issues, strategic communication is
required for public diplomacy agenda-setting. Strategic communication is the
development of a set of wide-ranging messages, and planning a series of symbolic
events and creating photo opportunities, reinforce these messages. Thirdly, public
diplomacy must include long-term activities, such as the development of lasting
relationships with key individuals through scholarships, exchanges, training,
seminars, conferences and access to media, and with investment, trade, tourism,
entrepreneurs and highly skilled workers that extend the influence of foreign publics
beyond the political to the economic spheres (Leonard 2002:49). The common
denominator of these dimensions is the creation of positive public perceptions. The
way in which foreign publics interpret other states’ values, motivations and qualities,
can create an enabling or disabling environment, which makes it important for
government to create a well-structured public diplomacy.
(f) Public diplomacy and traditional diplomacy: Public diplomacy takes place in
public, but for it to be diplomacy it has to include the government. Government
should participate in the conception and execution of projects, working with civil
social partners, providing funding, and coordinating and/or directing programmes. In
other words, public diplomacy must retain elements of traditional diplomacy.
Traditional diplomacy involves compromises and likewise public diplomacy should
involve both ‘give and take’ agendas; it should improve communication avenues; and
it should influence domestic and international governments’ policy agendas (Taylor
2008:54). Public diplomacy is not simply delivering a message to an audience; it is
about getting a result and to get a result, acknowledging that the listener’s views
matter as much as the message (Leonard 2002:52).
(g) The messages of public diplomacy: Effective public diplomacy relies on more
than just the quality of the message; sometimes the problem is the messenger. Even
a well-crafted argument will fail if nobody trusts the source. In the absence of these
two elements – a government role and a conscious messenger – the messages sent
out could be mistaken for the background noise of international communication
(Leonard 2002:54; McDowell 2008:8). Nation A must be able to engage in a dialogue
about ideas and values with the public of Nation B and influence opinions through
well-established communications strategies, including the use of radio, television, the
Internet, the press, publications, films, exhibits, academic and student exchanges,
lectures and other communication activities. Complicating the dialogue between
governments and foreign audiences is the ‘say-do problem, in that governments
often seems to say one thing and do another. A government cannot, for example,
profess to be a supporter of human rights and align with another government that is
violating human rights. A successful public diplomacy is conscience of ‘real’
perceptions that can only be addressed by dealing with the substantive issue and
misperceptions that can be corrected with better communication (Taylor 2008:57).
Conclusively, public diplomacy is much more intricate than merely communicating
with foreign publics and changing their opinions. It is a multi-dimensional subset of
diplomacy, which ultimately seeks to achieve foreign policy goals and to present a
favourable national image internationally. As part of public diplomacy, nation
branding and cultural diplomacy further promote foreign policy goals abroad.
Nation branding and cultural diplomacy
Nation branding and cultural diplomacy are both components of public diplomacy
(see Figure 2), that sway foreign opinion and project states’ images. Before and
during the two World Wars and the Cold War, cultural diplomacy played an integral
role in ‘winning the hearts and minds’ of foreign publics and their governments,
whereas nation branding is the method by which states advertise themselves to
foreign actors to establish and re-establish their image in the international arena.
Nation branding and image: marketing the state
Traditionally, the concept of branding has been associated with corporations and
their products and services. Branding, in the context of marketing, deals with the
visual identities of companies and products and the way in which the identity of a
company, product or service is portrayed and thereafter recognised (Anholt
2005:117; Van Ham 2002:253). This marketing practice is transferred to the concept
of nation branding, and today the concept is used for the shaping of a country’s
image. From this perspective, Anholt (2005:119) likens the globalised international
arena to a marketplace, where states compete with other states for its share of
attention, reputation, wealth, goodwill and trust. He also contends that nation
branding is about people, purpose and reputation.
State or nation branding or rebranding is not a new state activity, but it has gained
renewed attention in recent years. Since the 1990s, straightforward advertising has
given way to branding, giving states an emotional dimension with which people can
identify. Due to the ‘global village’ notion and competition between states, nation
branding has reached new levels of sophistication (Cromwell & Kyriacou 2009:pna).
Thus, states turn to the discipline of marketing for motivation on how to prosper in a
highly competitive international political and economic arena. The increasing
importance of publics in foreign affairs has also contributed to image promotion
(Kunczik 2003:119).
States realise the need to present themselves and their foreign policies in a more
effective manner to overseas publics, thereby changing the fact that they are no
longer “destinations found in an atlas” (Van Ham 2001:2). Promoting values such as
democracy, human rights and good governance is an essential part of foreign policy
as is projecting a particular image of a state. To ‘brand’ or ‘rebrand’ a national image,
the methods used by global companies in the private sector to manage their
corporate identities are utilised to ensure clarity and consistency for state branding
(or rebranding), which is done by embassies and council offices or through
promotional literature and news services (Pigman & Deos 2008:87; Van Ham
2002:253). A brand is best described as a consumer’s idea about a product and ‘the
brand state’ refers to what people around the world think and feel about a state. How
a country is perceived domestically and internationally – from the quality of its goods
and services, to the attractiveness of its culture and its tourism and investment
opportunities, to its politics, economic policies and foreign policy – can be shaped
under the nation’s brand (this also applies to sub-national and non-state actors, such
as terrorist organisations, NGOs and individuals who promote their causes)
(Cromwell & Kyriacou 2009:pna; Van Ham 2002:255). States are identified with, or
perceived to have certain prominent characteristics. The US, for example is
associated with self-expression and technology; Germany with engineering and
quality products; Japan with miniaturisation; Italy with style; France with chic; Britain
with class; and Sweden with design. Branding implies a “shift in political paradigms
from the modern world of geopolitics and power to the postmodern world of images
and influence” (Van Ham 2001:2; Van Ham 2002:255). The branding process
strengthens values and facilitates internal development and successful integration in
the world community, on all levels (Cromwell & Kyriacou 2009:pna).
States, therefore, employ mass advertising techniques to shape international public
perceptions of their foreign policy. Many countries increasingly buy full-page
advertisements and multi-page supplements in major newspapers and magazines to
inform foreign publics how remarkable they (the states) are (Taylor 2008:54; Vickers
2004:188). States failing to establish relevant brand “equity” will not be able to
successfully compete economically and politically in the contemporary international
system. Without branding, they would not be able to attract investments, tourists,
companies, and factories, and expand exports or reach higher standards of living.
Apart from states, every territorial entity seems to be interested in branding, including
cities, regions and unions such as the EU (Gilboa 2008:67; Van Ham 2001:3). In the
past, governments have resorted to lobbying and public relations firms to represent
their interests to the power elites. However, while often successful, these means by
their nature are limited. Globalisation and the media revolution have made each
state more aware of itself, its image, its reputation and its attitude – in short, its
brand. Branding, which uses mass media and other tools to forward little-known
information and positive images to foreign audiences, enables a state to achieve its
domestic and international policy objectives (Cromwell & Kyriacou 2009:pna). In
Belgium, for example, Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt hired a team of image-makers
to rebuild the country’s reputation after years of scandals involving government
corruption, child pornography and dioxin-polluted chickens (Van Ham: 2001:3).
By its very nature, nation branding must be initiated and developed by governments.
The private sector plays an important role in the process, but governments exist to
serve the population as a whole and branding therefore remains a function of
government. States, especially small or poor states, approach the private sector to
bring their methods and techniques of public relations and marketing to the
diplomatic sector to effectively ‘win the hearts and minds’ of foreign audiences
(Cromwell & Kyriacou 2009:pna). The global media environment has become very
competitive and international publics have gained greater access to information,
which makes it more difficult for governments to brand themselves. Therefore,
governments who hire private firms and use public relations methods such as
advertising, sponsorship, special events, electronic media, audio-visual materials,
partnership development and government relations, are strategically positioned to
project their image internationally and ultimately shutting out the ‘white noise’ that
may distort the image or brand they want to project (Pigman & Deos 2008:87,88).
Cultural diplomacy
In contrast to nation branding, cultural diplomacy is an international actor’s attempt to
manage the international environment by making its cultural resources and
achievements known overseas and/or facilitating cultural exchanges abroad (Cull
2008:33). Cultural diplomacy can also be defined as the use of high art (music,
theatre, literature) as an instrument of diplomacy (Brown 2009:57). An inclusive
definition of cultural diplomacy, which links it to the practice of public diplomacy, is
presented by the US Department of State (2005:4) who defines cultural diplomacy as
the exchange of ideas, information, art and other aspects of culture among foreign
states and their publics to foster mutual understanding.
Historically, cultural diplomacy has meant a country’s policy to facilitate the export of
examples of its culture. Today it includes the work of organisations like the British
Council or Italian Cultural Institute. The great spenders in cultural diplomacy are the
French, who have heavily subsidised an international network of schools to sustain
the French language, understanding that their prestige and influence is largely tied to
the survival of the francophonie (Cull 2008:33). Governments are involved with
cultural diplomacy for three reasons. Firstly, cultural diplomacy is a response to the
desires of overseas publics: countries like the US, UK, Italy and France continue to
fascinate the world. There is a strong desire globally to know more about different
countries, especially in the age of the Internet and instant communications, when
country information is freely available. Foreign audiences, in many cases proud of
their own culture, expect other governments and foreign public sectors to expose
their cultural achievements for appreciation and recognition. Cultural diplomacy
subtly sponsored by governments and their embassies abroad is a response to this
desire of cultural knowledge; it is a gesture demonstrating that governments who
promote art are interested in sharing their artistic accomplishments with the rest of
the world. As a tool of foreign policy, arts and diplomacy is certainly better for a
country’s image and cheaper than using ‘hard power’ methods (Brown 2009:59).
Secondly, cultural diplomacy provides a context for a country’s culture. Cultural
diplomacy, when not turned into a propaganda tool, suggests that a country’s culture
is of infinite variety. Cultural diplomacy is essential for successful public diplomacy,
because it is through cultural activities that a state’s image and idea of itself are best
presented. While it may not have a ‘message’ as information programmes do, or
‘educational goals’ as student exchanges do, cultural diplomacy presents a country’s
complexity and multi-dimensionality that cannot be reduced to slogans or
simplifications (Brown 2009:59; US Department of State 2005:4).
Thirdly cultural diplomacy provides audiences with unique and memorable
experiences. These are aesthetic experiences impossible to describe and which are
highly individual experiences. But for many, a cultural experience is a form of
revelation or illumination. Culture creates powerful impressions that are often
remembered for a long time and at the very least, cultural diplomacy can make
people abroad associate with another country. For example, during the Cold War,
US efforts at cultural diplomacy were funded by the Central Intelligence Agency
(CIA) as well as the State Department’s Division of Cultural Relations. Although CIA
sponsorship would be inappropriate and counterproductive today, it shows that the
US government took mutual understanding through the promotion of cultural
exchange quite seriously (Finn 2003:15; Brown 2009:59).
The benefits of cultural diplomacy include the following: it creates a foundation of
trust with foreign audiences, which policy-makers can build on to reach political,
economic and military agreements; it encourages foreign audiences to give the
‘projecting’ state the benefit of the doubt on specific policy issues or requests for
collaboration, since there is a presumption of shared interests; it demonstrates state
values, and interest in another state’s values; it creates relationships with foreign
publics; it reaches influential members of foreign societies, who cannot be reached
through traditional diplomatic methods; it provides a positive agenda for cooperation
in spite of policy differences; it creates a neutral platform for people-to-people
relations; it serves as a flexible, universally acceptable means for renewing relations
with countries where diplomatic relations have been strained or are absent; it is able
to reach out to young people, non-elites and audiences with a reduced language
barrier; it promotes the growth of civil society; and it educates domestic publics on
the values and sensitivities of other societies (US Department of State 2005:1-2).
Policy-makers understand the link between engagement with foreign audiences and
victory over ideological enemies. Accordingly, they consider cultural diplomacy vital
to national security. Policy-makers today, however, have realised that it would be
better to refrain from using military force and rather use dialogue to win ‘the hearts
and minds’ of moderate elements in societies vulnerable to radicalism (Finn
2003:15). If states want to cultivate a better image of themselves abroad, they
should concentrate on five areas of activity: encouraging foreign educational
reforms; extending existing foreign exchange programmes; improving the access of
foreign publics to national institutions and values; encouraging better cross-cultural
understanding at home; and revitalising volunteerism abroad (Finn 2003:17).
Through cultural diplomacy states can support the creation of educational systems in
developing countries through teacher training, curriculum development and book
translation. States can also extend its cultural exchange programmes. The Fulbright
Programme, for example, provides a means for foreign educators and academics to
obtain higher degrees in the US. Cultural exchange programs have been very useful
in creating favourable impressions of states abroad and deepening the kind of
understanding that is the state’s long-term interests (Finn 2003:19). First-rate local
knowledge and linguistic expertise should be a precondition of a diplomat’s posting
overseas. Public and cultural diplomacy will only be successful if it is executed by
skilled and committed people willing to spend many years abroad. Diplomacy is
always a two-way communication process. To be effective, diplomats should know
the language, culture and history of the country to which they are posted. They must
be able to listen. Therefore, governments should increase fellowships in the study of
languages and more actively recruit young people with the requisite language skills
into the diplomatic service.
Cultural diplomacy is one of the most convincing tools in a diplomatic environment,
yet its importance has continually been downplayed in favour of military might. It
should never be an optional extra, but almost national priority (Finn 2003:20). At the
very least, cultural diplomacy can make people abroad associate with a nation, even
if only in an environment of artistic and cultural expression.
The convergence of nation branding, cultural diplomacy and public
Public diplomacy merges two fields, namely that of International Relations, which
recognises history, culture and traditions, economic trade, statecraft, diplomacy and
nobility; and Marketing, which recognises consumers’ needs and wants, obsesses
about consumer satisfaction, articulates promises, persuades for a profit, develops
technical jargon and new concepts, fixes on images and lavish care on professional
management (Simonin 2008:20). Thus, public diplomacy utilises converged tools to
win the ‘hearts and minds’ of foreign publics, both from a ‘business’ as well as a
political angle.
Although public diplomacy and branding are similar in certain areas, they are very
different in others. Their similarities include image and representation management,
relationship building and the extensive use of the mass media. The differences
include goals or outcomes – foreign policy outcomes, types of communication,
management, language and culture. On the one hand, advertising and branding of
products are specific and self-defining. On the other hand, public diplomacy has to
deal with complex and multifaceted issues; must provide an appropriate context to
foreign policy decisions and cope with social and political impetus not easily
understood abroad. In short, public diplomacy cannot be reduced to slogans and
images. Another major problem is the ability of branding to divert attention from an
overwhelming and dominating crisis to more advantageous areas (Gilboa 2008:68).
However, cultural diplomacy and public diplomacy are terms that are used
interchangeably or more often than not in the same sentence. As previously
mentioned, the official use of public diplomacy was centred on the idea of cultural
diplomacy. Also, during the two World Wars and the Cold War, cultural diplomacy
was substituted to accommodate state propaganda. Yet, it was after the attacks of
9/11 that the use of public diplomacy, together with cultural diplomacy and nation
branding, became an indispensable asset to states in ‘winning the hearts and minds
of foreign publics’. Therefore, it is difficult to completely separate these terms
(including propaganda) from public diplomacy. The end-goal is to procure
information that would support foreign policy objectives and enhance the
international success of states.
Propaganda and public diplomacy
Propaganda, like public diplomacy, is a form of persuasive communication, which
has an established history in international relations and politics. Although
propaganda can be a distinct activity from public diplomacy, it is also used
interchangeably with public diplomacy, to suit a state’s agenda and influence public
opinion. Therefore, it is necessary to clarify the concept of propaganda and clearly
distinguish it from public diplomacy.
Defining propaganda
The meaning of the concept propaganda has its roots in its early origins. The term is
associated with negative images and is usually met with suspicion and disdain.
However, the practice of propaganda was originally not intended to be used
negatively as it is today. Propaganda was originally developed by the Roman
Catholic Church and in Latin, the term means ‘to propagate’ or ‘to sow’ (Black
2007:121; Roberts 2007:39; O’Donnell & Jowett 1989:54). The Church used
propaganda to integrate its ideology to maintain its domination and to oppose the
Protestant Reformation, to impart the faith to the New World, as well as revive and
strengthen it in Europe and getting people to accept the Church’s doctrines. Not
proposed to have a negative connotation, the Roman Catholic use of and intentions
behind propaganda methods manifested negatively in Protestant countries
(O’Donnell & Jowett 1989:54; Black 2007:122; MacDonald 1989:26). Conversely, the
Protestant movement also used propaganda techniques. By using the printing press
they extended the persuasive aspects of sermons, and refined their theological
philosophies. Protestant propaganda had two main objectives: a negative objective
which emphasised and exploited the discontent with the practices of the Catholic
Church, and a positive objective, which allowed the Protestant movement to
associate themselves with the aspirations and expectations of a new religious order
(Jowett & O’Donnell 1999:72).
From its origins, contemporary propaganda manifests in different (positive and
negative) guises which complicates its definition and relationship with public
diplomacy. Propaganda is generally assumed to be a negative means for
government to manipulate and persuade domestic and foreign opinion. However,
propaganda is defined as any form of communication in support of national
objectives designed to manipulate the opinions, emotions, attitudes, or behaviour of
any group in order to benefit the sponsor, either directly or indirectly (Murphy &
White 2007:15). Propaganda can also be understood as sets of messages that are
deliberately intended by its sender to have some politically relevant effect or effects
on a defined audience or audiences. The sender is usually a party that has the
ultimate authority to establish and supervise the realisation of the goals set out by a
state, an organisation or any other actor intending to manipulate the opinion of
others (Wasburn 1992:82). O’Donnell and Jowett (1989:50) describe propaganda as
the intentional and methodical attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions
and direct behaviour to achieve a response that promotes the desired intent of the
propagandist. Kendrick and Fullerton (2004:298) provide an inclusive definition of
propaganda by stating that it is the deliberate attempt to influence the opinions of the
receiving audience, through the transmission of ideas and values for a specific
purpose (such as upholding the balance of power), intentionally designed to serve
the interest of the propagandists and their political superiors, either directly or
These definitions indicate that propaganda is a purpose-centred activity, because it
seeks to deliberately control, alter and/or maintain ideas and opinions that are
favourable to the propagandist and that the intentions of propagandists are to
influence the opinions of foreign audiences. However, they do not directly state that
all propaganda is negative and do not clearly differentiate propaganda from public
The nature of propaganda
As a term propaganda has a negative connotation and is usually met with suspicion.
The nature of propaganda is determined by its different varieties, the actors’
intentions and the characteristics of propaganda activities.
6.2.1 Types of propaganda
Essentially, propaganda is a form of communication involving the sending of
messages to a receiver. Propaganda also manifests as ‘the message’, ‘the
messenger’ (the institution), and an ‘agitator’. Accordingly, six elements determine
the successful communication of propaganda: a sender (communicator), a message,
a channel, a receiver, feedback, and the effects of the message (O’Donnell & Jowett
1989:50). In light of this, Wasburn (1992:84) identifies several varieties of
propaganda, namely factual, bureaucratic, linguistic, agitative, and sociological
propaganda. In each of these variants of propaganda the message has a specific
goal; it is ‘actor-specific’ and the outcome of each has a planned effect on the
(a) Factual propaganda: Factual propaganda involves the presentation of truth
claims in order to create or strengthen support for a particular actor, activity, policy or
institutional structure; it changes audience orientation toward a specific political
object or event; it contradicts truth claims made by political opponents and accuses
political opponents of unpopular political, military or economic acts or policies
(Wasburn 1992:83). Factual propaganda has two defining characteristics. Firstly,
communicating agents intend truth claims to be verifiable or falsifiable by the
receiving audience, and by whichever method or methods used by that audience for
making such assertion. Secondly, truth claims are intended to achieve one or more
goals. However, whether the claims are really true or false, whether the producers of
the messages believe them or not and whether producers of the messages intend
simply to inform or to achieve other additional objectives, are irrelevant to the
classification (Wasburn 1992:84).
Bureaucratic propaganda: Bureaucratic propaganda consists of seemingly
factual reports, produced by an organisation such as a government, to maintain its
legitimacy and the legitimacy of its policies and actions. Such reports do not present
lies, but rather information without circumstantial evidence. These reports also divert
attention from the primary reason for which they were prepared: organisational selfjustification and promotion. Examples of bureaucratic propaganda include reports on
the effectiveness of welfare programmes issued by welfare agencies and by the
government; reports on television ratings presented by commercial networks; and
reports on military preparedness presented by defence departments (Wasburn
Factual and bureaucratic propaganda make up much of what international audiences
understand as news. When audiences believe that there is political intent underlying
the transmission of factual or bureaucratic propaganda, or when claims appear to be
inconsistent with their established opinions and ideas (cognitive dissonance), then
they are more likely to interpret the message as propaganda and reject it (Wasburn
c) Linguistic propaganda: Linguistic propaganda is based on the assumption that
symbols emphasise authority by legitimising the distribution of power. Hence the
contention that all organisations have an interest in assuming legitimising symbols
(Wasburn 1992:85). There are three different types of linguistic propaganda or ‘direct
communication’ (the blatant, organised attempt to manipulate language to meet
political needs and goals). Firstly, ‘rationalising terms’ consist of categorising a
political relationship that has been characterised as unjust, in a way that would
rationalise maintaining the relationship. Secondly, ‘redefining terms’ deny a critic the
exclusive use of a political symbol by redefining the symbol in such a way that the
critic cannot lay claim to its use in the redefined form. Thirdly, ‘conceptual
justification’ involves the use of a political adversary’s verbal strategy to justify
personal political policies and actions (Wasburn 1992: 86-87).
d) Sociological propaganda: Sociological propaganda (or propaganda of
integration) is based on the assumption that every society is integrated, to some
extent, by the commitment of its members to a common set of values, beliefs and
attitudes. These shared orientations are transmitted, learned and internalised
through gradual and continuous social practices carried out in the context of family,
church and school and reinforced in the workplace and the media. These shared
orientations promote acceptance and support among its citizens for that society
(Wasburn 1992:97; Silverstein 1987:50). Sociological propaganda also refers to the
set of orientations by which societies seek to integrate the maximum number of
individuals into themselves, unify members’ behaviour according to a pattern, a
spread its style of life abroad by imposing itself on other groups (Wasburn 1992:97;
Silverstein 1987:50).
e) Agitative propaganda: Agitative propaganda, in short, incites revolution and
undermines existing regimes. It stimulates the masses to act, overthrow an old order,
or to bring about significant change (O’Donnell & Jowett 1989:53; Silverstein
1987:49). In this case, the propagandist may seek to get people to except
institutional attitudes and to engage in certain patterns of behaviour – voting,
contributing money, joining groups, demonstrating for or against causes, deserting
armies, buying certain products, and so forth. Agitative propaganda is mostly spread
by small groups of revolutionaries, or broadcasts made by foreign powers, in the
main channels of communications – newspapers, television, movies, textbooks,
political speeches – produced by the most influential, powerful and respected
individuals or groups in a society (see O’Donnell 1989:54; Silverstein 1987:50; Marlin
6.2.2 Characteristics of propaganda
Since, propaganda is a multi-faceted activity used to persuade and manipulate the
opinions and ideas of individuals and societies, various communication media are
used for the correct message to be sent in a correct way to the correct audience.
This highlights the importance of coordination within propaganda activities. The
manifestations of propaganda also vary and can be interpreted differently by different
audiences. News for one person may be propaganda for another. From the
perspective of the individual, propaganda can be understood as politically-loaded
media material that the individual may or may not include into the set of beliefs that
comprise his or her understanding of political affairs. Whereas, from the perspective
of organisational source, propaganda can be understood as politically relevant
material presented to mass audiences with the primary intent of influencing political
orientations (Wasburn 1992:79).
Organisational criteria (which are sometimes explicit or implicit) for the selection and
formulation of propaganda material to be published or broadcast includes conscious
consideration and coordination of the individuals, groups, movements, organisations,
institutions, or governments that its distribution might possibly benefit or harm.
However, the absence of conscious political interest on the part of those that are
directly involved in producing and distributing politically relevant material (such as
news networks), does not mean that the material they produce and distribute do not
serve the political goals of the organisation from which they work (Wasburn
1992:80). Therefore, it is argued that the propagandist is almost always an
institution: a government, a corporation, a religious organisation, or an educational
establishment. Accordingly, the purpose of these institutions is to propagate an
ideology, which is a set of ideas, beliefs, values, attitudes, practices and
representations that make up a comprehensive framework for dealing with and
manipulating social, economic and political reality (O’Donnell & Jowett 1989:55).
As a result the main purpose of propaganda is, to create an environment where the
audience has similar objectives as the propagandist. Thus, propaganda is mainly
attributed to bring about change. Although propaganda started out as a neutral
activity to spread religious ideals, today it is seen as a dishonest methods used by
individuals, organisations or governments to disrupt the belief systems of the
receiving audiences.
The convergence of propaganda and public diplomacy
Public diplomacy and propaganda are contentious concepts. Public diplomacy as
mere ‘propaganda window dressing’ or public diplomacy and propaganda as
completely different activities, have both been argued. However, the question still
remains – what is the difference between public diplomacy and propaganda.
Simplistically, Berridge (2010:179) refers to ‘white’ and ‘black’ propaganda; the
former referring to public diplomacy, and the latter to propaganda. By differentiating it
as such, propaganda is austerely portrayed. Yet, the differences are much more
complex than this.
Propaganda and public diplomacy are both linked to power. Propaganda is regarded
as a ‘hard power’ activity, whereas public diplomacy epitomises ‘soft power’.
Propaganda is cause-oriented and emotionally loaded content that uses mass media
to influence public opinion for (usually) political and military ends. Public diplomacy is
usually a government-directed activity; its target audience is mainly the foreign
public; and it ‘attracts’ and ‘persuades’ rather than ‘manipulates’. Ideally, the target
audience is more like a ‘prosumer’ (proactive consumer) consuming messages from
the sender that ranges from a public affairs officer to the head of a nongovernmental
organisation Propaganda directed to target audiences are generally associated with
spreading lies and regarded with suspicion. Public diplomacy, alternatively, is based
on culture, values and ideology that, according to Snow (2012:pna), “directs nations
toward independence over confrontation”. Propaganda is directed to change
opinions on the long term, and targets both foreign and/or domestic publics. Public
diplomacy puts emphasis on human interaction in far less manipulative ways than
propaganda for their own purposes, where the asymmetrical exchange of information
always favours the sponsor of propaganda. Public diplomacy is based on reciprocity;
the proactive two-way exchange of ideas. It is also argued that propaganda is a wartime activity, whereas public diplomacy is utilised during times of peace (Snow
2012:pna; Berridge 2010:179; Zaharna 2004:5).
In summary, public diplomacy is an open activity that attracts attention to the
‘messenger’, where the source of propaganda is not always clear. Propaganda is
both an activity of manipulation and dissuasion, whereas public diplomacy’s main
activity is attraction.
The global arena is more interconnected now than ever and it is important for states,
through diplomatic practices, to keep close ties with other states, especially to attain
foreign policy goals. It is the globalisation of communication that has allowed the
informed public, which includes non-state actors, to put additional pressure on
governments on changing policies and acting on their behalf. Foreign policy consists
of the national goals and interests governments would like to achieve internationally
but it is the activities of diplomacy, amongst others, through which foreign policy
goals are achieved. The nature of the interconnected international arena
necessitated that the style of diplomacy change to include a larger audience.
Traditional diplomacy moved within state-centric lines, where the state as the most
important actor kept diplomatic activities secretive and closed to the public. Also, the
revolution in communication and information technologies not only had a major
impact on the nature and scope of diplomacy, but also altered the meaning of power
in contemporary international politics.
Communication, education and persuasion have become major techniques of foreign
relations at the expense of military force. A country may obtain the outcomes it wants
because other countries want to follow it, admiring its values, emulating its example
and/or aspiring to its level of prosperity and openness. As an instrument of soft
power public diplomacy has always informed foreign publics of the formulation and
implementation of foreign policy through direct communication, with the aim of
affecting their thinking and behaviour, and those of their governments. Public
diplomacy has made the relations between states and populations a focal point in
international relations and not a peripheral matter, as is the case with traditional
single channel state-to-state diplomacy. Public diplomacy is not a new phenomenon
and the development phases of public diplomacy indicate that the practice of public
diplomacy moved between cultural diplomacy, nation branding and propaganda as
and alternatives
to public
is specifically the
interchangeable use of public diplomacy and propaganda which necessitates a clear
demarcation of the concepts. Although public diplomacy and propaganda at times
mean the same – shaping or changing the perceptions of foreign publics – it is the
intent of the enforcer that exposes the difference between the two concepts. It is
argued that public diplomacy has more to do with soft power, whereas propaganda is
eventually associated with hard power.
Conversely, cultural diplomacy is an attempt to make cultural resources known and
facilitate cultural exchanges abroad. Cultural diplomacy attaches a historical and
educational element to a country’s public diplomacy and creates impressions that
make foreign audiences associate with a nation. Nation branding advertises the
image of the state to foreign audiences, providing states an emotional dimension
with which foreign audiences can identify. In the context of competitive marketing,
nation branding in the international arena deals specifically with the visual identities
of countries and thus brings ‘pictures’ to foreign audiences to alter or heighten their
perceptions of the ‘sender’ state. As related components of public diplomacy,
propaganda, cultural diplomacy and nation branding deepens the practice of public
diplomacy to better project the image of a state to foreign audiences.
Public diplomacy is crucial for states to achieve their foreign policy goals. Presenting
appropriate public diplomacy to the right audience is essential for success, since
either undertaking sub-optimal public diplomacy or choosing a wrong audience may
lead to failure. Since public diplomacy is audience specific, states and their
governments must ensure that the right messages reach the target messagereceiving audience. Based on the aforesaid conceptual framework and assumptions
of public diplomacy, the nature and scope and regional and international targeting of
China’s public diplomacy is analysed.
Chapter 3
This chapter serves a threefold purpose. Firstly, it provides a contextual background
to China’s public diplomacy by analysing the impact of China’s historical and cultural
heritage on the contemporary foreign policy context of its public diplomacy, more
specifically the impact on its decision-making processes, specifically involving
foreign policy-making, including diplomatic and economic policies. Secondly, it
explores, describes and analyses the nature and scope of China’s public diplomacy
with specific reference its characteristics, actors and institutions, instruments, core
objectives and limitations. Thirdly, it relates China’s public diplomacy to nation
branding. Hence, the aim of this chapter is to contextualise and describe the nature
and scope of China’s public diplomacy, as a basis for subsequently considering its
use at the regional and international levels.
The historical context of China’s public diplomacy
As one of the oldest civilisations in the world, China’s history influences current
decision-making on its foreign and economic policies. The subsequent discussion
focuses on three important periods in Chinese history: the Imperial period, the
‘Century of Humiliation’ (between 1839 and 1949), and the post-1949 period of
Communist rule to the reform period. These eras serve as a reminder of hardship
and failure and their legacy still influences the Chinese government’s foreign policymaking and diplomatic activities. This discussion and understanding of China’s
history is vital in that it sheds light on the reasoning behind the country’s current
regional and international actions (or inactions) and provides an indication of China’s
ambitions, the scope and level of its aspirations and its policies and strategies to
achieve these goals. Although this section covers three periods in China’s history, as
indicated above, it is arguably the legacy and lessons of the ‘Century of Humiliation’
that provide part explanation and understanding of China’s current foreign relations,
foreign policy and public diplomacy. In addition, these periods also provided a set of
standards for achieving goals and are reminders of hardship and failure that the
current Chinese leadership should avoid in the future if China is to restore its past
2.1 China’s Imperial heritage
The Imperial system, despite periodic interruptions, lasted from about 221BCE until
the early 20th century. This period highlights China’s historical achievements, when
culturally, politically, ideologically and materially it was a wholly self-sufficient entity.
Virtually cut off from the outside world, China developed and flourished, and
established itself as one of the most advanced civilisations in the world (Zhang
1998:7). Like the Roman Empire in the Western hemisphere, the influence of
Imperial China on neighbouring nations – especially on Korea and Japan – was
enormous. The culture, writing system, government institutions and other vital
elements of the civilisations of neighbouring countries owe much to China, either
through direct or indirect contact. The dissemination of Chinese knowledge and
institutions was not achieved by force or the threat of force. China’s neighbours
voluntarily adopted what they viewed as advanced elements of culture and
government, contrary to Rome and other regional powers of the time that expanded
their spheres of influence by military means and thereafter proceeded to force their
system of government and culture upon the conquered.
This pattern of dissemination is significant in two respects (see Collins 2002:304;
Harrison 2001:186; Shenkar 2006:29; Scott 2007:8; Zhang 1998:7). Firstly, it
supported the Chinese view that their system should not be forced on others,
through the use or threat of force. From a Chinese point of view, China was the
‘Middle Kingdom’ (the literal translation of its Chinese name), the most civilised,
cultural and advanced nation on earth. Therefore, the use of force was not needed to
spread Chinese culture and values. Secondly, China’s ‘image’, directly and indirectly
projected to its neighbours, established the need to have what China had or to act as
China acted, already indicating a use of soft power. It was up to the people living
outside China (labelled barbarians) to adopt civilised ways. Even when occupied by
foreign dynasties (first the Mongols and then the Manchu), China’s advanced
civilisation, combined with its size, ensured that foreign conquerors adopted Chinese
ways rather than the other way around
What further entrenched China’s avoidance to conquer its neighbours and spreading
its values by force, is that the Imperial system was underpinned by a quasi-religious
philosophy – Confucianism (Shenkar 2006:26; Lovell 2006:41). Confucianism, which
included the philosophies and religions of Taoism, Buddhism, Legalism and Moism,
upheld scholarship as the most important human activity. Confucian teachings,
combined with Legalist practices, served as the basis for the Imperial bureaucracy.
During the two millennia of its existence (intermittently broken by internal infighting
and disintegration), Confucianism developed and implemented organisational and
operational principles that would survive in one way or another for a 1 000 years.
These principles included and provided the basis for a sophisticated, bureaucratic
system of multiple ministries operating at central, provincial and county levels. This
system managed the nation and provided checks and balances, constraining the
power of the Imperial court. This level of professional bureaucracy enabled the
Chinese ruler to maintain control over vast tracks of land that, at the time, lacked
transportation and communications systems. Despite decades of subsequent
Communist rule, Confucian elements such as discipline, stability, scholarly
achievement and prestige of officialdom have survived into the modern era (Harrison
2001:99; Shenkar 2006:27; Te-cheng 1986:3-8).
China’s Imperial history continues to influence its world view. Although the current
official position on the period is still very critical of China’s feudal past, there is an
underlying element of pride in its Imperial ways. China sees itself as one the longest
surviving world civilisations and the current regime is aware of the country’s historical
roots and achievements. In addition, China’s Imperial legacy conveys several
attributes that are evident in present-day China. Firstly, it sets an extremely high
level of ambition. This is particularly true in respect of its goal to restore the country’s
position as a leading civilisation, which should be envied and copied by other
nations. The key aspiration is to become a world leader and not merely a regional
leader (Scott 2007:11). Secondly, China’s Imperial past established the tradition of
bureaucratically controlled economic activity. It could be argued that this contradicts
China’s current effort to free and liberalise its economy. However, this tradition
established the notion that national interest precedes economic rules, which
supports the idea of sustaining strategic and/or supporting industries. The tradition of
bureaucratic rule also implies no separation of powers, with the judicial and the
legislative branches being instruments of the executive branch (all three branches
are under Chinese Communist Party [CCP] rule in modern-day China) (Shenkar
Thirdly, China’s Imperial past has contributed to the current persistence of local
agencies and departments to compete for power with each other and especially with
the Central Government. This signifies the continuation of local fiefdoms that make
their own rules and defend their own interests even when it entails being in conflict
with government. Hence the argument that China could succeed as a federal
system, due to the decentralised notions that also characterise economic
transactions (Shenkar 2006:30).
Fourthly, China’s Imperial past created an
ambivalence toward corruption, which is permitted yet intermittently curbed when
viewed as ‘overdone’ to the point that it could indicate a decline in government
control. Fifthly, it enhanced the importance of ideological and historical legitimacy.
For example, during the Nationalist period the Confucian philosophy was replaced by
Sun Yat-sen’s Three Principles of the People; when the Communists came to power,
the Maoist variant of Marxism-Leninism was enforced; and when the reforms were
introduced, it was the writings of Deng Xiaoping that directed government and state
ideology. The attempts to market the writings of latter-day leaders signified not only
the decline of charismatic leadership but also an unparalleled ideological void. The
final legacy of the Imperial period was that the accomplishments in innovation are
deemed insignificant, unless combined with the ability to maintain and apply it in the
real world. Thus, bureaucracy and technology has to converge, even if this means
deviating from the past (Shenkar 2006:31; Hutchings 2000:361).
China’s ‘Century of Humiliation’
The ‘Century of Humiliation’ began with China’s defeat in the two Opium Wars
(1840-42) and continued to include the failed ‘Boxer Rebellion’ (1899-1900), the
defeat at the hand of the Japanese (1894-1895) and the invasion of China by the
Japanese in 1937. It eventually came to an end with the founding of the People’s
Republic of China in 1949 (Collins 2002:304; Gries 2004:45; Hutchings 2000:47,
234; Zhang 1998:9). China’s view of its history during the 19th and 20th centuries is
one of conflict, external and internal discord, and mostly of humiliation. Internally,
China was (and still is) a vast, populous multi-ethnic country. The Central
Government of the Qing dynasty had recurrent concerns regarding internal rebellions
and ultimately these were to bring the dynasty to an end in 1912. The most serious
of these internal challenges to the Central Government was the 1850-1864 Taiping
Rebellion that resulted in 20 million deaths (Gries 2004:46; Collins 2002:304;
Hutchings 2000:501). It was not uncommon for internal rebellions to coincide with
external threats, leading to the still prevailing Chinese belief that internal disorder
increases China’s vulnerability to foreign attack. Therefore, it was no coincidence
that the Japanese seizure of Manchuria in 1931 and the invasion of China six years
later coincided with the civil war raging between Mao Tse-tung’s Communists and
the Kuomintang (KMT) forces of Chiang Kai-shek (Collins 2002:305; Shenkar
2002:31; Hutchings 2000:234).
External pressures mostly originated from the West. To China, the West represented
a brand of culture, society and economy that presented an alternative to Chinese
ideas and that, by virtue of its technological and military prowess, threatened the
rationale and perceived superiority of the Chinese model. With regards to military
power, the technological superiority of the West was unmistakeable and the Chinese
also discovered that unlike the Mongols and the Manchu, Western powers had no
intention of settling into Chinese ways and being ‘peacefully absorbed’. This
realisation made the preliminary rejection of Western principles unsustainable and
presented China with two troubling alternatives: imitate the West and risk losing its
identity, or become its weak protectorate. A third and more appealing option was to
find ways to adopt Western technology minus Western values. This was a recurring
theme among successive Chinese social movements and regimes from the late
Imperial era, through the Republican phase (1911-1949) to the Communist period.
China’s humiliation by means of unequal treaties and foreign powers obtaining extraterritorial rights on Chinese soil did not end with the fall of the empire and the
adoption of Western technologies and practices by the newly established Republican
regime. China was again humiliated in the 1930s and 1940s by the invasion of
Japan, which included the annexure of Chinese territory and the founding of the
‘dummy’ Japanese regime in Manchuria (Shenkar 2006:31; Sieren 2007:79-94; Scott
2007:11; Hutchings 2000:361, Zhang 1998:11).
The period of foreign and regional humiliation taught China a number of lessons that
are still applicable today. Firstly, the period created strong suspicions about the
motivations and intentions of foreign nations and the foreign multinational
corporations that were instruments of foreign domination. Therefore, the Chinese
believed that foreign powers want to exploit and weaken China. In later years, China
would turn to foreign firms, albeit reluctantly, to extract skills and knowledge (Collins
2002:305; Roy 1998:13; Shenkar 2006:32; Scott 2006:12). Secondly, China wanted
to prevent dependence on others, but still recognise that technology was a vital
component of independence. This realisation was translated into an emphasis on
technology transfer by all means possible – be it special investment incentives or
repatriation of foreign-trained talent – to achieve the scope and depth to permit the
development of independent research and technology capabilities. This meant that
China would never again leave itself vulnerable to foreigners (Collins 2002:305; Roy
1998:13; Scott 2007:14; Shenkar 2006:32). Thirdly, China needed to (re)build close
ties between the technology and national security sectors, due to the existence of a
vast network of firms owned by or having a close relationship with the defence
establishment. During Mao’s rule, the technology-security connection eroded due to
the belief that sheer human power was sufficient to overpower any enemy. However,
most of China’s advanced technology efforts, such as its space-industry enterprise,
are conducted within military frameworks (Shenkar 2006:32). Finally, China
combined foreign technology with Chinese – and not foreign – values. The link
between the Western free market economics, democracy and scientific progress is
inconsistent with the views of both the Chinese leadership (who has a firm interest in
the continuation of the present order) and those of some other powerful segments,
including many newly rich (for whom the existing system may represent the best of
both worlds: capitalist wealth united with Communist protectionism and subsidies)
(Shenkar 2006:32; Gries 2004:52).
The ‘Century of Humiliation’ presented China with many obstacles, especially in
terms of the Western occupation of Chinese soil. This part of Chinese history is still
very much part of its current decision-making processes. Arguably, the aftermath of
the ‘Century of Humiliation’ should be seen in a positive light, because China’s
current economic strategy and success, which combines Western and Chinese
values, is part and parcel of its past history.
China under Communism
During its first three decades, the People’s Republic adopted an orthodox
Communist, centrally planned system, although not nearly as severe as that of the
Soviet Union. The system fluctuated, often dramatically, especially under the
leadership of Mao Zedong. The first period, 1949 to 1955-56, was a phase of
reconstruction and transition. Experts from the finance and logistics sectors for
example, were retained from the Republican era much in the same way that the
Republicans retained Imperial officials when they came to power, thus providing a
measure of continuity. Foreign firms continued to operate in China, but their activities
were disrupted and/or curbed (Hutchings 2000:64). The second period, the so-called
‘One Man Management’ period, lasted from 1955-56 to 1958-59. It was a replica of
the rigid Soviet model, accompanied by the importation of Soviet technology and
thinking and endorsed by means of the education of many Chinese (including some
of the current leadership) in the Soviet Union. When the Soviets pulled out in 1960,
the Chinese found that they could operate the machinery but lacked the capabilities
to improve the technology beyond limited improvisations. The third period was the
Great Leap Forward of 1958-1960, which Chinese later called the Great Leap
Backward. As a goal of Mao to rapidly increase China’s economic strength, the
production of iron, steel and other major industrial products was relocated to the
including mass
2000:222,230; Sieren 2007:111).
Another setback was the onset of the Cultural Revolution in 1966 when, with Mao’s
approval, the Red Army launched an attack on intellectuals and senior officials,
dissolving the education system and much of the organised economy. The campaign
lasted until 1968 but its consequences lingered until 1975 and continued to
preoccupy the Chinese government for decades to come. The Chinese later
lamented this time as ‘the lost decade’, the consequences of which are still apparent
today in a generation of managers and employees who lack proper education and
who are fearful of taking risks (Huang 2000: 290; Muirhead 2009: 66; Shenkar
2006:33; Straszheim 2008:157, Sufott 1997:2).
The first 30 years of Communist rule taught China four valuable lessons. Firstly, the
combination of ideology and economy could be explosive. This created a problem
given the importance of ideological legitimacy in Chinese tradition, yet China
eventually found a way to deal with the challenge after launching the ‘opening up’
policies (Shenkar 2006:33; Straszheim 2008:158). Secondly, that technology, in its
narrowest form, could not deliver more than regular output, and that ongoing
performance and sustained progress required a fundamental mental transformation
and reorganisation of the production system. Due to reasons of control and political
power, the bureaucracy was there to stay (although, as in Imperial times, much of
the actual power was vested at the local level). However it became evident that the
bureaucracy needed to be distanced from technological and economic activities if
the country was to progress (Straszheim 2008:158; Chan 1999:64). Thirdly, the
agglomeration – in the sense of concentrating infrastructure and expertise in
selected locations – was necessary even if politically and ideologically ambiguous
(Mao, for example, insisted on replicating operations in multiple provinces, among
other reasons because he feared Soviet attack). Finally, that the prosperity of the
regime was intricately linked with that of the nation, in particular with its economic
prosperity. Like their Imperial predecessors, the Communist Party did not need to be
concerned with an election defeat, but rather with the unrest and revolts that
economic hardship could bring about. The fall of the Soviet Union in 1991
underperformance. This was a reminder of the ‘Mandate of Heaven’ principle,
promoted by Confucius, which implied that if a ruler failed to deliver prosperity, the
citizenry had not only the right but the duty to unseat him (Straszheim 2008:158).
China’s reform period officially commenced in December 1978 when Deng Xiaoping
introduced a set of economic reform policies at the Third Plenum of the 11th Central
Committee, labelled as the ‘Four Moderations’ in agriculture, industry, science and
technology. After the Cultural Revolution, China was poor, isolated from the
international economy and opposed to international institutions (Foot 2008:302).
Under Deng Xiaoping, China’s leadership decided to “embrace globalisation rather
than detach themselves from it” (Zoellick 2005:pna). Over the next 25 years the
country shifted its economic focus from tourism to light manufacturing, from a policy
of forcing foreign investors to take on a Chinese partner to one that permits wholly
owned foreign subsidiaries, and from a ‘catch up’ phase to one aimed at achieving
global economic equality. Political struggles did continue, however the reform effort
was significant to the extent that the leadership was willing to surrender a measure
of control, as long as it would achieve a degree of Imperial success – economic
Determined to achieve economic prosperity, the regime was ready to have once
closely guarded knowledge distributed and transferred to employees, suppliers,
consumers and other constituencies (such as students). However, it was evident that
the comprehensive importation of production lines from the West did not do enough
to improve competitiveness. China needed to build infrastructure – human, education
and organisational – to support complex production and to build its capabilities, and
it was ready to side-line ideology in the process. One of the key statements of
China’s reform architect, Deng Xiaoping, was that it did not matter what the colour of
the cat was, as long as it was able to catch mice. The Chinese, therefore, were
ready to try anything but would label whatever worked as ‘socialism’ (Chan 1999:67;
Shenkar 2006:35).
In summary, the Imperial period, although officially renounced by the Communist
regime as feudal and exploitative, is still a reminder of China’s national
magnificence. The encounter and conflict with the West in the 19th and 20th centuries
serves as a reminder of the humiliation suffered by a militarily weak and
technologically backward China and therefore impact on current attitudes toward
‘open’ international relations, economic agreements, and technological and scientific
progress (Gries 2004:46). The central planning legacy of early Communist rule,
although viewed as the onset of the restoration of national dignity, serves as a focal
point of the shortcomings of a rigid economic system. These three periods remain
part of the collective Chinese consciousness, impacting on China’s political and
economic objectives, its policies and strategies, and its attitudes toward the outside
world (Shenkar 2006:25-26; Straszheim 2008:157).
In conclusion, based on its history of Imperial grandeur, the ‘Century of Humiliation’
and the failure of Mao’s rule, China’s aspirations after the reform period were not
merely concerned with rapid economic growth and modernisation; it wanted to
establish itself as a member of developed countries and as a ‘rising’ power
fundamentally achieve great power status resembling that of the Imperial era. After
the ‘Century of Humiliation’ and the failed Communist era under Mao, China has
aspired to rapidly advance its economic ‘backwardness’ through its ‘opening up’
policies. Therefore, to once again achieve great power status, China not only had to
maintain constant economic growth (as witnessed in recent years), but also to reestablish its stature in politics, security and culture. The achievement of economic
growth, however, required the ‘opening up’ of its foreign policy activities. Due to the
lessons learnt from past humiliations and mistakes, and relenting to forces beyond
its control, the past is a pillar of China’s future endeavours. This is especially
apparent in China’s foreign policy and its role in the international arena, as a policy
context of its public diplomacy.
The foreign policy context of China’s public diplomacy
At the outset it is contended that three significant developments characterise China’s
foreign policy. Firstly, that China’s foreign policy has gone through many
modifications over the last decades, particularly since the death of Mao Zedong in
1976. It has evolved from being radical and ideological to being increasingly
pragmatic and sophisticated. These changes, it will be argued, were conducive to
China’s global interests of ‘opening up’ and securing resources to sustain its
population. Secondly, that the Chinese leadership is increasingly making use of
public diplomacy to project an image of China as a country that is trustworthy,
cooperative and non-aggressive or peaceful. Thirdly, based on China being viewed
as a ‘rising power’ and also as a potential ‘threat’, Chinese political leaders and
policy-makers have realised that public diplomacy cannot be ignored and it is as
crucial to their country’s national interests as are its military and economic strategies.
Since the death of Mao Zedong in 1976 and the onset of China’s ‘opening up’
policies under Deng Xiaoping, Chinese foreign policy has undergone significant
changes. China’s national interests are more specifically defined and the pursuit of
these interests has become more realistic and flexible (Hao 2005:2; Zhao 2008:39).
These changes also included the proliferation of actors and decentralisation of the
foreign policy-making processes, as well as the institutionalisation and specialisation
of foreign policy departments.
In terms of the proliferation of actors, the number and variety of role-players involved
in decision-making processes have expanded exponentially, and now includes nongovernmental and quasi-governmental actors. China’s growing economic, political
and military interests and interaction with its international counterparts have created
a setting in which various ministries at national level, most Chinese provinces, and
numerous military and civilian organisations are engaged in foreign affairs. As with
many of China’s international counterparts, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is no
longer the sole governor of foreign policy; the Ministries of Commerce, Industry,
Trade and Agriculture, to name a few, are now similarly involved in foreign policy
activities (Hao 2005:6). Therefore, China’s foreign policy-making process has
become more fragmented and decentralised due to the increasing number of
departments, bureaus
and other government, quasi- and non-government
departments becoming active players in international affairs.
Decentralisation and pluralisation is further evident in the involvement of think tanks
and the media in the foreign policy-making process. The dissemination of information
is no longer limited to government officials. Media sources, now more than ever,
shape and influence public opinion, particularly in support of government policies.
The Internet, in particular, has allowed more Chinese to gain access to global media,
creating greater openness and participation and thus influencing the way in which
Chinese decision-makers formulate their foreign policy in a changing social
environment. Although the Chinese government frequently censors Internet material,
technological innovation has made it possible for many Chinese to breach
governmental controls (Zhao 2008:40; Lu 2005:112; Yu 2005:69).
The Chinese government has, therefore, been forced to become more sensitive to
the domestic and international impact of media coverage. Many academics are now
consulted by local television and radio talk shows and contribute to local
newspapers, resulting in more informed and less biased reporting. Even
governmental officials increasingly rely on the reports and opinions of nongovernmental experts. Although Chinese think tanks have not yet reached the level
of independence and influence of their international counterparts, they utilise the
public sphere to support and promote their opinions, which in turn challenges the
monopoly of the government in conducting foreign policy (Ministry of Foreign Affairs
of the PRC [FMPRC] 2000a:pna; Hao 2005:7; Zhao 2008:40; Zhao 2005:134).
In terms of institutionalisation, various organisations, such as intern-agencies, have
been set up in recent years to transfer power and influence from individuals to
institutions involved in foreign policy-making. Several, formerly symbolic, institutions,
such as the National People’s Congress, have assumed greater responsibilities in
Chinese foreign affairs. Also, the linkage between institutions involved in Chinese
foreign policy-making – such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of
Foreign Trade and various other agencies involved in national security and the
military – has improved policy coordination and consensus in the process. In
addition, the professionalization in China’s foreign policy agencies has been a
growing trend in recent years. Many foreign policy officials have received extensive
training in both international affairs and foreign languages at China’s top universities.
Their international outlook has broadened and is supportive of China’s integration
into the international arena (FMPRC 2000a:pna; Hao 2005:7; Burns 2004:42).
Other than the above-mentioned changes, the most notable transformation in
China’s foreign policy began when Deng Xiaoping initiated China’s first major
diplomatic initiative by launching the ‘Reform and Opening-up’ policies in the late
1970s. As Mao had rejected the rules of the international system, in pursuing change
through revolution instead of adapting to international norms, his foreign policy was
renowned for its bombastic nature, opposition to the superpowers (both the US and
the Soviet Union), close association with developing countries, relative isolation from
international organisations and economic autarky. In contrast, Deng’s ‘Reform and
Opening-up’ policies encouraged engagement with the international community, an
approach which would assist economic modernisation domestically. Also, China
expanded its international image by significantly increasing its participation in IGOs
(such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund [IMF], the World Trade
Organisation [WTO] and various organs of the UN) and NGOs (such as ORBIS
International, the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Young Men’s Christian
Association [YMCA]). Through these policies China gradually began to emerge from
isolation (Foot 2008:303; Jie 2006:34-37; Straszheim 2008:164).
Although Deng’s transformation was only partial and Chinese participation in the
international community remained limited during his rule, his ‘Reform and Openingup’ policies had a profound impact on the international outlook of China and
subsequently the orientation of Chinese foreign policy. The emergence of China’s
independent foreign policy in 1982 and consequently the independent foreign policy
of peace in 1986 played a big role in China’s foreign policy ideals in later years. Due
to China’s turbulent past, these foreign policies established the following principle
that would continue to underpin future foreign policy goals: “At all times and under all
circumstances China will act independently, determining its own attitudes and
policies on all world issues on the merits of each case. The criterion by which China
judges whether it helps to maintain world peace, develop friendly co-operation
among nations and promote world economic prosperity” (Zhang 1998:99).
As a result, China’s foreign policy and diplomatic behaviour were altered to
accommodate its primary aim of attaining rapid domestic economic growth and
modernisation. Between 1988 and 1994, China normalised diplomatic relations with
18 countries and it began to build on these new relations, establishing various levels
of partnerships to facilitate economic growth. China also abandoned its previous
aversion to multilateral organisations, which Chinese leaders recognised would allow
their country to promote its trade and security interests (Medeiros and Fravel
2003:25). The 1990s was a testing decade for China, especially in establishing itself
as a viable role-player in the international arena and expanding its bilateral relations.
It is therefore only at the start of the millennium that China started playing a more
active role in regional and international affairs. For example, in 2002, at the 16th
Chinese Communist Party Congress, the following long-term goal was proposed: to
transform China by 2020 into a prosperous society where its citizens would enjoy a
comfortable life. The Chinese leadership recognises that a stable international
environment is needed to achieve this goal and therefore in practice it would do its
utmost to avoid conflict with or dependency on other countries or regions (D’Hooghe
Given the above, China’s foreign policy has several notable characteristics. The
basic principles guiding China’s foreign policy is the continued guarantee of the
independence, freedom and territorial integrity of the state, support for world peace
and opposing imperialist policies of aggression and war. In other words, the
prerequisites of China’s foreign policy is that China adheres to an independent
foreign policy of peace, as well as to the five principles of peaceful coexistence
namely mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity; mutual non-aggression
and non-interference in other’s internal affairs; equality; mutual benefit; and peaceful
co-existence in developing diplomatic relations and economic and cultural
exchanges with other countries. China unrelentingly opposes imperialism, hegemony
and colonialism; strives to strengthen unity with foreign nations; supports oppressed
nations and developing countries in their efforts to win and preserve national
independence and develop their national economies; and strives to maintain world
peace and promote human progress (FMPRC 2000b:pna; FMPRC 2003a: pna;
People’s Daily 1999:pna; Peng 1996:pna).
The following is evident with China adherence to a foreign policy of peace. Firstly,
China unwaveringly pursues a policy of maintaining national independence and state
sovereignty. Based on its ‘Century of Humiliation’, which was underlined with
suffering, aggression and oppression, China regards its right to independence as the
basic principle of its foreign policy. By maintaining independence, China does not
allow any other country to infringe upon its national sovereignty and internal affairs.
Therefore, it is determined to decide its own position and policies towards other
countries and not to yield to pressure from major powers or power blocs. Together
with maintaining its own independence, China respects the right of independence of
other countries; it recognises that any other country, whatever its stature, should be
treated as equal (FMPRC 1999:pna; Peng 1996:pna; People’s Daily 1999:pna).
Secondly, China seeks to maintain world peace and highlights the fact by opposing
arms acquisitions and military expansion. It determinedly opposes hegemonism,
power politics, aggression and expansion in any form. It also opposes the
encroachments carried out by one country on the sovereignty and territorial integrity
of another, or the interference in the internal affairs of another nation under the
pretext of ethnic, religious or human rights issues (Peng 1996:pna; People’s Daily
Thirdly, under the stipulation of upholding the five principles of peaceful coexistence,
China aligns itself with a multipolar international society. In line with maintaining
independence and sovereignty and world peace, peaceful coexistence calls on
countries to identify common interests, reserve differences, respect each other,
maintain friendly cooperation and live in harmony regardless of differences in their
social systems and ideologies. Placing continued emphasis on the five principles of
peaceful coexistence, China stands for the establishment of a peaceful, stable, just
and rational international order, regardless of continued changes in international
affairs (People’s Daily 1999: pna). Regionally, China upholds a policy of goodneighbourly and friendly relations with neighbouring countries and promotes regional
peace and stability, and economic cooperation (FMPRC 2000b:pna; FMPRC
2003a:pna; Peng 1996:pna).
Lastly, an essential part of China’s foreign policy is its ‘Opening-up’ policies, as set
out by Deng in the late 1970s. China has constantly maintained its international duty
to support and to safeguard solidarity and cooperation among developing countries.
China attaches great importance to the development of comprehensive friendly
relations with developing countries, and have explored various ways to engage in
mutually beneficial cooperative strategies in the economic, trade, scientific and
technological sectors (Peng 1996: pna). Along with establishing friendly relations
with developing countries, China desires to improve relations with developed
countries to promote common progress and development. On the basis of the
principle of peaceful coexistence, China is in favour of establishing and developing
relations with developed countries and promoting development with them, which it
sees as an important task of China’s foreign affairs (FMPRC 2000c:pna; FMPRC
2003b:pna; People’s Daily 1999: pna; Peng 1996: pna).
In light of the above, China strives to become a global actor, whilst promoting peace
and human progress. Following the above principles and regarding them as
important pillars of its foreign policy, China has actively engaged in foreign activities
and the handling of foreign affairs. China has made sustained efforts to develop
friendly and cooperative relations with all countries, and do so with the intention of
mutually beneficial growth and development in various sectors. China’s foreign policy
is laden with historic baggage, yet its intentions are based on creating an
international environment that will improve its own economic growth and overall
The public diplomacy of China
The phenomenal success of China’s ‘opening-up’ and subsequent reform policy,
even on a comparative basis, is astounding. Unmatched growth rates; an ‘open door’
policy that has attracted Foreign Direct Investment (FDI); a determination to achieve
its past glory through economic integration and cooperation; a commitment to
achieve benevolent and responsible foreign policy goals; and a greater involvement
in international organisations, including the WTO and the UN, prove that China is
dedicated in participating in an interdependent global environment. China as a rising
power is playing, now more than ever, a substantial role in the international arena.
Considering the changes made in its foreign policy and the in-roads it has made as
an influential actor in the international arena, China’s impact on international stability
is one of the most debated issues of late. Irrespective of and even in contrast to its
declared foreign policy principles, ideals and self-image, part of this debate centres
on China’s hard power, and how it uses military and economic means to coerce
other countries to carry out a course of action. The other part of the debate focuses
on China’s use of soft power. In line with international trends in using soft power to
achieve foreign policy goals, Chinese officials have come to realise the importance
of domestic and international publics’ perceptions and how it could impact on China’s
foreign policy outcomes. Therefore, Chinese officials increasingly make use of public
diplomacy to project a better image of the country. However, China is inconsistent
with regards to its public diplomacy strategies (whether it can in fact be regarded as
public diplomacy; or as a mix of public diplomacy and propaganda). Taking this into
account, the following sections examine China’s public diplomacy strategy, in terms
of the actors involved and the instruments used in its public diplomacy. Attention is
also given to China’s economic success and cultural heritage as a part of its image
The background context of China’s public diplomacy
Prior to Deng Xiaoping’s introduction of the ‘open-door’ policies and economic
reforms – which would pave the way for a favourable image of an outward-looking
China – the Chinese government had a relatively limited goal of creating a
favourable image of a mostly autarkic country. Although China’s image was slightly
boosted through ‘Ping-Pong diplomacy’ (when in 1971 the US table tennis team
visited China and thus became the first Americans to visit Beijing since 1949) and
‘Panda diplomacy’ (pandas were dispatched across the globe as diplomatic gifts and
a sign of goodwill), it was only when Deng put forward the open-door policy at the
end of the 1970s that Chinese public diplomacy became more complex and
demanding (Sieren 2007:117; Zhu 2010:1).
Wanting to end China’s international (and to an extent regional) isolation, Deng
introduced ‘open door’ policies and economic reforms at the end of the 1970s, using
a practical approach to create an image of an outward-looking China. This approach
– summarised by Deng’s famous one-liner: ‘it does not matter if the cat is black or
white, as long as it catches mice’ – appealed to foreign audiences all over the world.
At the onset, these policies – regarded as China’s first attempt to public diplomacy –
were very effective. However, in 1989 the Tiananmen crisis severely damaged
China’s new and favourable reputation abroad. As a result, China’s regional and
international counterparts imposed political, economic, trade and other sanctions on
it, turning it into an isolated state once again (Fewsmith 2008:119; Zhu 2010:1).
To break out of its renewed isolation, China first attempted to improve and
strengthen relations first with its Asian neighbours, and thereafter reattempt its
relations with its international counterparts. China ensued a ‘good neighbour’
diplomatic strategy, which resulted in improved relations with the Association of
Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN 2). This was significant given the fact that many of
its members remained anti-Communist, and to further promote economic and
political cooperation Chinese officials temporarily abandoned the dispute over the
Spratly Islands (a disputed archipelago in the South China Sea). As such, in 1990
Japan, despite its tumultuous historic relations, became the first major power to lift
economic sanctions against China. In 1992 the Republic of Korea (ROK) normalised
and re-established diplomatic relations with China and dissolved formal ties with
Taiwan. The objective behind its ‘good neighbour’ diplomacy was that if its
neighbours find it trustworthy and relations remain peaceable, China could claim to
be a peaceful power and therefore could be trusted by the rest of the international
community (D’Hooghe 2005:92; Fewsmith 2008:209).
Building upon China’s ‘good neighbour’ policy, Chinese leaders understood that to
regain its favourable reputation abroad it had to redirect its public diplomacy
strategy. Deng’s successor, Jiang Zemin, understood the importance of improving
relations with its international counterparts, especially the US. He, therefore,
increased China’s efforts to win over international opinion by gradually reaching out
to foreign audiences in order to promote trade and investment, and China’s standing
in the international arena. As such, as China’s economic power started to grow and
as it became more self-confident, talks of revitalising the Chinese nation became
prevalent. Chinese leaders started to travel to other countries and in return invited
their foreign counterparts to visit China, the most notable being the exchange visits
of President Jiang and US President Bill Clinton in 1997 and 1998 respectively
(Fewsmith 2008:191,209; Sieren 2007:117). Despite pressures from the ‘Old Left’
party leaders, Jiang succeeded to improve China’s image, regionally and
internationally. His strategy upheld the legitimacy of the CCP as China’s central
ruler, but in addition lured foreign investment to the country by easing the rules on
foreign business ownership (Fewsmith 2008:209).
Encouraged by the legacies of Deng and Jiang, Hu Jintao, also an advocate of
public diplomacy, further integrated China’s public diplomacy strategy with its foreign
ASEAN has 10 member states and include: Malaysia, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, the
Philippines, Singapore, Brunei, Laos and Indonesia
policy ambitions and improved ways to sell China to the international community. A
clear indication of this commitment to public diplomacy appeared in the People’s
Daily, when the Deputy of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Chinese People’s
Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), Zhao Qizheng (2007:pna), emphasised
that China “must represent an accurate picture of itself to the world ... China should
not only listen, but talk back”. Zhao furthers this objective by stating that “public
diplomacy spreads Chinese culture and political influence more efficiently, improving
the world’s opinion of China and safeguarding national interests” (Zhao 2007:pna). In
light of Zhao’s statement, globalisation further forced the Chinese government to pay
more attention to public diplomacy. This meant that China could no longer afford to
be a narrow-minded power, constricted by ideology that prevents full engagement
with the international system. Therefore, China’s public diplomacy – created and
managed by the Central Government – is formed by a specific political agenda and a
determination to project an image of strength, prosperity and political accountability
that refutes the perception that China is a state that characteristically violates human
rights and threatens global stability (Rawnsley 2009:282).
Taking the above into consideration, China’s use and success of these strategies are
not based on a quid pro quo. China’s politico-economic approach to world politics is
at odds with that which the rest of the world would see as norm, and it works (albeit
for China). China’s ‘talking-back’ public diplomacy focuses on two areas, namely its
growing economy and its cultural heritage. Where soft power is mostly based on
values, China contradicts this norm by putting emphasis on its economy as an
element of soft power rather than hard power. By using the term ‘peaceful rise’ (later
‘peaceful development’), China assuages its aggressive economic growth through
Confucian philosophy and establishes the idea of ‘treating others the way you would
like to be treated’. In terms of the other focus area, nothing is more important to
China than its cultural heritage and therefore Chinese officials add a cultural
dimension to its engagement with foreign powers (Rawnsley 2009:283; Suzuki
2009:781; Zhu 2010:11). Yet, despite China’s incredible economic success, its
fervour to attract foreign investment and its promotion of its image abroad, it still
attracts criticism from the international community. This is mainly because its
leadership remains steadfast in its preservation of authoritarian rule, as well as the
continued absence of human rights, and democratic institutions and processes in
China. China is also criticised by the international community over its questionable
alliances with denigrated regimes such as those in the Sudan, Burma, North Korea
and Zimbabwe (Rawnsley 2009:283).
As a country in rapid transition – halfway between being a poor, backward and
isolated country and a rapidly developing and outward looking country with a
socialist market economy that is integrating into the world economy and working
within the international system of multilateral organisation – China is using a more
proactive, confident and effective public diplomacy to achieve its foreign policy goals.
The nature and scope of China’s public diplomacy
China’s public diplomacy is still evolving and is dependent on various departments
and officials, as well as supporting institutions involved in orchestrating strategies, to
ensure that target audiences are reached. In this respect note is taken of the nature
and scope of China’s public diplomacy, more specifically of the characteristics, the
actors and institutions and the instruments thereof.
4.2.1 The characteristics of China’s public diplomacy
With its reform and opening-up, China had to build on its people-to-people
diplomacy, exploring means by which it could develop a public diplomacy strategy in
line with its development, never ignoring its own heritage. As such, China’s public
diplomacy has a number of distinct characteristics. Firstly, China’s public diplomacy
is guided by diplomacy with Chinese attributes, i.e. at its foundation it is driven by the
principles of socialism, Deng’s opening-up policies, Jiang Zemin’s ‘Three
Represents’ (i.e. the development trends of advanced productive forces; the
orientations of an advanced culture; and the fundamental interests of the
overwhelming majority of the people of China), the Scientific Outlook on
Development (i.e. putting people first and aiming for comprehensive, coordinated
and sustainable development), and China’s diplomatic goal of building a harmonious
world of lasting peace and common prosperity through joint efforts (
yna:pna; Chinadaily 2007:pna; Jintao 2005:pna). These characteristics and their
underlying principles guide the nature and direction of China’s public diplomacy,
which portrays China as having an open and sincere attitude towards the rest of the
Secondly, China’s public diplomacy is characterised by the fact that it focuses on the
key or central tasks of the CCP and the state. In other words, its fundamental
function is to assist China’s reform, development and stability and uphold and
advance China’s overall national interests. China wants to achieve these goals,
without exerting its influence on other countries’ domestic or foreign policies, and
wants to enhance friendly cooperation, mutual understanding and trust and
contribute to world peace and development ( 2006a:pna). Thirdly, China’s
public diplomacy takes into account both domestic and international dynamics. In
other words, China’s public diplomacy aids domestic reform, development and
stability, as well as international peace, development and cooperation. As a
concerted effort, China’s public diplomacy attempts to project a true picture of China
to the world, whilst at the same time the Chinese public receives more
comprehensive information on international affairs and on China’s diplomacy efforts
(Mandalay-China Consulate 2005:pna; FMPRC 2004:pna). Lastly, China’s public
diplomacy is characterised by the fact that it draws heavily on its cultural heritage
and promotes its 5 000 year-old Chinese civilisation. Its culture is people-orientated,
it values peace and it promotes good relations with China’s regional and international
counterparts. An integral part of China’s public diplomacy is to facilitate learning and
the exchanges of ‘wisdom’ between it and the rest of the world (Chinese
Government 2005:pna; Office for Chinese Language Overseas Popularisation
These characteristics of China’s public diplomacy are indicative of a multidimensional public diplomacy structure, where culture, politics and economic
development converge and are combined to project China’s intentions openly to its
regional and international audiences. To achieve these outcomes, the following
actors are required to work in synergy to develop China’s public diplomacy.
4.2.2 The actors and institutions of China’s public diplomacy
A basic distinction is made between state and non-state actors and institutions.
(a) State actors and institutions: The major role players in the development,
decision making and processes of China’s public diplomacy activities are the Central
Committee Foreign Propaganda Office and the State Council Information Office
(SCIO) (see Figure 3). The Foreign Propaganda Office is highly secretive and is
supervised by the Foreign Propaganda Small Leading Group, which consists of
Senior Communist Party leaders. The SCIO, established in 1991 at a National Work
Conference on External Propaganda, is a public government office that plays a
major role in coordinating China’s public diplomacy activities (translated from State
Council Information Office of the PRC [SCIO] yna:pna). The Foreign Propaganda
Office oversees all foreign-aimed publicity and monitors, regulates and censors all
activities in China within the scope of foreign propaganda, for example regulating
the activities of foreign journalists, supervising foreign social science research on
China, and managing and censoring the Internet (Brady 2006:63; Cabestan
2009:64). It aims to improve and shape a favourable image of China, by publicizing
its economic and social achievements and interpreting China’s policies to foreign
audiences. Common to China’s political system, many of the officials serve
concurrently in both the Foreign Propaganda Office and the SCIO, therefore
representing both the CCP and the government. Although the Foreign Propaganda
Office is highly secretive, it is assumed that it establishes the objectives of
propaganda/public diplomacy activities and has the final say in major decisions (Xing
2006:142; D’Hooghe 2007:21).
The SCIO’s main task is to promote China as a stable country in the process of
reform; a country that takes good care of its population, including minorities; and as
a country that endeavours to reduce poverty (translated from SCIO yna:pna). It aims
to promote, through national and international media, China to the world and the
Chinese population; it promotes internal and external policies, economic and social
developments, Chinese history, culture, science and technology and other
developments; it updates and informs the Chinese public on international economic,
political and technological developments. It also assists foreign reporters in giving
accurate news coverage, in the process ensuring that China’s image is favourably
presented to the world. The SCIO aims to create valuable and trusted relations
between the world media and China, on the basis of mutual trust and the safeguard
of world peace and stability, and plays a constructive role in the cause of human
progress (translated from SCIO] yna:pna).
Figure 3: Office of Foreign Propaganda/State Council Information Office
Office of Foreign Propaganda/
State Council Information Office
First Office: Liaison with Foreign Media and Public activities
Second Office: Managing China’s International Public Opinion
Third Office: Publishing, Film and Cultural Exchanges
Fourth Office: Foreign Propaganda Planning and Research
Fifth Office: Internet Propaganda Policies, Regulations
Sixth Office: Manages Foreign Journalists’ Activities in China
Seventh Office: Promotes China’s Human Rights Activities
Personnel Office
Secretariat: Coordinates Policy between Central and Local Level, admin work
Source: Brady 2006:61
As the creation of the SCIO coincided with the end of the post-Tiananmen isolation,
the Chinese government issued White Papers 3 clarifying China’s policies on critical
issues such as ethnic minority rights, human rights and national defence strategies
(SCIO yna:pna). The publication of these White Papers served as a form of
reassurance to the Chinese public and international community that China’s
reintegration into the international arena would be cooperative. However, China’s
public diplomacy only gained significance in 1998 when Zhao Qizheng became
Minister of the Information Office and started his publicity and information work. In
order to create a more favourable image of China abroad, he called upon Chinese
officials living abroad to publicise China’s economic and social achievements and to
explain China’s official position and policies on critical issues to foreigners. Since
Zhao’s appointment, the Chinese government changed the way in which it dealt with
official information. This involved the doubling of the frequency of press conferences,
White Paper on China’s Human Rights Situation (1991, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2000); White Paper on
Tibet-Its Ownership and Human Rights Situation (1992, 1998); White Paper on the Taiwan Question
and Reunification of China (1993, 2000); White Paper on Freedom and Religious Beliefs (1997); and,
White Paper China’s Ethnic Policy and Practice (1999); White Paper on National Defence (1998,
2000, 2002, 2004, 2006); and, White Paper on China’s Non-Proliferation Measures (2003).
reinstatement of the use of English at press conferences, and introducing a Westernstyle approach of speaking off-the-record (D’Hooghe 2005:98-99).
Apart from the SCIO, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), although not part of the
decision-making processes, plays a major role in the conduct of public diplomacy.
The MFA recognises the importance of how its public diplomacy is the means by
developments are conveyed to foreign audiences. Therefore, over the past decades,
the MFA has invested in the professionalization and rejuvenation of its diplomats,
which has resulted in the increased effectiveness, sophistication and motivation of
China’s public diplomacy. Under Hu Jintao, the role of Chinese embassies
diversified. Their aims include building a favourable image of China abroad and
developing closer links with host countries’ political, economic and cultural elites to
better influence their (the host country’s) foreign and China policies (Cabestan
2009:82; D’Hooghe 2007:23). In 2000, the MFA established its first foreign media
centre to improve relations with the international press, which it knows is critical to
convey China’s policies accurately. More important is that the MFA is gradually
allowing its diplomats and embassies more freedom to get involved with foreign
In March 2004, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Li Zhaoxing, announced a series of
innovations in China’s public diplomacy, amongst others, the awareness of being
‘active and creative in foreign work’ and being more open to foreign aid. Examples
include China’s aid assistance to Algeria and Iran following the earthquakes in 2003,
and the monetary and medicinal aid to Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia (China Daily
2004:pna). These innovations convey, according to the MFA, China’s sincerity in its
‘good neighbour’ policy toward its Asian neighbours. Besides attracting foreign
audiences, the MFA also reaches out to its domestic audiences. Within the Ministry,
the term public diplomacy is also used for publicity work, aimed at narrowing the gap
between its diplomats and the ordinary Chinese people, and to do this the MFA often
gives lectures, organises Internet discussions and invites people to visit the Foreign
Ministry offices (China Daily 2004:pna).
(b) Non-state actors and institutions: A growing number of non-state actors and
institutions are involved in China’s public diplomacy. China’s engagement and
dialogue with its own population is expanding, along with the growing number of
NGOs and the increasing freedom of people to speak out on international issues.
China’s non-state actors are not as fully independent as their democratic
counterparts and only foreign foundations (e.g. the Rockefeller Foundation, the Asia
Foundation and the Ford Foundation) may register as international NGOs in China.
The reason for this is the Chinese government’s concern that foreign NGOs raise
and draw attention to sensitive subjects such as human rights, labour law, and
democratisation. Due to the lack of explicit Chinese legislation concerning NGOs,
they have been unable to gain access to China and carry out their work. Yet NGOs
have resorted to alternative means to exert increasing influence on policy-making in
various fields, but are nevertheless restricted and controlled by the government (Yin
2009:521; D’Hooghe 2007:24). They are, therefore, always dependent on the
approval of government, which distorts the distinction between ‘state’ and ‘non-state’
actors. However, these non-state actors are different from ‘state’ actors in three
ways. They are not initiated by the state; not operated by the state; and serve their
own societal or commercial interests. The non-state actors that play a role in
promoting China’s image abroad include transnational academic communities,
NGOs, expatriate Chinese communities abroad, friendship associations, twin sister
organisations, students and tourists (Edele 2005:2-4; 20-23; D’Hooghe 2007:25).
Academics and intellectuals of China’s top universities and think tanks, such as the
Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) and the Shanghai Institute for
International Studies (SIIS) are increasingly involved in foreign policy-making,
diplomacy and public diplomacy. They become part of international academic
networks, attend international conferences, frequently speak before foreign
audiences, often participate in international debates and exchanges of information,
publish in international journals and are interviewed by, or cited in, international
newspapers. In China, they advise government and increasingly influence foreign
policy-making; abroad they spread the image of growing academic freedom, of
plurality in thinking on international issues, and of an intellectual and scientific
Chinese academia (Bondiguel & Kellner 2009:6, 19-21). The aim of Chinese NGOs,
such as the Centre of Chinese Government Innovations and the China Groupings
Companies Promotion Association, amongst others, is to strengthen the image of
China as a country that is moving towards complying and working with internationally
accepted norms. They cooperate with international and multilateral organisations;
publications; and play a role in softening the flawed images of China’s policies
(Edele 2005:27,30; D’Hooghe 2007:26).
Chinese communities abroad, or Chinese Diaspora, are both actors and target
groups of public diplomacy. The concept of a ‘Chinese Diaspora, refers to Chinese
descendents residing outside mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, regardless of
their citizenship. They include the older Chinese communities in Indonesia, Thailand
and the Philippines, dating back several generations, the business communities, and
the more recent groups of Chinese scholars studying abroad. To classify the
Chinese Diaspora is complex, because it is based along the lines of generation,
place of origin, length of stay outside China, and political and ideological stances (Li
2011:137). The Chinese Diaspora remains a target group because the Chinese
government wants to gain and sustain the support of the Diaspora for China and
encourage Chinese abroad to invest in the country. As a tool, the Diaspora also
plays a role in promoting Chinese culture and lobbying for Chinese political interests.
In addition, Chinese abroad are often called upon to promote specific issues, such
as the peaceful reunification with Taiwan, or China’s modernisation campaign. “To
realise the reunification and rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, overseas Chinese
have played a unique and important role in China’s reunification and modernisation
drives” (Premier Wen Jiabao quoted in 2005a:yna). In light of this, China
has set up more than 80 pro-China associations among overseas communities,
including those in Taiwan, Japan and Cambodia, and has supported the convening
of regional conferences to form a united global network of pro-China organisations
( 2005a:pna; D’Hooghe 2007:26).
Friendship organisations, such as the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship
with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC) and the Institute of Foreign Affairs (IFA), organise
activities labelled ‘people-to-people diplomacy’. The CPAFFC also oversees the
China’s ‘sister cities’ relations. These relations serve as an important tool for
Chinese local governments and businesses to connect with other countries, to share
information and ideas, and to promote economic cooperation (D’Hooghe 2007:27;
Kurtlantzick 2007:52). Along with the above, Chinese students abroad and outbound
Chinese tourists, also have an impact on China’s image. Students leave a positive
image of Chinese being a serious, modest, hard-working and intellectual people,
whilst Chinese growing number of outbound tourists indicates that China is no longer
as restricting as it used to be in allowing its citizens to travel globally (Kurtlantzick
2007:106; D’Hooghe 2007:27).
The above-mentioned actors, although mostly controlled by official policies, play a
critical role in how China’s image is projected to foreign audiences. Taking this in
regard, the Chinese government and the various actors under its influence, use
various instrument to further the public diplomacy process.
4.2.3 The instruments of China’s public diplomacy
To promote China’s public diplomacy, various instruments are used to increase the
audience of messages. These instruments – the media, Internet, publications, and
events and projects – are used much in the same way as in other countries.
However, in China’s case, many of these instruments are state controlled, especially
the Chinese media. The CCP censors all information media and exercises nearly
complete control over the country’s 358 TV stations and 2,119 newspapers (Nhan
2008:37). However, as a supporting structure, the media remains the main
instrument to inform the outside world about China.
English-language newspapers, such as the China Daily (established in 1981), target
foreign audiences, and specifically foreign diplomats and tourists, to present China
and China's news to target audiences (China Daily yna:pna). Also, Chinese Englishlanguage radio broadcasts and television channels are received all over the world.
For example, the Chinese News Agency, Xinhua, has an English-language service.
China Radio International, regarded as the ‘Voice of China’, broadcasts globally in
the world’s major languages and China Central Television (CCTV) has six channels
that broadcast news globally in English, Spanish, French, Arabic, Russian and
Chinese. Apart from disseminating news on China, these media instruments are
used to counter the perceived distorted image projected by foreign media (Dale,
Cohen & Smith 2012:7; Zhu 2010:4, 9). As institutions, these media instruments are
all state owned and controlled. Although journalists and editors have gained minimal
freedom to convey their own news and messages, most of the programme,
newspaper and magazine content are still dictated by official policy lines. In addition
to the use of these media platforms, China’s public diplomacy is increasingly and
indirectly supported by international media agencies. For example, a large number of
foreign correspondents are posted in Beijing. Chinese leaders are more inclined to
give press conferences during foreign visits and the new generation of Chinese
diplomats also address the foreign press as a matter of routine (Zhang & Cameron
Furthermore, China makes effective use of the Internet. Although Chinese officials
tend to regard the Internet as a foe, they have become aware of the benefits of open
communication channels between them and domestic and foreign publics. The
Chinese Internet is globally accessible and websites are designed in English and
several other languages. Newspaper archives are easily accessible and new and old
articles can be downloaded for free. Many of these websites are developed
specifically for the purpose of public diplomacy and are controlled by the Information
Office, for example China Online, People’s Daily and In contrast, the use
of printed publications as means to reach a wider audience has decreased with the
development of the Internet. Nonetheless, English-language booklets on Chinese
topics – ranging from the Chinese Constitution or marriage law to big construction
projects – are still available, but they are no longer printed. In addition, similar to
most major powers, China uses events and related projects to improve its image.
With the aim of increasing its visibility in the world, China has become an eager
organiser of macro events. For example, in the 1990s China hosted the Asian
Games and the UN International Women’s Conference. By winning the bid for and
eventually presenting the 2008 Olympic Games, China was given the chance to
show its prowess and capabilities to the world (D’Hooghe 2005:97).
At the same time, China organises many smaller events, dedicated to promote
Chinese culture and international trade. Since 1999, the SCIO in cooperation with
countries such France, the US, and Germany, organised ‘Experience China’ culture
weeks to introduce Chinese art and culture to the world ( 2001:pna).
International trade events included a ten-city tour in 2001 by the Chinese
Ambassador to Washington, under the banner ‘A National Conversation with the
Chinese Ambassador’, sponsored by the US Chamber of Commerce and various
other US firms. This tour was specifically intended to inform the US business
community about business opportunities in China. Collectively, these events
promoted China’s peaceful intentions and fostered good relations with its
international counterparts (US Chamber of Commerce 2001a:pna; US Chamber of
Commerce 2001b:pna).
In light of the above, China is actively pursuing a public diplomacy to broaden its
reach regionally and internationally. With the tight control of the CCP, China’s public
diplomacy is directed in line of CCP regulations and messages are only sent to
target audiences that position China in the most favourable light. In line with its
nature and scope, China’s public diplomacy has several core objectives.
4.3 Core objectives of China’s public diplomacy
Although being state controlled, the actors and instruments of China’s public
diplomacy primarily promote an image of ‘peace’ to international audiences. Yet,
Chinese leaders are aware that their public diplomacy efforts must extend beyond
mere rhetoric and need to be aligned with and supported by corresponding concrete
actions and outcomes in order to be credible and successful. Accordingly, China’s
public diplomacy is concerned with and must be seen to actually achieve several
goals. Firstly, China wants to be seen as a country that works hard to give its people
a better future. Secondly, at the root of its policy of good neighbourliness, China
wants to be seen as a reliable, stable and responsible economic partner that does
not have to be feared. Thirdly, China’s officials want to promote China as a
trustworthy and responsible member of the international community, capable of and
willing to contribute actively to world peace. Finally, China wants to be respected as
an ancient culture with a long history. Accordingly, and for illustrative and analytical
purposes, two main public diplomacy objectives are examined, namely promoting
China’s economy and spreading Chinese culture (D’Hooghe 2005:93).
4.3.1 China’s economic-based public diplomacy
One of the most important features of China’s public diplomacy is its economic
appeal. However, where economics are mostly classified as a hard power source,
China also uses its economic successes of the last two decades as a soft power
means – a successful economy equals a positive image abroad. In this sense, China
emphasises the inseparable link between hard and soft power; the fact that a
particular source or determinant of power (e.g. the economy) can be used as a form
of both hard and soft power; and the fact that both traditional hard and soft power
sources are mutually complementary (e.g. economic and diplomatic means). “Soft
power can facilitate the growth of hard power, whereas hard power can demonstrate
and support the growth of soft power” (Mingjiang 2008:9). Therefore, depending on
the context, any source of power can be either hard or soft, and in China’s case this
is best exemplified in the ‘China model’ of multilateralism, economic diplomacy and
its good neighbourly policy.
With an average growth rate of nine per cent annually, it is not surprising that the socalled ‘Chinese model’, emphasising market-led development underlined with
authoritarian politics, has become attractive to many developing countries. China’s
ability to present an alternative political-economic model is a substantial indicator of
China’s growing influence that counters Western perspectives, which promote
democratic-capitalist principles as a prerequisite for economic prosperity (Suzuki
2009:782; Rawnsley 2009:283; Loo & Davies 2006:198). The promotion of the
‘Chinese model’, or ‘Beijing Consensus’, signifies the success of soft power. This
approach to development links a hard power economic paradigm with a set of
specific political and cultural values, i.e. authoritarian state-led management of
economics and politics, and ‘Asian values’ (which is presented as family-centred
stability, harmony and prosperity). Therefore, China is promoting the economic
requirements behind its economic growth, especially to countries such as Cambodia,
Laos and Vietnam, that have had difficulties in executing a Western politicaleconomic model (Hunter 2009:388; Rawnsley 2009:283, Turin 2010:pna). Hence, it
can be argued that China uses its economic development and subsequent economic
successes as a mode of branding, attracting not only FDI, but also bilateral
agreements with states that offer mutually beneficial growth opportunities.
4.3.2 China’s culture-based public diplomacy
As much as China’s economic successes play a role in promoting a positive image
abroad, so too does its cultural heritage. Chinese culture can be singled out as the
most valuable source of Chinese soft power, on the basis of its long history and wide
range of traditions, symbols and texts. Cinema, painting and calligraphy, literature,
traditional medicine, acupuncture, martial arts and Chinese cuisine have
Accordingly, different aspects of Chinese culture play an important public diplomacy
role in promoting a positive image of China abroad. As a source or determinant of
China’s public diplomacy and soft power, China’s use of culture in its engagement
with foreign powers is not a recent development. Due to its belief and confidence in
the ‘Middle Kingdom’, dynastic China practiced public diplomacy whereby foreign
guests were charmed by the magnificence of the Chinese civilisation and the
refinements of its culture. The Chinese believed that such exposure to the Chinese
culture could produce tangible results. Conversely, in the following centuries, the
West appropriated the Chinese culture for its own satisfaction. During the 17th and
18th centuries, Chinoiserie, a fascination with all things Chinese, was extremely
fashionable throughout Europe. However, it should be noted that this was merely the
West’s interpretation of Chinese culture and bore little resemblance to the reality.
Even though Chinoiserie was not motivated by Chinese interests, it provided the
necessary focus to China’s complex culture, which fundamentally inspired further
engagement (Rawnsley 2009:284; D’Hooghe 2005:88; D’Hooghe 2007:19).
Currently, China’s policy-makers use the popularity of Chinese culture beyond its
borders to promote international relations and tourism. The main focus, though, is on
undamaging, apolitical, traditional culture, which includes the Chinese language,
cuisine and acupuncture. Also, China’s cultural approach to public diplomacy is
centred within its Confucius institutes, established by Hanban (the China National
Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language) and China’s Ministry of
Education, to bolster Mandarin language tuition, promote Chinese culture and
support Chinese teaching internationally. Modelled loosely on the British Council and
the Alliance Française, Confucius Institutes are designed with the specific aim of
promoting friendly relations with other countries and enhancing the understanding of
the Chinese language and culture among Chinese learners. However, unlike their
foreign counterparts, the Confucius Institutes are joint ventures located within
universities. The partner school in China sends teachers to participate and their
teaching programmes are approved by the Hanban. The objective of these Institutes
include forging strategic alliances with business, industry, governments and other
institutions with an interest in close and more productive ties with China and the
Chinese Diaspora (CI Ljubljana yna:pna; Hanban yna:pna).
Confucius Institutes were at the forefront of efforts endorsed by the Chinese Premier,
Wen Jiabao (China Daily 2007:pna), to link culture with foreign policy objectives. He
contended that cultural exchanges connected the ‘hearts and minds’ of all countries
and were important to project a country’s image. As such, the Confucius Institutes
played a strategic role in Chinese foreign policy, yet it is still premature to assess
whether it had an impact on meeting foreign policy objectives. In addition to
Confucius Institutes, inviting students to China, through student exchange
programmes, has become another influential diplomatic instrument. Most foreign
students enrol in Chinese universities to learn the language with the aim of doing
business with China, but an increasing number are studying Chinese arts,
philosophy, history and traditional Chinese medicine ( 2003:pna; D’Hooghe
2007:29) . Therefore, the Confucius Institutes and various student exchanges with
China provide examples of the international attraction to China’s language and
China’s biggest assets to promote its public diplomacy are its (ancient) culture and
successful economy. The non-Western characteristics of Chinese public diplomacy
are therefore, by implication, highlighted in its economy and culture. In other words,
China’s non-Western public diplomacy is not only based on what instruments are
used, how it is utilised or how it is controlled by the Central Government. The
differentiating feature is the core message portrayed through its economic success
and cultural attractiveness. However, despite its numerous successes, the
instruments that constitute China’s public diplomacy also have its limitations.
The limits of China’s public diplomacy
Despite China’s economic successes, as well as the transformation of its traditional
diplomacy and development of public diplomacy, it still attracts persistent criticism
from the international community. The liabilities that hamper China to successfully
promote its image internationally include its authoritarian leadership maintaining full
control of society; its concealment of unfavourable information from the public; and,
the continued absence of credible human rights in China, especially concerning
political tensions in its eastern provinces and autonomous areas. Its support for
international pariah regimes such as Burma, North Korea and Zimbabwe, are also
criticised, as well as the way it responds to territorial disputes in the South China Sea
and with Japan (Kleine-Ahlbrandt & Small 2008:42; Council of Foreign Relations
yna:pna). Although Chinese leaders understand that their public diplomacy efforts
need to be supported by corresponding actions for it to be credible and successful,
China is seemingly trapped between its goal in perfecting its international image, its
lack of an open society and the government’s inability to give up centralised societal
control. As long as political protesters are arrested and detained for their liberal
political ideas, or liberal media outlets are shut down, or allegations of human rights
violations and alliances with the rogue regimes remain, China will not succeed in
achieving its public diplomacy goals.
In line with the promotion of Chinese culture, inconsistencies exist in terms of ‘how
much’ of its culture China wants to promote. Together with its ‘old-school’ cultural
activities, a new generation of Chinese artists, writer, film-makers and actors
successfully combine traditional arts with modern ideas and developments globally.
It is not only China’s Asian neighbours that are attracted by these cultural
expressions. The West is also fascinated by Chinese films, fashion, pop music and
Chinese consumer brands have become very popular. However, the Chinese
government closely regulates what is promoted to international audiences and these
audiences are not unaware of this control (Cheow 2004:pna; Perlez 2004:pna)..
China’s promotion of its economic success is, paradoxically, also a liability to its
public diplomacy. The liberal-democratic audience, at whom China’s economic
model is targeted, is not yet convinced of the political dimension of the Chinese
example. Due to the inter-relationship between state politics and economics, a
country’s economic influence reinforces its soft power only if others are attracted to it
for reasons “beyond trade, market access, or job opportunities”, in other words,
agreeing with the political ideology of a country (Rawnsley 2009:283). Chinese
officials do distinguish between different target audiences and align their messages
accordingly. However, due to the interconnection of communication channels, some
of the messages intended for certain audiences will be ‘heard’ by others. For
example, liberal-democracies are unlikely to receive China’s economic public
diplomacy as favourably, due to political and ideological differences, whereas the
cultural public diplomacy may be acceptable. Other features of the Chinese
economic model are also damaging China’s public diplomacy. For example, while
Chinese labour and investment, especially in construction, have increased in
developing countries, local communities who should be the main beneficiaries are
increasingly criticising the Chinese ‘wave’. These communities mostly protest against
the loss of jobs to Chinese workers and the closure of competing factories. This is
also the case with manufactures globally. Open markets, cheap Chinese imports,
low production costs and ‘dumping’ practices, conflict with the socio-economic reality
and insecurities of those whose livelihoods disappear under the weight of
competition with China. These ramifications clearly have detrimental consequences
for China’s public diplomacy as it tries to defend such criticism with its commitment
to an interdependent global economy (Rawnsley 2009:283).
In addition to investment and trade, China devotes considerable resources to foreign
aid, also a valuable instrument of public diplomacy. While the actual size of China’s
foreign aid budget is unknown, China pursues a political agenda through its aid
programme. In September 2005, on a visit to New York, President Hu Jintao
promised $10 billion in Chinese aid to the poorest countries with diplomatic ties with
China, suggesting that countries which recognise Taiwan would reap substantial
economic benefits if they switch their allegiance to China. The diplomatic derecognition of Taiwan is an important precondition for those in the developing world
wishing to receive Chinese aid. The reality is that the most impoverished countries
are not overtly concerned about the ‘real’ China or with which political entities official
diplomatic ties should be established. Inevitably, shrewd state elites have become
conscious of the fact that the diplomatic competition between the PRC and Taiwan
creates a diplomatic dispute that enables elites in impoverished countries to gain
profit. Accordingly, claims that Chinese public diplomacy is successful, should be
accepted with circumspection. The
beneficial (aid and trade) incentive for small
and/or developing countries to switch their allegiance from Taiwan to China has little
to do with convincing them of the intricate political and legal arguments for doing so
and has everything to do with the promise of more financial rewards that China can
offer (Rawnsley 2009:284). In this sense, China’s public diplomacy is based on
punitive ‘sticks’, which relates to coercion, and not the rewarding ‘carrots’ of
persuasion that is related to soft power politics and public diplomacy.
In conclusion, China’s public diplomacy is a relatively new political endeavour of
‘modern’ China. Although some of the features of the present public diplomacy
outlines have been present since its Imperial era, the contemporary international
arena is very critical, and to a certain extent unforgiving, if national policies are
counter to that of Western ideology. At the same time, due to its immense economic
growth and going global strategy, the international community is uncertain what
China’s intentions are in its international relations policies. Notwithstanding these
uncertainties, China’s use of public diplomacy is unique, as it uses both hard and
soft power manifestations (for example, by placing emphasis on its economic
success and cultural legacy) to promote its image internationally. Although China’s
public diplomacy is open to ever-present criticism and has yet to be perfected, its
image-promotion has been successful, especially if linked to the promotion of the
China ‘brand’.
The China ‘brand’ and public diplomacy
Similar to most other non-democratic regimes, China is obsessed with prestige, in
particular images of opulence and distinction. From building one of the world’s tallest
buildings to hosting the 2008 Olympic Games, the biggest sporting event in the
world, symbols of prominence are important to the Chinese government. Megaprojects are used not only to impress citizens and outsiders with the regime’s
capabilities, but signify that the aspiration to be counted among the world’s leading
nations is attainable and incredibly important in image-building. Albeit a recent
endeavour, and in conjunction with its public diplomacy strategies, China currently
focuses on reputation management and nation branding to improve its reputation
regionally and internationally. A good reputation can enhance the competitiveness of
a nation and its export brands. As China ‘goes global’ it is important that it manages
its reputation and its nation brand, which characterises how it is viewed in the
international arena.
The image that China has in the international arena is ambiguous and confusing,
especially in reports on China in the mass media. Its economic growth is often
reported as ‘astounding and amazing’, yet it is also plagued by negative images of
pollution, rural unrest, its deplorable human rights record, its infringement of
intellectual property rights, severe energy shortages and being unsustainable (Loo
& Davies 2006: 199; Brown 2008:pna). Another contradiction is that while it is still
both in terms of self-perception and development indicators a developing nation, it is
a powerful and influential one; China is a permanent member of the UN Security
Council (UNSC) and an influential member of the IMF and the WTO. Due to this,
and its much advertised ‘peaceful rise’ that many foreign observers and external
policy-makers see China as a threat. This has had the West debating over whether
they should interact with or isolate the country. For this reason, Chinese leaders
officially changed ‘peaceful rise’ to ‘peaceful development’ to tone down the image of
China as a menacing threat. For continued growth, internationally and domestically,
Chinese officials have realised that they have to be continually involved in shaping
how the country is viewed internationally. They have clarified China’s intention of a
‘peaceful development’ and to get other nations to believe in the sincerity of its
‘peaceful’ objectives (Loo & Davies 2006:199; Bajoria 2008:pna; Suzuki 2009:780).
To ensure that its ‘peaceful’ rise is accepted by the international community, the
‘branding’ of China is recognised as a major challenge the country and its
government has to face in managing its reputation.
Every nation is a brand and most nations have developed their brands, either
intentionally or by default, using a multitude of different sources. These include word
of mouth, education, mass media, travel and tourism, product purchase and dealing
with people. The nation brand consists of images, mainly powerful stereotypes that
may not be a true picture or cognitive presentation of the nation. Yet these images
are persistent. Images influence decision-making processes, from consumer
purchase, industrial buying to FDI in target markets. These images also continue to
evolve. However without careful and managed attention, these images are often
based on misconceptions, with potential negative short to long term consequences
(Loo & Davies 2008: 1989). When considering these aspects of nation branding, it
becomes evident that China as a ‘brand’ is still in the early stages of development
and, similar to public diplomacy, it is important for the Chinese government to
coordinate its policies and actions with ‘branding’ efforts. However, China’s main
aspiration is to (re)build its reputation to what it was at the height of its Imperial
Nowhere is this aspiration more apparent than in its space project. By launching a
satellite in the late 1970s and cosmonaut Yang Liwei’s successful space orbit in
2004, China entered the exclusive fellowship of nations launching manned space
flights. Although the scientific significance of manned space flights remains
debatable, the Chinese leadership value its symbolic value, also considering that
they not need to deal with an open, public debate and domestic constituency that
question the space programme’s value as, for example, in the US (Shenkar 2006:36;
Kynge 2006:114). Currently, it is argued that China’s space programme is mostly an
effort to copy and replicate. For example, the capsule used in its manned space flight
was of Soviet design. China is, nevertheless, determined to claim its own position in
space and has outlined an ambitious agenda that includes a space station and the
exploration of Mars and other planets. This effort is not only expected to but does in
fact generate spill-over effects, to both the military and the civilian sectors (Shenkar
2006:37). China is, unquestionably, aspiring to achieve greatness not only through
its economic actions, but through the traditional and non-traditional channels of soft
Public diplomacy is country-specific. Each country utilises public diplomacy to its
own ends and projects an image that is accurate to that specific country and cannot
be duplicated by others. This is especially true in the case of China. Due to its long
and sometimes tumultuous history, China is committed through its official practices,
especially its foreign policy and public diplomacy, to ensure that history does not
repeat itself. The three periods that shaped China as it is today, remain in the
memory of the Chinese’ psyche and still have an impact on the political and
economic aspirations of the Chinese leadership, affecting its policies and strategies.
Along with the post-Cold War denigration of Communism and the impact and effects
of globalisation, China was compelled to open its borders to the international
community and expand its foreign relations. Chinese leaders realised that they could
no longer continue their aversion for bi- and multilateral relations and had to focus on
rapid domestic growth and modernisation. Since the adoption of a documented (and
more pragmatic) foreign policy and following the stipulated guidelines thereof, China
has actively and comprehensively engaged in foreign activities and prioritised its
handling of foreign affairs. In fact, China has been applauded for its successes in the
international arena. Based on the term ‘peaceful rise’, China asserts that it only
seeks peaceful development and mutual prosperity but no hegemony.
The perceptions that foreign audiences have of China are rapidly changing. China is
progressively playing a substantial role in international politics and the Chinese
leadership uses public diplomacy instruments to project an image of China that is
impartial to reality. The biggest assets that China has in ‘selling’ itself to its
immediate region and to an international audience are its culture and economic
growth. Another reason for its success is that China clearly differentiates between
target countries and groups and coordinates its public diplomacy accordingly. This
plays a major role in China’s success, due to the fact that China acknowledges that
foreigners are different and that international (and arguably regional) publicity should
be carried out differently than it is done domestically. Hence the argument of this
dissertation, to be explored in the next chapter, that China has discovered a secret to
successful public diplomacy, namely sending out different messages to specific
groups or target audiences and not one message to a single mega-audience; an
aspect of public diplomacy (and nation branding) most countries still struggle with.
In conclusion, despite its massive growth in economics, politics and popularity, it is
apparent that China is still viewed with fear and trepidation. The simplicity of rhetoric
and semantics does not necessarily mean that all projected images are truthful or
real. China is not denying the fact that it has a heightened interest in natural
resources, by default presenting itself as another powerful state with resource ‘thirst’.
It is also not concealing its continual pursuit of a ‘one China’ policy and it is not
hiding its human rights record, which is appalling by international standards. As
mentioned, a country cannot project a certain image to a foreign audience when
corresponding actions point to the contrary. Simultaneously, one public diplomacy
component, for example cultural diplomacy, cannot present a different message than
that of economic diplomacy or nation branding. The truth is that China’s public
diplomacy emphasises the positive aspects of the country, although this sometimes
clashes with or contradicts reality. In this respect China is not unique, contestation
and differences between the ideal and the real being a truism applicable to most if
not all states and governments that practice public diplomacy. Based on this
exploration, description and explanation of the context, nature and scope of China’s
public diplomacy, it is possible to describe and analyse the use thereof in its
immediate and surrounding region and in the international arena at large.
Chapter 4
China’s rise within its region and the international arena is exceptional. Its rise and
economic growth are attributed, firstly to Deng Xiaoping’s acclaimed ‘opening-up’
policies, and secondly to its ‘survival’ of the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997. This
created a platform from which China could exert political and economic influence on
its regional and international counterparts. Inevitably, states that evolve into potential
great powers and in fact become major powers of the first order, wield more
influence than the majority of other international actors. In this respect China is no
exception. As a rising power, China’s ability to persuade rather than to coerce has
grown exponentially. China’s economic development and cultural legacy, in
particular, created a platform from which it could exert its soft power. In this study,
China’s use of soft power is analysed from a public diplomacy perspective and
based on the following principles: ‘good neighbourliness’; ‘win-win’ relations;
multilateralism; the expression of its culture and history through cultural diplomacy;
and ongoing economic development under the banner of ‘peaceful rise and peaceful
In this respect two contributing factors must be considered in analysing China’s
public diplomacy. Firstly, after Deng announced his ‘opening-up’ policies, China’s
immediate goal was to engage with its regional neighbours. As a result, China’s
diplomacy and economic initiatives were initially directed at its immediate regional
counterparts. The success China achieved at a regional level would determine how
fast it could ‘open-up’ to the rest of the world. Additionally, the fact that China
survived the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis relatively unscathed, created a favourable
environment for it to develop and gain a measure of regional economic superiority.
Based on this, China’s public diplomacy is considered from the perspective and
based on the argument that it is a regional leader and benign hegemon in East and
Southeast Asia. This hegemony, which is not similarly apparent at a global level,
implies that China’s public diplomacy towards its neighbours has a different context
and dimension to it than that which is directed at international counterparts.
Secondly, China’s ‘opening-up’ policy was pursued with one ultimate goal in mind.
Through the reinstatement of political and economic relations internationally, China
could tap into the resources it urgently needed – resources that it could no longer
provide to its growing nation. In a concerted effort, China not only reinstated its
relations with developed countries but also with developing countries, where it could
access vast natural resources. Based on the ‘win-win’ principle, China as a selfperceived, albeit major developing country, facilitated relations with other developing
countries, giving them much-needed economic support on the pretext of
developmental aid. In turn, China is receiving required natural resources. Hence the
argument, as the main focus of this chapter, that by assuming the role of a
developing rising power, China’s public diplomacy directed at its international
counterparts is different to that directed at its regional neighbours. Therefore, the aim
of this case study chapter is to describe and analyse China’s public diplomacy on a
regional and international level respectively, also considering possible discrepancies
and contradictions between its public diplomacy rhetoric and actions.
China’s regional public diplomacy
Until the mid-1990s, China exerted minimal soft power. It followed a defensive
foreign policy and the Chinese public indicated a lack of confidence that China could
project any power, economic or otherwise. However, 1997 marked the emergence of
China’s soft power. The Chinese government refused to devalue its currency, the
renminbi, during the Asian Financial Crisis, which could have caused further
devaluations for the currencies of other Asian countries. This decision, albeit taken
under pressure, contributed to and maintained stability and development in the
region. In addition, it was considered as China’s way of standing up for Asia
(FMPRC 2000c:pna; Lees 1998:pna).
After the economic crisis – from which China, according to
ASEAN Secretary
General Rodolfo Severino emerged “smelling good” – the Chinese leadership
became more confident and reassessed their position within the region and the
international system. Supported by its public to engage more with China’s region, the
Chinese leadership, rather than merely reacting to regional and international affairs,
constructed a more offensive, and sophisticated foreign policy. Chinese leaders
started referring to the country as a daguo – a great power – and suggested that
China should adopt a daguo mentality (Medeiros 2009:11). At the same time, the
Chinese leadership had to make a decision on how to engage with the region as
China’s influence also had limitations. It could not compete with the military might of
the US, whilst Japan was still considered to be the regional economic hegemon by
international audiences. Therefore China had to create a ‘softer’ strategy to engage
with and change public perceptions of it in the region.
2.1 China’s regional public diplomacy strategy
Its softer strategy, manifested as public diplomacy, had a distinct regional focus in
that it was designed specifically to reinforce its commitment to a peaceful foreign
policy in Asia; for mutual economic benefit, but also to demonstrate China’s political
clout within the region. To counter any distrust or insecurities its neighbours may
have, Chinese leaders followed the principles of ‘do good to our neighbours, treat
our neighbours as partners’ (yulin weishan, yulin weiban) and ‘maintain friendly
relations with our neighbours, make them feel secure and help to make them rich’
(mulin, anlin, fulin) (Gill & Huang 2006:23). China also conveyed the principles of
‘good neighbourliness’ and ‘win-win’ relations. With these principles, and its political
commitment to the region, Chinese leaders emphasised their willingness to listen to
other countries and it has backed this by becoming actively involved in regional
organisations, such as becoming part of ASEAN+3 4 in 1997 and signing Southeast
Asia’s Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in 2003 (Embassy of the PRC in the
Republic of Indonesia 2003:pna; Peopledaily 2003:pna; ASEAN 1997:pna). Part of
its ‘good neighbourliness’ was the Chinese government’s determination to build a
harmonious society within the region. As such, China, as professed by it Foreign
Minister Li Zhaoxing, built relations with its neighbours on the basis of peaceful,
harmonious, scientific and sustainable development ( 2007:pna). China
ASEAN+3 is a joint cooperation agreement in various areas (economic, social, environmental and
politico-security) and comprises of the ASEAN member states and Japan, China and the Republic of
Korea (ROK).
also used other public diplomacy instruments to increase its soft power in Southeast
Asia, including regional aid, free trade, scholarship programmes and re-establishing
relations with ethnic Chinese (Diaspora) within the region.
(a) Regional aid: China is a developing country and over the years, whilst focusing
on its own development, has provided aid to other developing countries, fulfilling its
regional and international obligations. On the basis of sustained and rapid economic
growth, Chinese regional and foreign aid has increased, averaging 29.4% (China
daily 2011:pna; Chinese Government 2011:pna). Chinese aid has not only grown
exponentially but has also become more refined. In the past China’s aid was directed
to large ‘useless’ projects, such as the grotesque Vientiane, Laos’ friendship hall.
Since the late 1990s, aid projects were coordinated through traditional bilateral
channels and group consultations were held between China and the recipient
countries. This linked regional aid to distinct policy goals. China assisted recipient
countries to strengthen their self-development capacity, to enrich and improve their
people’s standard of living, and to promote their economic growth and social
progress. Through regional aid, China consolidated friendly relations and economic
trade and cooperation within the region and contributed to common development
(Chinese Government 2011:pna; Kurlantzick 2006:3). During the 2002-2007 period,
Chinese aid and related investment projects offered in Southeast Asia amounted to
US$14 billion. Of this, 43% was directed toward infrastructure and public works
projects; 32% to natural resource extraction and development; 3% to military,
humanitarian and technical assistance activities; and 22% to unspecified projects
(Lum et al. 2009:17).
Although China’s provision of aid is related, but not directly connected, to its public
diplomacy, aid strengthens its image within the region. Since its aid model promoted
China’s policy goals of friendly relations and cooperation within the region, it
manifested and can be seen as a concrete component of its public diplomacy.
(b) Free trade: China regards Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) as a further means to
open up to the outside world and as an important supplement to the multilateral trade
system. Furthermore, FTAs speed up domestic reforms; they are effective means to
integrate into the global economy; they strengthen means to integrate into the global
economy; and they enhance economic cooperation with other, especially developing
countries. Regional FTAs that China have signed include those with ASEAN (since
2005) and Pakistan (since 2007). China’s acceptance and implementation of free
trade also boost the idea that it will become a reliable source of FDI, an image
favourable to China. In addition to signing FTAs, China signed Closer Economic
Partnership Arrangements (CEPAs) with Hong Kong and Macau respectively, in
2003. A CEPA is a FTA signed by the Central government, with the separate
customs territories of Hong Kong and Macau and it is the first fully implemented FTA
in China. CEPAs apply the ‘one country, two systems’ principle and is regarded as a
“new pathway for institutional cooperation between mainland China, Hong Kong and
Macau and important milestone in trade exchange and cooperation between these
parties” (China FTA Network yna:pna). What a CEPA entails is a trade and
investment cooperation agreement, which aims to promote development; the
progressive reduction or elimination of all tariff and non-tariff barriers on substantially
all trade goods; the progressive liberalisation of trade in services; and the reduction
or elimination of all discriminatory measures linked to trade in services (China FTA
Network 2003:pna; China FTA Network 2006:pna).
China’s economic success and the promotion of that success regionally, make China
more attractive for FDI and FTAs. By signing CEPAs with Hong Kong and Macau,
China further boosts its image with the ‘one country, two systems’ principle,
establishing its fervour to ‘open-up’ for liberal trade markets.
(c) Scholarship programmes: Promoting the Chinese language and culture is a
major component of China’s soft power. According to Hou Youqing (cited in Xing
2006:pna), a deputy to the National People’s Congress, promoting the Chinese
language would not only create a better understanding of China and the Chinese
culture abroad, but would also build up China’s national strength and be a way to
develop the country’s soft power. Although China mostly promoted Chinese studies
through its Confucius Institutes, more than 2 500 universities and colleges in more
than 100 countries have Chinese language learning programmes. The Chinese
government is so determined in spreading the teaching of Chinese that it has called
upon its Ministry of Education to send Chinese-language teachers where they are
needed (Xing 2006:pna; 2005b:pna). In 2006, for example, the Thai
Ministry of Education signed an agreement with China to promote the study of the
Chinese language. Part of the agreement was a three month training course for
1 000 Thai teachers to learn Chinese. Participants would spend two months in China
and complete the remainder of the course in Thailand. Additional 100 scholarships
annually, provided by the Thai Ministry and the Hanban Institute, would further assist
teachers to complete their bachelor degrees in China ( 2006:pna).
While promoting Chinese studies in other nations, China also tried to lure students
from neighbouring countries to Chinese universities. To accomplish this goal, the
Ministry of Education advertised Chinese universities more extensively, created new
government-funded scholarship programmes, especially for students in developing
countries, eased visa policies for foreign students and lured elite foreign scholars
(through increased expenditure) to teach in China, thereby improving the Chinese
university system. Through the creation of scholarship programmes an increasing
number of students especially from neighbouring countries, enrolled in Chinese
universities. However, due to the increasing demand the Chinese government has
started to offer unilateral scholarships, which are usually awarded in accordance with
bilateral education and cultural exchange agreements. In 2004, seven students from
Bangladesh, India, Thailand, Pakistan and Japan were, for the first time, granted
unilateral Chinese government scholarships. In light of extensive advertisement and
the allocation of scholarships, a total of 106 840 Asian students were enrolled in
Chinese universities. Most of these students were from South Korea, Japan,
Vietnam and Indonesia ( 2006b:pna; Percival 2007:119).
Whilst enticing foreign students to study in China, the Chinese government and the
Ministry of Education also shifted their focus to making funds available to Chineseborn scholars, working abroad, to return to Chinese universities. Also, the
government created a feeder-system for students who attended Chinese-language
schools and who received assistance from mainland Chinese sources. Students who
excelled could obtain scholarships to continue their studies at Chinese universities.
In Cambodia, for example, the feeder system was very successful. Due to these
scholarships, the number of Cambodian students studying Chinese had by 2006
risen by 30% since 1998 and Phnom Penh, Cambodia boasts the biggest foreign
Chinese school in the world, comprising over 10 000 students (Marks 2000:97;
Kurlantzick 2006:3).
Despite the aforesaid commitment to Chinese studies, scholarship and language,
China remained committed to promote Chinese culture through its Confucius
Institutes. This public diplomacy initiative was based on the assumption, expressed
by Zhao Qizheng, vice-director of the Foreign Affairs of the CPPCC (cited in Brown
2007:179), that public diplomacy through cultural expansion means having contacts
beyond diplomatic channels. As soft power is a cohesive force and that promotes a
feeling of affinity that cannot be imposed onto others, cultural diplomacy obviously
had to play an important role in China’s public diplomacy (Brown 2007:180).
China established the Confucius Institutes specifically as an instrument to promote
the Chinese language, culture and other aspects such as art, music, theatre and
literature. Since the first Confucius Institute Programme was set up in 2004, a great
deal of financial resources has been invested, resulting in the rapid expansion of the
programme at foreign universities and offshoot Confucius Classrooms in overseas
schools (Liu yna:509). The first Confucius Institutes were established in Singapore
and Thailand in 2005, followed by the Philippines in 2006. Confucius Institutes are
incorporated into leading universities and colleges in the region, and they remain
connected to China. Should a university in the region that house a Confucius
Institute lack resources, such as the lack of Chinese-language instructors, it can call
upon the Chinese Ministry of Education to make up for any shortages that are
experienced (Hanban yna:pna). For example, in respect of Cambodia, Indonesia and
Thailand, from 2002-2006 the Chinese government sent hundreds of instructors to
Phnom Penh, Jakarta and Bangkok to teach Chinese and cultural studies (Percival
2007:120; Suryadinata 2012:3).
Admittedly, the impact of the Confucius Institutes are not of the same scale as that of
China’s economic allure, but it substantially integrates Chinese culture and the
Chinese language regionally. Furthermore, whilst China’s economic success attracts
people to do business in China, the Confucius Institutes assist those who want to
use their knowledge of Chinese culture and language as a ‘bargaining chip’. The
Confucius Institutes also heighten China’s presence in the region, which makes the
country increasingly difficult to ignore. Promoting the Chinese language and culture
is a major component of Chinese soft power and strategy of its public diplomacy. By
endorsing instruments such as foreign Chinese-schools and providing scholarships
to students that show an aptitude for the Chinese language, and an interest in
Chinese studies, China is creating a favourable image for itself.
(d) Re-establishing relations with the Chinese Diaspora: the Chinese Diaspora
communities are long established in many countries, dating back to as early as the
late-18th century. In its diversity, Chinese Diaspora include a combination of ‘severalgeneration’ settlers from Hong Kong and mostly Southern China, with a large
number of new migrants, many of whom are poor and illegal; Chinese students
studying abroad; and Chinese businessmen with growing economic interests, many
of whom are mainly based in neighbouring countries. For centuries, many countries
viewed Chinese Diaspora as outsiders, even if they had lived in those countries,
such as the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand, for centuries. After leaving
mainland China, the Imperial Chinese government similarly shunned them and even
labelled them as traitors. In response, Chinese Diaspora formed close-knit social and
business communities. It is estimated that there are at least (as of the end of 2007)
more than 7 million Chinese in each of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, and more
than 1 million in Burma; (Jacques 2008:pna).
Notwithstanding the diversity of Diaspora communities – in terms of origin and the
length of stay – the Chinese Diaspora have a strong sense of shared identity and a
powerful attachment to mainland China; sentiments that tend to supersede political
differences. The Chinese government nevertheless treated those who left the
mainland unfavourably. However, when Deng Xiaoping opened the Chinese
economy in the 1970s, he realised that China could call upon the Chinese Diaspora
for capital. As such, the Chinese Diaspora have played a crucial role in China’s
economic growth. Since the late 1970s, a large part of China’s inward investments
originated from its Diaspora and according to the World Bank (Ratha & Mohapatra
2007:pna), China received US$25.7 billion in remittances in 2007 (second to India,
which received US$27 billion). Also, the Chinese government passed a range of
laws giving its Diaspora preferential treatment over other foreign investors. For
example, in 1980 four Special Economic Zones (SEZs) were approved by Central
Government and established in locations specified by Deng Xiaoping. These
locations are: Shenzen close to Hong Kong; Zhuhai close to Macau; Shantou, home
to the Chaozhou, many of who live in Southeast Asia; and Xiamen, chosen because
of the large number of Fujianese merchants living and working in Southeast Asia
(Guotu 2013:38).
Since China’s status has risen to a position of regional and international prominence,
the Diaspora are becoming a powerful political and economic asset, both in their
adopted countries and for the Chinese government.
As a result, the Chinese
government began to view the Chinese Diaspora as more than sources of
investment, but as a vital element of its public diplomacy, as they can provide
leverage in the countries the reside (Li 2011:137). Four distinct characteristics can
be identified, which makes the Chinese Diaspora ideal for China’s public diplomacy
strategy. Firstly, it is numerically large and is spread across the region. Secondly,
due to its strong identification to the ‘Middle Kingdom’, the Chinese Diaspora share a
strong historical and cultural connection. Thirdly, as China’s rise continues, its
regional interests grow exponentially. Therefore, the Chinese Diaspora is likely to
expand significantly, becoming increasingly prosperous, supported by Chinese
continued success; enjoy greater prestige and respect as a result of China’s rising
status; and feel a greater affinity with China (Jacques 2008:pna).
Fourthly, as they comprise of older Chinese communities, business communities and
the more recent groups of overseas Chinese scholars, the Chinese Diaspora are a
target group, which China wants to keep on its side and stimulate to invest in China.
But they are also a tool, as they play a role in promoting Chinese culture and
lobbying for Chinese political and economic interests. China’s leaders regularly call
upon the overseas Chinese to promote specific issues, such as the peaceful
reunification with Taiwan, or China’s modernisation drive. Since 2004, China has set
up more than 80 pro-China associations among overseas communities across the
world and has supported the convening of regional conferences in a drive to form a
united global network of such organisations. Furthermore, China sponsors and
promotes a great number of economic, education and cultural activities through such
organisations (Katzenstein 2008:89).
To summarise, China’s regional public diplomacy relies mainly on presenting an
image of ‘good neighbourliness’. By joining regional organisations such as ASEAN;
promoting scholarship programmes for students to study in China; attracting its
Diaspora; and distributing large amounts of regional aid; China is proactively
presenting a positive image of itself. Although not all of these activities are
conventional instruments of public diplomacy, it greatly assists in its efforts to
changes regional publics’ perception of China.
2.2 China’s regional public diplomacy relations
As indicated China has committed itself to the region and has proactively sought
good relations with its neighbours to maintain peace and stability since the mid1990s. These relations are beneficial to China’s continued growth, refuting the
mistrust its regional counterparts may have. To further explore and illustrate China’s
regional relations, the following section focuses on selected regional actors China
targeted in its public diplomacy, namely ASEAN and Southeast Asia, Japan and
2.2.1 China’s public diplomacy relations with ASEAN and Southeast Asia
As part of its public diplomacy strategy, multilateralism is essential for China to
succeed in its peaceful development, for its image regionally and internationally, and
for gaining the trust of its neighbours. As such China has become actively involved
with ASEAN as a regional IGO, as well as bilaterally with ASEAN member states.
Hence the subsequent discussion of China’s public diplomacy towards the region
and how it impacts on and influences its regional image and status.
China’s multilateral partnership with ASEAN
China-ASEAN relations developed rapidly from non-existent diplomatic ties in the
immediate post-Cold War period to close interaction and cooperation during the mid1990s. ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations commenced at the 24th ASEAN Ministerial
Meeting (AMM) in July 1991 in Kuala Lumpur when the then Foreign Minister of
China, Qian Qichen, attended the meeting as a guest of the Malaysian government.
At this meeting he expressed China’s keen interest to cooperate with ASEAN for
mutual benefit. In April 1995, these two parties held the first ministerial level meeting,
known as China-ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting (China-ASEAN SOM). Its purpose
was to strengthen bilateral trust and understanding in both the political and security
spheres. China became a full dialogue of ASEAN in July 1996 at the 29th AMM in
Jakarta (ASEAN yna:pna). The Asian Financial Crisis in 1997/98 further stabilised
their relations, especially with regard to promoting East Asian cooperation and
integration. The stabilising role that China played during the crisis helped in gaining
the trust of and appreciation from ASEAN (De Santis 2005:23; Wong 2007:376-378)
Since the turn of the millennium the nature of China-ASEAN relations evolved from
predominantly bilateral relations to a multilateral relationship in eleven priority areas,
namely those of
agriculture, information and communication technology, human
resources development, the Mekong Basin Development, investment, energy,
transport, culture, public health, tourism and the environment.
Although China attended all the AMMs since 1996, the relations between ASEAN
and China were further strengthened and advanced with the signing of the Joint
Declaration of Heads of State/Government on Strategic Partnership for Peace and
Prosperity at the 7th ASEAN-China Summit in October 2003 in Bali, Indonesia
(ASEAN yna:pna). In this respect ‘strategic partnership’ does not refer to a military
pact or defence alliance, but is solely based on soft power. Both parties
characterised their relationship as exclusive and not aimed against any particular
country. It was based on trust, understanding, neighbourliness and a mutually
beneficial and comprehensive partnership premised on the Confucian philosophy of
‘prosper thy neighbour’ (Institute of Southeast Asian Studies [ISEAS] 2004:8).
In the spheres of security and the military, China similarly reaffirmed its
determination to consolidate and develop cooperation between it and ASEAN, by
signing the Declaration of Conduct of Parties (DOC) in the South China Sea in
November 2002 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. With the signing of the DOC, China
consented to promote a peaceful, friendly and harmonious environment in the South
China Sea and to enhance peace, stability, economic growth and prosperity in the
region – principles that China clearly advocated through and frequently reiterated in
its own policies (ASEAN 2002:pna). In 2003, China became the first dialogue
partner5 to sign the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) which, as a code of
conduct for inter-state relations within the region, contributed to the stature of the
TAC (ASEAN yna:pna; Wong 2007:373). By agreeing and signing these documents
China demonstrated it was prepared to cooperate with ASEAN while at the same
time quelling the fears of its neighbours. These positive developments in the security
sphere also provided China the opportunity to focus on regional economic
development and relations with its periphery and East Asia.
An equally dynamic agreement entered into by China and ASEAN was the signing in
2007 of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on establishing the ASEAN-China
Centre for Promoting Trade, Investment and Tourism in Makati City, Philippines. This
non-profit organisation is a ‘one-stop information and activities centre’ that promotes
ASEAN-China cooperation in trade, investment, tourism, education and culture. The
goal of this Centre was to support Comprehensive Economic Cooperation (CEC)
between ASEAN and China, based on a range of agreements relating to the trade in
goods, services, dispute settlement, investment and economic cooperation. This
Centre also aims at enhancing bilateral trade between ASEAN members and China,
further cultivating a trade partnership that mutually promotes exports to outside
markets and achieve market expansion. Other objectives included the promotion of
tourism between ASEAN and China; increasing people-to-people contacts, public
awareness and mutual understanding; and active participation among the ASEAN
and Chinese peoples through cultural and educational exchange programmes
(ASEAN-China Centre yna:pna; ASEAN-China Joint Press Statement 2007:pna).
This Centre is pivotal in justifying ASEAN-China relations to the peoples of these
countries, especially to allay suspicions of China’s (hegemonic) intentions in the
According to Wong (2007:374), the common ground between China and ASEAN
expanded by virtue of identical objectives – economic development and prosperity,
and foreign strategies – also evident in China’s promotion of a peaceful development
and in ASEAN’s strategy of balancing great powers. However, from the onset,
ASEAN dialogue partners include: Australia, Canada, China, the European Union, India, Japan, the
Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Russia and the United States.
China’s relations with ASEAN were not always trouble-free. During the mid-1990s in
particular, ASEAN member states were suspicious of China because of the
intensifying territorial disputes between China and ASEAN members, i.e. Vietnam
and the Philippines, over the Spratly and Paracel Islands in the South China Sea.
The fear also existed that China was becoming the new hegemon of Southeast Asia,
ultimately destabilising the region. Additionally, China’s recognition as a Most
Favoured Nation (MFN) by both the US (since 1997) and the EU (since 1985), even
after China became a dialogue partner in ASEAN, alarmed member states of the
regional organisation on account of the prospect of head-to-head competition for
regional trade and investment with China (Lim 2003:2; Europa 2007:pna). It was
because of this suspicion of China that ASEAN accepted China’s accession to the
ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF 6) in 1994 to regulate and monitor China’s regional
activities and behaviour (Wong 2007:378).
Following the crisis, China assisted ASEAN in strengthening East Asian regional
cooperation. These developments provided the basis for two important agreements:
ASEAN+3 (in addition to China also including Japan and South Korea), which
commenced in 1997 and was institutionalised in 1999 at the 3rd ASEAN+3 Summit in
Manila; and ASEAN+1 signed at the Fifth China-ASEAN Conference in November
2001 which is a free-trade agreement that include China and the 10 ASEAN member
states. These agreements furthered China’s integration into the region, and
strengthened bilateral trust between China and the member states (Wong 2007:377;
Nanto and Chanlett-Avery 2006:2; De Santis 2005:24).
Considering the above, it is evident that China-ASEAN relations is not only a focus
but also forms the basis of China’s regional public diplomacy strategy. Firstly, by
signing the various agreements, China aimed to reduce tensions and build mutual
The ARF was established at the 26 ASEAN Ministerial Meeting and Post Ministerial Conference,
which were held in Singapore on 23-25 July 1993, agreed to establish the ARF. The inaugural
meeting of the ARF was held in Bangkok on 25 July 1994. The objectives of the ARF include:
fostering constructive dialogue and consultation on political and security issues of common interest
and concern; and making significant contributions to efforts towards confidence-building and
preventive diplomacy in the Asia-Pacific region.
trust with its neighbours, upholding the values of peaceful negotiation, multilateralism
and mutual respect. Secondly, these relations are indicative of China’s ‘do good to
our neighbours, treat our neighbours as partners’ (yulin weishan, yulin weiban) and
‘maintain friendly relations with our neighbours, make them feel secure and help to
make them rich’ (mulin, anlin, fulin). By entering into these agreements with ASEAN,
China can openly pursue its national and regional interests, without threatening but
making allowance for the prosperity of its regional partners. Thus, mutual benefit is
as important as its own – if the region is economically and militarily unstable, China
will not prosper.
China’s bilateral relationship with Southeast Asian countries
In terms of its public diplomacy strategy in Southeast Asia, the Chinese government
declared that it is interested only in a ‘peaceful rise’, not in regional dominance.
Although the Chinese government is aware of the nervousness of its neighbours, it
repeats its peaceful intentions publicly as often as possible. However wellintentioned its agreements with ASEAN may be, its rise still provokes suspicions of
its intentions and actions (ISEAS 2007:4). China has to prove through actions and
not just through (public diplomacy) rhetoric that its intentions are peaceful and nonthreatening to the region.
Therefore bilateral agreements with ASEAN member
states help China strengthen its image status in the region. For this reason, China
has extended and renewed its relations with its neighbours on a continuous basis.
In this regard China has embarked on what Nanto and Chanlett-Avery (2006:2) calls
a ‘smile strategy’ through which it attempts to co-opt the interests of neighbouring
countries through mutually advantageous trade and investment while putting up a
less threatening face (to everyone except Taiwan). Simultaneously, China uses the
allure and example of its rapidly developing economy and trade relations to motivate
Southeast Asian countries to adopt similar development reforms (Fishman
2006:290). As mentioned, the turning point of China-Southeast Asian relations was
with the Asian Financial Crisis where China’s decisions and actions presented an
opportunity for it to diminish any previous mistrust directed towards the country. Due
to its decision not to devaluate its currency, China came out of the Crisis in an
advantageous position and its emergency financial assistance to states being the
hardest hit by the Crisis necessitated an immediate attraction toward China. This
also confirmed that China was willing to be actively involved as a partner within the
region. As a further response, China crafted a public diplomacy specifically directed
at its neighbours, which specifically emphasised and justified regional development
with the help of China. Its economic success and its promise of developmental aid
was so agreeable that many qualms of neighbours about its rise were mitigated so
that even those who expressed concerns or hostility against China, agreed to enter
into bilateral agreements (Biederman 2012:18). For example, in Indonesia, hostility
against China dates back to the 1960s when the Communist Chinese, over the last
three decades of the 20th century meddled in the domestic affairs of the largely
Muslim country. During the same period Indonesia also witnessed bouts of intense
anti-Chinese riots, specifically directed toward ethnic Chinese. However, with the
emergence of China as an economic power and as an example
of economic
development in Southeast Asia, Indonesia’s animosity against China and the attacks
against ethnic Chinese have dissipated (Fishman 2006:290).
Ultimately and as previously discussed, China wants to be seen as a stable, reliable
and responsible economic partner that does not have to be feared. This is the focus
of China’s policy of good neighbourliness and the ‘harmonious world’ and ‘peaceful
development’ strategies. These strategies demonstrate the benefits of cooperation
with China as opposed to the negative results of opposition, contestation and even
conflict. In particular during the 2003 ASEAN Summit meeting in Indonesia, China
made every effort to convince its neighbours that its growth is mutually beneficial;
that both sides will gain from an economically strong China; and that all will achieve
mutual economic success. At the same time China continually dispelled the fears of
a ‘China threat’ by assuring its neighbours of its desire to be a benign and
responsible regional power (Goh 2003:pna).
Apart from the regional associations that developed from ASEAN, namely ASEAN +1
and ASEAN +3, China shares several core values and settled norms with its regional
counterparts. These include, in principle, a Westphalian view of sovereignty and
non-intervention, a preference for regime security, a desire to conserve
distinguishing cultural values and a commitment to joint development through trade
and investment. These values and norms, also to the extent that they are not conflict
generating as such, are supported by a shared Confucian culture amongst many
Southeast Asian countries. Also, it is contended that Southeast Asia is more likely to
support China as a regional hegemon and would agree to oust the US, if US
presence creates instability in the region (Buzan 2010:14).
China’s bilateral relations with ASEAN member states indicate that China is a
cooperative partner. By signing various agreements, China is continually allaying the
fears of its neighbours that it is not a threat to the stability of the region, but a ‘good
neighbour’. In this case, China’s public diplomacy towards the region is clear –
economic prosperity through peaceful cooperation and partnership. Whilst China’s
relations with Southeast Asian nations are relatively stable, the same cannot be said
of China’s relations with Japan and Taiwan. The following section indicates a
disparity in China’s relations towards Japan and Taiwan, as compared to those of
Southeast Asia. Its conduct towards Japan and Taiwan conflicts with China’s
peaceful rise policy and there is also an indication that it will do anything in its power
to reinstate Taiwan with the mainland, even if it means that such actions would
tarnish China’s image regionally and internationally.
2.2.2 China’s public diplomacy relations with Japan
China’s longstanding history with Japan has been turbulent and relations between
these two countries are very fragile. The atrocities committed in China by Japan in
the past and China’s stubborn rhetoric of ‘not-forget-that-what-had-happened-in-thepast’, greatly influence China’s diplomatic relations with and public diplomacy toward
Japan. As such the success of China’s public diplomacy regionally, specifically its
‘good neighbourliness’ and ultimately its peaceful rise, hangs in the balance because
Japan’s past aggression and atrocities
still provoke and sustain strong feelings
against them, especially from the Chinese public. Therefore, it is necessary to
consider China’s relations with Japan and how these impact on the outcomes of
China’s regional and, ultimately, international public diplomacy.
The current issues between China and Japan date back to the 1894-95 SinoJapanese War, in which Japan overcame China and inflicted a humiliating defeat on
its neighbour, from which Japan emerged as a world power. The greatest bitterness
though, stems from the Japanese invasion of North-eastern China in 1931, setting
up the puppet Manchurian regime. China, as a member of the League of Nations
expected the organisation to defend it against the Japanese onslaught. However, the
League was unable to resolve the issue. Despite post-1945 Japanese leaders
conveying their remorse on numerous occasions, especially for the fact that they
tested biological and chemical weapons on prisoners-of-war and civilians, China
remains steadfast in its resolve to remember the past (Farndon 2007:140, Xuetong
2006:17). Arguably, China’s overuse of the ‘history card’ against Japan has become
excessive and therefore it makes reconciliation as humiliating and undignified as
possible for Japan (see Satoh 2006:2; Buzan 2010:26). China’s continued raising of
historical issues in its relations with Japan has in fact become part of China’s public
diplomacy, albeit that it is the Chinese public that is the source of and directs most of
the hostility. Because of the strong feelings that Japan’s past aggression elicit, the
Chinese government reflects these feelings by turning historical perceptions into a
diplomatic and political issue. By continually highlighting Japan’s invasion and
occupation of China, the Chinese government emphasises the narrative of how the
Communist Party overcame semi-colonial rule, resisted Western aggression and
built a new China. Also, by raising these past events, China secures an advantage in
bilateral negotiations by putting Japan on the defensive or ‘back foot’, also
considering that in its relations with other countries, especially those of the region
who may have suffered a similar fate, China frames Japan as an aggressor and itself
as a victim (Ogoura 2007:pna).
However, there are a number of factors that contradict this approach. Firstly, the
anti-Japanese rhetoric of the Chinese public contrasts the remedial official relations
between China and Japan of the last three decades. For example, in 2002, China
and Japan celebrated the 30th anniversary of the normalisation of China-Japan
diplomatic relations, i.e. Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka of Japan visited the PRC at
the invitation of Premier of the State Council Chou En-lai of the PRC from
September 25 to September 30, 1972, to discuss the question of the normalization of
relations between Japan and China (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan 172:pna);
and in 2003 the 25th anniversary of the 1978 Treaty of Peace and Friendship
between the two countries. Also, trade between China and Japan reached a record
high in 2004, reaching the US$167.8 billion mark, making China Japan’s largest
trading partner. With US$66.6 billion in equity, Japan after the US, also became
China’s second largest investor in 2004. The tourism industry has also been affected
in that the number of people travelling between the two countries has increased from
2 million in 2002 to 4.35 million in 2004. Also, since 2000 more than 250 Japanese
cities had established formal ties of friendship with Chinese counterparts. In 2002, 56
000 Chinese students studied in Japan and 13 000 Japanese completed their
studies in China (Qui 2006:26). Accordingly, there is evidence that China-Japan
relations have reached an acceptable level of stability.
There are nevertheless prevalent issues that jeopardise this relationship. One of
these is the popular discontent evident amongst the Chinese public toward their
Japanese counterparts. For example, a small, yet extreme case of malcontent was
noted in 2002 when an owner in Shenzhen, China, put a ‘No Japanese Allowed’ sign
outside his bar. This led to an internet survey conducted by
(cited in Qui 2006:27) which showed that 50% of the 5 971 Chinese respondents
thought it appropriate for the owner to put up such a sign, 45% of the respondents
felt it to be wrong, whereas 5% of the respondents remained indifferent. Accordingly,
Chinese-Japan relations are characterised by two contradictory constructs: firstly,
official economic and cultural relations between China and Japan that indicate a
heightened and continuous improvement in relations; and secondly, the agitating and
deteriorating public perceptions emerging from these two countries that are agitated
and deteriorating. The source(s) of this animosity has to be considered.
Firstly, as discussed above, the reason for the Chinese public’s discontent lies in the
historical events that occurred, especially those related to Japan’s occupation of
China. Secondly, the Chinese government manipulate these public sentiments for its
own diplomatic gains, especially when it plays the ‘history card’. As China’s history is
directly connected with its current politics, it fuels the public perceptions. In a survey
conducted 2002 by Asahi Shinbum and the Chinese Academy of Social Science
(cited in Qui 2006:28), showed a distinct difference in public opinion on Sino-Japan
relations. Of the respondents surveyed, 40% of the Japanese mentioned a ‘lack of
mutual understanding’ and ‘differences in political systems’ as the two most
problematic areas in Sino-Japan relations. Conversely, 80% of the Chinese
respondents cited ‘historical awareness’ as the main catalyst of China and Japan’s
troubled relationship. In terms of war compensation, 42% Japanese stated that
Japan had sufficiently compensated its past atrocities, whereas 86% of Chinese
respondents believed that ‘Japan has not provided enough compensation’. There is
consensus, therefore, that the Japanese government has failed to resolve historical
issues and this has become the main reason why Chinese are openly antagonistic
toward their Japanese counterparts.
To summarise, China’s continued raising of historical issues in its relations with
Japan have become part of its public diplomacy towards that country. Because of the
strong public feelings against Japan, the Chinese government reflects these feelings
in diplomatic and political terms. Also, by raising these past events and in terms of a
moral high ground, China
secures a measure of advantage in negotiations by
presenting Japan as an aggressor and itself as a victim (Ogoura 2007:pna).
A more recent aspect that contributes to the problematic relations between China
and Japan, which is also a factor that has historical origins, is the ‘mutual threat/fear’
problem. Both China and Japan are competing for a position of power in the region
and their populations are very much aware of their respective governments’ policies
concerning the question of regional hegemony. By 1990, Japan was the world’s
second most important economic power after the US, and the dominant economic
power in East Asia. Therefore, Japan will obviously consider various alternatives to
protect its regional and international status by also strengthening its political and
military power, if its economic position and status decrease due to an increase in
power status of another state. Similarly, if China’s economic position overturns that
of Japan, the latter obviously has to respond, also in political-diplomatic terms
Therefore, any increase in China’s power poses a potential and immediate challenge
to Japan’s regional position. Japan has responded to this development by adopting a
much ‘tougher’ foreign policy towards China, which resulted in a deterioration of
bilateral relations (Xuetong 2006:14-15).
These worsening relations compromise
both China’s peaceful rise and its endeavour to secure its place, position and role in
both the regional and international system. The China-Japan relationship also has
broader strategic consequences that play into and impact on the regional situation.
For example, poor or a deterioration of relations between China and Japan are
advantageous to the US, because it reifies the arguments of those who advocate a
‘China threat’ to and in the US. A perceived regional threat to Japan by China
strengthens US-Japan relations and legitimises the US military and political
presence and position in Northeast Asia (Buzan 2010:26). The continuation of poor
China-Japan relations undeniably has a negative effect on both countries.
Concerning regional public diplomacy, the China-Japan relationship poses a
particular problem and challenge to China. Not only does it restrain the successful
wielding of its public diplomacy as such, but it counters China’s peaceful rise in the
region and creates uncertainty by questioning the tenets of Chinese rhetoric on the
peaceful rise-development nexus. If China cannot rekindle amicable relations with its
neighbouring power in the region, this would also undermine its call for a harmonious
multipolar international system. If the rivalry between China and the US escalates,
China’s poor relationship with Japan can be disastrous for China’s regional public
diplomacy strategy and very beneficial to the US in both a regional and global
context. The possibility and reality of a regional opponent (i.e. Japan) in alliance with
the US not only compromises and contradicts the long-term objective of China to
reposition itself in more favourable terms relative to the US, but also extends US
influence in a sphere China considers to be its legitimate regional domain.
On the positive end of the spectrum, if China and Japan are able to set history aside
and resolve prevailing issues, they can build on the existing, extensive economic
links between them and collaborate in the common pursuit of a shared preference for
a stable regional order and regional economic development. Yet the apparent
disregard of their mutual relationship presents an obstacle to achieving this
objective. If China, also through its public diplomacy, takes the lead in improving
relations with Japan, this would weaken the US position in East Asia, which is
China’s ultimate longer term global goal. To the extent that China would have to
accomplish this goal mainly in the sphere of socio-political identity (and through
public diplomacy), would be difficult for the US to counter. As things stand, the US
can easily present and ‘sell’ the perception of a Chinese threat to Japan, which
would undermine the success of China’s public diplomacy in Japan (see Buzan
The critical aspect of the China-Japan relationship and discourse is the extent to
which China, based on a consensual relationship with Japan, would be able to
achieve its goal of becoming and being recognised and accepted as a legitimate
regional power. If this is accomplished in an amicable and negotiated manner, it
would increase the possibility of China achieving its international objective of
attaining superpower status. Therefore, the tenuous China-Japan relationship and
the extent to which China can ameliorate it through its public diplomacy, is one of the
defining problems in its peaceful rise and development. By allowing its relationship
with Japan to remain unresolved, China not only strengthens the US position in East
and Southeast Asia, but also lessens its peaceful rise in the region, compromises its
role in the international system and undermines its goal of achieving superpower
2.2.3 China’s public diplomacy relations with Taiwan
Since 1949, the ‘one-China’ policy of China (the People’s Republic of China) on
Taiwan (the Republic of China) has singularly dominated and been pivotal to its
foreign policy. Over decades, China has in a concerted and extensive way isolated
Taiwan from the international system and prevented it from normalising its
international relations and activities. The few countries (for example Venezuela and
Costa Rica) that previously maintained an alliance with Taiwan, have since shifted
their recognition and alliance to China, amongst others because of the projected
economic benefits of this ‘switch’ and also not wanting to offend China. It is
undeniably clear that China is committed to and vigorously pursuing its ‘One-China’
policy, a policy which categorically states that there is only ‘One-China’ in this world,
that Taiwan is part of China, and therefore that the PRC is the sole legitimate
government of China (Lijun 2002:11).
China’s relations with Taiwan have always been turbulent and China’s strategy has
been to maintain an aggressive position in opposing Taiwan’s much sought after
independence. Evidence points to the fact that China seems to have succeeded in
this respect, especially in terms of its alliance with ASEAN. The general stance of
ASEAN member states is support for China’s ‘One-China’ policy position. However,
at the core of their standpoint is understanding that Taiwan should work within the
‘One-China’ policy’ parameter and that neither Taiwan nor China should take actions
that would hinder the stability of the region or destabilise the cross-strait situation
(ISEAS 2004:5). However, China has made it quite clear that it would ease its
debasing of Taiwan and that the cross-strait relations would immediately improve
once the latter accepts the ‘One-China’ policy. China, nevertheless, has also
reiterated that it would obstruct and prevent, at all costs, any attempt by Taiwan to
gain independence (Beijing Review 2007:pna; ISEAS 2004:5).
On the one hand, China has made credible threats of military action should Taiwan
attempt to move forward in its quest for internationally recognised independence. On
the other hand, China has been ‘killing’ Taiwan with public diplomacy. By
encouraging Taiwanese businesses to invest in China, it is creating a platform from
which increasing economic and financial interdependence would discourage the
political call for Taiwanese independence. In China’s White Paper on the One-China
Principle and the Taiwan Issue (PRC White Paper, 2000) China indicated that its
doors were open to facilitate the flow of goods and people to Taiwan. Similarly,
businessmen from Taiwan were welcome to invest or trade on the mainland, where
they are given preferential treatment and legal safeguards (Nanto & Chanlett-Avery
2006:11). Through its businesses and economy, by creating a dependency on
Chinese workers, subsidiaries, sources of supply and markets, China has sought to
win the ‘hearts and minds’ of the Taiwanese. The extent of Taiwan’s increasing
integration with and dependency on the Chinese economy is obviously a cause of
great concern on the part of the Taiwanese government. Although, through a ‘gosouth’ policy (invest in and trade with Southeast Asia instead of China), it has tried to
diversify investments and channel them away from China. However China’s allure of
low-cost labour, common language and economic incentives continues to attract
Taiwanese businesses (Nanto & Chanlett-Avery 2006:15).
Increasingly since the 1980s, China has held the upper hand in excluding Taiwan
from membership of most major international organisations and from receiving
diplomatic recognition from major countries in the world. China has been particularly
aggressive and uncompromising, even going so far as barring Taiwan from receiving
unofficial observer status in the World Health Organisation (WHO) and preventing
the president of Taiwan from attending the annual meetings of the leaders of the 21
member states at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. China’s
economic clout is used to encourage and persuade countries that recognised Taiwan
to shift their diplomatic allegiance toward China. However, the deterrent effect of the
constant threat of military action by China or its coercive use of armed force and
other means to forcibly accomplish what peaceful methods may not achieve, cast a
shadow over diplomatic and political relations. In response to ‘Taiwan’s inching
toward independence’, China enacted an Anti-secession Law in 2005 codifying the
use of force against Taiwan should it move toward formal independence (Nanto &
Chanlett-Avery 2006:15). It is clear that China would resist and suppress Taiwan
regardless of the cost, even if this means that it may tarnish its image regionally and
China’s stance toward Taiwan is primarily based on reunification. From the above, it
is clear that China will adopt any means, including isolating Taiwan from its regional
and international counterparts to achieve its goal of reunification. Arguably, this could
severely damage China’s image to the extent that it be labelled the regional bully.
However, it is ‘how’ China approaches the ‘One-China’ principle that could sway
public opinion on the matter.
China’s international public diplomacy
On the basis of the success of its regional integration, China similarly reached out to
international counterparts through the means of public diplomacy. China’s
reinstatement in the international arena was two-tiered and respectively focused on
its relations with the West and on its relations with developing countries. In respect
of the former, China needed the recognition of and acceptance by the West as an
approval of its ‘peaceful rise’ and international stature. From the latter, especially
African and Latin American countries, China required access to their vast natural
resources, also considering that as reciprocation, these countries needed economic
assistance in the guise of Chinese developmental aid. In this respect, China was not
disinclined to woo countries (e.g. Sudan, Zimbabwe and Uzbekistan) that fell in
disfavour with and no longer received the attention the West (Onnis 2007:13).
In terms of the first tier of relations with the West, China maintains contradicting, yet
cooperative relations. At first, China embraced the Western system’s framework of
rules and institutions for defensive purposes: protecting its sovereignty and
economic interests, while attempting to reassure other states of its peaceful
intentions by becoming a member of various international organisations. As a basis
for contradiction, there is a difference in respect of ideology, of culture and of
geopolitical competition (especially with the US in South and Southeast Asia). The
cooperative relations are based on interdependence and interconnected interests
(economic, trade and security interests), modernisation (information technology and
negotiations) and mutual needs. By joining institutions, China can more effectively
promote itself, thereby working within rather than outside of the Western order.
Irrespective, China’s relations with the West is also characterised by mistrust, and
here the rhetoric of ‘keep your friends close, but your enemies closer’, is relevant
(Hunter 2009:31).
In terms of the second tier of relations and to strengthen them with developing
countries, China pursues a public diplomacy based on trust. This approach is aimed
at identifying similarities, be it based on history, economic development, geography
or political stance, between itself and developing countries. In terms of history, China
contends that Africa and Latin America share the ‘same’ historical background.
Although not being colonised in its entirety, although it suffered from various forms of
international interventions, China continually raises the point of how Imperial powers
have mistreated these continents (itself included) to appropriate local resources and
ultimately preventing development. This historical viewpoint ties in with notions on
similarities in respect of economic development and geography. Belabouring the
point, China often emphasises the fact that it is also a developing country and that
‘developing countries should stick together’ and assist one another’. China also
accentuates a ‘shared geography’– namely being a part of the ‘global South’. As for
political stance, China also focuses on countries that have had or still shares its
(socialist-Communist) political ideology, irrespective and arguably because of the
fact that they (e.g. North Korea and Iran) are seen internationally as ‘pariah or rogue
states’ who have fallen into disfavour with the West in particular (Hunter 2009:389).
Considering the core argument that China’s international public diplomacy differs
from its regional counterpart, and irrespective of the fact that China’s image is central
to its public diplomacy, it is contended in what follows that at an international level,
China focuses more on the appeal of economic success, cooperation and
development than its power status (although this could be the end goal). To illustrate
its international public diplomacy, the subsequent discussion focuses on China’s
peaceful rise in the international system, its public diplomacy toward Africa and Latin
America, as well as the implications of its public diplomacy towards the EU and US.
China’s peaceful rise in the international system
An exploration of China’s international public diplomacy necessitates a return to and
a clarification of its ‘peaceful rise’ in the international system ’. Peaceful rise means a
rising power is able to achieve absolute and relative gains in respect of both its
status and material position in the international system, without triggering major
hostilities between itself, its neighbours, its competitors or other major powers.
Peaceful rise also involves a reciprocal two-way process in which the rising power
accommodates itself to the rules and structures of the international system, while at
the same time other powers accommodate the rising power by way of adjusting to
the nature of the rising power’s status and power (Buzan 2010:5).
China’s peaceful rise is a contentious and contested issue. On the one hand, China’s
intention of prosperity and lifting its people out of poverty without disturbing regional
and international stability fits in with its international goal of a ‘peaceful rise’. China
has made major strides in accepting and adapting to the Western-led international
system. In light of this, Deng Xiaoping advised that China should observe
developments soberly, maintain its position in the international system, meet
challenges peacefully, hide its capacities and bide its time, remain free of ambition
and never claim (world) leadership. China mostly keeps to these objectives, by
refraining from political interference in the affairs of others and it expects other
countries to do likewise (Farndon 2007:103). This is based on the Confucian
philosophy of ‘treating others the way you would like to be treated’. This is why China
condemns interference in the issue of Tibet and Taiwan, which it regards as internal
On the other hand, although China’s actions are indicative of Deng’s prescription
regarding its ‘peaceful rise’, there are concerns that it will take more forceful action if
it suspects disloyalty from its regional or international partners. Also, arguably China
will only extend its support to other parties if it can gain ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ benefits from
those relations. The policy approach of ‘biding its time’ can also be questioned. As
China is entering into trade agreements and bilateral agreements at a rapid pace,
another concern is its non-interventionist policy. China often disregards human rights
abuses within partner countries (e.g. Angola, Zimbabwe and Sudan) and only acts if
pressurised (e.g. by other negotiating powers) or when its inactivity could tarnish its
image. The possibility that China may become a more forceful international power,
like many other rising powers before it, therefore cannot be excluded (Davis
2007:pna; Condon 2012: 8-9,13).
The term ‘friendship’ is included in China’s rhetoric on ‘peaceful rise’. By using this
term, China highlights that it means no harm and that its sole purpose is ‘friendly
relations’. However, ‘friendship’ means different things to different people. One
variation thereof describes the diplomatic relations between states, which is
structured and drafted to the smallest detail. Another variation deals with the feelings
between individuals, which are spontaneous and voluntary. To the Chinese,
however, these boundaries are blurred by its persistent drive to nurture the
‘friendship’ between China and foreign actors, as an important instrument of foreign
policy. The Chinese calls the latter ‘waishi’ or ‘foreign affairs’, the aim of which is to
manage the way China is seen by the outside world and not only by foreign
governments but also by the public (Kynge 2006:205). In other words, China’ most
important task, through its foreign affairs, is to make friends with foreigners, which is
the effective way to strive for international sympathy and support. One way to
cultivate ‘friendship’ is to create feelings. Using public diplomacy, this is done in a
number of ways, one of which is to find things in common. Whatever form it takes
eliciting a sense of commonality is essential in the creation of favourable feelings. In
China’s case, the commonalities between itself and its international ‘friends’ are
based on history, economy, geography and political ideology.
China’s public diplomacy towards Africa
China’s attraction to Africa has a clear aim. China needs access to natural resources
to sustain its economic growth and Africa has those resources, which makes the
continent a priority area in China’s public diplomacy. China also has massive foreign
currency reserves, which are used in FDI and the establishment of new markets in
and for African goods and service, but which is also used to finance the natural
resources China acquires. The main resource targets of China are oil (from the
Sudan, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Nigeria), platinum (from Zimbabwe),
timber (from Congo-Brazzaville) and iron ore (from South Africa) (Alden 2007:3;
Alves 2006:42; Farndon 2007:102). In the context of its international public
diplomacy, consideration is given to China’s attraction to and the impact of its
involvement and presence in Africa.
3.2.1 China’s courting of Africa
As previously mentioned, China’s public diplomacy strategy is aligned to be in
congruence with its target (and therefore receiving) audience. To be successful with
such a country-specific (and also continental-specific) public diplomacy, China has to
‘listen’ to the needs and grievances present in each country or continent. Also, to tap
into the African resource market, China has to adhere to certain strategies and not
deviate from them.
As its first strategy, China used its economic appeal to strengthen ties with the
African continent. For example, in November 2006 (and also in preparation of the
2008 Olympic Games), Beijing underwent an image transformation. Factories were
closed down to reduce air pollution; giant billboards were put up to hide the worst
eyesores and were painted with pictures of animals; flowers and trees were planted;
and huge slogans were painted expressing ‘Friendship, Peace, Co-operation and
Development’. Although these events elicited little interest from the Western media,
at the time they were important to China. The reason was that China was playing
host to 48 African heads of government as it hosted the 3rd Ministerial Conference of
the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in 2006 in Beijing (
2006c:pna). Africa’s leaders brought gifts with them, honouring their hosts with
precious stones and other artefacts representative of the continent – a tradition
similar to that followed in Imperial China. Although Western governments published
statements of China’s good intent to free Africa from poverty, none of them had ever
given African leaders this much attention. It is through these attentions that China
was winning the ‘hearts and minds’ of African states, their leaders and their publics.
At the Beijing summit, President Hu committed China to double aid to Africa by 2009
(between 2000 and 2007 China had already donated an estimate of US$5,4 billion in
foreign aid to various African countries and cancelled more than US$10 billion in
debts) and provide US$5 billion in loans and credits, to train 15 000 African
professionals and to set up a fund for building schools and hospitals. More
importantly, during the Beijing summit and to boost China-Africa relations, 2 000
trade deals were made with African countries and businesses. In 2006, with US$42
billion worth of trade, China replaced the US as Africa’s leading trade partner (Alden
2007:1; Farndon 2007:101; Rawnsely 2009:283). This provided both Chinese and
African leaders with a platform to communicate freely about future relations and how
to pursue mutually beneficial economic relations. Additionally, China provided an
opportunity to African states to achieve economic success by following China’s
economic development strategy (Zeleza 2007:172).
Secondly, China promoted its relations with Africa using a ‘no strings attached’
rhetoric, which when combined with China’s willingness to provide aid and
concessionary loans, has proven to be very appealing to African leaders. The basis
of this is China’s adherence to the Westphalian notion of sovereignty and nonintervention into domestic affairs. Since the opening-up of China’s economy,
scepticism of the rising power extended to Africa. Therefore, and contrary to the
past, it was important for President Jiang Zemin to form relations of a non-ideological
nature (Alden 2007:15, Zeleza 2007:171). As such, it does not interfere in the
internal affairs of African states, even if there is international outcry. Thirdly, China
follows, promotes and publically present a strategy of mutual benefit. Underlying this,
China provides African states with the resources it needs to develop. China has
already constructed numerous prestige projects such as parliament buildings,
presidential palaces and sport stadiums; built roads, highways, railways, schools and
hospitals; and erected telephone and communication networks to increase
connectivity throughout the continent (Alden 2007:4). Lastly, the abovementioned
strategies all tie in with and support China’s strategy of commonality, a strategy
which by itself forms a foundation of these public diplomacy strategies.
China’s courtship of Africa is marked by extravagant presidential visits and summits
(e.g. the Beijing FOCAC Summit in 2006); by declaring equal partnerships with the
African countries; by diplomatic comparisons of statehood through post-colonialism
and post-revolutionism; as well as the affirmation of the importance of sovereignty.
To further enhance China-African relations, the FOCAC was established in October
2000. It provides an important platform and an effective mechanism for collective
dialogue and enhancing cooperation between China and Africa (Embassy of the
PRC in the Republic of South Africa yna:pna). In 2002, the 1st FOCAC ministerial
conference was held in Beijing, where RMB 10.9 billion of debts were cancelled and
the African Human Resources Development Fund was established. The Fund
sponsors training courses in diplomacy, economic management, national defence,
agriculture, education, science and technology, culture and health. The 2nd
Ministerial Conference convened in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in December 2003. At the
Conference, 382 new agreements on financial assistance were signed between
China and Africa; and zero-tariff treatment to exports from 28 least developed
African countries was provided (Embassy of the PRC in the Republic of South Africa
The 3rd Ministerial Conference in Beijing in 2006 established a new type of strategic
partnership between China and Africa featuring "political equality and mutual trust,
economic win-win cooperation and cultural exchanges" (Embassy of the PRC in the
Republic of South Africa yna:pna). President Hu Jintao announced at the Opening
Ceremony of the Summit the creation of the China-Africa Development Fund to
further strengthen cooperation with Africa and support its development. Furthermore,
China opened 23 Confucius Institutes and Confucius Classrooms in cooperation with
16 countries (Embassy of the PRC in the Republic of South Africa yna:pna; Zeleza
Apart from multilateral summitry, bilateral visits between Chinese and African leaders
have become routine. For example, President Hu Jintao visited Africa several times
since taking office in 2003. In 2007, President Hu visited 17 African countries
(including Cameroon, Liberia and South Africa) over 10 months. The reason for
these visits was “to consolidate the traditional friendship between China and Africa;
to implement the results achieved at the 2006 Beijing FOCAC Summit; to expand
pragmatic cooperation and seek common development” (Edinger 2007:4).
In his visit to Cameroon, President Hu and President Paul Biya signed a series of
cooperation agreements in the areas of public health, education and cultural
exchanges. China has also shown a keen interest in Cameroons’ agricultural sector
and mineral resources and has granted Cameroon Approved Tourist Destination
(ATD) status. Bilateral trade also doubled between the two countries, from US$ 196
million in 2005 to US$ 390 million dollars in 2006. China furthermore promised to
strengthen Cameroon’s efforts to modernise its military and therefore signed a
material assistance agreement estimated at US$ 1.1 billion to boost Cameroons
military capabilities (Edinger 2007 4-5).
President Hu’s visit to Liberia resulted in seven agreements, which included
commitments made by China to waive 10% of Liberia’s US$ 50 million debt with
China, to increase exports of Liberian goods to China, and to provide technical and
economic assistance. Other commitments include: renovation of the University of
Liberia’s Monrovia and Fendell campuses; assistance to Liberia’s Broadcasting
system; the construction of three no-fee schools, general aid and paving Liberia’s
main transport roads (Edinger 2007:5).
The President’s visit to South Africa emphasised the importance of diplomatic ties,
which resulted in extending areas of cooperation. The discussion between President
Mbeki and President Hu dealt mainly with the broadening of political mutual trust and
strategic consultation, enhancing economic cooperation and trade, enhancing
coordination, cooperation and diplomatic consultations, as well as strengthening
cultural and personal interactions between South Africa and China (Edinger
Given the above cases, China-Africa relations are primarily founded on the notion of
‘mutual trust’. Premier Wen Jiabao, for example, remarked that China’s relationship
with Africa is driven by long-standing solidarity, and this has now evolved into South140
South solidarity cooperation (Edinger 2007:4). African countries have long been in
the shadow of their colonisers. Therefore, to attract its African counterparts and
contrary to the historical example of Western powers, China depicts itself as a
developing country with no history of external imperialism and incapable of being an
imperialistic power (Zeleza 2007:174). This image of solidarity and non-imperialism
has reduced the suspicions of African countries about China’s intentions, which
therefore provided further opportunity for expanding and deepening China-African
relations. It is also its non-interventionist stance, which China continues to promote,
that has allowed it to establish trade links with African countries without having to be
overly concerned about their domestic affairs and internal politics (e.g. The Sudan).
This public diplomacy courting of Africa, however, has implications that are forthwith
3.2.2 The implications of China’s presence in Africa
Considering that China’s relations with Africa reached new heights after 2006, based
on the strategies indicated, the sincerity, impact and implications of China’s relations
with Africa are nevertheless questioned.
Although many African countries have acquired new buildings, transport and
communication networks, and other infrastructure, these were built by Chinese
construction and telecommunication companies, using Chinese labour. African
companies and unemployed African labourers were, for the most, not utilised and
ignored. Also, Chinese companies brought with them questionable labour standards
and a disregard for the environment that conforms to the injuries and deaths,
intermittent strikes and ecological degradation, similar to that found in China.
Additionally, the dumping of cheaper Chinese-produced imports, especially textiles
and clothes, have seen many African factories that provide much needed
employment, close down because it could not compete with the price of Chinese
imports. Alternatively, although Chinese products are flooding the African market,
many Africans can now afford new clothes, shoes, radios and watches, which they
could never do before. Cameroonians, for example, welcome the influx of Chinese
products, such as televisions and DVD players, which even the poor can afford.
Although the goods are of low quality and lack durability, buyers do not have to
“amass a lot of wealth to buy a single item” (Ngome quoted in Spring & Jiao
2008:62). This creates a practical and moral dilemma. In turn, this can also be
regarded as a repeat of history, where African resources are taken by a foreign
power to benefit a few wealthy elite, while ordinary Africans are left with a future
without prospects (Alden 2007:4).
Another implication is that China offers financial and other incentives with no
questions asked and no strings attached. Although this appeals to many African
leaders, it causes anxiety in the West, especially among human rights organisations.
For the most, the West and international organisations link conditionalities to the
provision of loans or aid to Africa, hence only to acceptable regimes and/or when
certain conditions are met. China disregards these quid pro quos. In 2004, for
example when the International Monetary Fund (IMF) held back a loan to Angola
because of suspected corruption, the Chinese gave the country US$2 billion.
Similarly, in 2005, while the West has been trying to isolate Zimbabwean President
Robert Mugabe, China’s response was signing eight wide-ranging agreements on
irrigation, roads, power plants, telecommunications, and electrical power, estimated
to be worth $1.6 billion (Farndon 2007:104).
The Sudan raises the most concern, specifically due to the genocide in the Darfur
region where an estimated 200 000 people have died and 2.5 million have been
forced out of their homes. Yet, not taking the Darfur situation into account and the
moves by the rest of the world to impose sanctions, China helped erect a pipeline to
develop Sudan’s oil resources and now
imports two-thirds of the country’s oil
(Shichor 2007:5). Also, Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir’s palace was built
courtesy of an interest-free loan from China. However, the aspect that created the
most criticism was that China’s permanent seat on and veto power in the UNSC
tempered resolutions pressurising the Sudanese government to allow a UN force
into the country to protect the people of Darfur. In light of this, China has become a
subject of international criticism for not using its leverage to stop the violence and
human rights violations in the region (Shichor 2007:5). When questioned about
China’s actions in 2006, Foreign Minister Zhou Wenzhong said that business is
business and that China tries to separate politics from business. He also added that
the internal politics of Sudan is an internal matter, and that China is not in a position
to influence the outcomes. Given that it follows a non-interference policy with regard
to a country’s political environment, China would rather ‘sit by’ and ‘tolerate’ crimes
against humanity. However, as long as the business deal is finalised then all is as it
should be (Farndon 2007:104, Alden 2007:61; Condon 2012:9). This raises a lot of
concern about China’s disregard for human rights and this obviously taints China’s
image abroad.
China’s dealings with African have not contributed to greater transparency and better
resource management in Africa, which is especially the case in the Sudan (see
above) and Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe was isolated by the international community
because of President Robert Mugabe’s anti-West outspokenness, his government
and military’s human rights abuses, farm evictions and corrupt elections. China
provides a counter-balance to Western-hegemony and has disregarded international
pressure by giving Zimbabwe up to US$2 billion worth of loans and lucrative arms
deals. This again highlights China’s non-interference policy and disregard for the
international ethics of human rights violations (Alves 2006:42-43; Berkofsky 2007:43,
De Lorenzo 2007:2).
However, China eventually did respond to international pressure over its contentious
activities within the Sudan and Darfur specifically. In April 2007, China sent an envoy
to persuade Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to accept the UN peacekeeping
force, which he concurred to. Yet, many organisations and individuals are still
concerned, because Chinese weapons are used in Darfur. China responds to these
concerns by stating that its ‘softly-softly approach’ is working, and that it is more than
willing to cooperate with the international community. China is also beginning to
understand that it cannot engage economically with the rest of the world without
engaging politically; these two spheres can no longer be separated. In Africa,
specifically, China is coming up against criticism not just for the unsavoury regimes
they are willing to deal with, but also for their own behaviour (Shichor 2007:6;
Berkofsky 2007:43). On the one hand there is the trade pattern of China acquiring
African resources. It then floods Africa’s markets with cheap products and food that
make it impossible for Africans to compete. In 2006, South African President Thabo
Mbeki warned Africa that it must not allow China to become like one of the old
colonial powers (Farndon 2007:105; De Lorenzo 2007:2). On the other hand,
Chinese oil rigs and mining operations in Africa are acquiring a reputation for poor
safety, exploitive wages and job insecurity. Concurrently, Chinese workers are filling
the positions meant for African labourers and management, which means that many
are still unemployed. This raises the question, to paraphrase Berkofsky (2007:43), is
China an African player, or playing Africa to satisfy its own foreign policy and
economic goals?
It is not only in Africa that China has shown an interest. Its interests extend to and
include an engagement with Latin America, which is proverbially on the door-step of
its biggest international competitor and critic, the US.
China’s public diplomacy toward Latin America
Very similar to its African engagement, China uses its commonality-based public
diplomacy to attract Latin American countries. The US has long exercised a
significant influence in the region and up until the 2000s, China’s relations with Latin
America were extremely limited and the region was generally a low foreign policy
priority. However, since 2001, with President Jiang Zemin’s 13-day tour of Latin
America and subsequent visits of senior Chinese officials, China’s goals, strategies
and tools of influence in Latin America changed. These relations are mainly based
on six areas, highlighted by Ellis (2011:86): future access to Chinese markets;
Chinese foreign direct investment; influence of Chinese entities and infrastructure;
China serves as a counterweight to the US; China as a development model; affinity
for Chinese culture and language.
a) Future access to Chinese markets: In the commodities sector, Latin America’s
exports have expanded dramatically and include the exports of Chilean copper,
Brazilian iron and Venezuelan oil. From Argentina, China’s demand for soy gave rise
to an entirely new industry, were none existed previously. In 2005, Chilean President
Ricardo Lagos made Sino-Chilean trade relations the cornerstone of Chile’s
economic policy, signing the first-free trade pact between China and a Latin
American country. Also in 2005, President Chavez openly communicated his desire
to expand his exports to China (Smith 2005:pna; Ellis 2011:86; Cole 2006:7).
b) Chinese foreign direct investment: President Hu Jintao, in his visit to 5 Latin
American countries in 2004, attracted attention to China as a potential source of
funds, by mentioning billions of dollars in possible investment projects in the region.
In 2005, Vice-President Zheng’s visit to Venezuela concluded with the signing of
nineteen cooperation agreements, including a long-term agreement for Chinese
investment in Venezuelan oil and gas fields, where China now operates two fields.
All-in-all, the amount of Chinese investment channelled to Latin America in 2005 was
roughly US$77–80 million (Devlin yna:5; Machiel 2005:29).
c) Influence of Chinese entities and infrastructure: Chinese corporations and
workers have grown exponentially and have exerted increasing influence in a
number of Latin American countries. Among others, Chinese companies have
invested in Argentina, Panama, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela,
and Colombia. At the same time, Latin American companies have established joint
ventures in China in manufacturing sectors, biotech, agri-business, financial
services, consulting, and aerospace industries e.g. the Brazilian company Embraer.
In Venezuela and Ecuador, Chinese corporations are becoming critical for the
functioning, particularly, of extractive industries. In Ecuador, Chinese petroleum and
service companies directly operate seven oil blocks. In Venezuela, Chinese
investment, technology and manpower are vital for Venezuela’s oil production
(Cesarin 2005:21).
d) China serves as a counterweight to the US: China promotes itself as a benign,
cooperative presence, thus as a different, more accommodating external power than
the US. If China is perceived as a benign actor, as a country that does not threaten
the region economically or militarily or more specifically as a benefactor, it will be
easier for it to expand trade, boost its diplomatic charm and even broaden military
cooperation such as selling arms, securing strategic shipping lanes and developing
joint military training programmes with countries like Venezuela. President Chavez
openly communicated his desire to expand his exports beyond the US and
affectionately refers to the “great Chinese fatherland” (Rawnsley 2009:283). As
Venezuela is the US’s third largest supplier of oil, any change in relations with
Venezuela could have a significant impact on the US economy. Similarly, in Ecuador
and Bolivia, China signed agreements for military assistance and aid in exchange for
resources. In Ecuador, the US cut off military assistance when President Quito would
not agree to exempt US soldiers from prosecution at the International Criminal Court
(ICC), after which China offered military assistance (Cole 2006:7).
In Bolivia, after Evo Morales won the presidency, the US responded by threatening
to cut much needed aid. China invited Morales to Beijing, where Bolivia was
proclaimed as China’s ideological ally. China concluded an aid agreement with
Bolivia and assisted in the development of its natural gas reserves. China has also
sought an alliance with Brazil, especially due to President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s
unsupportive relationship with the US. Da Silva did not support the US’s influence in
the Western hemisphere and wanted greater recognition of Brazil as a regional
player. China provides Brazil with that recognition through economic agreements, as
well as through respect of Brazil’s sovereignty and relationship of mutual benefit and
peaceful coexistence (Cole 2006:6). Notwithstanding the above, however, China has
been careful not to associate itself directly, or ‘too loudly’, with the anti-US activities
or rhetoric of these regimes, so as not to damage its strategically important
relationship with the US and the West (Library of Congress: 2008:16; Cole 2006:45).
e) China as a development model: China’s economic growth has caused many
Latin American countries to look to China’s integration of capitalism and authoritarian
politics as a development model. The Chinese model is particularly attractive
because it suggests that it is possible to achieve economic growth and success
without relinquishing political power. The US model of liberal democracy, free market
and privatisation is seen as infective, especially in countries where corruption,
poverty and inequality are prevalent (Ellis 2011:88).
f) Affinity for Chinese culture and language: In Latin America, China’s culture is
the weak part of China’s public diplomacy, in comparison to the impact of US culture
on Latin America. Although some Chinese culture is reaching the Latin American
population, the attraction of it is generally limited and superficial. Despite this, at the
popular level, China’s rise has caused an increased interest in Mandarin. It is
arguably driven by popular belief that communicating in Chinese will be beneficial to
pursue business opportunities in China (Ellis 2011:89).
Part and parcel to the above, China wants to reduce Taiwan’s formal and informal
ties with Latin America. “Latin America remains one of China’s main instruments for
eroding Taiwan’s international status” (Cesarin 2005:19), and as of the end of 2007,
Taiwan has retained cooperative links with Panama, Paraguay and Guatemala,
amongst others. China wants countries that recognise it to adhere to the ‘One-China
policy’ and also to prevent Taiwanese officials to take part in inter-governmental
regional forums like the Organisation of American States (OAS) (Library of Congress
It is evident China has a clear strategy designed to increase its influence in Latin
America. China has succeeded in achieving its initial goals in Latin America, which
include improving its global image, isolating Taiwan (China’s activities in Latin
America are targeting countries with which Taiwan has had longstanding relations),
and securing access to commodities. It is clear that China is increasingly wielding its
‘charm’ throughout the developing world and this has ramifications for US and other
Western countries future relations with these developing countries.
China’s public diplomacy towards the European Union
As with most of its regional and international counterparts, China’s relations with the
EU and its various divisions had a tumultuous beginning. Diplomatic relations were
first established in 1975 between the European Community (EC) and China. In 1985,
these parties signed the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, but due to the
Tiananmen Square incident bilateral relations were interrupted and Europe reacted
with a range of sanctions. Since 1994, bilateral cooperation and a new range of
political dialogue were established between the two parties. In the document, A Long
Term Policy for China-Europe Relations (1995), the EC set out various aspects in
which it highlighted the ‘need for a new policy for China’. Much of what was stated in
the document and the strategy the EU wanted to follow was in cooperative
engagement with China, but on the basis of ‘Western values’, i.e. “to promote a
responsible and constructive Chinese role in the region” and elsewhere (European
Commission 1995:pna). It also pointed out that China’s rise in political and economic
importance was of great concern to China’s neighbours and the international
community, and that stability would only be maintained if China’s political, economic
and social reform was in line with international norms (European Commission
1995:pna). In light of this report, China and EU relations had been largely
unsuccessful. However, due to the changes that had taken place in the EU itself
(e.g. the EU membership increased) and due to China’s heightened political position
internationally and its economic development based on Chinese characteristics, the
EU re-examined its 1995 Communication.
The EU therefore released an improved strategy towards China in 2006, titled EUChina: Closer Partners, Growing Responsibilities. The main objectives of this
strategy were to extend dialogue with China and to cooperate on global issues such
as climate change; to encourage the integration of China into the world economy and
trade regime, and to support economic and social reforms in China; to aid mutual
understanding by raising the EU’s profile in China and vice versa; and to encourage
security and international cooperation, especially structured dialogue on peace and
security (European Commission 2006:pna; D’Hooghe 2010:7).
In its own foreign policy and public diplomacy China used this opportunity created by
the EU’s different approach towards it not only to strengthen EU-relations, but also to
improve its image in Europe. This was important, especially because the European
Commission’s 2006 Communication was released whilst heated debates on China’s
rise intensified in Europe, accompanied by less than favourable publicity for China
(Shambaugh et al 2007:305; D’Hooghe 2010:7). Due to this, and also because
China-EU relations are mainly economically and politically orientated, China had to
devise a public diplomatic strategy which would restore the trust of Europeans in the
First and foremost, China’s EU public diplomacy was based on gaining political trust
in Europe by improving the image of China’s political system, of its foreign policies
(on different issues and areas) and of its human rights situation. By cooperating with
the EU on issues like good governance and the rule of law, China indicated its
willingness to learn from the EU, but on the provisos that the EU would not interfere
with China’s domestic affairs and policies, and that EU member states recognise the
validity and acceptability of the Chinese political-economic model. Secondly, China’s
EU public diplomacy addressed the fears of its economic rise. China’s economic and
trade interests in Europe are considerable and by increasing and publically
propagating the EU-China trade deficit, China sought to convince its European
audience that its economic development offered opportunities for European business
interests (Shambaugh et al 2007:307).
China implemented its public diplomacy through its embassies in European capital
cities. Chinese diplomats increasingly used television and newspapers as media to
create a better understanding of Chinese culture and ideas, which is at the pinnacle
of China’s public diplomacy. The argument was that due to the lack of a European
understanding of Chinese values, negative views against China inevitably arise. A
greater and non-biased understanding of China would contribute to a more positive
approach to the country and its international endeavours. Conversely, China’s lack of
understanding of the importance that the EU places on democracy, human rights,
rule of law and the fundamental international principles, such as freedom of speech
and of demonstration, was an obstacle to the potential success of its public
diplomacy directed at European audiences.
China’s public diplomacy towards the United States
The US is the world’s only superpower and has not, until recently, had to deal with
an external political and economic competitor and potential world leader during the
past two decades. As such, it has become comfortable with its role as a world
leader, especially in the media and through its culture. Therefore, the question is
raised as to whether or not China should be seen as a revisionist power that could
threaten and even change the status quo created by the US and its allies.
As far as bilateral China-US relations are concerned, both Chinese and American
media have developed stereotypes of each other for strategic reasons. The US
media portrays China as a ‘human rights abuser’, as a ‘rogue state’, as an ‘unlawful
trade practitioner’, as an ‘unfriendly competitor’ and as a ‘threat to US global
supremacy. The US media have also accused China of distorting images of the US
to create an enemy for China to gain favour regionally and internationally. In China,
the US is perceived as an aggressive, unilateralist and harassing hegemon aiming to
contain China and prevent or delay the emergence of China as a great power. The
Chinese media have also accused the US government and media of ‘demonising’
China openly, turning a blind eye to China’s progress and only focusing on its
problems (Hao & Su 2005:27).
However, China has embarked on a number of strategies that does threaten the US
superiority globally. In line with this, the US-China ‘relationship’ operates at two
levels: the immediate region of China (namely South-East and East Asia), where the
United States is an intervening power; and also at a global level, where China (in
terms of its involvement in other regions) is threatening the hold of the US’s regional
alliances and relationships with African and Latin American countries. These two
levels are linked, and their linkage raises questions about the nature of China’s rise
and whether it poses a real threat to international stability (Buzan 2010:24).
Therefore, the impact of China’s public diplomacy impacts on the US on a regional
and international level.
Firstly and regarding Asia and its sub-regions (and very much similar to Africa) the
US’s standing is divided and compromised by China’s rise and entry. Given its
advantage in technological innovation, the US’s military and cultural domination
enabled it to pursue its relations in Asia relatively unchallenged. However, this has
changed, reinforced by a series of unilateral US actions threatening Chinese
interests, such as its closer relations with Taiwan since the 1995-1996 Taiwan Strait
crisis; the 1996-1997 strengthening of the US-Japanese defence guidelines; the
1999 US-led NATO intervention in Kosovo that resulted in the bombing of the
Chinese embassy in Belgrade; and the April 2001 EP-3 surveillance plane crashing
into a Chinese military aircraft (Deng & Moore 2004:118). These events have
strained Sino-US relations and consequently China’s relations with Taiwan and
Japan as well. In order to cope with US hegemony in the region and fulfil its goal of
becoming a regional Asian power, Chinese leaders have deepened and expanded
the country’s participation in the world economy as a means to achieve economic
modernisation. In terms of its regional cooperation strategies, China is making
inroads by expanding its economic appeal and cultural relations with its neighbours,
lessening the fears of a ‘China threat’. However, the US relations with Japan and
Taiwan make it difficult for China to fundamentally function as the primary regional
power. This entails China to reconsider its approach in courting Japan and Taiwan.
China’s role in the rest of South and Southeast Asia has also grown exponentially. A
range of factors contributed to this. China has benefitted from ‘missteps’ by the US,
including its slow reaction to the Asian financial crisis and its post-9/11
counterterrorism short-sightedness. Also, the US implemented more sanctions
against Southeast Asian countries than on those of any other region (e.g. Burma and
Cambodia) and its focus on counterterrorism included some Southeast Asian states
(e.g. Indonesia). This created distrust toward the US and therefore China is reaping
the benefits (Kurlantzick 2006:2).
Secondly and also based on China’s regional involvement in other areas of the
world, China is encroaching on the US’s global interests and status. On the one
hand, and in the US’s immediate and historical sphere of influence namely Latin
America, Hu’s visit in 2004 to the region surprised many US policy-makers and
opinion leaders, who have long considered Latin America as the US’s ‘natural’
sphere of influence. China’s specific goal within this region is to promote itself as a
benign and cooperative actor, an image that contrast with and is more
accommodating than that of the US. Through this strategy, China hopes that its
presence in the region will diminish US influence. Since 11 September 2001, the US
focus has predominantly been on the ‘Global War on Terror’, ‘Operation Iraqi
Freedom’, as well as other issues in the Middle East. The result is that countries in
Central and Latin America have been neglected, especially in terms of aid. This has
been exacerbated by already strained relationships with certain Latin American
countries, for example Brazil and Chile. As previously indicated, China seized the
opportunity and began courting these countries. Lack of attention coupled with a
stern foreign policy toward Latin America has made China’s economic propositions
very appealing. Hu Jintao’s promise of greater economic, financial, trade and
technology relations was the type of engagement that these countries have longed
for, but never (or seldom) received from the US (Cole 2006:5). These China-Latin
America relations are liberating them from their reliance on the US for support and
therefore the inroads and progress of China, amongst others and in the process
becoming Latin America’s second largest trading partner.
On the other hand, in Africa, China has become far more popular than the US,
despite its dealings with unsavoury regimes and its trading practices. Also, China
has also successfully kept a low profile and has generally done the ‘right thing’ when
it had to (Kynge 2006:205). This became apparent during the Beijing Summit in
2006. Although the US and other Western countries promised in statements of good
intent to free Africa from poverty, none of them have given Africa as much attention
as China has. Also, the US only extends loans or aid to selected African regimes or
when certain conditionalities are met. China’s non-interference policy disregard
these quid pro quos and therefore is deemed more favourable by African leaders,
including those that are internationally regarded as dictators, despots or authoritarian
The aim of this case study chapter was to describe and analyse China’s public
diplomacy on a regional and international level respectively, also considering
possible discrepancies and contradictions between its public diplomacy rhetoric and
actions. On the one hand, China’s regional public diplomacy (i.e. towards its
immediate region of Southeast Asia) is based on several factors. It employs a public
diplomacy strategy where its image projection is most important, especially in terms
of ‘good neighbourliness’ and ‘peaceful rise’. Through the use of these terms, China
has contradicted and eroded the suspicions that its neighbours had toward it, mainly
through its non-interventionist stance in the region. ASEAN specifically had China
join the ARF based on those suspicions, yet through its economic cooperation after
the Asian Financial Crisis, those suspicions mostly subsided. Controversially,
China’s ‘good neighbourliness’ and non-interventionist policies do not extend to
Japan and Taiwan. Japan is seen China’s biggest competitor for regional leadership
and hegemony and its alliance with the US makes it difficult for China to reduce the
US’s influence in the region. Taiwan is seen by China as a part of the mainland and
it is agitated by Taiwan’s pursuit of internationally recognised independence. Also,
Taiwan’s defiance causes China’s image to flounder internationally, specifically
because of the (non-peaceful) lengths it is prepared to go to curb Taiwan’s goals and
On the other hand, China’s international public diplomacy forced the US and China
into a cross-road as far as their respective international positions is concerned. US
soft power is currently mainly focused on and occupied by the Middle East and
Southwest-Asia. In contrast, China’s open-door policy and re-introduction into the
international system has made its public diplomacy, although aimed at various
regions, globally attractive to its international counterparts. Despite fears of its rising
power, China’s economic allure, its win-win, mutually beneficial and non-intervention
policies have heightened interests in and created more positive attitudes toward the
country, especially in countries that are disfavoured by the US and its allies. China
also focuses on commonality, supported by economic and political considerations,
and by a common history and culture.
With regard to Africa and Latin America in particular, Chinese interests and public
diplomacy have overshadowed that of the US and therefore China is becoming a
threat to the ‘stability’ produced by US global leadership, dominance and hegemony.
Although China promotes peaceful relations and development, it is stepping on the
proverbial toes of the US. By granting loans and development aid to countries
classified as rogue regimes, China is going against the normative structures and
imperatives of the international system. As a result the US and its allies regard China
as a potential threat to the international system, thereby disrupting the prevailing
balance of power and US unilateralism. Peaceful rise is at the forefront of China’s
foreign policy activities. However, the international community is weary of China’s
intentions behind its international engagement.
As the main focus of this chapter, it was also contended that by assuming the role of
a developing rising power, China’s public diplomacy directed at its international
counterparts is different to that directed at its regional neighbours. Admittedly, the
longer term goals and even more immediate aims of China’s public diplomacy at the
two levels – reflected in the underlying values, principles and strategies thereof –
overlap and reinforce each other to a significant extent. Nonetheless, there are
differences. Firstly, the obvious difference in the nature and scope of the regionalinternational levels and units represent a contextual difference to China’s public
diplomacy as such, in itself also generating further differences. At an international
level, the challenge that the rise and potential threat of China pose to not only US
world leadership and unilateralism, but also to the global balance of power and
established spheres of interest, is more prominent and pronounced than in the
Southeast Asian region. However, this challenge to the US is not absent from but
also evident in and an extension of China-Japan and China-Taiwan relations in the
region. Secondly, China openly professes its ‘developing-country’ status, more so
than it does regionally. In addition, China emphasises the fact that it was never a
colonialist, but was itself colonised. Therefore, it creates an image of noninterventionism by highlighting that ‘business-is-business’ and that politics and
business do not mix.
It was also contended that there are discrepancies and contradictions between
China’s public diplomacy rhetoric and actions. Obviously this is a contested matter,
rejected by China itself. However, as pointed out in some aspects of the case study,
the core principles (e.g. good neighbourliness, peaceful rise, benign and cooperative
practices, etc) expressed in China’s public diplomacy rhetoric are challenged and
contradicted amongst others by China’s moral ambivalence when it comes to its own
alleged human rights violations or turning ‘a blind eye’ to those of its foreign partners;
by its territorial claims not only in the South China Sea but also in respect of Taiwan
and disputed island claims with Japan; by its questionable international trade
practices; and by its mercenary resource accessing practices and infrastructural
developments in Africa in particular, that undermine and erode environmental
sustainability, certain industries such as textiles and clothing, and local employment.
Taking the above into consideration and in summary, ultimately China’s public
diplomacy is based on self-interests, self-improvement, self-enrichment (sometimes
at the expense of other actors) and self-image. In this respect China is no exception;
the same can be said and illustrated in respect of the public diplomacy of most
international actors. With regard to self-interest, its extensive economic and mutual
development strategies have had adverse affects, swamping many regional markets
with cheaper Chinese goods that cannot be competed with. This shows that China’s
bilateral agreements are more forthcoming to China than to its bilateral partners. In
terms of self-improvement and self-enrichment, China co-defines the positions of
Japan and Taiwan within its immediate region. By casting the shadow of its influence
and suasion over these actors, China is experiencing a better import-export deficit
than Japan, and it prevents Taiwan to formalise its international recognition and
position as an independent state, also in IGOs, because of the successful promotion
of its ‘One-China policy’ through, amongst others, its public diplomacy. This erodes
Taiwan’s regional and international position, which means that regional and
international support for reinstating Taiwan with mainland China is increasing. This in
turn would give China another economic advantage, much like when Hong Kong and
Macao were returned to China. China’s self-image is vastly important in its public
diplomacy and therefore it go to great lengths to improve and maintain it, especially
by enacting its non-interference policy even at the expense of its own people. China
is unlikely to erode the measure of trust that it build up through its regional and
international public diplomacy over the past decades.
Chapter 5
Globalisation and the advancement of telecommunication technologies changed the
nature of contemporary international relations. The addition and formalisation of new
communication methods through which diplomacy could take place permits state
actors to directly interact with one another and allows non-state actors to act, react
and put pressure on governments on important issues. The opening-up of
communication channels also posed the challenge to foreign policy decision-makers
to be more progressive as far as structures and processes are concerned. Better
informed and participating non-state actors and the growth of an influential, informed
foreign public have to some extent tempered and changed traditional diplomacy. As
the main instrument of foreign policy, diplomacy evolved to the degree where related
instruments emerged from it. As such, alternative methods were introduced such as
public diplomacy, whereby informed foreign publics could be swayed to influence
foreign policy outcomes. By including soft power aspects such as national identity,
image, norms, values, culture and ideology in diplomatic relations, public diplomacy
creates scope for accessing a larger audience by specifically targeting and involving
foreign publics to influence the foreign policy decisions and actions of countries.
Accordingly, the main focus of this study is public diplomacy as a mode of
diplomacy, namely a government or a government appointed institution’s direct
communication with foreign publics, with the aim of affecting their thinking and,
ultimately the decisions and actions of their governments. Public diplomacy is
specifically directed at the fields of information, education and culture. It uses various
instruments and channels that, amongst others, include mass media and
international broadcasting; the cultural and scientific exchange of students, scholars,
intellectuals and artists; participation in festivals and exhibitions; the establishment
and maintenance of cultural centres abroad; the teaching of a foreign language; and
the establishment of local friendship leagues, trade associations and business
chambers. Taking this into consideration, public diplomacy is considered to be an
activity predominantly used by liberal-democratic states with open societies.
However, this study explores China’s public diplomacy on both a regional and
international level. China’s utilisation of public diplomacy is of interest since it is a
non-Western one-party state with a centralist authoritarian regime that pursues
liberal economic policies. In addition, China has a long history of Imperial and
Communist rule that left a lasting imprint on its world view, international affairs,
foreign policy and diplomacy.
As one of the oldest civilisations in the world, China’s history still influences its
present-day decision-making processes and economic policies. It is specifically the
‘Century of Humiliation’, the Communist rule of Mao Zedong and the recent reform
period that influences the Chinese government’s current foreign policy-making and
diplomatic strategies, as these periods are reminders of hardship and failure and
precursors of its recent economic development and growth. In particular, China’s
foreign policy has been modified from being radical and ideological to being
pragmatic, ‘open’ and sophisticated. These changes were brought about by China’s
‘opening-up’ policies and characterise its growing need to secure natural resources
to sustain its population, in the process accompanying the so-called ‘rise of China’.
Through these changes the Chinese government recognised the importance of not
only re-establishing and expanding relations with its regional and international
counterparts by means of traditional diplomacy, but also by using public diplomacy
as a means to project an image of China as a country that is trustworthy, cooperative
and non-threatening. China’s political, economic and cultural complexity, China’s
rise, its increased importance in world politics and therefore its utilisation of public
diplomacy are deemed to be of academic relevance, also considering that public
diplomacy has become a central feature of the diplomacy of the world’s most
influential states.
Against this background and as stated at the outset, the aim of this study was to
analyse the development, scope and utilisation of public diplomacy in the People’s
Republic of China, both at a regional and an international level, between 1997 and
2007. Since the definition of public diplomacy, the actors involved, its effectiveness
and its link to propaganda are all contested; and since public diplomacy is used by
China at both a regional and international level, a duality of meaning and utility arises
that generated two interrelated research questions: Firstly, in an exploratorydescriptive context, the question was what is the meaning, nature and scope of
public diplomacy and to what extent (or not) does China’s public diplomacy
correspond with this predominantly Western-centric construct? Secondly, in a
descriptive-analytical context, the question was whether (or not) China’s public
diplomacy in pursuit of its foreign policy goals, differ at regional and international
As an exploratory proposition, the assumption in response to the first question was
that public diplomacy has generic features, to a limited extent tempered by national
traits as in the case of China. As an explanatory proposition, the assumption in
response to the second question was that China’s use of public diplomacy in pursuit
of its foreign policy goals differs on the regional level and international levels, in part
being dependent on and evidenced by different power relations and its use of soft
power. Therefore, it was argued that China’s power status varied its use of soft
power, expressed in the form of public diplomacy, its respective audiences and its
needs. Related aspects that coincide with the above are whether (or not) China
differentiates between forms of soft power, i.e. public diplomacy and propaganda in
relation to its regional and international audiences, respectively. This country-tocountry and area-to-area difference in public diplomacy was firstly based on the
different perceptions of its power status on a regional and international level; and
secondly due to the difference in its regional and international foreign policy goals.
Regionally, China is seen as a hegemonic power that could compromise the stability
of the region and internationally it is seen as a rising power, actively pursuing a
heightened position in international affairs. The ‘opening-up’ policies of Deng
Xiaoping and the policy changes made by Jiang Zemin to establish international
trade relations to provide for China’s growing need for resources necessitated the
use of public diplomacy to achieve its foreign policy goals. On the basis of this, the
motivation of timeframe of this study, 1997-2007, was based on the premise that this
was the period when China’s economic development and growth were most
apparent and this period was considered as being representative of the formative
years of China’s public diplomacy strategy.
Analytical and theoretical framework of the study
This study addressed China’s use of public diplomacy on a regional and international
level, respectively. As such the response to the first research question was based on
several factors: a state activity, being public diplomacy as a mode of diplomacy;
inter-state relations, i.e. China’s relations with its regional and international
counterparts; and power, i.e. China as a rising power and its use of soft power
through public diplomacy. The study followed a theoretical approach of analytic
eclecticism, which merged the selective use of theoretical constructs embedded in
contending research traditions. Due to the interdependent factors involved in this
study, elements of the theories of neo-realism (e.g. power, interests and diplomacy),
neo-liberal institutionalism (e.g. interdependence, non-state actors, the public and
transnational channels of communication) and constructivism (e.g. non-material
structures including Oriental philosophy and culture constituting state identity and
interests)were used as the preferred theoretical constructs to frame and analyse
public diplomacy and its use by China. In addition, this conceptual framework
addressed the problem of China’s rise and its re-integration into the international
system since the emergence of its foreign policy drive of ‘opening up'.
In summary, utilising neo-realism as a theoretical approach underpins diplomacy
(and public diplomacy) as a state activity, inter-state relations, as well as the use of
power in pursuit of national interests. Neo-realism also accentuates the importance
of balance of power and the competition between states, either to gain power at the
expense of others or to ensure that the balance remains stable. China’s exceptional
economic growth has had its regional neighbours call into question its rhetoric of
‘peaceful rise’ (which it later changed to peaceful development). China’s survival of
the Asian Financial Crisis and the assistance it provided to the most affected
countries, elevated its status within the East and South Asian region. However, the
disputes it had (and still has) with, amongst others, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan
and Malaysia over the Spratly and the Parcel Islands are indicative of the underlying
mistrust these countries have of China’s actual or perceived intentions within the
region. The continual jousting between China and Japan is particular disconcerting,
as it could disrupt the balance of power within and negatively affect the stability of
the region. In addition, concerning Taiwan, China’s ‘one-China’ policy continues
unabated. This is characteristic of a hegemonic power in the sense that China has
influenced many of its regional counterparts to support its policy by successfully
uninviting and isolating Taiwan from various regional meetings of which it is a
In terms of diplomacy (and public diplomacy), neo-realism recognises diplomacy as
a state-centric method of facilitating foreign relations, and promoting and realising
state interests and goals, but acknowledges that non-state actors could further these
endeavours, especially in terms of public diplomacy activities. China’s public
diplomacy strategy is construed to achieve its national interests and foreign policy
goals, which are mostly directed towards economic growth. By reinstating economic
and political relations with its regional and international counterparts, China became
actively involved in regional organisations, such as ASEAN, and became a member
of various IGOs, such as the World Bank, IMF, the WTO and various organs of the
UN. It was in and through these organisations that China’s foreign policy and
economic goals were most voluble and by being a member of these organisations
that China heightened its regional and international appeal.
Whereas neo-realism is attuned to the ‘hard power’ aspects of this study, neo-liberal
institutionalism and constructivism justify the soft power aspects by focusing on
transnational interdependence, trans- and sub-national actors, and the construction
institutionalism emphasises the efficacy of reputation and image in international
relations and cooperation. A state’s reputation is based on the confidence the ‘other’
has so that the ‘self’ will keep to its commitments. This legitimises state interests of
the ‘self’ in the eyes of the ‘other’ and therefore the ‘self’ is expected to encounter
fewer challenges in achieving goals and maximising interests. Also, if a state’s
culture and ideology are attractive, others are more willing to align with it.
Constructivism complements neo-liberal institutionalism and neo-realism, as it
covers elements such as deliberation, norms, discourses, persuasion, identity,
socialisation and ideology. It emphasises the social element of behaviour,
irrespective of whether it is between persons or states; how normative factors shape
political action and advance the idea of self-presentation, especially where states
present their self-identity to indicate power and influence; and the projection of
image-formation to foreign audiences within a social milieu.
The Chinese government was very much involved in creating a favourable image of
China and this reflected in its public diplomacy. The fundamental function of its
public diplomacy was to assist China’s reform, development and stability and to
uphold and advance its national interests. The foundation of China’s public
diplomacy is embedded in socialism; Deng Xiaoping’s ‘opening-up’ policies; Jiang
Zemin’s ‘Three Represents’; the aim of putting people first and aspiring for
comprehensive, coordinated and sustainable development; and through joint efforts
to create a harmonious society. China’s public diplomacy drew heavily on its cultural
heritage. Its culture is people-orientated, values peace and promotes good relations
with its regional and international counterparts. Therefore, China’s public diplomacy
is multidimensional, where politics, economic development and culture merged and
are used in a supplementary manner to project China’s intentions openly to the rest
of the world.
Analytically, the study focused on the concept public diplomacy, as a mode but also
a method of diplomacy. As it stands, confusion exists as to what the differences
between diplomacy, public diplomacy and propaganda are, and therefore to clarify
the concept, a conceptual analysis of public diplomacy was conducted. Although
public diplomacy is not a new concept, the study benefitted from this analysis, due to
public diplomacy being a mode and a method of diplomacy, and it also being an
instrument of foreign policy. The different components of public diplomacy were
explored and it was argued that propaganda is related to public diplomacy, but an
activity that could be detached from public diplomacy altogether. Public diplomacy
was also found to be associated mostly with liberal-democracies.
However, the
appeal of using public diplomacy as a means to project a state’s image and the
exponential advance of telecommunications, has disavowed this premise. States
such as China, which has a centralist authoritarian regime, similarly utilises public
diplomacy with great success.
Overview of key findings on the nature of China’s public diplomacy
The study of China’s utilisation of public diplomacy included various components. At
the onset, public diplomacy was conceptualised as soft power and differentiated from
propaganda, since public diplomacy is considered to be ‘window dressing’ for
propaganda. To submit to one definition of public diplomacy is difficult as it is a
complex practice and therefore categories of public diplomacy definitions were
highlighted. The first category focused on the aims or objectives, in terms of which
public diplomacy was defined as direct communication with foreign publics with the
aim of affecting their thinking and ultimately that of their governments. The second
category focused on the actors who direct public diplomacy. Accordingly, public
diplomacy was defined as the relationship between diplomats or other government
appointed officials and the foreign publics with whom they interact to accomplish
government’s foreign policy goals. The last category was based on the content of
public diplomacy. Since public diplomacy includes foreign policy formulation,
influencing opinions, persuasion and image cultivation, and is also related to cultural
diplomacy and nation branding, it was defined as a process where a government
communicates with foreign publics in an attempt to convey an understanding of its
nation’s ideas and ideals, its institutions and culture, as well as its national policies
and goals.
The complexity of public diplomacy and it not being able to submit to one definition
was indicative of its long history and the amalgamation of different elements that are
currently part of the public diplomacy process. Considering the historical
development of public diplomacy, four phases were identified (see Table 1).
Currently, public diplomacy increasingly involves related aspects such as nation
branding and cultural diplomacy, in the process ‘softening’ the way in which states
influence foreign public opinion.
It is therefore evident that public diplomacy has been utilised in varying degrees and
in different ways for many years. Yet it is only since the beginning of the 20th century
with the advancement of technology, and more particularly since the Cold War, that
public diplomacy became indispensible in the communication between governments
and the publics they serve and target. As such, public diplomacy has various
components that constitute an overall framework. Concerning the instruments of
public diplomacy, by using international broadcasting, mass media (including radio,
television, newspapers and the Internet) and technology, governments attempt to
influence and manage public opinion. In China’s case, the broadcasting media is
highly regulated to prevent negative images of China being freely projected to its
population and the international community. The regulation of media means that
most of the broadcasted content is ‘CCP approved’ and therefore media companies
and broadcasters such as CCTV, the Chinese newswire Xinhua (which is run by the
State Council) and the People’s Daily newspaper reflect mainly what is dictated by
official policy. Internet portals are mostly used to demonstrate China’s economic
growth, the influx of foreign business and the success of cultural exchange
programmes. The content of China’s ‘Google’ is very much tailored and regulated to
the demands of the government.
Until the late 1990s, China did not pay much attention to public diplomacy and when
it started to formalise public diplomacy, it turned out to be propaganda (China Radio
International programming entitled a repetition of statement made by Chinese
officials). Following the Asian Financial Crisis and becoming aware that ‘actions
speak louder than words’, China ‘reinvented’ its public diplomacy to generate
favourable public opinion in foreign countries. Also, China’s membership of various
regional and international organisations further enhanced the foreign public’s opinion
of it.
Since diplomatic strategy requires public diplomacy to be fully integrated with
diplomatic representation and communication, it is connected to the policy-making
environment. This accentuates its importance both as a mode of diplomacy and a
means to communicate with foreign publics. In the case of China, the Central
Committee Foreign Propaganda Office and the SCIO are directly linked to the CCP.
Senior Communist Party leaders oversee the coordination of public diplomacy
activities and could even be considered to be China’s primary ‘public diplomats’.
Therefore, the conclusion that China’s public diplomacy is highly regulated and
coordinated to align it with the country’s diplomacy strategy.
History is an important component of public diplomacy in that most countries’ political
traditions spring from their cultural heritage. History (including political and cultural
history) is either used as a background context of public diplomacy, or as a basis on
which countries and their actions are judged, negatively or positively, considering
their past activities which more often than not affect public diplomacy outcomes. This
study found that China’s historical, political and cultural background plays an
important role in all facets of the Chinese government’s policies and actions,
including public diplomacy. The Chinese government regards China to be the
longest surviving civilisation in the world and is, therefore, keenly aware of the
country’s historical heritage and achievements. The Imperial period is still evident in
its tradition of a bureaucratically controlled economy with little evidence of a
separation of powers and a differentiation between state and party, considering for
example the fact that all economic activities are approved by the CCP. As a historical
legacy, Confucianism is prevalent in China’s policies. Confucian organisational and
operational principles such as a bureaucratic system of multiple ministries operating
at central and provincial levels, and elements of discipline, stability, scholarly
achievement and prestige of officialdom have survived into the modern era.
Similarly, the legacy of the ‘Century of Humiliation’ prevails in China’s fear of
Western influence on its politics, economics and culture. To curb this, the Chinese
government combined Western technology and economics with Chinese values.
China’s reform period in response to its previous period of Communist rule turned
out to be the most influential to its current political and economic progress. After the
launching the ‘opening-up’ policies China was able to bridge the gap between the
need to maintain ideological legitimacy and its liberal economic policies. To the
extent that the prosperity of the regime was intricately linked to that of the nation, the
Chinese government could retain bureaucratic control, by relinquishing some of that
control with regard to economic activities.
Using many forms of citizen exchange as an instrument of its public diplomacy,
China used cultural diplomacy to influence foreign perceptions by making its cultural
resources and achievements known overseas and/or by facilitating cultural exchange
programmes. In this respect its Confucius institutes are pivotal as they represent and
export Chinese culture and language. Other culture-related instruments such as
student exchange programmes, culture weeks and festivals, and events hosted
jointly by China and overseas counterparts have deepened contact and
understanding, and offered new channels for equal dialogue, between China and
other nations.
In addition, advocacy was used to actively promote images of China and its policies
to foreign publics, using overseas missions in press relations and for the
dissemination of information.
The Chinese government also promoted its ideas,
policies and interests by way of the CCTV, the People’s Daily Newspaper and the
Xinhua newswire. China is more open, in most cases, about its intentions and uses
these modes of communication to make its goals known to foreign publics, albeit the
Central government regulates media content to its own advantage.
Nation branding is used by (Western) governments to promote democracy, human
rights and good governance values. For this purpose governments use embassies
and council offices, promotional literature, news services and mass advertising
techniques to shape foreign public perceptions. China’s nation brand is somewhat
different to this. Its nation brand is one of economic growth and cultural excellence,
and based on the ‘Asian values’ of harmony and prosperity. Its economic
development and growth is a brand that China to some extent unwittingly brandished
globally, especially to developing countries. ‘Wanting what China has’ is very much
part of its allure and developing countries, especially those with likeminded
ideologies, are looking to China for economic and trade relations.
Overview of key findings on the regional and international scope of
China’s public diplomacy
Although the public diplomacy of China between 1997 and 2007 was used as a case
study, the exploration and assessment of this mode of diplomacy involved various
sub-case studies indicative of China’s utilisation of public diplomacy at regional and
international levels. At the onset it is important to note that between 1997 and 2007,
China’s rise was most evident in its public diplomacy which was at a formative stage.
Therefore, in re-establishing relations with its regional and international counterparts,
and entering into regional and international organisations, China’s public diplomacy
strategy was not as specific and focused as that of most other countries. It manifests
in the immediate region of China, and also in terms of regional emphases, beyond
the immediate region at an international level.
With regard to the South and Southeast Asian region, as its immediate or contiguous
region, and specifically its relations with ASEAN, China’s public diplomacy was firstly
based on ‘good neighbourliness’ and mutual cooperation for mutual benefit. In this
respect it aligned its approach with the Confucian philosophy of ‘prosper thy
neighbour’. With regards to this, China’s involvement within the region was mostly
centred on economic prosperity and cultural visibility. By signing the various
agreements, China aimed to reduce tensions and build mutual trust with its
neighbours, upholding the values of peaceful negotiation, multilateralism and mutual
respect. Secondly, these relations are indicative of China’s ‘do good to our
neighbours, treat our neighbours as partners’ (yulin weishan, yulin weiban) and
‘maintain friendly relations with our neighbours, make them feel secure and help to
make them rich’ (mulin, anlin, fulin). By entering into agreements with ASEAN, China
created space to openly pursue its national and regional interests, in the process
making allowance for the prosperity of its regional partners. Thus, mutual benefit was
deemed to be as important as its own – if the region was economically and militarily
unstable, China would not prosper.
In its immediate region and at a cultural level, China relied heavily on its Diaspora
and Confucius institutes to further ‘market’ China. In this respect, scholarly
communities (students and academics) were specifically targeted and used.
Notwithstanding the diversity of Diaspora communities – in terms of origin and the
length of stay – the Chinese Diaspora has a strong sense of shared identity and a
powerful attachment to mainland China; sentiments that tend to supersede political
differences. They also became a target of China’s public diplomacy objective. China
aimed at keeping the Chinese Diaspora on its side and persuading them to invest in
China, in the process also serving as an example to others through its demonstration
effect. Thus, apart from constituting a target, the Diaspora is also a public diplomacy
tool, as it plays a role in promoting Chinese culture and lobbying for Chinese political
and economic interests. China’s leaders regularly called upon Chinese abroad to
promote specific issues, such as China’s peaceful reunification with Taiwan, or its
modernisation drive.
With regard to Taiwan and Japan, China’s public diplomacy (and diplomacy at large)
is different. In these cases China relies on history to drive its policies in general and
its public diplomacy specifically. Although China is Japan’s biggest trading partner in
the region, their relations are tumultuous. As was discussed, the Chinese public’s
feelings toward their Japanese counterparts are aggressive and the Chinese
government, to an extent, fuelled this aggression by continually playing the ‘history
card’ in its relations with Japan. China’s frank and categorical pursuit of its ‘One
China’ policy has made Sino-Taiwanese relations very turbulent and tenuous. With
on the one hand the threat of military action should Taiwan seek independence, on
the other hand the encouragement of Taiwanese investments in China, China’s
public diplomacy toward Taiwan is very clear and arguably the most voluble –
Taiwan will not succeed in its quest to achieve independence, but China will win over
Taiwanese ‘hearts and minds’ through its successful economy.
China’s public diplomacy towards international counterparts is similarly based on
history, economic development and cooperation, but with different policy objectives
and different outcomes and implications in mind. In terms of Africa and Latin
America, China upholds that they share a similar history of foreign involvement,
where Imperial and colonial powers have mistreated the peoples of these continents
and robbed them of their resources. China also presents the argument that it is a
developing country and that ‘developing countries should stick together’. Together
with these continental specific enticements, China counters any mistrust it might
receive with its ‘peaceful rise’ with the terms ‘friendship’, ‘friendly relations’, ‘mutual
benefit’ and ‘cooperation’. These terms are also used in China-EU relations and are
indicative of China’s public diplomacy strategy – economic prosperity through joint
agreements and cooperation.
US-China relations are somewhat anomalous. The US media portrays China as a
‘human rights abuser’, an ‘unlawful trade practitioner’ and as a ‘threat to US global
supremacy’, whereas China perceives the US as aggressive and harassing;
demonising China openly and turning a blind eye to its progress. As such, China’s
relations with the US operate on two levels. Regionally (i.e. East and Southeast
Asia), China is regarded as the regional power, although it is weary to candidly
declare itself as such. However, China has to contend with Japanese-US and
Taiwan-US relations, which have strengthened the US’s position in East and
Southeast Asia. Internationally, China has succeeded in attracting states within the
immediate and adjacent sphere of influence of the US as well as states that have
lost interest in the US. China’s primary public diplomacy goal in this case is not to
appear to be the aggressor, but a benign and cooperative actor, which will diminish
the mistrust and concerns of the US (as a superpower and world leader) and of the
international community at large, about China’s rise. There are however
contradictions between rhetoric and practice, considering the fact that China – also
in terms of its public diplomacy – aligned itself with, supported and refrained from
condemning rogue, dictatorial and authoritarian regimes that violated human rights
and disrespected settled international norms.
Taking the above into consideration, several aspects of China’s international public
diplomacy are evident. Firstly, prior to the given timeframe of this study (1997-2007)
China’s public diplomacy was either non-existent or accidental. Therefore, no formal
strategy for public diplomacy existed. In fact, based on the evolution of China’s
public diplomacy, propaganda was mostly the tool used to manipulate audiences.
China could be regarded as being openly propagandistic considering the centrality of
its candidly named ‘CCP Propaganda Department’. Secondly, 1997 to 2007 was the
decade in which China’s rise was most evident and in which it re-established
previously severed relations with other states, and can thus be regarded as the
formative years of China’s public diplomacy. Because of the novelty of public
diplomacy, neither country specific public diplomacy strategies nor a single but
coherent approach existed. The only formalised strategy was that with the EU by the
end of 2006. China’s public diplomacy is representative of a diffused discourse and
various practices that emerged in conjunction with its efforts to enhance its image
and influence regionally and internationally, and to increase access to foreign
markets and natural resources in order to sustain its economic growth and
5. Concluding findings
Based on the exploration, discussion and assessment of China’s public diplomacy
and the findings indicated in the preceding sections, the following concluding findings
are made in respect of the two research questions posed in this study. Firstly,
concerning the exploratory-descriptive question whether or not the meaning, nature
and scope of China’s public diplomacy correspond with its predominantly Westerncentric construct, it is concluded that, China’s public diplomacy deviates from
conventional ‘Western’ public diplomacy, as its main drive is based on its economic
success, which is normally a ‘hard’ power instrument. In conjunction with this,
China’s public diplomacy is underlined with its historic legacy, Chinese culture and
development, ‘good neighbourliness’ and ‘win-win’ relations. This finding validates
the initial assumption in response to this question that although public diplomacy has
generic features, these were tempered and modified, albeit to a degree and not in
essence, by the national traits, aims and objectives, context and public diplomacy
practices of China.
Secondly, concerning the descriptive-analytical question whether or not China’s
public diplomacy in pursuit of its foreign policy goals, differ at regional and
international levels (also considering discrepancies between rhetoric and practice), it
is concluded that China’s public diplomacy vis-à-vis its regional and international
counterparts does not differ. Regardless of its power status regionally (a hegemon)
and internationally (a ‘rising’ power) China’s public diplomacy is very generic in
achieving its foreign and economic policies. This finding contradicts the initial
assumption in response to the question that China’s use of public diplomacy in
pursuit of its foreign policy goals differs on the regional and international levels.
Recommendations for further study
Since this study was based on a historical case study, namely that of the public
diplomacy of China during the period from 1997 and 2007, also considering that time
has lapse since then and that the nature and scope and the meaning and utilisation
of China’s public diplomacy has developed beyond its foundational stage, no policy
recommendations are limited to the following future study and research:
Firstly, China’s hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, which was a
formidable task for any city to achieve. With successful mega-events, be they of
sport or not, comes great publicity and heightened regard. Therefore, using the
Beijing Olympic Games and China as a case study, the link and relationship between
mega-events, public diplomacy and nation branding provide scope for further
Secondly, whereas the time period under consideration was representative of the
formative years of a more diffuse Chinese public diplomacy that also exhibited an ad
hoc contextual response to its regional and global environment, further study on the
subsequent post-2007 era may shed light on the extent to which China’s public
diplomacy has become more formalised and structured, and departed from a broad
regional-based to a more country specific approach.
Thirdly, there is scope for
comparative analyses, not only in respect of an intra-China public diplomacy
comparison of targeted audiences, states and regions, but also a comparison of
China’s public diplomacy with that of its counterparts. In the fourth place, as related
or supplementary aspects, there is scope and a need for further exploring the
differentiation, links and relationships between China’s public diplomacy and its
nation branding and between China’s use of public diplomacy as a mode and
instrument of diplomacy and its use of propaganda as a psychological instrument of
foreign policy. Finally, and not addressed in this study, there is the matter of the
evaluation of public diplomacy in order to determine the success or failure of this
particular use of soft power.
China is one of the oldest civilisations in the world and for a country such as China to
break the mould of international norms, values and practices prescribed and
dominated by the West, is a feat not to be underestimated. By using an economic
and historically-based public diplomacy with Chinese characteristics, China invites
the world to understand it better, based on a self-projected public image. However,
irrespective of how China constructs, give meaning to and uses public diplomacy in
future, it has already succeeded in becoming a ‘power’-contender in the international
system that uses this soft power instrument to some effect.
Many developing
countries are looking East to China and in this respect, although no structured
enticement is required, China’s public diplomacy can be utilised to a greater extent to
enhance its international image and standing. What China has accomplished during
the period from 1997 to 2007 is nevertheless exemplary and the prospects of
improving it and enhancing its image at regional and international levels are
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Alexandra Claassen
Supervisor: Prof A du Plessis
Department: Political Sciences
Degree: Master of Arts in International Relations
The nature of contemporary international relations has changed significantly after the
end of the Cold War. The globalised political arena allowed the addition and
formalisation of new communication methods through which international interaction,
or more specifically diplomacy relations, could take place. As an instrument of
foreign policy, public diplomacy not only presents a new approach to and method of
communication in international relations, but also broadens the receiving audience in
that it involves the relations between foreign representatives and foreign publics. As
the central theme of this study, public diplomacy is utilised in a conceptualtheoretical context to analyse and understand how states forward information to a
broader public and how that information is received and used. The theoretical
relevance of this study stems from the fact that public diplomacy is a contemporary
instrument of foreign policy and mode of diplomacy. The process of public diplomacy
has become more formalised and institutionalised after the Cold War and in the past
two decades, public diplomacy has garnered more interest and gained international
importance. Furthermore, public diplomacy has evolved to allow inclusivity in
reaching the ‘hearts and minds’ of foreign publics.
The practical relevance of this study analyses the development, scope and utilisation
of public diplomacy in the People’s Republic of China, both at regional and
international level, between 1997 and 2007. In line with the theoretical and practical
relevance a duality of meaning and utility arises: Firstly, in an exploratory-descriptive
context, what is the meaning, nature, and scope of public diplomacy and to what
extent (or not) does China’s public diplomacy correspond with this predominantly
Western-centric construct? And secondly, does China’s public diplomacy in pursuit
of its foreign policy goals, differ at regional and international levels (or not)?
The exploratory-descriptive indicates that China’s public diplomacy deviates from
conventional ‘Western’ public diplomacy, as its main drive is based on its economic
success, which is normally a ‘hard’ power instrument. In conjunction with this,
China’s public diplomacy is underlined with its historic legacy, Chinese culture and
development, ‘good neighbourliness’ and ‘win-win’ relations. This finding validates
the initial assumption in response to this question that although public diplomacy has
generic features, these were tempered and modified, albeit to a degree and not in
essence, by the national traits, aims and objectives, context and public diplomacy
practices of China. The descriptive-analytical analysis indicates that China’s public
diplomacy vis-à-vis its regional and international counterparts does not differ. China’s
public diplomacy is very generic in achieving its foreign and economic policies. This
finding contradicts the initial assumption in response to the question that China’s use
of public diplomacy in pursuit of its foreign policy goals differs on the regional and
international levels.
By using an economic and historically-based public diplomacy with Chinese
characteristics, China invites the world to understand it better, based on a selfprojected public image. Irrespective of how China constructs, give meaning to and
uses public diplomacy in future, it has already succeeded projecting an image of
prosperity to the rest of the world. Many developing countries are looking East to
China and in this respect, although no structured enticement is required, China’s
public diplomacy can be utilised to a greater extent to enhance its international
image and standing. What China has accomplished during the period from 1997 to
2007 is exemplary and the prospects of improving it and enhancing its image at
regional and international levels are favourable.
Key terms: public diplomacy; for hard power; nation building; cultural diplomacy;
peaceful rise; rising power, ‘win-win’ relations; China model; good neighbourliness;
Confucius institutes.
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