Week 6 Blogging – 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?

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.

Week 4 Blog: Do you think public diplomacy officers should be required to get more training than ‘traditional’ Foreign Service Officers? Why?

– Do you think public diplomacy officers should be required to get more training than ‘traditional’ Foreign Service Officers? Why?

Yes, I think public diplomacy offices should be required to get more training than ‘traditional’ FSOs since public diplomacy officers are only one limited part of the specialties of FSOs, as Rugh states in Chapter 2. Where they formally classified FSOs as ‘tracks’ of public diplomacy, political, economic, consular and management.

He also mentioned in the article “the skills an FSO should have in a public diplomacy assignment differ in several respects from the skills required in non-PD assignments. A successful public diplomacy officer must be good at program and personnel management, interpersonal and communication skills, as well as reporting, and at staying informed on a wide variety of issues and topics,” that concludes public diplomacy officer as the exclusive position.

However, it is also true that in our overseas missions, public diplomacy professionals and traditional diplomats have some attributes in common. Both are “advocates,” who must present and explain U.S. policy positions.  Both must have an understanding not only of American policy, but also of the host country – its political and economic system, its history and society, and they way its people think.

But that is where the similarities end. Traditional FSOs and PD officers have very different jobs.

FSOs are primarily responsible for representing our foreign policy and reporting to Washington, while PD offices to this point must not only explain policy but also convey an understanding of American domestic politics, society, and culture.

Traditional FSOs are responsible for engaging primarily with host country officials, while public diplomacy officers engage with a wide variety of opinion leaders in various fields, namely anyone who is an opinion leader or influential in communication, whether in the media, academia, the arts or elsewhere.

Traditional FSOs work mostly on classified matters while PD officers work almost entirely in the open on an unclassified basis.

PD officers – unlike traditional diplomats – are also “programmers,” who facilitate meetings and dialogues between Americans and foreigners by organizing a whole range of activities–lectures, seminars, exchange programs, press events, website content, etc.–which allow these encounters to take place.

Because the scope of a PD officers’ mandate is to reach a much broader and more diverse segment of society, he or she is much more likely to need to, according to Ambassador Rugh:

  1. a) follow local public opinion closely from many different sources, including the media, and through contacts with a wide variety of people, not just official contacts;
  2. b) have excellent communication skills, to act as embassy spokesman, conduct interviews  with the local media, and give public presentations, which the traditional diplomat
    rarely does;
  3. c) be proficient in the local language, in order to communicate, one-on-one or in groups, with audiences who have limited or no English;
  4. d) be able, beginning with his or her first assignment abroad, to manage a much larger professional staff of Foreign Service Nationals than the traditional diplomat, whose FSN staff is small and has no access to much of the office’s work because it is classified.

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.”

Week 1 Blog Discussion: Public Diplomacy

Week 1 – 1) How would you describe public diplomacy to someone who was not familiar with the term? How would you convince them that it was important? 

Public diplomacy in current age can be viewed as a state-based communication strategy used by state government and other foreign ministries to engage and persuade foreign publics and authorities for the purpose of enhancing their soft power, in order to build and manage relationships, while more importantly, to influence thoughts and mobilize action to advance their interests and values.

Joseph Nye, a professor from Harvard Kennedy School had first identified the term “soft power” as the means of global power shift, to ways in which a nation’s culture facilitates a form of power that enhances, or even substitutes for hard power such as military and economic strength. He further concluded this term as “the ability to shape the preferences of others.” The importance of public diplomacy thus can be seen as an extension and development of Carr’s idea of “power over opinion” and Lukes’ “third dimension of power,” both of which shed light on the communication power specifically as how the attractiveness of a nation’s culture, ideologies, policies, education and diplomacy give it the capacity to persuade other nations to willingly adopt its goals.

While people often find it’s hard to identify the term public diplomacy and propaganda, theoretically, there is a definite differentiation between public diplomacy and propaganda, in which public diplomacy provides a truthful, factual exposition and explication of a nation’s foreign policy and way of life to overseas audiences; encourages international understanding; listens and engages in dialogue; objectively displays national achievements overseas, including in the arts. However, propaganda forces its messages to an audience, often by repetition and slogans; simplifies complex issues, including history; misrepresents the truth or deliberately lies.