Sunday, May 3, 2009

Web 2.0 and the White House

The Washington Post reported on the Obama Administration's new outreach approach using new Internet tools - It reports, "Establishing direct strategic presidential communication with the populations of other countries -- especially other countries ruled by hostile governments -- is a top foreign policy priority for the new administration." Macon Phillips works with Obama's National Security Council staff to turn new communications channels into important tools for winning friends and understanding abroad. He states, "We try to find the audiences where they are, and deliver the president's message to them at the best delivery point."

The objective of the administration is to reach out to global audiences through "unfiltered" communication. Obama's March 20 Navroz message directed to the Iranian people is a case in point. It has drawn over 500,000 viewers and Iranian viewers have downloaded the video, remixed it with their own comments and put it back on the Web, a sign of "engaging with the message." For someone like Obama who successfully employed the innovative use of Facebook and other online social networks, YouTube videos, and fundraising on the Internet in the 2008 presidential campaign, Web 2.0 should be a confident next step.

The Swine Flu and PD

How does an epidemic such as the Swine Flu affect PD for countries like Mexico and the United States? Mexico has been pleading for assistance and understanding, claiming that they are controlling the spread of the disease, while the United States has seemingly been deemed guilty by its proximity to Mexico for the rise and subsequent spread of the disease. The press has not been helping things since the number of cases in the U.S. skyrocketed over the past few weeks, reporting the "first U.S. death" due to the swine flu, despite the fact that the death was actually that of a Mexican child who came to the U.S. seeking better treatment for his condition. Now, even Canada is potentially at fault for inadvertently causing the outbreak of the disease (

Despite all the hoopla surrounding the disease, only ten people have died this year due to the swine flu, while nearly 36,000 people die of what we know simply as the "flu" every single year in the U.S. My question to you is this: although the disease has clearly been blown out of proportion, will it affect the way that countries interact with one another, as it has already prompted countries like Chile and Argentina to create special medical checkpoints for visitors from Mexico and the United States? What affect will this have on Mexican, Canadian, and American public diplomacy until the disease can be contained?

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Step Up 3: The Embassies

Looks like the State Department's ready to dance... or at least to use dance as a vehicle for cultural diplomacy. State's Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs and Brooklyn Academy of Music announced plans to launch DanceMotion USA to send dance companies on international tours. In a press conference on April 29, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Professional and Cultural Exchanges Alina L. Romanowski announced the three lucky dance companies that will begin the program in 2010:

1. Evidence, A Dance Company, based in Brooklyn, New York, will tour South Africa, Nigeria, and Senegal.
2. ODC/Dance, based in San Francisco, California, will tour Thailand, Burma and Indonesia.
3. Urban Bush Women, also Brooklyn-based, will tour Brazil, Venezuela, and Colombia.

Of course, these three dance companies weren't just lucky. They were chosen strategically to reflect values that the State Department wants to communicate through its cultural diplomacy. Both Brooklyn-based dance companies, for example, emphasize the experiences of African diaspora communities in the U.S. In its mission statement, Urban Bush Women states:
Urban Bush Women (UBW) seeks to bring the untold and under-told histories and stories of disenfranchised people to light through dance. We do this from a woman-centered perspective, as members of the African Diaspora community, in order to create a more equitable balance of power in the dance world and beyond...

The State Department's decision to create DanceMotion USA provides a global platform for these untold and under-told histories to be communicated.

Embassy Visits as PD (2.0)

I know Leslie talked about this too, but it deserves further discussion. I think embassy visits are PD efforts, however, since a lot of embassies are participating, they may not get the due credit. For example, I went with a Malaysian friend today to check out the Malaysian embassy, which had it's open house today, along with a bunch of others. So, today, I checked out not only this embassy, but also the Pakistani, Nigerian, Bangladeshi, and Ethiopian embassies.
Since the Passport DC event is so huge, (check out the website to see what was happening today: I think it drew attention away from events that would have been more informative. Also, it kinda made people compare countries, that would never be compared, just based on what their embassy event was like. Although, some may argue that these countries may never have gotten this attention had it not been for an event like this.
I think I was most impressed, from a PD perspective, with the Bangladeshi Embassy- this is because they greeted you politely; and by they, I mean a woman saying "Welcome to the Bangladeshi embassy, here is our Ambassador", who then shook your hand- even with the possibility of catching the swine flu! Additionally, there were people standing behind the ambassador handing out surveys about your experience at the embassy, what you already know about Bangladesh, and how you developed your opinion, of the country. Albeit there were many of these surveys that people did not bother to fill out, however there was a decent-sized box by the door full of people's precious opinions. This is information that is hard to get, and this was the only embassy that I visited that was doing it. Kudos Bangladesh!

The Best Job in the World

Stumbled upon a very interesting article about Queenslands latest global tourism campaign that, while not quite PD, is an excellent example of how utilization of the internet and social networking can work. Do you think this kind of campaign has any feasible implications for public diplomacy elsewhere?

What happens if a global tourism marketing campaign dresses up as a job recruitment drive? A global reality TV show gets under way.

Tourism Queensland launched its Best Job in the World competition in January hoping to generate fresh interest in Australia's sunshine state - a dream location, according to the locals, that is beautiful one day, and perfect the next.

The internet, and its social networking sites, then delivered. Within the first 48 hours, they had received more than 7,500 online applications.

Better still, more than 200,000 people logged onto the site in the first weekend alone, placing unexpected strains on server capacity.

No wonder. In these "feel-bad" times, Tourism Queensland had opened up the ultimate feel-good job: the post of 'caretaker' at the blissful Hamilton Island on the Great Barrier Reef, with a six-month contract worth a handy Aus $150,000 (US $110,000).

Wild card

Then there's the three-bedroom beach home you get to luxuriate in, which comes with a swimming pool and golf cart.

The successful candidate must also be willing, in the words of the online advertisement, 'to explore the islands of the Great Barrier Reef, swim, snorkel, make friends with the locals and generally enjoy the tropical Queensland climate and lifestyle.'

Nice work, if you can get it, and 34,000 applicants from over 200 countries thought they stood a chance.

Now the field has been whittled down to 16 finalists, including a wild card entry chosen, in true reality television style, through an online poll.

They include a receptionist, some students, a teacher, a charity event manager, and an actress. And on 3rd May, they're all due to converge on Hamilton Island for the final.

The biggest winner, though, is Tourism Queensland, which reckons that for US$1m, it generated US$70m of global publicity.

Osama hoax

"We did it on the smell of an oily rag", says Danielle Kootman of Tourism Queensland. "We pitched it after Christmas in the northern hemisphere when there is not much news around, and so amidst all the cold and gloom here came the dream job.

"It really captured the imagination of the world."

It also helped that the organisers received a hoax application from a man purporting to be Osama Bin Laden, while Tourism Queensland generated even more headlines by concocting a story that one applicant felt so passionately about the job that she tattooed an advert for the Great Barrier Reef on her arm.

Imitation is the highest form of flattery, so it's no surprise that other have sought to replicate the success of this viral campaign. The 'NEXT Best Job in the world,' a short-lived Canadian venture, has now been postponed.

Russell Howcroft, an advertising executive who is a regular panellist on the hit Australian show, The Gruen Transfer, says Queensland's online campaign has been so successful because "it isn't an overclaim".

"All the best advertising makes a legitimate claim, and for many people this really is the best job in the world. The proposition is supported."

The challenge now for tourism chiefs is to convert interest into visitation, a tough task for such a long-haul destination and at a time when there are fears within the Australian tourism industry that visitor numbers could drop by 250,000.

But Tourism Queensland says it has received heightened interested from airlines, which might look to establish new routes serving the sunshine state, and from global travel companies.

Once again, the campaign has demonstrated the power of the internet, and of viral marketing.

President Barack Obama harnessed the power of the web to win the most powerful job in the world. Now Tourism Queensland has used similar techniques in what it claims has now become the most sought-after job in the world.

Friday, May 1, 2009

What about Sec. Clinton’s First 100 Days?

With all the media hype surrounding President Obama’s first 100 days in office, it seems like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's first 100 days have been somewhat overlooked.

Interestingly, the State Department posted a 100-day report outlining Secretary Clinton’s accomplishments.  The report also provides an overview of public diplomacy accomplishments, stating that engaging in public diplomacy is a priority and that some “early and significant progress” has been made in that area.  Here is the section of the report, specifically focusing on public diplomacy:

“Placed New Emphasis on People-to-People Diplomacy: While Secretary Clinton and the entire State Department are engaged in vigorous government-to-government diplomacy, Secretary Clinton has also invested unprecedented amounts of time and energy into engaging in people-to-people diplomacy in countries with whom we seek partnerships.

Hosted Town Halls, Webcasts, Roundtables, and More: On the first day of Secretary Clinton’s first trip, she hosted a town hall meeting with students at University of Tokyo where she answered questions from a diverse group of students ranging from US-Tokyo relations and the financial crisis, to nuclear power and gender equality. The Tokyo Town Hall launched a series of town halls hosted by Secretary Clinton at a university in Seoul, South Korea, in Brussels with European Parliament interns, and in Mexico via webcast with students across 40 educational campuses. Secretary Clinton has also hosted roundtable discussions with women leaders in Seoul and Beijing, students and teachers in Mexico and the West Bank, and with women entrepreneurs in Israel.

Leveraged Non-Traditional Media to Reach New Audiences: Through non-traditional media, Secretary Clinton is spreading the Administration’s broader diplomatic efforts by targeting audiences previously ignored. Secretary Clinton’s interview on the Turkish version of ‘The View’ reportedly caused positive ripples throughout the country. The Secretary’s appearance on the Indonesian pop culture television program, ‘Awesome,’ reached youth throughout the world’s most populous Muslim nation and beyond and her appearance on Telehit, the MTV of Mexico, likely targeted audiences otherwise unaware of her goals visiting Mexico.”  

Reviews for Secretary Clinton’s work so far have been mostly positive, but it remains to be seen how much of a priority engaging in public diplomacy will truly be for the State Department over the next four years.  After learning about the importance of practicing effective public diplomacy and the benefits it yields, I am hoping for the best.

Embassy Visits as PD?

I was in the Swedish Embassy on Wednesday and saw a flier for this event. Looks like a good event;
It is an open house on Saturday May 9th from 10am-4pm at the EU nation embassies here in DC, they have shuttles to bring people on different routes to visit embassies. Its an opportunity to "look behind the gates."
What do you think? Is it PD? I think so, they are connecting with a foreign public and its a good pull technique. People choose to go into the embassies and perhaps they'll walk out with a more positive view of the nations of the EU.
Any thoughts? and Anyone going to go?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Use "Smart Power" to Help Cubans

Contrary to popular myth and public misunderstanding, if President Barack Obama wishes to change the U.S. policy toward Cuba, he has ample authority to do so. If he takes charge of Cuba policy, he can turn the embargo into an effective instrument of ''smart power'' to achieve the United States' policy objectives in Cuba.
Obama's leadership is needed to change the dynamic between the United States and Cuba. The status quo is no longer an option. Not only has it failed to achieve its goals; it has tarnished our image in the hemisphere and throughout the world. Waiting for Congress to act will only further delay change. Fortunately, even in the case of Cuba, Congress has not materially impaired this country's venerable constitutional arrangement under which the president has the ultimate authority to conduct our foreign affairs.
Executive authority
Again and again we hear that the embargo can't be changed because the Helms-Burton law codified it. Nothing could be further from the truth. Whether you agree or disagree with the current commercial embargo, the president can effectively dismantle it by using his executive authority. Helms-Burton codified the embargo regulation, but those regulations provide that ``all transactions are prohibited except as specifically authorized by the Secretary of the Treasury by means of regulations, rulings, instructions, and licenses.''
This means that the president's power remains unfettered. He can instruct the secretary to extend, revise or modify embargo regulations. The proof of this statement is that President Bill Clinton issued new regulations for expanded travel and remittances in order to help individuals and grow civil society.
Obama will have to modify Office of Foreign Assets Control regulations to fulfill his campaign promise to increase Cuban-American travel and remittances. If he wants to reproduce the more open conditions in Cuba that led to the ''Cuban Spring'' of 2002 and Oswaldo Payá's Varela Project, he could reinstate people-to-people and educational travel. By a simple rule change, he could also speed the entry of life-saving medicines from Cuba, rather than subjecting them to delays from cumbersome OFAC licensing procedures.
Since 1992, U.S. law -- the Cuban Democracy Act -- has sought to expand access to ideas, knowledge and information by licensing telecommunications goods and services. Yet, in practice, regulations are so strictly interpreted that the United States in effect is imposing a communications embargo on Cuba. To lift it, the president can authorize a general license for the donation and sale of radios, televisions and computers. In addition, rather than helping Cuban state security keep Yoani Sánchez and others off the Internet, the Obama administration could make Internet technology readily available so that any barriers to communications would be clearly the fault of the Cuban government, and not ours.
Environmental concerns rate high with the Obama administration. So it might open bilateral discussions, exchange information and license the provision of scientific equipment to improve the health of the ocean and success of commercial fisheries.
The United States Geological Survey estimates that the North Cuba Basin holds 5.5 billion barrels of oil and 9.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves. If the president wishes, he can instruct the secretary of the treasury to license U.S. companies to explore, exploit and transport these resources that we and the region so badly need.
Failed policy
After a half-century of failed policy, there is enormous support in the Cuban-American community for initiatives that will improve the well being and independence of the Cuban people. What they didn't know -- but know now -- is that there is no reason they can't reach out to the Cuban people and still retain the embargo as symbol of their concern about the Cuban government's failure to live up to international norms of human rights, democracy and transparency

Pakistan's Public Diplomacy in Washington by Pakistani-American Interest Groups

After decades of Washington tilting towards Pakistan under a Cold War mentality, Pakistani-Americans are now facing a challenge in order to maintain pro-Pakistan views in Washington. As a key nation in the War on Terrorism, the state of Pakistan is going to intense scrutiny as an effective U.S. ally. Pakistani-Americans insist that Pakistan is taking the right steps and it requires continued U.S. support in order to make progress. They warn that abandonment by the U.S., as in the past, will further deteriorate conditions and will ultimately hurt U.S. efforts.

In the past, Pakistani-American citizen groups did not get much attention because of the classic reasons of "mosque" and "military." First, because many Pakistani-Americans prefer to identify with Islamic organizations rather than Paksitani-American organizations. Second, Pakistani military generals have been able to walk into the Pentagon bypassing these citizen groups.

But now, with a democratic Pakistan under increased scrutiny, Pakistani-American groups such as the Pakistan Public Affairs Committee lobby in Washington support a change in U.S. policy toward Pakistan from the current transactional relationship to one that involves a strategic partnership and it supports a shift in U.S. engagement directed towards the people instead of the Pakistani government. They support a change in the way the U.S. looks at Pakistan by moving away from a tactically driven set of short-term exercises in crisis management to a deeper, broader, long-term strategic engagement.

(Semi)Narrowcasting to the Muslim World

Much has been made of President Obama's eloquence and balanced rhetoric in his statements to, and regarding, what is sometimes monolithically-termed the 'Muslim World.' The phrase itself is a bit of a loaded term, because it ignores relevant distinctions within the global community of 1.6 billioin Muslims. It is related to objections over the now disused phrase 'Global War on Terror,' because when used in conjunction--even innocuously--they tended to convey the sentiment that the U.S. or the West in general was at war with Islam.

Obama has since made clear that the U.S. is, in fact, "not at war with Islam," and has banished the GWOT from the talking points (the FoxNews graphics department is likely not satisfied with the replacement 'Overseas Contingency Operation')...Despite the fact that the President continues to employ the 'Mulsim world' phrase (most recently in remarks at a student roundtable at a university in Istanbul, Turkey), it is clear that his distinct messages to audiences within that world are, themselves, a recognition of its internal divisions and diversity.

Consider the Administration's messages to the global Muslim community, and how their carefully-selected audiences effectively employ narrowcasting:

1. President Obama gives his first international media interview with the pan-Arab satellite network al Arabiyya calling for mutual understanding and respect, speaking directly to the region's Arab Muslims.

2. Obama records a celebratory message of outreach to the people of Iran for the Persian holiday of Nowruz, implicitly targeting non-Arab Shia Muslims.

3. Secretary of State Clinton concludes a tour of East and Southeast Asia with an appearance on Indonesia's most popular daytime TV talk show, reaching millions of Asian Sunni Muslims in the world's most populous Muslim nation.

4. President Obama wraps up his tour of Europe following the G20 with speeches in Ankara and Istanbul, again calling for mutual respect, speaking to Turkish and Kurdish Muslims and recognizing the United States' short-term image problems in Turkey and the global Mulsim community. He also affirmed the United States' support for the overwhelmingly-Sunni Muslim nation's membership bid for the European Union.

Many public diplomacy observers give Obama high marks for his Administration's willingness to recognize these distinctions and target different segments of the Muslim population worldwide with individually-tailored messages that nevertheless reinforce broad themes of respect, dialog, and understanding. In a recap of the Administration's 100 foreign policy successes in its first 100 days, Ian Goldberg of the HuffingtonPost includes, "Re-engaging with Muslim nations through targeted, positive public diplomacy."

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Some perspective on those Japanese cartoons

It looks like even though Taro Aso thinks Japanese anime is the future of the world, China is (officially at least) cracking down on animation programs that are going to be shown inside the country.

The China State Administration of Radio Film and Television announced earlier in February that, " From May1st, television stations at various levels should not broadcast oversea cartoon or any informational program introduces oversea cartoon from 5pm to 9pm, extend one hour compare to last restriction which is 5pm to 8pm."

Over at China Smack, I was able to read the translated commentary of netizens who all hold a diverse range of opinions on this issue. Some used anime as a platform to raise questions of nationality, while others berated Japanese anime for being too sexual and violent. I'll leave you all to read over the commentary provided here, but it would be interesting to see what you all think.

Reflections on a PD event

This week I was fortunate enough to attend an event that was quite exclusive. The invite only crowd included people from State, DoD, Congress, academia, and NGO's.
I can assure you, the classic State v. DoD Turf War, with Congress in the middle was most definitely on display.
What struck me most about this event was that the conversation that went on there about the use of public diplomacy, new technology, messaging, and credibility were exactly like the debates we have in class. The main difference is that in class we don't have a stake in one side or another. I think that is a strength. It allows us to see other solutions or at least simplify the matter by not worrying about who conducts the public diplomacy but that it gets done.
I think it is important for all of us looking to become practitioners of PD not to get lost in the turf war and remember that positive action by anyone is better then inaction by all.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Tibetan Blogging as a Form of Diplomacy

The Saturday profile in the New York Times of Tibetan blogger Ms. Woeser by Andrew Jacobs portrays a woman who accurately displays the situation in Tibet to the outside world.  While not a politician, the poet and photographer has depicted the current situation on one of her online blogs, Invisible Tibet, since 2005.  Robert Barnett at Columbia University remarked that “She is not a politician but a poet who quite late in her career started talking about politics,” and further asserted that “She is an eloquent reminder of what’s happening in Tibet.”  While her blog was just blocked by the Great Firewall in China, it is usually the only source of news because of her conscious effort to remain outside of the political spectrum and use poetry to present her views.  She has recorded the disappearances, beatings, and deaths of Tibetans at the hands of the Chinese.  Because her information is considered accurate, it has often been utilized by the international media and press. 


For her actions, Woeser and her husband have been placed under house arrest, followed, and interrogated by the police and security force.  Additionally, her friends and witnesses are scared to talk to her because they are victims of abuse by the police for their actions.  Upon returning home to Tibet, the police harassed her mother. 


Woeser resides in China but returns to Lhasa on a regular basis.  Her father was a strong Communist supporter and worked for the government.  Surrounded by an education and life filled with Chinese propaganda, it was only later in life that she was able to recognize her Tibetan roots.


Her information is utilized to mobilize the people inside and outside of Tibet.  In the absence of a free Tibetan government, the bloggers have led the movement for change both nationally and internationally.  They have mobilized protests and given light to a variety of human rights issues.  Due to accounts of human rights abuse, China often has to account for the treatment of Tibetans.  While blogging has been ineffective at dramatically altering Chinese policy, it has plagued China’s human rights record and stands in the way of the country gaining clout equal to the Western world.

Institutionalizing PD: One Boss or an expert in every office?

This week's guest post on MountainRunner, by Mark Pfeifle and Jonathan Thompson, discusses the importance of strategic communication and PD for US military operations, and the need for more institutionalized support for communications throughout the bureaucracy. I thought the post was interesting because it takes bit of a different view of how this should be done. We've talked a lot about Murrough's insistance that PD be in on the "takeoffs as well of the crashlandings," and have usually extended that idea to ask if there should be a "Secretary of Public Diplomacy" sitting at the same table with the Secretary of State, Defense and the rest of them.

Pfeifle and Thompson suggest a different approach. Rather than one PD boss with cabinet level authority, they argue that every agency should have at least one communications expert at the second tier. First on their list of recommendations is to:

"1. Require every military branch to create two active duty and reserve general officer positions in strategic communication, and make them eligible to reach the three-star rank. Likewise, the State Department needs at least two individuals of Ambassadorial rank dedicated to public and international communication."

They suggest more funding and control for the current Undersecretary for PD, direct from Congress, of course, but they also suggest more diffusion in the expertise and responsibility for Communication.

The idea is that these principles are important to every agency and department, military and civilian, State, Intellegence, Army, Navy, Airforce and etc, and that everybody needs to be practicing PD, rather than one PD department trying to put all these diverse activities into one package. The idea gets to the heart of the current debate about PD - is it one of the things countries do in the international arena, or is it a part of everything that countries do? The idea reminds me of Canada's approach of trying to get everybody in on the PD policy before launching it. All semester we've talked about the challanges of a country as big as the US condensing its activities into one message - maybe this more diffuse approach is one way to make that happen.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Immigrant Diplomats....

I found an interesting article about Turkey and a possible public diplomacy effort in Europe. There are about five million Turkish immigrants living in Europe in 2008. Turkey has been trying to secure membership in the European Union (EU) since 1999. But their efforts have been fruitless as Germany and France continue to refuse their bid.

According to the article, “Turks living in Germany could be public diplomacy tool

Burak Erdenir, advisor to minister of state and minister of EU affairs and chief negotiator Egemen Bağış, said: “Turkey should start to invigorate Turkish immigrants in Europe as an effective diplomatic tool for EU membership. They have been in Europe for 50 years, but Turkey has not managed to mobilize them.’’

And continues to say that

‘’Euro Turks’’ are very important in building Turkey’s image in Europe, Erdenir underlined the significant role Turkish intellectuals, artists and writers could play in influencing European public opinion by referring to the award Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan won at the Cannes Film Festival in 2008. He claimed this award helped change the negative image of Turkey.

Erdenir has a very simplistic idea of how Turkish immigrants can be used as a diplomatic tool to promote Turkey’s image and possibly gain membership in the EU. However, it seems like he doesn’t take into account whether or not these immigrants will identify with Turkey or with the country they are residing in. Maybe the 1st generation Turkish immigrants will identify with Turkey, whereas the 2nd generation or later Turkish immigrants might identify as either French or German. At most, these Turkish immigrants can disseminate their cultural tradition.

Also, it makes me wonder if Erdenir takes into account how these countries already view Turkey because of the large number of Turkish immigrants. If Turkey tries to mobilize its immigrant population in other countries as a form of public diplomacy to become a member of the EU, I can see it having negative effects from both the immigrant population and the countries they are trying to influence.

Germany creates "House of Science" to promote its Cultural Diplomacy

During our talk about German public diplomacy we touched upon the issue of Germany's intention to re-frame its image as a country with scientific and engineering achievements. What we discussed two weeks ago seems now to be an official part of Germany's public diplomacy strategy. With the overall goal to expand the cultural diplomacy, Germany has opened its first "House of Science" in Sao Paolo.

Berlin - Germany is to expand its cultural diplomacy abroad, reaching out to academics by building a series of missions to highlight German scientific and engineering achievements, officials said Thursday in Berlin. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the offices were part of a push to invest more in cultural diplomacy. The first such House of Science has been opened in Sao Paolo,Brazil, and more are planned in Moscow, New Delhi and New York.

Staff at a house of science can inform local academics about German scientists who are doing research in the same specialties. The houses are in addition to the chain of government-funded Goethe Institutes around the world which showcase the arts in Germany and offer German-language classes. Berlin also funds German-language schools in many nations.

Steinmeier said cultural diplomacy offered new ways to gain influence in a world of cultural and religious conflicts. "It offers others the chance to see the world through our eyes," he said. In the three years since Steinmeier became minister in late 2005, Berlin's cultural diplomacy budget rose more than 30 per cent, reaching 658 million euros (862 million dollars) last year. Steinmeier did not disclose the amount of further increases. A key planned project in Turkey is the establishment of a German university in Istanbul. (seen on Earthtimes)

Given the oftentimes event-driven attitude German public diplomacy takes, establishing Houses of Science can help focus the country's PD more on long-term achievements and relationships rather than creating campaigns around specific dates. Integrating the local public in a pull-attitude just like the successful Goethe-Institut does, is to my impression more promising than a rather pushy campaign-style approach that might create interest for a specific period of time but does not primarily focus on the long-term goals.

I am interested to see how the American audience will react to the House of Science in New York. Given that Germany is often seen as a competitor when it comes to technology and engineering, I am curious to see to what extend the American audience will accept the House as a resource.

World Leaders Facebook?

Check this out from the Atlantic Monthly. Diplomacy 2.0 to be sure.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Twitter, Transparency, and Iraq

There was an interesting article on a discussion hosted by the U.S. Department of State in Baghdad with Jack Dorsey, co-founder of the Twitter network, and others from "Web powerhouses" like Howcast, YouTube and Google - I thought Google owned YouTube, but I digress - on the "possible high-tech horizons" for Iraq. There were also execs from AT&T, Meetup, and Blue State Digital.

The article cites the importance of mobile phones in the country. Zain - one of the country's wireless companies - says that 700,000 of its Iraqi users have internet-capable cell phones. The article labels the State Department's encouragement of technologies like this to encourage political participation and to counter negative characteristics, such as corruption, as "lofty."

Also, "It's estimated just 5 percent of Iraqis have Web access at home and the connection speed can harken back to the dial-up days of the 1980s. However, users can get faster connections at Internet cafes and the Web access on their cell phones."

I am curious to know what you think of this particular spin of technology in diplomacy because it is not so much the U.S. trying to direct a message through Web 2.0 as it is the U.S. trying to improve conditions by suggesting and developing a certain approach to using technology.

I think it is a way of using technologies that are democratizing in the way that they mediatize (is this the correct verb form to discuss the concepts we discussed much, much earlier in the course?) interaction to the benefit of Iraqis. I think it would actually be excellent to push domestically in any place where the technology is widespread in its availability. I think the range of players invited to participate in a - and here comes the PD piece - "trip to Iraq's capital, sponsored by the State Department...billed as a way to assess the faint stirrings of Iraq's online culture and possibly inspire future Iraqi Web entrepreneurs."

Obama & America's Image

NPR had an interesting article up earlier this week about how Obama has jump-started the American image abroad.
I was taking pictures alongside other tourists at the Temple of Karnak in Egypt earlier this month when a member of the national police marched across 50 yards of sun-blasted terrace to talk to me. He was wearing the black uniform and beret of the security forces, and he had an assault rifle strapped acoss his chest.

"Where from?" he asked me.

"America," I said.

"Obama!" he shouted, suddenly beaming and nodding.

It might have been startling, except that something similar happened every day of the dozen I was there.

It's a commonplace that President Obama has altered the perception of the United States around the world. But meeting people in an Arabic-speaking country brings that statement to life in compelling ways.

Shopkeepers and cabbies, students and business people, young and old are eager to signal their interest and approval. America, an old and well-known actor on the world stage, has undergone a character transformation overnight.

The author cautions however that this may be more of an "Obama Moment" than a lasting changing in perceptions.
It is impossible to escape the sense of something opening all around you. If it is not a new era, it is at least a new window of possibilities. Perhaps the "clash of civilizations" paradigm that dominated after Sept. 11 will not prevail indefinitely.

Yet, alongside that glimpse of hope there are shadows of caveat and doubt. For one thing, the impressions Americans receive in foreign countries are often formed inside a tourism bubble, where people have a strong interest in courting our friendship.

Beyond that, the sheer intensity of the Obama phenomenon suggests impermanence. Having dazzled his way from London to Istanbul to Baghdad, the American president is a starburst over the global consciousness -- much as he was on the U.S. political scene late in 2007. He maintained altitude well enough in 2008 to be elected, and he remains popular after three months in office. But staying aloft this well as a world figure will be more difficult.

The international version of the Obama Moment is unlikely to survive the first international crisis in which the Obama administration must defend the U.S. interest. And sooner or later, that crisis and choice will come, forced by the complexities of world problems and the simplicities of domestic politics.

For now, the Obama administration is doing all it can to postpone the day of reckoning. The White House maintains that the national interest can be redefined to harmonize with the global good. It's an inspiring vision, but it contends with powerful impulses deep in our political nature.

Again we see the issue of the say-do gap. There is a distrust of what the difference between what Obama says now and what the US would do then if a crisis did occur. America's credibility reserve with the rest of the world has been spent and seems that it will take some time and actions to build it back up.

China:English Version of Global Times was launched--another international media outreach.

We discussed in class tonight about Chinese government’s increasing efforts in expanding international media. Here is a very recent example. Yesterday, The English Version of Global Times (which focuses more on international news, and affiliated to People’s Daily, the Official Party Newspaper) was launched. This was a conscious decision and also a yearning of letting the outside world know more about China and a more truthful China from the perspectives of Chinese policymakers and academia. I have highlighted a few scholars’ reaction to this launch in the news article. As some scholars pointed out, the identity of Global Times may be a concern. In my opinion, the launch of its new English-language edition and website is a good start because if the English edition of the Global Times is on the track of fair and balanced reporting of international news and also Chinese domestic news, it may help drive the Chinese government to further liberalize its media gradually and the Chinese leadership will finally learn from various international experiences how to better cope with others’ criticism. As the Tibetan story occurred in the 08 Beijing Olympics Torch relay has shown, the Chinese government was so inexperienced, clumsy, and counter-productive in tackling with this “embarrassing incident” (for many Chinese leaders). Also this is related to the “Face” culture in China, embarrassing the government in public only angers the leaders, but in my personal opinion, they finally have to get used to this because as a big rising power, it is inevitable that it draws the whole world’s attention and will be exposed to spotlight very often. What they should do is trying to learn from the healthy criticism in order to act as a more responsible power in the international arena instead of fearing these criticism and trying to insulate the Chinese people from the foreign media’s negative coverage of the Chinese government.

The Global Times held a reception at the Kerry Center Hotel in Beijing yesterday to celebrate the launch of its new English-language edition and website.

Zhang Yannong, president of the People’s Daily, said in his opening speech, “The launch is a landmark step for the People’s Daily in building a system of modern communication.”

“This is a pivotal moment in history, ideal for the Global Times to take responsibility for making China more accessible to the English-speaking world,” Zhang said.

Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the Global Times, said in his welcome speech that the newspaper “will speak directly to foreign readers” and that he hopes “the transformation of the Global Times will be encouraged and facilitated.”

About 100 foreign diplomats, representatives of international media organizations and almost 200 local scholars and celebrities attended the event.

Jin Canrong, deputy dean of the School of International Studies at the Renmin University of China, praised the timing of the newspaper’s launch, saying China’s opening up over the next 30 years should center on letting the world know and accept China.

Chinese media should help world audiences to see China’s advancement, problems and challenges, but also make the world accept a country with a vast population that is experiencing unprecedented growth,” he said.

“It is incumbent on the Global Times to report in a fair and balanced manner, and always to seek the truth,” Ambassador Serge Abou, head of the Delegation of the European Commission to China, said at the reception.

“I started reading the Global Times today and it’s quite an experience,” said Henri Carrières, second secretary of the Embassy of Brazil. Laura Møller Dombernowsky, an assistant at the political affairs department of the Royal Danish Embassy, told the Global Times she was looking forward to “seeing how the newspaper will make a difference.”

Feng Zhongping, a professor at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said the Global Times’ endeavors epitomized the image of a hard-working China.

Professor Yu Guomin, deputy dean of the School of Journalism at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times that he is optimistic about the newspaper’s prospects despite the decline the world’s press has been facing since September.

While some Chinese scholars voiced concerns over the identity of the Global Times, most were upbeat about the launch.

“Many foreigners believe the Chinese media is like an octopus with lots of tentacles but controlled by a single brain. This belief could be fatal for the opening up of Chinese media, but if the English edition of the Global Times can shed light on the complexity of Chinese issues and always stick to the truth, it may help to change the Western stereotype,” Zha Daojiong, professor at the School of International Studies of Peking University, told the Global Times.

He Maochun, director of the Center of Economy and Diplomacy at Tsinghua University, said the Global Times will provide an alternative to China’s existing English-language national newspaper, and can respect the principals of journalism and improve the reporting quality.

Published by the People’s Daily, the Global Times Chinese edition was established in 1993 and specializes in current affairs and international issues. It has more than 500 correspondents in 75 countries and regions around the world.

With a circulation of 1.6 million, the newspaper is one of the country’s Top 500 brands with an estimated value of more than 1.4 billion yuan ($206 million), according to the People’s Daily.

The English edition of the Global Times launched yesterday with 100,000 copies being circulated from five cities across the country.

By 11 pm last night, the English version of the Global Times website had received 100,000 visits, according to official statistics.

On the Chinese website, an Internet user nicknamed “Sashimi” said Chinese people are eager to voice themselves in an objective way to show the world “a more open China.”

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sri Lanka's propaganda war

The New York Times' blog, The Lede, reports that supporters of both sides in the 25-year Sri Lankan conflict continue to fight a global propaganda war on many fronts - The government has banned journalists from entering the war zone, so it is impossible to verify the facts. Instead, reporters rely on spokesmen from the Ministry of Defense on the Sinhalese side and the separatist group LTTE on the Tamil side. The Tamils claim that the government has killed massive numbers of Tamil civilians and forced them into a narrow strip of land in the country's northeast. The Sinhala government claims that the rebels were themselves killing the civilians for propaganda purposes. At demonstrations in several countries, supporters of both the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil separatists, have been pressing their case on foreign governments and international media organizations. Pro-government protesters marched Monday to the gates of the Norwegian Embassy in Colombo, demanding that diplomats from the country that has been trying to broker a peace on the island be expelled. The government blames the Norwegian government for not able to protect the Sri Lankan embassy in Oslo from being attacked by Tamil protesters last week. I think that this kind of blaming is illogical and purely political. It is purely an effort by the Sri Lankan government to victimize itself to shore up sympathy internationally. It is an effor to undercut the Tamil message of victimization in Washington and London and elsewhere.