Category Archives: Soft Power

The Perils and Potential of Visa Diplomacy: The Importance of Waiting Times (Part 2)

The latest piece by Nicholas Dynon in the University of Southern California’s Center on Public Diplomacy blog…

In January 2012, amid concerns that the U.S. was failing to capitalize on global tourism growth, President Obama issued an executive order aimed at improving U.S. visa processing in Brazil and China. In relation to China, this meant requiring the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security tocreate a plan within 60 days to increase nonimmigrant (NIV) visa processing capacity in China by 40% within 12 months, and “to ensure that 80 percent of nonimmigrant visa applicants are interviewed within 3 weeks of receipt of application.”

The following month, the then-U.S. Ambassador to China, Gary Locke, claimed that 50 new consular officers would be dispatched to China and a consular facility in Beijing reopened that would increase interviewing capacity by 50%.  Almost three years on, available evidence from the International Trade Administration suggests that U.S. visa offices in China are meeting President Obama’s targets. Read further at the CPD Blog…

 

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The Perils and Potential of Visa Diplomacy: An Immigration Practitioner’s Perspective

The literature on the relationship between public diplomacy and visas is as polarized as the effects that a nation’s visa policy can have on its image. Visa liberalization policies, such as the broadening of visa waiver programs, can often enhance a nation’s public diplomacy strategy. But this same strategy can be severely undermined by the security-driven imposition of visa red tape. In both cases, the literature closely mimics views expressed in online visa forums and in embassies’ visa section waiting rooms the world over: that entry to another country is regarded by travelers as a basic human right, and visa red tape a violation of that right.

Rubbing up against this, of course, is the sovereign right exercised by states to protect their territorial integrity by regulating their borders. Visa regimes – and their practitioners – are caught between the seemingly dichotomous objectives of facilitating bona fide travelers and migrants on the one hand and preventing nonbona fide movements of people on the other… read on at the USC Center on Public Diplomacy’s CPD Blog

USA Embassy

[Seal of an Embassy of the United States of America – a familiar image for those in waiting in long US visa queues]

 

Shanghai 2010 World Expo at Street Level: The Local Dimensions of a Public Diplomacy Spectacle

Internationally, the 2010 Shanghai World Expo was a major tourism and branding draw card for its host city. Domestically, the Expo constituted a major source of national pride and a key vehicle for the promotion of official messages reinforcing traditional state propaganda themes. Like the Beijing Olympics two years prior, the Shanghai World Expo was an opportunity for the state to cross-brand its messages with the fervor and prestige surrounding a world-class event.

This essay’s seven photographs explore the domestic cross-branding of the World Expo with traditional propaganda messaging as it appeared in advertising posters/billboards throughout downtown Shanghai during the Expo. Although not all constitute direct political advertising, they all nevertheless perform a definite ideological role in reinforcing key propaganda themes.

The public relations machinery of the Chinese state has emerged as a formidable force in the production of messages in what some have referred to as a post-communist era. As these photographs suggest, this is due largely to an adaptation of Chinese Communist Party signs and symbols to the new advertising industry and media of the reform era and, importantly, to their increasingly decentralized and commercialized production. Read more at the USC Center on Public Diplomacy blog

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[Go Shanghai! – street-side poster propaganda in downtown Shanghai during the 2010 World Expo]

 

China’s Ideological ‘Soft War’: Offense is the Best Defense

Beijing regularly reminds us that its foreign policy eschews the export of ideology and meddling in the political affairs of other countries. According to its concept of “peaceful development,” China has no intention of exporting ideology or seeking world hegemony, nor does it seek to change or subvert the current international order. In the same breath, Beijing frequently chides the United States as a serial offender in exporting ideology to shore up its international hegemony as the world’s dominant superpower.

China sees itself as the target of powerful Western political, military and media efforts to pursue neoliberal strategies of ideological world dominance.

Beijing thus purports to maintain a defensive posture in relation to the export of ideology by other actors and the United States in particular. It articulates this in terms of safeguarding its “ideological security” against “ideological and cultural infiltration.”

Beijing characterizes its strategic intentions as mainly “inward-looking” while the United States’ are “outward-looking.” Thus, their strategic intentions do not clash (China Daily, September 9, 2013). While this inward versus outward characterisation appears prima facie to suggest a non-competitive arrangement, reality suggests otherwise. In addition to its defensive ideological posture—and as much as Beijing might state otherwise—there is an “outward-looking” element to this posture. While there exists no evidence that Beijing is exporting ideology for the purpose of universalizing its political values, there is evidence that it is doing so to safeguard its own ideological security in the face of a US-led “soft war.”

By examining Chinese discourse on the subject, this paper examines the extent to which Beijing is exporting its ideology to shore up support abroad, most notably among non-Western developing nations. To this end, it will be shown that Beijing is maneuvering to put its worldview forward as an alternative to the ideological hegemony of the West… read more of this article in the Jamestown Foundation’s China Brief

Better City Better Life

Shanghai 2010 World Expo promoted China and its culture to the world

China and Nation Branding: The Diplomat

The latest piece by Nicholas Dynon in The Diplomat

In a speech to members of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee last week, Chinese president Xi Jinping called for renewed efforts to promote China’s cultural soft power. “The stories of China should be well told, voices of China well spread, and characteristics of China well explained,” Xi said.

Various commentators have long slammed China’s state-led efforts to strengthen the country’s soft power. Joseph Nye, to whom the soft power concept is credited, has commented that the Chinese government just doesn’t get soft power. Nye quotes Pang Zhongying of Renmin University as describing Beijing’s focus on promoting ancient cultural icons in terms of a “poverty of thought” among Chinese leaders.

Culture has emerged as the cornerstone of Beijing’s policies to develop soft power, yet the efficacy of this “all culture, no politics” approach has been widely criticized. Nation branding approaches also suggest that Beijing’s culture plugging is, at the very least, a monumental waste of effort. Read more

Beijing bird nest stadium

 

[Beijing’s national stadium, which hosted the 2008 Olympics opening ceremony – a stunning cultural extravaganza completely devoid of politics]

Soft Power Meets Social Management: New Tourism Law to Punish Unruly Travelers Overseas

The latest article by Nicholas Dynon featured in today’s Jamestown Foundation China Brief…

[“Ding Jinhao was here”]

Passed last April, the new China Tourism Law came into effect on October 1, in time for this year’s Chinese National Day “golden week” holiday. While the main thrust of the legislation is greater regulation of the domestic and outbound tourism industry and squeezing out unscrupulous operators, the law breaks new ground by legislating requirements for civilized tourist behavior.

Following a long run of bad international press about poorly behaved Chinese tourists, the new law comes as a decisive move by Beijing to reign in its unruly globetrotting citizens. It also serves as implied official acknowledgement that the negative press has hurt China’s “soft power” efforts to bolster its reputation among the world’s publics.

Furthermore, the law includes an ambitious effort to extend China’s social control strategies beyond its borders, providing a legal basis for Beijing to manage its citizens abroad just as does at home. Failure to tow the official line overseas can now land a tourist in hot water back home… read more

 

Chinese Public Diplomacy: Winning hearts and minds abroad or at home?

Nicholas Dynon’s first post for the USC Center for Public Diplomacy CPD blog asks whether Beijing’s public diplomacy efforts are actually targeted at a domestic rather than foreign audience… Read it and contribute to the discussion

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[Shanghai 2010 World Expo poster from the Line 21 Project collection.]