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Globalisation and diplomacy


Diplomacy of sorts can be traced back to as far as the Ancient Greek era with interactions being conducted between groups largely as conflict resolution. However, the term Pubic diplomacy as we now understand it was first coined in 1965 by Edmund Gullion. This Modern Public Diplomacy is traditionally concerned with managing relations of states with one another and with other actors and with growing a state’s “soft power”. From a state-centric perspective the diplomacy is intended to help in shaping, advising and in the implementation of foreign policy. These forms of public diplomacy are largely associated with the relations between a state’s diplomatic personnel or foreign minister, however this paradigm is now largely considered outdated.

Some consider the twenty-first century to have brought with it changes to the way in which public diplomacy is conducted. Following developments due to globalisation and in terms of the media, public diplomacy has been subject to change, with the way in which states communicate in the international political landscape needing to reflect theses global developments. More traditional concept of public diplomacy has now evolved. In this globalised environment numerous western leaders now communicate directly through means such as SMS (text messaging) for example. In a regional summit meeting the head of government from one Southeast Asian state sent text messages to three other leaders in the same room regarding a new proposal he had just considered and before his own officials had any realisation of this proposal and without any kind of official recognition of exchanges between leaders a new initiative had been passed. This shows how more traditional public diplomacy has changed and the speed to which interactions between states in now able to happen.

Developments in information technology communications have changed the way state interaction have happened and to a great extent have narrowed the gap between states in their ability to communicate with many embassies and foreign ministries now using social networks for interstate communication. Canada has been amongst the leaders in technological public diplomacy. Embracing the technological advances globalisation has brought with it Canada uses technological means for domestic public outreach, net-based public diplomacy communications, export promotion and diplomatic training. These changes have not only changed the way in which diplomacy is carried out but also the speed to which it is now required. Foreign ministries for example are now expected to react to an event as soon as it occurs, as they largely have the means to. This has also led to interstate communication being far more frequent than it once was along with being far more diverse in nature.

More traditional diplomacy also was largely concerned with political interaction and negotiation however; globalisation has also brought a change to this. The changing content of public diplomacy is now not only encompassed by political negotiations but those concerning a states economy’s which has coined terms such as “oil diplomacy” and “resource diplomacy”. From the 1970, following greater economic dependency from states to one another economic diplomacy has emerged as a key part of external relations. The diplomatic system is now also concerned with the negotiations of issues such foreign direct investment and export promotion between states. This can be seen Prime Minister David Cameron’s three day trip to china in December 2013 which was the biggest business delegation the UK has had in China. Negotiations were had with the three most senior members of the Chinese government regarding investment in the forthcoming High Speed 2 rail line from the Chinese and future foreign direct investment. This highlights the development in motives behind state negotiations and diplomacy.
Globalisation has caused various changes to the way states communicate. States are now able to communicate far more frequently, far more quickly and by different means. Negotiation between foreign misters have in some, cases been by passed by text messages and web based communications. Furthermore, the content of diplomacy has also been subject to change. It seems politics led state negotiations have been joined by more economic led negotiations due to the more economic interdependency states have with one another. What largely remains the same however is aims. Modern diplomacy can still be seen to be concerned with conflict resolution and as a means of a state growing its “soft power”.


Barston, R (2006). Modern Diplomacy. 3rd ed. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited. 1-8.
Pamment, J (2013). New Public Diplomacy in the 21st Century . Abingdon : Routledge. 20-26.
Rana, Kishan S. (2011). 21st Century Diplomacy : A Practitioner’s Guide. London: Continuum International Publishing. 13-24.
Stacey, K. (2013). David Cameron calls for China investment in UK’s HS2. Available: Last accessed 30th April 2014.


Russia’s Olympic dream

Russia was the host of the recent Winter Olympics. Her dubious record regarding human rights and such like was a constant distraction from the events, and the disruption in Ukraine was detrimental to Western opinions of the state. With the success of the Summer Olympics in London, it would be easy to assume that putting on this international event would be an invaluable source of soft power for the state to take advantage of. However, controversy over human rights violations and the treatment of homosexuals, cast a shadow over the proceedings that would prove impossible to move away from. Incarcerated female punk band and political activists, Pussy Riot, were released before the event, as were Greenpeace activists who had been arrested for their involvement in a protest on a Russian oil rig. This, arguably, was an attempt to reduce the volume of ammunition available to dissident voices before the event. However with such small action to try to detract from what is a litany of controversial action taken by Russia, this merely papered over the cracks.

Protest against Russia’s anti-gay laws was allowed but only in designated areas. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) was forced to clarify the position that no demonstrations were permitted except in authorised zones, as was the case in Beijing. As with China, Putins Russia has a chequered history regarding human rights and freedom of speech. However, as the IOC were prepared to support these authoritarian regimes, are the values behind this international event based on humans being the best they can be or, is it a facade with ulterior motives? The 2012 Games in London saw controversial companies such as ATOS and DOW collecting vast amounts of money, whilst any local industries brazen enough to try and benefit from the event, which disrupted their lives for years, faced trademark enforcers and draconian retaliation.

The successes of the London Olympics are a testament to how the IOC and its band of corporate brothers can manipulate the public. Although some, very little opposition was heard in the UK regarding the Games. Issues with companies such as G4S failing to perform were dealt with quickly, and as the Paralympics came to a close public opinion was rightfully that of elation. This was not the case in Sochi. These games were the most expensive Winter Olympics ever and were marred with accusations of corruption. The problems discussed with anti-gay laws and human rights violations at the start of the Games, were complemented with the invasion of a sovereign state towards the end and condemnation from Western States. Ruthless political acts such as diversionary wars are no stranger to leaders like Putin, but with modern communication these tactics are harder to successfully carryout on the international scale, and his actions have attracted much criticism from the West. However, internally, issues in Ukraine and the Olympics have actually increased Putin’s popularity.

Although Russia has enjoyed some benefits from putting on the Winter Olympics they are not the same as those England achieved in 2012. The benefits it has enjoyed go against the values held by states in the West and Putins reactions have in-fact resulted in Russia’s ejection from the G8. But why would Russia care? The event’s iconic torch relay was the invention of  the Nazis in 1936 to enhance the international reputation of the Third Reich. If Britain is happy to overlook this and the morals of big business to prop up a weak economy and boost public moral. Why shouldn’t Russia utilise her vast wealth and military power, in conjunction with the overhyped games day to achieve land, internal popularity, financial gain for oligarchs: anything she wants.


In the last two or three decades, sports have played an important role restoring diplomatic relations worldwide. It has gradually drowned people’s attention and has become the power to inspire people’s relations and nations that are divided by political differences. By introducing sports as a mechanism to improve international relations, sports and public diplomacy have  been closely linked. For instance, western countries have introduced public relations through sports to approach nations that have different political views. China and western states have developed closer contemporary relations as the number of international competitions and participants have increased. In other words, by promoting sports internationally, Chinese diplomacy towards the west has reflected an important political development; progress of diplomatic relations, and innovation of diplomatic practices. The development of further public diplomacy through sport will perhaps help to reduce a negative understanding of China’s relations and promote international reputation.

China’s Siling Yi has claimed the first gold medal of London 2012


Diplomacy through sports has gained an important reputation as most nations participate unanimously. According to Nelson Mandela, “ Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. Sport can awaken hope where there was previously only despair. Sport speaks to people in a language they can understand.”

Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General, also states, “Sport is a language everyone of us can speak.” “Its as a tool in a country’s public diplomacy arsenal is being increasingly recognised. Mixing sport and diplomacy can help meet various foreign policy objectives: to bring about regime change, open the door for dialogue when it is closed to politics and to arouse a sense of national pride. This mixture however, is by no means “new.”
Competition events such as the Olympic games and the World Cup are some of the most-watched events across the world. One of the most recent events of this trend was the Sochi Winter Olympics Games, in which Georgia has taken an important step forward to join the Russian Olympic Games in an attempt to restore relations between both countries.
Although protesters tried to impede Georgian’s participation in Sochi, Prime minster Irakli Garibashvili announced that “Georgia made a decision in favour of national sport” and that “Participation in the Sochi Olympics evokes a special emotion for us, as the games are held at the Georgian-Russian border, near the occupied Abkhazia.” Prime minster Garibashvili added that the decision to take part in the Olympics was not easy, but it was taken in favour of Georgian’s sport, the athletes and the public interest.

Georgian’s decision to re-establish relations through participating in the games in Sochi was considered to be an important opportunity to restart diplomatic relations with Russia. NATO and the European Union welcomed Georgian’s initiative to give its first step to make its athletes the ambassadors to rebuild Georgian-Russia relations, considering sport an opportunity to go beyond politics. Gela Vasadze, a Georgian political scientist stated in an interview with AzerNews that prime minister Garbashvili is using sport as soft power to restore relation with Russia and that sport, culture and the economy should go beyond politics.

International competitions today have become a powerful tool to influence politicians to restore diplomatic relations between countries. Professional sports have turned into a global force, a common language that everyone understands, regardless of their nationality. In fact, spots and public diplomacy travels together through space and time, and have made relations more flexible and easier to handle.

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Public diplomacy and the new world order

It is often questioned whether public diplomacy is about the relationship between state and public or really just about the formation of a new world order. Many aspects hint towards a global power hierarchy that is divided between states and global corporations. Today, a number of companies boast bigger revenues than states and commercial brands have a higher recognition value than most nations. However, even though the global world order seems to change, one factor stays constant. The end of the power hierarchy is dominated by states and corporations from the West and it seems that public diplomacy is used as a tool to recreate the ideological world orders of the past.
According to Simon Anholt’s Nation Brand Index, the top ten most powerful nation brands of 2012 include the US, Germany, the UK, France, Canada, Italy, Switzerland, Australia, and Sweden. The Country Brand Index 2012/2013 by futurebrand lists Switzerland, Canada, Japan, Sweden, New Zealand, Australia, Germany, the US, Finland, and Norway as its top ten. Both lists vary in the exact ranking of the individual countries but have one thing in common. The top ten nation brands are dominated by Western liberal democracies. The most powerful brands according to Forbes are Apple, Microsoft, Coca Cola, IBM, Google, McDonalds, General Electric, Intel, Samsung, and Louis Vuitton. Core Brand lists Coca Cola, Hershey, Bayer, Johnson & Johnson, Harley-Davidson, Disney, PepsiCo, American Express, Kellogg, and Apple as most powerful brands. Again, nearly all of those are western brands.
If public diplomacy is an indicator for a new world order in which states have to share power with multinational corporations, these corporate brands pass low and middle-income countries when it comes to political power. When companies turn into political actors and use public diplomacy to coerce foreign citizens to support their agenda, politics will be even more skewed towards the rich north and the developing countries in the south have to struggle with the increased competition in the diplomatic game.
Further, as people become increasingly mobile and identities become more fluid, it is public diplomacy that is used to gather the support and identification of domestic and foreign populations. Because the richest countries and corporations are based in the global north, it is them that are using public diplomacy most aggressively. It might not be an exaggeration to state that as public diplomacy will be a tool to spread corporate and national identity and as the most powerful brands are from the West we will see a furthering of Western colonization of political, economic, and moral values.
Thus, we could argue that public diplomacy done by governments is a form of cultural imperialism. Traditionally American corporations did not just export goods, they exported a certain lifestyle and values with these goods. American politicians openly encourage corporations to export American values. European companies, however, did not do this in the same manner. This might be one of the reasons that it is seen more western to eat at McDonalds than to drive a Mercedes. Mercedes is associated with luxury rather than American imperialism.
Nation brands are important in public diplomacy. The more powerful the nation brand is, the more powerful is a country’s public diplomacy. An issue for developing countries is that you are not fully in control of your own brand and that you can be branded by others. When George Bush listed Cuba as one of the countries in the ‘axis of evil’ it was a strong tool of American public diplomacy that branded Cuba for a while. While, Cuba’s membership in the ‘axis of evil’ has sunk into oblivion, Iraq, Iran, and North Korea are still marked by the idiom. This shows that public diplomacy is not just about presenting your own country or company in the best possible light, but it can also truly damage the image of weaker political actors. This is a reason that public diplomacy can further imperialism and re-establish colonial hierarchies.
Anholt writes that “for developing countries that are dependent on foreign aid, being seen as worthy recipients of that aid is an essential precondition of their continuing to receive it.” He is basing this on the argument that taxpayers in developed nations will not allow countries that have negative brand images to receive aid. However, taxpayers often now very little about the politics in developing countries and they have even less knowledge of how their government spends aid. It seem that public diplomacy is used as an excuse to refuse a country aid when it is not adapting Western values. Since, Anholt writes that nation brands of developing countries can easily be influenced by governments in the West, this is an even dodgier argument. Adler and MacCannel argue branding is about feeding the demand of the consumer. The wealthiest consumers reside in Western countries and in view highly developed Asian countries. Thus branding and public diplomacy will focus on pleasing this consumer group.
Anholt argues, that governments need to abstain from creating a one dimensional nation brand, but need to promote a wholesome picture of their own nation to avoid negative implications of unfortunate events that damage a nation’s image. He writes: “If a brand image is the catchy reduction of something rich and complex into a simple, naive, one-dimensional formula, then many of the countries which already have one would probably do better to get rid of it.” He advocates for a public diplomacy that gives the people “a richer, deeper, more complex, more nuanced, more democratic, more chaotic, more human view of their land, their population and their civilisation—not a fabricated stereotype to replace the inherited stereotype.” Anholt cites the Nation Brand Index that showed that in the Muslim world, Denmark lost more respect after the Mohammad cartoons than the US lost after the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. This was due to the simple brand image of Denmark which was only known and loved for being a Scandinavian country. America seems to be more than a brand, its public diplomacy made people so familiar with many aspects of American life that the country was still held in high esteem compared to other countries.
Anholt thinks that “consistent, imaginative cultural exchange does eventually create an environment where respect and tolerance flourish”. However, while people in the Middle East know a lot about the US, Americans know very little about the Middle East. In the end, it seems, public diplomacy in the form of cultural exchange is reserved for the hegemon.!H8qs0
Anholt, Simon; “Brand America: The making, unmaking and remaking of the greatest national image of all time”; 2010; Marshall Cavendish Business, p. 146
Anholt Simon; “Beyond the Nation Brand:The Role of Image and Identity in International Relations”;
Mayes, Robyn; “A place in the sun: The politics of place, identity and branding”; Place Branding and Public Diplomacy; Vol. 4, No. 2, 2008; p. 128



Facebook and Twitter have developed incredibly since its creation a few years ago and has become one of the largest social networks in the world. Twitter, is a social messaging website in the form of a small blog with the ability to follow people and have followers at the same time. Twitter and Facebook are new tools to communicate instantly between two or more people, coordinating messages of the development of certain events.

Facebook and Twitter functions in at least forty languages across the world, and they are available in Arabic as well. Surprisingly, twenty of the twenty two Arab countries are involved in the Facebook social network club, in which 21.31million users were part of the social network by the beginning of 2011. By October the same year, the number of users increased to 33.07 million across the Arabic countries.

The uprisings in the Arab world had its origin in Tunisia in the early 2011 and spread in a straightforward direction to other countries in the region. After Tunisia, the revolution spread to Egypt, then to Yemen, Syria, Libya, and so on. However, the revolutions did not spread to the wealthy monarchies in the Persian Gulf. These countries remained largely untouched by the events.

The 2011 revolutions in the Arab world were different from previous struggles because the mechanisms and tools used by the protesters were mobile phones rather than weapons. This time the revolutionaries used new technologies to communicate with one another in order to gather thousands of people simultaneously.

When the revolution broke out, international media was not aware of the events in Tunisia, as it would later do in Egypt and other Arab states. However, normal passengers who arrived in Tunis International Airport managed to use their own handy-cams and iPhones rather than the professional equipment that journalist normally use to record such important events and post them on Facebook, Tweeter or other social networks.

At the beginning of the revolts, reporting about what was going on in Tunisia was extremely dangerous as the Interior Ministry police would rather allow the police forces to wave their guns in the face of protestors and reporters who were trying to get information about the uprising.

When Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire in the central Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid on 17 December 2010, his cousin posted a video of the events on YouTube, and he was soon able to contact the Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera, which was quickly joined by other international channels that were outside the control of the Tunisian government. However, television broadcasting was not the only strongest point in spreading the dramatic events in Tunisia and abroad, it was social media which managed to gather millions of people.

In the pursuit of cooling down the protests, president Ben Ali reacted quickly visiting Bouazizi’s bedside in a publicized event, but did nothing to convince angry Tunisians. Instead, protesters spoke loudly and the revolution grew bigger, making president Ali leave the country in order to ask for refuge in Saudi Arabia.

Egyptians, on the other hand, could not help, but feel envy for the courage of Tunisians who stood against the dreaded dictator Ben Ali, nevertheless, they too engaged with their own internal conflict in which demonstrations broke out and quickly spread all over the country in pursuit of political change.

In the summer of 2010, police detectives were responsible for the murder of the twenty eight year old Khaled Mohamed Said. He was beaten to death outside an internet-café not far from Alexandria. This horrible incident was recorded and posted on a Facebook page under the title ‘We are all Khaled Said!.’ That was enough reason for Egyptians to rise up against such atrocities committed by government officers.

When the revolution started, protesters used their own mobile phones to record police arrests, police assaults on civilians and so on, but also to instruct protestors on Facebook and Twitter on how to behave during the revolt. An activist in Egypt tweeted to his followers, “is easy and flexible to do from your mobile. If we have a lot of actions here I might do as many as twenty or thirty Twits a day”

These events certainly paved the use of social media as one of the main factors that contributed in organising the revolution in a successful manner. Therefore, there is no doubt that social media embodies the connection between action and expression, but this generation still need to know how much more social media will challenge power in the future, as some governments are creating new laws in order to restrict its function freely.



Beckett C. and Ball J. (2012) WikiLeaks News in the Networked Era. 1st ed. Cambridge. Polity Press.

Bashri, M., Netzley, S. and Greiner, A. 2012 ‘Facebook revolutions: Transitions in the Arab world, transition in media coverage? A comparative analysis of CNN and Aljazeera English’s on line coverage of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions’ Journal of Arab & Media Research, vol. 5, no1, November, pp 19-29.

Mair, J. and Keeble, R. (ed) (2011) Mirage in the Desert? Reporting the ‘Arab Spring.’ United Kingdom. Abramis academic publishing.

Seib, P. (2012) Real- Time Diplomacy, Politics and Power in the Social Media Era. 1st ed. United States. Palgrave Macmillan.

Tadros, M. 2012 Introduction: The Pulse of the Arab Spring Revolt, IDS Bulletin, vol. 43, no 1, January, pp 1-15.

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Since 1961, the right to freedom of expression has been central to Latin American values, but more than fifty years on, freedom of expression remains a luxury not a right. According to the delegates from the IFEX-ACL (Alianza de las America Latina y el Caribe de IFEX) alliance 2013 annual report on impunity, most crimes against journalists remain unresolved. The report states that Latin America is going through a critical moment for freedom of expression and that the dimension of threats to journalists depends on different factors such as place, criminal groups or institutional weaknesses. According to the 2013 IFEX report, 670 journalists have been killed in the last twenty years, both by governments and none-governmental organisations.

The Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) also concluded recently that, “The gloomy record of journalists being murdered continued to expand during the last few years in Latin America. Freedom of expression deteriorated enormously in nearly all of the Americas, particularly in Argentina and Ecuador .” IAPA also highlighted violence against media in Mexico, threats of government control in Venezuela and Ecuador, and called on the governments of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Peru to ensure that justice is done in cases of murder or disappearance of journalists.

Many states in the region do not guarantee freedom of expression by going through controversial legal processes that severely limit journalists from criticising such governments. Authorities and public officials use defamation lawsuits to silence the voice of journalists, well established media outlets and vulnerable sectors. The main sources of aggression against journalist are public officials who actively seek to discredit those who oppose them.

In the last two or three decades, freedom of expression has deteriorated at an alarming rate across the region; in fact, freedom of expression has worsened in Latin America faster than anywhere else. At the moment, the Americas are undergoing a critical time as some countries have declared war on newspapers, TV broadcasters, and radio stations that go against corruption or lack of transparency. For instance, Ecuador recently approved a new communication law that has been used as a tool to punish independent media. In 2007, the government owned one radio station; today the Ecuadorian government controls twenty media outlets such as radio stations, magazines, newspapers and news agencies. So far, the Ecuadorian President, Rafael Correa, has spent well over 420 million USD in constant propaganda to censure independent media and to maintain his popularity.

The revolutionary government of Ecuador has initiated civil and criminal proceedings for distortion in various occasions,  procedures that have created a dangerous environment that conditions freedom of press in an alarming scale. An example of this trend is ‘El Universo’ newspaper sentence. President Rafael Correa accused three executives and a journalist to three years in prison and the payment of $80 million, later reduced to $40 million in damages for publishing a critical editorial. Furthermore, President Correa said that “El Universo sentences were guaranteed, and that punishment establishes an important precedent regarding the criminal liability of media executives. He has insisted that El Universo sentence should serve as an example for Ecuador and Latin America in the fight against what he calls “Corrupt press.”

For many years, independent media in the Americas have been under serious interference with governments. Ecuador, Venezuela, Argentina, Nicaragua and Bolivia are going through direct violation of freedom of expression and human rights by using governmental institutions; restrictions as a form of law to criminalise media outlets that go against these governments. Additionally, independent media outlets are criminalised by using tax regulations to put media organisations out of business.

Venezuela pioneered aggression against private media in the region by not guaranteeing free flow of information since President Hugo Chavez took office in 1998. The government has closed many Television broadcasters, radio stations and newspapers as a response to critiques against public officials’ wrongdoings. President Hugo Chavez and the current president Nicolas Maduro have argued for a number of occasions that independent media in Venezuela is against the revolution they started fourteen years ago.

In Colombia and Mexico, on the other hand, powerful non-state actors, particularly organised crime presented serious threats to journalists and media owners for informing drugs trafficking and corruption of public security. In 2011, twenty four journalists were killed in the most violent ways.

Overall, freedom of expression in the Americas is under a tremendous decline, as most governments do not guarantee the free flow of information. Instead, free media has been suffocated by authoritarian regimes that are after power and corruption.




Higuera, S. (2013) Impunity, the biggest treat to freedom of expression in the region. Journalism in the Americas [Online]. Available from: [Accessed on 15/04/14]








Ballet as form of Cultural Diplomacy.



(Butterfly Lovers, Shanghai Ballet, London, Google Images)

Public diplomacy campaigns are intended for foreign societies. Cultural diplomacy as a branch of public diplomacy, entails arts, education, language, sports and religion. Cultural diplomacy is “the exchange of ideas, information, values, systems, traditions, beliefs, and other aspects of culture, with the intention of fostering mutual understanding.” (Milton Cummings) In the 21st century, public and cultural diplomacy are regarded as significant elements of soft power. Soft power is “attractive power, the ability to affect others to obtain the outcomes one wants through attraction rather than coercion or payment,” (Joseph Nye)

During August 2013, the Shanghai Ballet Company debuted its modern version of Jane Eyre in London. Ballet can be used as a tool of cultural diplomacy, in this case it incorporated British culture, associated with finesse and high artistic quality and looks apolitical, performed at London’s most prestigious theatres and affordable tickets available which attracted a diverse audience, which builds a positive relationship with foreign societies. “In contrast with systematically planned, large-scale policies in higher education and sports”( Andrea Beck) the Shanghai Ballet’s performances in London are a form of China’s current attempts at cultural diplomacy, with the undercurrent to  improve attitudes towards China within Western societies. 


(Jane Eyre, Shanghai Ballet, London, Google Images)

The Chinese ambassador to London congratulated and observed the performance “…shows that broadening and deepening cultural exchanges between China and Britain will increase our mutual understanding, respect, trust and friendship.”

 “The fact that we have the Shanghai Ballet company performing a contemporary ballet based on a novel by one of our greatest writers from the early part of the 19th century is a fantastic example of how we are growing ever closer as we share the best elements of our cultures – long may it continue.”  (London Mayor Boris Johnson)


(Jane Eyre, Shanghai Ballet, London, Google Images)

A “high level of sensitivity to the local context” was shown by the ballet performing a classic English novel, at the same time showing how “illustrating how Chinese and British cultures can be combined in an outstanding artistic symbiosis.” (Andrea Beck) The dancers and playwright were international, from China but the performance was assembled by a German choreographer and a French designer created the costumes and set. The intercultural cooperation indirectly shows foreign audiences the interest and focus of the the Shanghai Ballet, in turn China to work together with other cultures and countries. 


(Swan Lake, Shanghai Ballet, London, Google Images)

China’s greatest strategic threat today is its national image.” (Joshua Cooper Ramos, 2007) Concern and suspicions have risen in many Western countries due to China’s economic and military rise and suspicion. “China is regarded negatively in many European and North American societies, with the lowest ratings received in Italy, Germany, the Czech Republic and the United States.” (The Pew Research Global Attitudes Project.)

 The Chinese government are taking seriously communicating with foreign public as public diplomacy and soft power are clearly on their agenda. With the intention to promote a more positive global image, in turn push forward China’s peaceful development, with reliance on three core strategies. Firstly, a transparency of Chinese policy to the English speaking world, which entails China’s “energy policy, climate change, human rights, the rule of law, foreign trade, national defense, arms control and disarmament, space activities and foreign aid.” (Andrea Beck) Secondly, Confucius institutes have been created to spread language and culture globally. The total number of Confucius institutes has risen globally to 324 since the first in Seoul in 2004, which is 2x more than the ‘German Goethe Institute’ and 4x more than ‘Spanish Instituto Cervantes’ have spread. Thirdly, hosting cultural mega-events as platforms for showcasing Chinese achievements and raise international status and recognition, such as the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and the 2010 Shanghai World Expo. Success of the above has been achieved to a certain extent.

However two weaknesses hamper China’s current approach to public-cultural diplomacy, in terms of government orchestration and magnitude. Government orchestration has raised concerns over the use of government propaganda and interference with academic teaching and research within Confucius Institutes, as they’re funded by ‘Hanban’ and the Chinese Ministry of Education. Magnitude in terms of the push of Confucius Institutes has been regarded as very aggressive, fast paced, in turn interpreted as efforts to achieve global dominance by some commentators.  A “China Brand” is being pushed by the government, for example, the 2008 Olympic Games was a platform to “transmit officially constructed messages about Chinese cultural identities”, whilst covering up widespread social cleansing, economic inequalities and displacement within Beijing’s urban areas. Due to China’s size and expanding international influence, it makes sense that China wants to improve its image globally. However, for China’s communication efforts to succeed in changing Western perceptions, they should take on board features of the Shanghai Ballet model to a large extent. In terms of devising strategies which “combine controversial large-scale approaches with less politicized, smaller-scale and culturally sensitive initiatives.”(Andrea Beck) With a more intense “commitment to international responsibility and domestic artistic freedom” (Andrea Beck), this approach to cultural diplomacy can lead to China attaining approval from foreign audiences to be regarded as key player on the global stage. 


1: The Shanghai Ballet: A Model for Chinese Cultural Diplomacy? By Andrea Beck, The Diplomat, 28/08/2013, Last Accessed 08/04/2014

2: Images of the Shanghai Ballet performing in London, Google Images. Last Accessed 08/04/2014