City diplomacy integral to boosting economic, cultural exchanges

Source:Global Times Published: 2013-7-16 18:53:02

Editor's Note:

Along with China's increasing involvement in the international community, city diplomacy has become one of the most important elements that determine China's future position in the world. What is the outlook for city diplomacy in the future? What should China do to increase the significance of city diplomacy? And how can the role of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs be balanced with that of local governments in city diplomacy? The Charhar Institute recently convened a round-table meeting, during which experts shared their thoughts on this topic.

Xiong Wei, a senior research fellow at the Charhar Institute

The core of city diplomacy is how to expand the city's influence to the external environment and get itself involved in international affairs. The most basic drive is competition.

From a wider perspective, competition in national strength has characterized the relationships between different countries. City diplomacy should also follow the same trend but focus on more specific issues.

Many cities in China have their own strategies for becoming internationalized. The policy of "going global" is what empowers these cities to try to obtain an international view.

Along with the globalization of city diplomacy, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has seen its control reduced in terms of the foreign affairs of local governments. This is a common tendency in most countries.

But most ministries, including China's, are now trying to act as a coordinator in the overall diplomatic framework, especially between the central and local authorities.

Nonetheless, if seen from a global view, few have succeeded.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will have to transform its role to become a "goalkeeper" instead of a coordinator or planner which still has major control over local governments.

 As long as the moves of local governments and groups are favorable to the national interests, the other restrictions should be relaxed. After all, the success of city diplomacy has greatly boosted the economic and cultural exchanges between Chinese and overseas cities.

Chen Xuefei, a research fellow at the Charhar Institute, and head of the teaching and research section of public diplomacy in the Diplomacy Department, China Foreign Affairs University

In order to maximize the function of public diplomacy, Chinese cities should focus on three aspects, which are crucial to the development of city diplomacy - popularity, reputation and recognition.

These three aspects depend on each other and constitute the overall image of Chinese cities in the eyes of the international community.

There are still no detailed or standard measurements to evaluate these three aspects. But we can conclude some key points which will help us roughly determine if a city's public diplomacy is workable.

As for popularity, it is critical to see if a city has many sister cities. A city's popularity will have a snowball effect if more cities establish friendly connections with it. The greater its popularity is, the more benefits it will enjoy through extensive exchanges.

Reputation can only be achieved if a city's development goals can be realized.

These goals apply not only to tangible fields such as infrastructure construction and economic development, but also to fields such as environmental protection.

Recognition stems from reputation. Only when a city can maintain balanced and sustainable development will other cities find something to learn from it, for example in energy conservation and emission reduction.

Recognition will allow a city to be a paradigm in the eyes of its overseas counterparts, and further cooperation between them will form a reciprocal situation.

Posted in: Viewpoint

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