Time to build Chinese-style public diplomacy

Source:Global Times Published: 2013-2-16 21:18:01


Illustration: Liu Rui/GT
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Editor's Note:

Amid growing global unease at China's rise, the role of public diplomacy is becoming more important. How is China's public diplomacy developing? How can a Chinese style of public diplomacy be formed? Several scholars discussed these questions at a recent round-table symposium held at the Charhar Institute, a Hebei-based independent think tank on diplomatic policy.

Peaceful partner

Wang Yiwei, professor at Renmin University of China and director of the China-Europe Academic Network

China did not realize the importance of public diplomacy or make efforts to promote its development until the 9/11 attack.

Beijing should think about its strategy on public diplomacy so as to answer the question of how China's rise can be accepted by others. China's public diplomacy comes from the current reality of the international structure in which China is an undisputed rising power. We should show the world that China will integrate into the international community by peaceful methods instead of by challenging the current international order.

Public diplomacy will play an important role here, especially in helping with China's image-building.

How should we build a Chinese style of public diplomacy? We must pay attention to cultural communication.

For instance, the Confucius Institutes and Chinese media have done a lot to establish a new image for China and help increase communication in many different ways with people from other countries.

Focus on the people

Shen Xin, secretary-general of the China Friendship Foundation for Peace and Development

When people talk about public diplomacy, there's often confusion of the concept.

We always mix the good image of a country and the good image of its government together. But they are two different ideas.

That's why even though we have put great efforts into promoting public diplomacy, the achievements are overshadowed by political events, such as territorial disputes.

The good images of governments are actually very fragile and unstable. As a result, the goal of our public diplomacy should be improving the image of the whole country.

Also, when it comes to culture, we should explore the meaning of this concept and possible methods to present the whole culture. The country should pay attention to projecting an integrated image.

A few isolated performances cannot really improve the image of the whole culture. But once the culture has been accepted, its activities will be accepted too. 

Moreover, person-to-person diplomacy does not mean public diplomacy, but it has many aspects that public diplomacy can learn from.

Public diplomacy is mainly guided by the government in China, while civil diplomacy attaches more attention to non-governmental groups which use person-to-person methods to promote communication.

For instance, in recent years, despite the tensions caused by the Diaoyu Islands dispute, civil diplomacy has done a lot to promote the relationship between China and Japan.

Learning by example

Zhang Ping, vice president of the Chinese People's Institute of Foreign Affairs

Although public diplomacy has received great attention in recent years and a lot of progress has been made, the development of China's public diplomacy is still at a low stage and there's still a long way to go.

The concept of public diplomacy was developed by the US years ago, and Washington has already established strong diplomatic networks.

Compared with China, the US has many advantages in public diplomacy. Its efforts are better organized, and the budget for related endeavors can be well planned.

Also, the differences between Eastern and Western cultures mean the US can better communicate with Westerners than China. It would be better if we made efforts to learn more about Western style and use their language.

Moreover, the US makes better use of the media to promote its public diplomacy. Western media has long occupied a dominant position in the world, while Chinese media's ways of reporting still need improvement.

We have to learn from US advantages. With the rise of China, to maintain peace and promote communication, we have to further develop public diplomacy, which will in the long term promote the relationship with other countries.

In this process, we have to try to tell others that the goal of China's public diplomacy is not to undermine the image of the US. Instead, both countries can benefit.

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