The Global Times carried the following editorial today "Overseas Chinese: time to boost image" The edit piece said - "China’s sons and daughters living abroad can promote the country’s international image as a powerful, responsible and respected nation ... This group has a lot to offer in terms of boosting China’s economic growth and overall development; that contribution will be more sustainable if these overseas Chinese enjoy a good image." In keeping with its ambition to a larger role in the world, China has drawn up extensive plans to harness what the diaspora has to offer.
India & China are two most populous nations in the world. Both these countries are home to half of the world's population and a huge number of Indians & Chinese live overseas. The diaspora of these two countries can play a huge role in boosting respective country's images. Number of Indians living overseas are estimated anywhere between 26-30 million across all continents. It will be interesting to watch how these two nations, potential rivals, attempt to leverage this advantage. From lobbying to cultural influence, the diaspora is crucial.
Significantly, Indians have different images in different countries. While in North America they might be seen as a "model minority" but in countries such as Nepal in its neighborhood, Indians are not a very welcome lot... even though their numbers are substantial. These subtle differences need to be taken into account in seeking to engage the diaspora in different countries. The Chinese seem to be more aggressive when it comes to reaching out to diaspora for virtually every socio-political development, and, do not mind making demands such as asking the diaspora " ... to unite around the Communist Party on the basis of "blood lineage" and to spread the "truth" about separatism in Xinjiang " (The Sydney Morning Herald). In the recent racist violence against Indian students in Australia, the Indian government made little efforts to involve the diaspora but kept it at government to government level. In fact, few Indian-Australians I know, refused to be dragged into this controversy as they did not want to be seen as "Anti-Australian," being Australian citizens now. How about getting the Australian diaspora to help Indian students, immigrants, settle down better in an alien land? Another interesting fact about the Indian diaspora is that most of the remittances come from the Gulf countries where Indians primarily work as service personnel, menial labourers, construction workers etc. and not from prosperous Indians in Western Europe or North America. So, can the diaspora be a all weather friend?
I also feel the digital is a good medium to engage the diaspora. The diaspora is quite possibly very active in the social media sphere networking, getting back in touch or simply checking for news from India. The medium has potential to connect, discuss, engage and influence the "digital diaspora." This is one area where Public Diplomacy 2.0 can potentially play an important role.