What do you think are the limitations or problems with the turn to new and social media for US public diplomacy? Do these critiques outweigh the advantages?
There was some saying about limitations of the new digital diplomacy; one particular concern is that digital diplomacy is now making foreign policy less foreign, in which this idea has been brought up by Evan Ryan, Assistant Secretary of Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and Douglas Frantz, Assistant Secretary of Bureau of Public Affairs in their meeting with Department of State last year.
As they said, diplomats encourage every responsible person at the State Department to be engaged in social media. However, “with that encouragement comes a certain amount of risk. And – but these are people generally we have to trust their judgment. Social media is an interactive platform. You know what. And so if you wait to come back to the State Department and get clearance on how to respond to a question over Twitter, it’ll take days if not weeks, and the conversation will be over.”
The whole idea is that they want people to be engaged. They also want people to be willing and able to take responsible risks. It’s certainly something that Secretary Kerry has encouraged and we’re pushing it down. And the State Department can be like many bureaucracies – a rather risk-averse environment – and so you have to reinforce this. In this, I don’t think taking risks is necessarily a problem or limitation, rather, it will call to the importance of social responsibility and internet freedom, that would definitely bring digital diplomacy into a higher stage, where PD is not limited in politics but more culture and people oriented.
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.”