Wednesday, May 12, 2010

CPD/APDS Blog- Herbert Hoover and the Origins of American Public Diplomacy of the Deed by Paul Rockower 5.12.10

A piece for the USC Center on Public Diplomacy that came out of my recent travels up to NorCal.

MAY 12, 2010Posted by APDS Bloggers
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APDS Blogger: Paul Rockower

With the recent earthquakes that devastated Haiti and Chile, the concept ofaid diplomacy has arisen in the global consciousness. Aid diplomacy is predicated on the notion that in times of crisis, nations can do well in public diplomacy terms by doing good works for those in need.

Recently, as I wandered around Stanford University, I was reminded of what might be the first case of American aid diplomacy.. On display at the museums and library of Stanford’s Hoover Institution and Hoover Tower is a moving reminder of the remarkable example of aid diplomacy carried out by Herbert Hoover.

With the outbreak of the Great War, the engineering magnate Herbert Hoover undertook efforts to organize relief and transports for Americans stranded on a European continent descending into strife. As bloodshed and chaos played out in the northern European theater of Belgium, global attention turned to care of the starving women and children in the battlefield that the country had become. Hoover’s previous efforts of organizing logistics for relief efforts for those Americans trapped in Europe led the American Ambassador to Britain to ask him to organize theCommission for the Relief of Belgium (CRB).

Hoover answered the ambassador’s request, and went on to found and direct what was termed: “[a] pioneering effort in global altruism.” Under Hoover’s leadership, the CRB fed and cared for Belgian women and children who were starving under German occupation as well as from the British naval blockade. The CRB provided food, medicine and clothing to millions of Belgians as well as those in Northern France on a daily basis until the war came to a close.

The museum offers moving anecdotes related to the CRB’s efforts, stating that the Belgian children were: “shivering, grasping bowls and pitchers and the precious little cards that would guarantee them a meal. Upon receiving his or her allotment, each would pause, bow and utter a single word: Merci.”

Meanwhile, when America entered the Great War in 1917, President Woodrow Wilson appointed Hoover as head of the U.S. Food Administration. With the war’s conclusion, Hoover served as the director general of the American Relief Administration (ARA), Hoover coordinated humanitarian relief to more than 20 countries. The ARA even conducted a massive famine relief effort in Bolshevik Russia from 1921 to 1923, and fed more than 11 million people a day at its height.

On display at the Hoover museum and libraries are various remembrances of the aid efforts and its public diplomacy value seen in the “Save the Children of Belgium” posters alongside pictures of Belgian appreciation rallies and letters of friendship to honor American fidelity to the people of Belgium. There were other pictures of later orphan efforts carried out by the ARA in Poland, Austria and Lithuania. Alongside the pressed flower gifts sent as thanks by children in Belgium, there were numerous “Thank You” letters featuring the American and Belgian flags together. Meanwhile, there were sacks of grain in bags declaring the contribution’s provenance from Southeast Iowa or stating its nature as a gift contributed by the People of Kentucky to Belgian noncombatants.

“An American epic,” was what Hoover termed his efforts and declared that it demonstrated American responsibility to the people of Europe. The example offered by Herbert Hoover’s aid efforts are a stirring reminder that the existence of a friend in need is the possibility for good public diplomacy of the deed.

Paul Rockower is a graduate student in the Masters in Public Diplomacy program at USC and a PDiN research intern at the USC Center on Public Diplomacy. He graduates this week and will miss CPD :(. You can follow his misadventures at:

Monday, May 10, 2010

CPD/APDS Blog- A Report on the AUD-USC Exchange by John Nahas 5.10.10

MAY 10, 2010Posted by APDS Bloggers
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APDS Blogger: John Nahas

In late March, twelve students from the Masters in Public Diplomacy (MPD) program at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism participated in a weeklong conference in Dubai as part of a student exchange with the American University in Dubai’s (AUD) Mohammed Bin Rashid School for Communication (MBRSC).

The group with H.E. Reem Al Hashimy, UAE Minister of State

The focus of the week was on Middle Eastern politics, media, and culture, and the students had an opportunity to gain an Arab perspective on critical issues facing the region. The group was initially welcomed by AUD President, Dr. Lance de Masi, who spoke about the mission of AUD and its role as an American educational institution in the UAE.

While in Dubai the group met with leading individuals in the Emirate. One of the first meetings was with the U.S. Consul General in Dubai, Justin Sibarell, who spoke about U.S. efforts in the UAE and the broader region. Observing the varied roles and operations of a U.S. Consulate was an insightful experience, and the group discussed many issues with the Consul General pertaining to U.S. Public Diplomacy and the work of the Consulate.

Later on in the week, UAE Minister of State H.E. Reem Al-Hashimy welcomed the MPD students for a discussion about the UAE and broader Middle East (see above). The Minister spoke about the vision of Dubai and the UAE, its Public Diplomacy efforts, and the successes and setbacks that it has incurred over the past few years. The MPD students’ discussion with Al Hashimy involved ways to improve U.S.-UAE and Middle East relations and the possible public diplomacy efforts that can be undertaken by both parties, who have positive relations, to help facilitate mutual understanding between other parties in the region.

The group had a chance to travel to the Abu Dhabi Media Company and visit the offices of the English-language newspaper The National and meet with its executives. Back in Dubai the group got to tour the MBC Group and its pan-Arab television news station Al-Arabiya where they had a chance to sit with its Executive Editor. In addition to visiting these two Arab media institutions, the group also observed various panels with other media figures and journalists, gaining important insights into how to address Arab publics, as well as the issues that face Arab media and its viewership. Overall, the MPD students got to observe the growing importance of Arab media as an international broadcasting actor and its role in local and international affairs in the region.

In addition to politics and media, the group got an understanding of Middle Eastern culture from leading academic, government and media figures. Talks regarding the history, economy, religion and culture of the region helped give the MPD students a richer understanding of the complexities that make up the Middle East. As a complement to the formal meetings, the American University in Dubai organized trips to the Sheikh Zayed Mosque. The MPD group also joined AUD students on a desert safari. In addition, the final two days gave the USC group an opportunity to explore Dubai and its numerous tourist destinations.

Shortly after the graduate students returned, six undergraduates studying film and communications at AUD visited USC as a reciprocation of the student exchange. The students sat in on classes at Annenberg and the USC School of Cinematic Arts, and toured both schools and their facilities. They also met with numerous USC administrators and faculty, and spent time with the MPD group that participated in the Dubai exchange.

This exchange was a success on many levels. It gave the MPD students an in-depth, behind–the-scenes understanding of Dubai and the region, through their numerous interactions with leading individuals. In addition, a relationship was fostered between both groups of students which will continue to enhance the understanding and the institutional relationship between both USC and AUD.

John Nahas graduated from the University of Southern California with a bachelor's degrees in Political Science and Communication with an emphasis on Middle East politics and American Foreign Policy. He is currently in his second year of the Master of Public Diplomacy program at USC and recently concluded an internship at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's Middle East Center in Beirut, Lebanon. John is also the President of the Association of Public Diplomacy Scholars and is a Senior Editor for PD Magazine .

Sunday, May 9, 2010

CPD/APDS Blog- Arizona's New Immigration Law: How State Politics Can Inhibit Public Diplomacy by Hilary Tone 5.8.10

MAY 8, 2010Posted by APDS Bloggers
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APDS Blogger: Hilary Tone

On April 23, 2010, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed Senate Bill 1070 into law, legalizing one of the harshest immigration enforcement laws this country has seen in decades. SB1070, dubbed by some as the “Papers, Please” law, is a hefty piece of legislation whose creators claim that the unprecedented crack down on illegal immigration will lead to safer neighborhoods in Arizona.

In the past few weeks, this law has spurred controversy and outrage across Arizona and the United States. There have been countless protests, rallies, marches and in some cases, vandalism (a swastika made of refried beans was found smeared on the doors to the Arizona Legislature ). Supporters of this law say that it is necessary, that the time for real law enforcement is long overdue. Critics say that it is a violation of basic human rights and will inevitably lead to racial profiling in the state.

Though there has been much debate about this law’s impact on both Arizona and the rest of the U.S., its potential consequences have yet to be explored in a key area: its effect on our public diplomacy with Latin America, and most significantly, Mexico. It is no secret that bad domestic policies can lead to bad public diplomacy, and given the national and international nature of this law, U.S. public diplomacy is in a prime position to suffer as a result of Arizona’s actions. The federal government must take swift action to address the discriminatory elements at the core of this law, lest we further strain our relationship with our southern neighbors.

Amidst other things, this law requires that all documented immigrants in Arizona carry their alien registration paperwork at all times. It also stipulates that any law enforcement official has an obligation to stop people and ask for their documentation should the official have “reasonable suspicion” that they are in the country illegally.

Critics have decried this idea of “reasonable suspicion:” what does an “undocumented” person look like, exactly? Is there a particular “undocumented” behavior that law enforcement officials will be able to identify? How can law enforcement officials suspect illegal status on any basis other than race, color or national origin? Immigrant and human rights advocates throughout Arizona and the U.S. have raised these and other questions in opposing this legislation and its predisposition to racial profiling of people of Hispanic descent.

Activists on this side of the border aren’t the only ones outraged - and here’s where public diplomacy comes into play - various foreign countries have expressed their disappointment and indignation. Cognizant of the fact that many of their citizens now reside and work in Arizona, the governments of Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador have issued harsh statements against this law.

Since Mexico’s national image has been dealt the heaviest blow as a result of this law, its response, not surprisingly, has been the most critical. Five days after SB1070 was signed, the Mexican government issued a travel warning to its citizens, stating "there is a negative political environment for migrant communities and for all Mexican visitors" in Arizona.

Upon hearing these statements, SB1070 proponents would probably argue that Mexico’s response is unlikely to go beyond words because of its financial and economic dependence on the U.S. Though the U.S.-Mexico relationship will probably survive this law, it does appear that President Felipe Calderón’s government is more likely than previous administrations to take action in the face of legislation that specifically targets so many of its people.

In fact, Mexico has already begun putting its outrage into action beyond the initial travel warning. For instance, Guillermo Padrés Elías, the governor of Sonora, Mexico, canceled a bi-national trade and tourism meeting of the Arizona-Mexico Commission; no such cancellation has happened in the last 50 years. In addition, at least one Mexican airline, AeroMexico, plans to cancel flights to Phoenix. These items accompany national and international calls for a boycott of Arizona.

For those who are skeptical about how much the U.S.-Mexico relationship depends on the politics of Arizona and other Border States, consider the following numbers and statistics:

• More than 30% of Arizona’s population is of Hispanic descent.i

• “Each day, more than 65,000 Mexican residents are in Arizona to work, visit friends and relatives and shop, according to a University of Arizona study sponsored by the Arizona Office of Tourism.” ii

• “While [in Arizona], Mexican visitors spend more than $7.35 million daily in Arizona's stores, restaurants, hotels and other businesses.” iii

These numbers illustrate two important points:

1) This law is going to harm and discriminate against people of Mexican descent who have a right to be in the U.S. whether through tourist visas, green cards or work visas.

2) Both nations have something to gain economically from an amicable relationship. Therefore, both also have something to lose from the fear-provoking, hostile elements of Arizona’s new law

Yet another point about SB1070 that could severely harm our public diplomacy is the issue of safety for Latin Americans living and working in Arizona. Law enforcement priorities will likely undergo a shift from policing our neighborhoods and communities to enforcing immigration law, which should be a federal responsibility. This shift in policing raises a red flag for both human rights advocates and law enforcement: what will happen in our communities if people are too scared to report crimes for fear of being deported themselves, or for causing the deportation of a neighbor, relative or friend? Though this law is intended to protect Arizona, it may lead to an increase in crime if there is a policing shift from crime to immigration. SB1070 also stipulates that Arizona residents can legally sue law enforcement officials for not doing their jobs. If we don’t protect the people who immigrate to this country from around the world, we certainly won’t be able to “win their hearts and minds” through public diplomacy.

The final nail in the coffin (and a piece of legislation not many have heard about) is the Arizona ban on ethnic studies classes. On April 29, 2010, the Arizona Legislature passed HB2281, a bill that would ban all ethnic studies(read: Chicano studies) classes from the state. Apparently, “schools will lose state funding if they offer any courses that ‘promote the overthrow of the U.S. government, promote resentment of a particular race or class of people, are designed primarily for students of a particular ethnic group or advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.’” If there was any doubt regarding the true political agenda of Arizona’s legislators, HB2281 certainly makes it clear. If requiring every person with brown skin to carry his/her papers won’t make our public diplomacy with Latin America more difficult, surely prohibiting public education about students’ Hispanic heritage and culture will.*

Our future ties with Latin American countries hinge on the consequences of Arizona’s law, and in no country is that more true than Mexico. The rumors that other states, like Oklahoma, may try to implement similar legislation will only hurt our ability to foster beneficial relationships with our southern neighbors. Given the various factors that have plagued the U.S.-Mexico relationship over the years, including drug wars, arms control, and border violence, SB1070 and its inevitable consequences do not seem like a risk we should be willing to take.

Should SB1070 survive its pending legal challenges, the U.S. has much diplomatic work ahead to clean up Arizona’s mess before the law takes effect on July 28. We will be hard-pressed to restore our image with Mexico and other Latin American countries in the wake of such misguided domestic policies. The time for critical words and harsh jabs has passed; the time for real action and reform is now.

Hilary Tone is a 2009 graduate of the Master of Public Diplomacy program at USC. She currently lives in Tucson, AZ and is the Communications Coordinator for Border Action Network, a nonprofit human rights organization that works in immigrant and border communities across Arizona to ensure that their rights are respected and dignity upheld.

iii. Ibid. 

* At the time of posting, Governor Jan Brewer had not yet signed or vetoed HB2281.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Neon Tommy- The Message is not the Message by Mariana Gonzalez Insua 5.4.10

The Message Is Not The Message
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Creative Commons Licensed (Bernardo Londoy)
President Hugo Chávez' tight grip on Venezuelan media threatens to reach new levels. The Venezuelan leader's recent announcement that every country needs to regulate the Internet and the launch of his "guerrilla" communicational campaign have sparked fears that his control over the media might be extended to the online world.

Chávez' dominance of traditional forms of media in Venezuela is unquestionable. Not only does the Venezuelan leader have his own weekly show, but he is the brain behindTelesur and Radio del Sur, television and radio channels aimed at exporting the Venezuelan "socialist" model beyond Venezuela's borders while reinforcing Chávez' message at home. However, what has caused even more alarm are his outright attempts at media censorship.

Chávez' media presence is not limited to the traditional media landscape. The leader's radio and television initiatives have their own corresponding webpages. Chávez has flooded the web with sites that promote his message. He even has his own facebook page.

But while successful at establishing a strong presence in cyberspace, Chávez has not been able to prevent the opposition from spreading its own message through the Internet, a source of considerable irritation for the Venezuelan leader. The opposition's avid use of social networking sites and the popularity of its twitter tag during the protests over press freedom in late January led Chávez to lash out against the famous microblogging site, calling it a "tool of terrorism." (Ironically, less than three months later, he opened his own Twitter account). 

Noticiero Digital, an online news service, was the next victim in Chávez' string of attacks for featuring false rumors (posted by users) on the death of two of Chávez' ministers. Even sites that are critical of both the government and the opposition, like the popular El Chigüire Bipolar (a Venezuelan website of satirical videos and photo montages of political figures), have been lambasted by the President and his supporters.

In the wake of the incident with Noticiero Digital, Chávez declared: "The Internet can't be something free [...] every country has to impose its rules and regulations." While he later denied his intentions to control the online space, Chávez announced he would start blogging from the Presidential Palace, establishing his "own trench on the Internet," inaugurate new Internet Centers for people to access the web freely and launch the "Communicational Thunder" campaign (creating "guerrilla groups" to propagate Chávez' message through different media, including the Internet). The blogger-cum-President's measures thus re-ignited the opposition's fear that the proposed telecommunications reform, which would establish one point of entry for the Internet controlled by the state (much like Cuba does), might become a reality. 

Currently, the Internet is the only free medium where the opposition can express itself. The television and radio sphere is clearly controlled by Chávez, and competing messages hardly pose a threat to the Venezuelan leader's dominance of traditional media. BBC Spanish broadcasts do not air in Venezuela, and its English version as well as CNN en Español, can only be seen through cable networks. VOA has a number of radio and TV programs but this handful of short programs are no match for Chávez' ubiquitous media presence. If the Venezuelan leader were to control the Internet, the opposition would hardly have any room left to breathe. 

Upper class Venezuelans, who for the most part oppose Chávez, are financially able to access cable TV, and as adept users of social media they can see a different reality of Venezuela and the world than that portrayed by the state-controlled media. Poorer Venezuelans, traditionally staunch supporters of the President, however, are mostly subjected to the leader's message. Opening Internet centers, carrying out "Communicational Thunder," tweeting regularly (hegained more than 79,000 followers the day his account was created) and regulating the Internet would allow Chávez to exercise virtually complete control over a large portion of the population.

Denying the opposition the cyber component of their protests will not eliminate demonstrations. In fact, it might cause them to multiply. Applying restrictions on the Internet will not prevent the opposition from getting its message out, either. It will only be a matter of time until a Venezuelan counterpart to Cuba's Yoani Sánchez emerges. 

The truth is that actions speak louder than words: Chávez' inability to prevent power shortages and to do away with poverty, among other domestic issues, will continue creating problems regardless of the message the Venezuelan leader is able to convey through the media.

A version of this article originally appeared on the blog

Mariana González Insua is a first year student in USC's Masters of Public Diplomacy program. She is originally from Argentina and recently completed a Masters in Latin American Studies at Stanford University. This oped is part of a partnership between Neon Tommy and the Association of Public Diplomacy Scholar.

CPD/APDS Blog- Argentina at the Smithsonian, 2010 by Mariana Gonzalez Insua 5.3.10

MAY 3, 2010Posted by APDS Bloggers
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APDS Blogger: Mariana González Insua

Argentines do not make up a particularly large percentage of the Latino population in the US. The results of the 2010 Census will certainly provide more accurate data, but a 2007 Pew Research Center project established that, though it is the third most populous country in Latin America, Argentina does not figure into the top 10 countries of origin for Hispanic residents in America, lagging behind in fourteenth place and making up a mere 0.06% of the US population. Given the average American’s slim chances of crossing paths with an Argentine in the US, coupled with Argentina’s remote location at the far south of South America, it is not surprising that few people in the US are acquainted with Argentine culture.

Argentina’s recent Oscar success has certainly drawn attention to the country. At this year’s Academy Awards ceremony, where most film experts placed their bets on the German film The White Ribbon, people were surprised when Argentina’s The Secret in their Eyes was announced as the winner in the best foreign language film category. Now playing in major theaters across the US, the movie promises to bring a little piece of Argentine culture to American audiences and possibly spark new interest in the Southern country among the American public.

Given this happy coincidence, the recent launch of “Argentina at the Smithsonian 2010” could not have been timed better. Organized by the Smithsonian Latino Center in partnership with the Secretariat of Culture of the Nation of Argentina, the Embassy of Argentina in DC and other institutions, the series of events consists of a variety of free and ticketed programs and exhibits scheduled to take place throughout the year in the different museums that make up the Smithsonian in Washington DC.

Envisioned as a celebration of Argentina’s bicentennial, “Argentina at the Smithsonian 2010” seeks to highlight the country’s historical, artistic and cultural richness. The holistic approach embraced by its organizers, who have strung together various events distributed throughout several months into a comprehensive and unique program, will allow for synergy among the different exhibits and activities, and possibly attract more attention to the program as a whole. Offering free public events in addition to ticketed ones will certainly ensure a higher turnout, as will the fact that shows and exhibitions are not targeted at a single audience, but instead aim to reach out to adults, children and entire families. At the same time, events are not limited to a particular type, but include activities that range from a simple museum exhibit to a hands-on crafting experience with native Argentine designers.

Beyond the characteristics that seem to point at the program’s success, the reason why “Argentina at the Smithsonian 2010” is particularly interesting is that it features elements of traditional Argentine culture alongside more recently developed cultural expressions and trends. In this sense, music shows are not limited to the well-known tango genre, but they also extend to Argentine rock. And while “The Story of Argentine Wine” may not be new to wine-connoisseurs, lectures and films on Afro-Argentines, often ignored in the study of the country, may expose many Americans to this part of Argentina’s history for the first time. The list goes on, including exhibitions of emerging Argentine photographers, a visit by famous contemporary artist Guillermo Kuitca, and a lecture on Argentine poets in the US. The delectable diversity of Argentine cuisine will feature prominently, demonstrating that Argentina has more to offer beyond outstanding beef. If events in Holland are any indication, empanadas and facturas go hand in hand with the effort to win hearts and minds, as the Prince of Holland’s marriage to Argentine Maxima Zorreguieta was accompanied by a sharp uptick in the popularity of Argentine restaurants in Amsterdam.

While this cultural diplomacy initiative is confined to the Washington Beltway, it has the characteristics necessary to generate interest in Argentina among Americans who visit the events. Hopefully, this program marks the beginning of a series of cultural events that will continue beyond the celebration of Argentina’s bicentennial and generate ongoing interest in the country.

Mariana González Insua is a first year student in USC's Masters of Public Diplomacy program. She is originally from Argentina and recently completed a Masters in Latin American Studies at Stanford University.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

CPD/APDS Blog- Finding Support for the Confucius Institutes by Chen Chen 4.28.10

APR 28, 2010Posted by APDS Bloggers

APDS Blogger: Chen Chen

China’s Confucius Institutes have become a public diplomacy phenomenon. Many public diplomacy researchers have been impressed by the rapid spread of Confucius Institutes around the world. In the United States alone, more than 60 Confucius Institutes have been established since 2004. Meanwhile, around the globe, the Chinese government has opened more than 200 Confucius Institutes in over 80 countries.

Some members of the US Congress have concerns over this trend, and have suggested that the Obama administration open at least four US culture centers in China to redress the imbalance and the disparity in cultural and political influence that the Confucius Institute can bring. Confucius Institutes seem to pop up overnight around the world and have become a distinct symbol of “China Rising.”

Ironically, among the few countries left without a Confucius Institute, one nation stands out: China, the homeland of Confucius.

In fact, the Office of Chinese Language Council International (Hanban), the organizer of the Confucius Institute, has established many Chinese language-teaching institutes in Mainland China that are similar to Confucius Institute. Many universities in China also offer courses in Chinese instruction. But none of them use the name "Confucius" to promote their programs. This is not a coincidence. The phenomenon actually reflects the Chinese government’s usual pattern when carrying out practices of cultural diplomacy.

Chinese cultural diplomatic activities pay close attention to the views of foreign public, but rarely consider the views of their own people on the subject. For example, the figure Confucius, the Peking Opera, and the art of Kung Fu, symbols of Chinese culture in the eyes of foreign public, in fact are not popular in China's mainstream culture.

More specifically, although the Chinese government is using Confucius to promote Chinese culture, the Chinese public often makes fun of the notion of Confucianism. Recently, a film describing Confucius's life ended up being a big flop at the box office. Although many big movie stars acted in the film,people were still not attracted to the movie. This was in part because Chinese people tend to feel that the theme of the movie and the thoughts of Confucius are so old-fashioned and pedantic that they do not fit into China's current social needs.

The Peking Opera also faces the same situation. On the one hand, the government regards it as China's national essence, and you can find the silhouettes of Peking Opera actors displayed in many documentaries of China. However, on the other hand, only a small number of Chinese are still listening to the Peking Opera. China's mainstream population has no interest in or even knowledge about the Peking Opera.

Both historically and in the present, all successful cases of cultural diplomacy are powered by the cooperation between the government and its people. For example, Japanese government’s manga diplomacy is strongly supported by Japan’s domestic manga enthusiasts and Japanese cartoon industry. Also, supporting the success of the United States’ basketball diplomacy is the large basketball population and American people’s great enthusiasm for basketball.

In stark contrast, when the Chinese government is vigorously promoting Confucius Institutes around the world, many Chinese rarely bother about the development of Confucius Institute. The negatives are obvious: first, foreign publics often find that the China presented in the context of governmental Cultural Diplomacy is far from the real one, and such difference always leads to doubts about the purpose of cultural diplomacy. Many would also argue that Chinese cultural diplomacy activities are nothing but political propaganda. More importantly, even though the Chinese government is willing to spend money on cultural diplomacy, without its own public’s participation and enthusiasm, such diplomacy activities cannot be kept up for long. After all, the government's power is limited, and the force of cultural diplomacy actually comes from the power of the people.

In fact, the starting point of public diplomacy is the recognition of the public’s influence on the country's foreign policy. I think public diplomacy’s “public” refers not only to foreign publics, but also the domestic population. When public diplomacy’s aim is to influence the other country’s foreign policy by engaging the foreign public, we must also take into account the domestic public’s impact on those public diplomacy activities. In other words, public diplomacy activities would be unsustainable if they cannot receive domestic backing.

Therefore, if the Chinese government wants to find the strength to sustain the Confucius Institutes, it must attract the support of its own people first.

Chen Chen is a master’s candidate in the Public Diplomacy program at the University of Southern California. His studies focus on the public diplomacy in East Asia. He is originally from Northeast China and received his B.A. in Broadcasting Journalism from Tongji University in Shanghai. Prior to being a USC graduate student, he worked for China Central Television as a reporter in Beijing.

CPD/APDS Blog- Cross Cultural Encounters in Art by Regina Guzman 4.26.10

APR 26, 2010Posted by APDS Bloggers
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APDS Blogger: Regina Guzmán

Art is an essential part of the culture of every nation. Through it, a nation can demonstrate the best parts of its cultural heritage and share its history and talents with foreign publics on a large scale. The Aztec Pantheon and the Art of the Empire, currently on exhibit at the Getty Villa, is the most recent example of how Mexico’s Aztec antiquities never fail to captivate U.S. audiences.

The exhibition comes at a noteworthy time, as Mexico celebrates the bicentennial of its independence and the centennial of the Mexican revolution. It is the first exhibition on the Aztec Empire to be organized in the city of Los Angeles, as well as the Getty Villa’s first venture with art fromoutside the ancient Mediterranean. Most significantly, the exhibit reveals a defining moment of cultural encounter by displaying Aztec artworks together with 16th and 17th century illustrations that showcase European interpretations of Aztec culture.

The Aztec monuments on display at the Getty Villa (most of them loans from the Museo Nacional de Antropología and the Museo del Templo Mayor in Mexico City) are masterpieces comparable to the most distinguished sculptural traditions, but the exhibit’s greatest artwork comes in the form of a three-volume pictorial manuscript known as the Florentine Codex. The Codex is an iconic chronicle of Aztec culture and history that reflects European efforts to understand the New World by drawing references from its own classical past. The Spanish conquest of the Americas coincided with the Renaissance rediscovery of classical antiquity, and as Europeans faced a culture that was profoundly unfamiliar, the Codex became a pioneering piece of work that sparked a dialogue between Mesoamerican and European civilizations.

The manuscript was commissioned nearly a half-century after Hernán Cortés’ defeat of the Aztec civilization, under the direction of Bernardino de Sahagún, a Spanish-born Franciscan friar who had traveled to México to evangelize for the Catholic Church. Sahagún, with the help of native Aztec collaborators and bicultural students from the Real Colegio in Tlatelolco (the first European school of higher learning in México), recorded the gods and goddesses of the Aztecs with over 1,500 watercolor illustrations and captions written in Nahuatl, Spanish and Latin. Most importantly, the Codex identified each deity with his or her equivalent god and goddess in the Roman pantheon, providing a clear parallel between the two great empires. The references to Greco-Roman mythology helped Spanish readers interpret the beliefs of their New World subjects and allowed Spanish missionaries to understand Aztec culture through their own history, philosophy and law.

Beneath the European attempt to understand another civilization through artwork lies the effort of the bicultural students working on the Codex to engage with Spain by narrating their Aztec heritage through classical and Christian perspectives. The Codex is therefore not only a unique case of a rare effort to spread the Christian faith through cultural understanding rather than coercion, but also a reflection of a broader cross-cultural approach to the roles of religion and art in empires.

The Florentine Codex is a great example of how art has been historically used as a neutral platform through which people connect and understand something that is foreign.

As one of the centerpieces in The Aztec Pantheon and the Art of the Empire, the Codex showcases Mexico’s rich heritage and sets the stage for continued cultural encounters. Reflecting on the exhibition as a whole, the Aztec experience at the Getty gives Mexico an enormous cultural presence in a city that is so uniquely tied to Mexico’s history. The exhibit (enhanced by the accompanying lectures and educational programming) engages publics and scholars alike in a dialogue that is needed for cultural appreciation.

For some time now, Mexico has sought greater visibility in world affairs and with its northern neighbor in particular, yet art exhibits remain a largely untapped and underestimated means for making this happen. Mexico could and should use its rich arsenal of art a lot more frequently, increasing its capacity to foster a positive national image abroad and perhaps even setting an example of the value and necessity of cross-cultural art exhibitions.

Regina Guzmán is a first-year graduate student in the Master of Public Diplomacy program. She grew up in Mexico City and has an academic background in Art History and Media Studies. Her regional focus in PD has been Mexico, with particular attention to cultural diplomacy and art-based exchanges.

The Aztec Pantheon and the Art of Empire is on exhibit at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa through July 5, 2010.

Neon Tommy- Who Sank the Cheonon? by Joshua Saidoff 4.26.10

Who Sank The Cheonan?
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The ROKS Cheonan (creative commons licensed: S.KOREA KDN)
If you get your news from a local paper, there's an important story you might not have heard about.

On March 26 the ROKS Cheonan, a 1,200-ton South Korean naval vessel, sank to the bottom of the Yellow Sea. Survivors recount a sudden, deafening explosion, a shockwave, and moments of terror as the ship broke in two and descended precipitously into the frigid waters.  The dead and the missing, 46 in all, accompanied the ship to the sea floor. That is where the broken hull remains, just off Baengnyeong Island, miles from the disputed maritime border that separates North and South Korea.

In the last decade alone, these contested waters have been the site of three belligerent encounters between the North and South Korean navies. Recently, North Korea has stepped up threats against South Korean vessels acting in the region, designating parts of the border region "peacetime firing zones," and firing dozens of shells into South Korean territorial waters  in January and February.

There are some indications that North Korea might have been involved in the sinking of ROKS Cheonan. At the time of the sinking, seismic sensors registered an event that measured 1.5 on the Richter scale - the equivalent of the detonation of a torpedo. Sailors' testimonies corroborate this scenario. Crewmen reported hearing an explosion that originated outside the ship. They didn't smell gunpowder, indicating that the explosion wasn't caused by ordinance held onboard. 

But evidence also exists to support other conclusions.  

Perhaps the most compelling alternate scenario involves the detonation of an unexploded mine from the Korean War. A mine explosion fits neatly with the sailor's testimony and with the seismic data. It also accounts for the fact that the ROKS Cheonan didn't detect any submarines operating in the area prior to the explosion.

A less compelling alternate scenario involves the ship running aground and disintegrating.   According to this scenario, welds in the ship's hull, weakened by age, gave way, causing the ship to break cleanly in half. Fragments of the wreckage recovered from the site appear to bear out this hypothesis. 

Most of the ship remains submerged, frustrating efforts to draw a definitive conclusion about the cause of the disaster. Absent this evidence, we must rely upon defense department statements about the good condition of the ship and its ability to safely navigate in the area.  

At present, the preponderance of evidence points to North Korean involvement - either accidental (i.e. due to legacy ordinance from the Korean War) or intentional (i.e. due to a torpedo attack).  

For reasons that are easy to explicate, the North Koreans have said nothing  about the incident. The top U.S. commander in the region cast doubt on North Korean involvement, and the South Korean president has urgedpatience, pending the outcome of a thorough forensic investigation.

The U.S. and North Korea have been disciplined about maintaining the consistency of their message. The North Koreans have been careful not to mention the Cheonan as they continue their daily barrage of vitriol against the U.S. and the R.O.K.  The U.S. has also maintained the message unity. The highest ranking member of the U.S. military establishment to comment on the event, 4-star General Walter Sharp, stated that there was no clear link between North Korea and the sinking of the Cheonan.  When asked about the event, State Department Spokesperson P.J. Crowleyechoed General Sharp's statement. President Obama offered only a perfunctory letter of condolence to the South Koreans. He made no allusion to the cause of the disaster.

The South Koreans have had more difficulty staying on message. There are those in the South Korean government that have a vested interest in blaming the North Koreans.  Defense Minister Kim Tae-Young, for example, has been criticized for attempting to deflect blame away from the South Korean navy. Kim has endorsed the torpedo attack as the most likely scenario.

The Obama Administration has said very little about the sinking of the ROKS Cheonan. So has the U.S. media. In the days and weeks following the incident, English language reporting and editorializing about the Cheonan was dwarfed by coverage of other local and international events.  

The media's disinterest in the Cheonan is incongruous with the intensity of U.S. involvement in the inter-Korean dispute.The U.S. has 28,500 soldiers stationed in South Korea and a mutual defense agreement with the R.O.K. Moreover, the Obama Administration has just placed nuclear non-proliferation at the top of its agenda, and it has identified North Korea as one of the targets of its policy. The U.S. strategy in the region centers on a resumption of the six-party talks on North Korean nuclear disarmament. If the sinking of the Cheonan is attributed to North Korea, then military tension with the nuclear-armed North is likely to increase. Would the U.S. be able to stand idly by if South Korea is attacked? Could the U.S. prevent its regional strategy from unraveling?

This story could get very big, very quickly.

Joshua Saidoff is a Masters Student in Public Diplomacy at USC's Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism.  He holds a Masters Degree in Government from the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center in Israel and a Bachelors in Political Science from Stanford.  This op-ed is part of a parternership between Neon Tommy and the Association of Public Diplomacy Scholars.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Neon Tommy- Why International Polls Matter by Melanie Ciolek 4.23.10

Why International Polls Matter
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One of the first things a politician learns is to be skeptical of public opinion polls. Dismissive attitudes about polling, which cross party lines and international borders, create a serious dilemma for leaders when they are confronted with favorable data.

A little over a year ago, at London's G20 conference, President Barack Obama wasasked whether he had seen evidence of America's diminished power and authority in the world during his first international summit. In reply, Obama said that while he thought many people around the world had lost confidence in the U.S., he felt that his election and some of his administration's first actions were starting to restore America's standing. He added, "And although, as you know, I always mistrust polls, international polls seem to indicate that you're seeing people more hopeful about America's leadership."

President Obama may have been referring to an early 2009 poll that found that on average, across 17 countries, 67 percent of people believed his election would lead to improved U.S. relations with the rest of the world. 

Now a new BBC poll shows that global opinion of America's influence in the world is on the rise for the second straight year. On average across 27 countries, 46 percent see U.S. influence as mainly positive while 34 percent believe it is mainly negative - the first time attitudes about the U.S. have been more positive than negative since polling began in 2005.

Few would call it a coincidence that multiple polls  showing improved attitudes about the U.S. have followed Obama's election. "It appears the 'Obama effect' is real," said the most recent poll's analysis, citing more positive views of the U.S. from Germany and Russia to Chile and Egypt. But with the U.S. facing a world full of exhausted allies, reluctant partners, and determined adversaries, what does a global boost in numbers really matter? 

Some have their doubts, questioning how this apparent growth in soft power translates into "usable leverage" for the U.S. on its toughest policy challenges, such as securing support for sanctions against Iran. Others see a connection between U.S. popularity and how inclined foriegn leaders are to cooperate with the U.S.

At minimum, most would agree that a better reputation for the U.S. is a good step toward regaining credibility on the global stage--something which tends to be useful in building leverage. At the same time, restoring credibility will not come easy. U.S. actions from the Middle East to Guantanamo have done a great deal to erode global confidence, and it will take more than a change in leadership to rebuild trust.

But the global shift in opinion about America suggests that, at least for the immediate future, people around the world are willing to give Obama the benefit of the doubt.

As part of efforts to introduce the world to a new style of leadership, Obama spoke to audiences in Accra andCairo. Text messages, the internet, and the international media gave his message an ever greater reach. Less than a year later, improved attitudes about the U.S. seem to indicate they liked what they heard, but the challenge for Obama is to act while the world is still listening.

Elected leaders know that popularity in the eyes of the public does not immediately translate into political will.  Perhaps that's why many, like Obama, "always mistrust" polls. 

Governing solely by shifts of global opinion is not the answer, but questioning their value deprives leaders of a valuable source of information about the world.  George W. Bush did not need opinion polls to know that the UN Security Council would not support the 2003 invasion of Iraq, but without them it would have been difficult to understand the widespread consequences of these actions. 

Chances are a White House staffer received a summary of the new BBC figures in a daily briefing and passed them up the chain of command, perhaps reaching the President himself.

Hopefully he accepted them not as a stamp of approval for a "job well done," but as a sign that the world is waiting--some more patiently than others--to continue the dialogue that began with his election. 

His challenge now is to follow his words with actions.

Melanie Ciolek is a first-year student in the Master of Public Diplomacy program at the University of Southern California. Before arriving at USC, Melanie worked for the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) in Washington D.C., a global public opinion research think tank which manages the project. This op-ed is part of a partnership between Neon Tommy and the Association of Public Diplomacy Scholars.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Neon Tommy- The Great Chinese Currency Debate by Babeeta Dhillon 4.22.10

he Great Chinese Currency Debate
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Tensions between the United States and China always seem to be percolating. This time it's about money. 

The U.S. trade deficit with China is more than $200 billion.  Many in Washington consider the cause to be an inconsistent and fluctuating Chinese exchange rate.  China's currency policies have become a source of tension between the two countries, even leading some to claim that China's exchange rate is the cause of the sluggish economy in the U.S. President Obama recently suggested that perhaps China should let the value of its currency float more freely on world markets to help correct global economic imbalances. 

After President Hu Jintao's visit to Washington for the Nuclear Security Summit, he told Obama that China is reviewing its currency policy.  According to official Chinese media reports, any modification "will not be advanced by outside pressure,", and will be based on China's "own economic and social development needs." 

After the Chinese president's remarks, widespread speculation about China's current currency markets and RMB exchange rate have made hitting headlines in Washington and raised concern for other foreign markets like India.  If China raises the value of the Renminbi (aka the Yuan), Chinese exports would be more expensive on world markets and would make foreign imports to China cheaper, leveling the playing field for those countries able to control their markets.  

So far, the pressure on China to revalue its currency has only been from the U.S., but in order to gain dire support the U.S. has turned to its allies.  The U.S. has approached the European Union and Japan for help, but neither country's deficit is as large as the U.S. and both are standing on the sidelines watching the Sino-U.S. engagements.  The U.S. also approached India.  U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner recently took a trip to India with the intention of persuading India to apply joint pressure on the RMB exchange rate.  

Duvvuri Subbarao, the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India (India's central bank) stated that "If China revalues the Yuan, it will have a positive impact on our external sector. If some countries manage their exchange rate and keep them artificially low, the burden of adjustment falls on some countries that do not manage their exchange rate so actively." Hence, implying that India may support U.S. efforts to pressure China's currency policy. 

Will India be used as a tool in an overarching U.S. strategy to tackle its deficit with China or will India stay loyal to developing countries and stand by China?

The statements of all parties involved will be addressed in an upcoming meeting for finance ministers and central bankers from G20 countries later this week.  

India should be cautions and observe the markets carefully before it makes any decisions.   Recently, the Bank of India increased key policy rates twice in two months, which is against economic predictions. Any drastic changes to the RMB exchange rate could have unpredicted effects on India's economic growth and could potentially halt its fast growing economy. 

Babeeta Dhillon is a first-year graduate student in the Master of Public Diplomacy program. Her topics of research include nation branding, corporate diplomacy, and environmental diplomacy, while her regions of focus are India, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the Middle East. This op-ed is part of a partnership between Neon Tommy and the Association of Public Diplomacy Scholars.

Friday, April 16, 2010

CPD/APDS Blog- Despite Poland's grief, there is much to celebrate by Krysta Close 4.16.10

APR 16, 2010Posted by APDS Bloggers
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APDS Blogger: Krysta Close

April 10 was a dark and painfully sad day—for the people of Poland, for the worldwide diaspora community known as Polonia, and for citizens everywhere—as the world struggled to grasp Poland’s sudden and stunning loss on both a personal and international level. As Sunday dawned, however, and life and governance continued on without misstep, one could feel the mood shift. Such overwhelming grief, wreckage and death could have easily seemed a hollow echo of a senselessly tragic national history, entrenching an image of Poland as Europe’s doormat, but this has not been the case. Amidst the loss, Poland’s strength rather than its weakness has been the dominant perception, and the prospect of reconciliation between longtime enemies has prevailed over blame or the reopening of old wounds.

As the international media has shone its spotlight on the devastating deaths of Polish President Lech Kaczyński and the First Lady as well as the loss of scores of top political, military and civil leaders, clergy members and everyday citizens, it has also highlighted the dignity and calm with which this great but historically battered nation has handled the incident and ensuing political re-organization. It is, in fact, these unexpected moments of media exposure that often make the best inadvertent public diplomacy opportunities, and Poland’s catastrophe has been no exception. As Poland emerges as a powerful modern nation, Saturday’s devastation has provided one such unexpected occasion, shedding light on many facets of Poland’s story to willing audiences around the world.

The Presidential plane crashed near Russia’s Katyń forest, a geographical irony mentioned in nearly all articles or editorials about the event, and one that adds important historical context to the story. Katyń was the site of a massacre of roughly 20,000 Polish Army officers by the Soviet NKVD during WWII, and the fact that Russia had until recently denied responsibility for this atrocity has been a persistent sore spot in Polish-Russian relations. However it is merely one of many difficult issues in long history of mutual mistrust and repression, including the period of Partitions during which Russia and Poland’s other neighbors divvied up Polish territory until it disappeared from the map of sovereign nations entirely. This antagonistic relationship has been described by Marek Zebrowski, director of USC’s Polish Music Center, as “one neighborhood—in this case Central Europe—[that] cannot accommodate two political powerhouses, and the rise of one will be coupled with the demise of the other.”

Saturday’s disaster has drawn international attention to the fact that this antagonism may have finally started to shift. A few days before the crash, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was the first Russian official to attend a commemoration of the Katyń massacre on its 70th anniversary; although he did not use the opportunity to give an official apology as many Poles had hoped, it was viewed as a positive step in Poland and beyond. Despite ongoing disagreements with Kaczyński and his policies, Putin and his colleague, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, were among the first leaders to extend condolences after the fatal crash and subsequently declared Monday a Russian national day of mourning. Also, Andrzej Wajda’s Academy Award-nominated film Katyń was screened for the first time on Russian state-owned television during Sunday primetime, making many Russians newly aware of violence that had been perpetrated on their own soil. While it is too early to know how these conciliations might affect inter-state relations in the long run, media coverage has burned this newfound cordiality between the nations into the international consciousness; one can only hope that citizens and fellow politicians will pressure Russian and Polish leaders to avoid reverting to their earlier positions of entrenched mistrust.

More important than history for public diplomacy, however, is positive action in the present, and this catastrophe has revealed a thriving nation to the world. It was the only European economy to exhibit growth during 2009, and not even the loss of President Kaczyński or Sławomir Skrzypek, head of the National Bank, could shake the stable Polish stock market this week. The nation’s political institutions have displayed equal solidity, in what has been hailed as “a triumph of Polish democracy… [in which] animosities and political cleavages have been buried… [and] the presidency—at least temporarily—has passed [smoothly] from the Party of Law and Justice to its primary rival, Civic Platform.” In a New York Times op-ed, Roger Cohen applauded Poland’s emergence from its past political tribulations: “Poland should shame every nation that believes peace and reconciliation are impossible, every state that believes the sacrifice of new generations is needed to avenge the grievances of history.”

As heartache abates and normalcy returns, Poland has the chance to practice another great virtue of successful public diplomacy: listening. This moment in the spotlight is a golden opportunity to digest international public opinion, and to capitalize on the emerging image of Poland as a powerful and stable nation with a vibrant economy and balanced politics. The message being transmitted back to Poland is clear and will endure beyond this moment of international empathy. There is no need to dwell on historical conflicts and repression, nor even Poland’s former grandeur or cutting-edge political leadership of the past —Poland has arrived as a great nation of today, and as a respected contributing member of the European Union, it is expected to stay that way.

Krysta Close is a graduate student in the Master of Public Diplomacy Program. With an academic background in music and Chinese-language studies, her P.D. career has focused on the regions of China and Poland and the areas of sustainable peace-building and cultural diplomacy. She is the manager of thePolish Music Center in USC's Thornton School of Music. Her Polish grandfather narrowly escaped the massacre in Katyn through a combination of military instinct and impeccable timing.