|Photo by Robert Nyman on Unsplash|
|Photo by Vasily Koloda on Unsplash|
|Photo by Robert Nyman on Unsplash|
|Photo by Vasily Koloda on Unsplash|
"the Bo Xilai scandal, the diplomatic gymnastics over Chen Guangcheng, propaganda attacks on U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke, tossing out Al Jazeera’s lone Beijing correspondent and bullying the Philippines over a cluster of rocks in the ocean"
"In the eyes of the world, Israel has shed its image of a small state struggling against impossible odds. Israel now has "security needs" and "requirements" rather than existential fears; its power obligates it to be more magnanimous and forthcoming on peace issues; its strength should produce restraint, not excess"
"India and China are strengthening their position in the global internet ecosystem rapidly with growth rates of more than 20 per cent..."Talking about the growth of Internet, the report states,
"Since the 1990s, internet has grown leaps and bounds with about two billion users worldwide now. This number is growing by 200 million each year. This means, almost a third of the global population connects to the internet every day and almost $8 trillion a year is spent through e-commerce...
...India leads the growth component of the McKinsey Internet Supply Leadership Index. For example, Bangalore registered 50 patents to 200 in fours years, compared to Singapore which took six years to cross this threshold"
This is an interesting piece given its focus on 'words', 'expression' and 'conversations' as being crucial to any PD program. The same article quotes China's Vice Foreign Minister, Fu Ying as saying that,"Speaking at a meeting on Thursday, he (Zhao) said senior officials in China are now more aware of the need to communicate effectively with the rest of world. Stressing on the importance of enhancing "national rhetorical competence" - the ability Zhao said is highly important to express the country's unique features effectively, and it is the key to successful public diplomacy, he added."
the job of talking and expressing oneself through public diplomacy has an integral role in China's future development. "We have been doing well on the development front, and we are facing an even better new decade. Now we need to talk better, to make our messages clearer to the world. That can not only help form a better environment, but also boost the nation's confidence," she said.The Chinese apparently are working on the messaging - tone, semantics etc apart from just 'laundering information.' The focus it seems now is how does China express itself? How does it talk to the rest of the world that would enhance its influence in the global stage? In human history, this period will be seen as the 'age of conversations' and the Chinese are right in recognizing the need for 'national rhetorical competence'. As Zhao said,
"China cannot always be the gentleman who works more but talks less in the present world flooded with information."Suggestions/Critiques welcome.
The Thai ministry of foreign affairs describe that the main activities of the project include, “informal discussion on issues of international affairs affecting the life such as trading and consular service as well as roving passport services.” People from the selected provinces also have the opportunity to participate through local radio stations via live broadcasts. Issues discussed include trading along the border, labor issues, tourism etc.
Apart from top echelons of the ministry, participants include Members of Parliament, businessmen, member of the local Chambers of Commerce, local media, local government officials, non-profits and civil society etc. In Southeast Asia, Thailand remains a dynamic state when it comes to foreign policy. It was one of the first states to accept the reality of a rising China and engage the Chinese aggressively despite US being the preeminent power in East Asian affairs. Historically too, Thailand was the only country in the whole of Asia to have never been colonized despite never being a great power. The “Roving Buakew Project” along with other such projects like “Young Ambassador of Virtue,” are wonderful initiatives to give ‘common people’ a direct say in formulating foreign policy. See this link for a presentation by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand.
Kurlantzick’s “Charm Offensive” describes Chinese public diplomacy in various regions of the world, examines it as a strategic foreign policy tool and also goes into the values and theories driving China’s ‘charm’ campaign. It has detailed chapters on China’s engagement of Southeast Asia and Africa and also compares China’s public diplomacy with other ‘sophisticated players’ in the arena like United States. It’s an informative read and with great foot notes, ‘Notes to Pages’ and ‘Indexes’ is invaluable for a research scholar. While Kurlantzick does a good job of chronicling Chinese public diplomacy, he failed to examine Southeast Asia as a competitive space for ‘influence’ between India and China.
In international relations, 21st century is touted to be an Asian century. This combined with other recent developments like, economic growth of India and China, debates around Climate change, the Af-Pak War, maritime security of trade traffic in Indian Ocean region, non-proliferation, Myanmar, Kashmir etc., dominating public discourses in diplomacy, India remains, and, will be a critical player in the years to come. India and China share borders with Southeast Asia and the region is important for both, economically as well as from a security perspective. Both the countries have been active in this region.(Though I must admit, Chinese are more aggressive). A rising Asia includes both India and China, and, so I thought Kurlantzick’s book would have been complete if it had also examined India as an important player in Southeast Asian diplomacy. It is indeed curious that most writings tend to ignore India’s relevance to Southeast Asia and the transformative potential of this relationship for the world.
Indian scholars, traditionally, are more focused on security and trade issues in international relations. Books on public diplomacy are rare (almost non-existent). While Datta-Ray’s book is not explicitly on India’s public diplomacy efforts, it does provide a context to India’s ‘Look East’ policy and the need for greater engagement with Southeast Asia. Focusing on Indo-Singapore relations since 1947 the book calls for a restoration of civilizational ties between Singapore and India. The book provides important insights into India’s importance and relevance to Singapore and Southeast Asia over different periods in history (also vis-à-vis the ‘China factor.’) and how Singapore under Lee Kuan Yew had often looked to India for leadership of Asia.
The seventh India-ASEAN summit was held in October, 2009, at Hua Hin in Thailand. At the summit Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reiterated India’s commitment to engage ASEAN nations and also outlined India’s vision of an Asian economic community based on an “open and inclusive” architecture.
Keeping with India’s “Look East policy,” public diplomacy initiatives are high on the agenda to connect India with Southeast Asia; rather emphasize the fact that India had always been connected closely with Southeast Asia through its people, culture and also geography and shared history (See me previous post on Northeast India in this blog). Prime Minister Singh suggested something interesting at the summit along the lines of the theme of ASEAN summit this year – “Enhancing Connectivity, Empowering Peoples."
The year 2012 will see the commemoration the 10th anniversary of India's participation as a summit level partner of ASEAN, and 20 years as a sectoral dialogue partner. These are significant milestones that need to be feted and also publicized. Prime Minister Singh suggested that India and ASEAN could jointly consider organizing a commemorative ship expedition in 2011-12 on the sea routes developed during the 10th to 12th centuries linking India with Southeast Asia and East Asia. He said that the sea route could cover modern and ancient ports in ASEAN countries, and other East Asian countries as well. This proposal was one of the five initiatives (economic and political) that the Prime Minister suggested to further strengthen links between India and ASEAN.
China too, as part of its public diplomacy efforts, had done something similar. It organized exhibitions in museums of Malaysia and Singapore to celebrate the anniversary of the voyages of Zheng He, a Chinese admiral who took his fleet across Asia and Africa, exploring cultures, establishing linkages between Chinese and Southeast Asia cultures in the 14th or 15th centuries. Zheng He's expeditions, the Chinese claim, were peaceful exploratory voyages not aimed at conquest.
While these attempts to establish a cultural and historical connect is significant by the Asian giants, what can tilt the balance in India's favor is its impeccable democratic credentials, respect for diversity and resilient political framework in an otherwise unstable region and also vis-à-vis China.
Editorials in the Global Times make it very clear that the newspaper has an agenda. Two editorials caught my attention recently: 60 foreigners who helped shape China's 60 years (Sep. 18, 2009) and Editorial: What China can contribute to the world? (Aug. 24, 2009) Both the pieces convey the image of a China that is open, freely engaging with the rest of the world, borrowing ideas to build itself and also actively contributing towards other cultures. Through such writings the newspaper argues China is not a closed society but has always been open and globalised … its just that the political system is unique when compared to the West, of which, the Western world, obviously has no understanding of.
The “60 foreigners” editorial was widely reported in the Indian press because Nehru and Tagore were included in the list of foreigners who helped shape modern China. The list was prepared based on an internet poll by the newspaper. It states, “Looking back on the nation's 60 years of tremendous changes, it's evident that foreigners have been much more than witnesses in the development of the People's Republic of China. Whether intentionally or accidentally, directly or indirectly, positively or negatively, they have become important pieces of the China puzzle – helping shape and globalize the nation… Marx and Lenin enlightened China; Richard Nixon and former Singapore president Lee Kuan Yew promoted China; Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton have impressed generations of Chinese; and Michael Jordan and Bill Gates became idols of young Chinese, to name a few.”
In What China can contribute to the world, the edit clearly aims to reassure the world that a rising China stands for a harmonious world and Chinese culture can enrich other cultures. Unlike Western cultures, Chinese culture is best suited to create “a harmonious world” as unlike Western cultures it doesn’t operate within the binaries of “good” and “evil”. The edit concludes: “The fundamental reason is that Chinese culture is advancing with the times and willing to absorb ideas from other cultures to enrich itself. It is open rather than closed; inclusive rather than exclusive. Chinese culture is part of Asian culture. With the rise of the Asian region, maybe it is time for Chinese culture to make greater contributions to the world. In the 21st century, what China could contribute to the world is probably not made-in-China products, but Chinese culture.”
Recently, there have been a plethora of articles in the newspaper that attempts to portray a China that is open with free flow of ideas unlike Western media’s perceptions of it being a closed society. It’s just a unique culture with a own unique political system that seeks to participate in the new world order based on the 2000 year old Chinese principle of “Harmony in Diversity.” What’s worrisome is the tonality in such articles which tends to assert, very subtly, the superiority of the Chinese culture. In politics it can be dangerous.
China, just few days ago, objected to financial aid from Asian Development Bank to Arunachal Pradesh in India disputing Arunachal's status as an Indian state. This was disapponting considering the recent efforts to build trust between the countries. This will also definitely not go down well with the Indian people who remain wary of the Chinese threat. Besides, China's support of Pakistan is well known. Does the Chinese establishment care about a charm offensive targeted towards Indians? Positive perception of China in India is crucial to ensure that conflict (be it political or military) doesn't disrupt the growth momentum of these Asian giants.