Week 3: Cultural Diplomacy

Should we distinguish cultural diplomacy from public diplomacy? Why?

To my understanding, cultural diplomacy is the new trend and very important part of today’s public diplomacy and a tool of a nation’s soft power. Traditionally, art and culture were stood in the forefront of many countries’ promotional efforts. These countries recognize that showing their cultural heritage provides them with an opportunity of showing who they are, creating a positive image, thus helping to achieve their political aims.

In addition to that, cultural diplomacy is also regarded as forming international bridges and interactions, identifying networks and power domains within cultures and transcending national and cultural boundaries. With information technology’s presence, soft power incorporates national culture, including knowledge, belief, art, morals and any other capabilities and habits created by a society. The importance of public diplomacy has been emerging since soft power has grown out of culture, out of domestic values and policies, and out of foreign policy. Examples can be seen, such as China’s Confucius Institute, France’s Alliance Francaises, Spain’s Instituto Cervantes, Germany’s Goethe Institut, and United States’ Fulbright Program, all functions around agreements between guest and host governments, for exchanging cultures and languages. It also draws the significant role of cultural diplomacy as the key of public diplomacy.

However, sometimes cultural diplomacy has become some kind of soft weapon to defend their political manners. At this point, I believe we should distinguish cultural diplomacy from public diplomacy, since as Schneider has said, “culture has limits. It should not be equated with politics, and certainly will not solve political disputes or make them disappear. But culture, in all its forms of creative expression, embodies many of the characteristics associated with free societies.”

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