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Eureka: Reflections on public diplomacy
by Jay Gutman
2018-05-15 09:29:46
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No country has a clear public diplomacy policy, and public diplomacy budgets tend to be minimal around the world. There's a reason for that, as feeding, housing, clothing and spending money on the travel expenditures of public figures can turn out being costly, and you don't always have control over what they do or say. If any country's interested in public diplomacy, here are some things to keep in mind.

Military public diplomacy

diploma000001_400Most countries need some kind of military, either through hostile neighbors or hostile acts against their country. No end of people have come up to me saying “dude, I have this great idea for a movie. It's about a James Bond kind of guy who falls in love with the daughter of a terrorist etc etc.” Of course Hollywood is famous for producing movies displaying the military might of the United States, while China and Korea have had some movie productions displaying their military might. Europe has a few movies about past military victories.

In terms of public figures discussing the military and military diplomacy, those tend to be few and far between. Some Israeli public figures, namely women, have discussed their military service experience. Some famous figures around the world have discussed their military background, and military-like fashionn items have been popular at several points around the world. But few public figures clearly discuss military affairs, and military public diplomacy is not the norm. Perhaps the sit-com MASH was a trademark sit-com went it came to US military affairs, portraying military staff who have empathy, quickly run out of cash but have somewhat great solidarity among them.

Environmental public diplomacy

The environment tends to be the great absent when it comes to public diplomacy. There were public diplomacy efforts surrounding the Conference On the Planet on April 22, 2016 with several high profile actors and public figures discussing the necessity of solving the environmental crisis, with no great results.

Al Gore's an inconvenient truth has been both admired and ridiculed as a documentary on the environment, while there have been few public figures who have made environmental protection look like the “cool thing to do.” Asian public figures have notably been absent from the environmental public debate, while Europeans elites have been timidly discussing the need for environmental protection.

Political public diplomacy

Some countries have been dishing out citizenship and passports to high profile actors and singers in exchange to those high profile personalities discussing their new passport countries in a positive light. Some movies and songs have famously discussed political diplomacy, but as I often say political diplomacy has taken a tabloid turn.

High profile politicians are famous for using high profile public figures to help them in their quest for electoral votes. These days, opposition parties and non-majority political leaders are famous for abandoning the endorsements of famous high profile figures, or in engaging in public diplomacy, such as meeting local and foreign leaders for endorsements, which can help their campaigns.

Social public diplomacy

Sports, entertainment, food, consumer products, cultural traits are all part of public diplomacy. Korea and China which have a shortage of brides for their locals to marry are famous for their romatic comedies and soap operas portraying rich, handsome, kind and affectionate male actors giving women all the attention they need, while the Korean and Chinese female actresses will be pretty but coarse and unthankful to their attentive Korean or Chinese husbands. This sends a particular message to the women watching the soap opera, as in come to Korea or China and marry a Korean or a Chinese.

Universities are also seeking to attract their lot of foreign students thus a lot of productions and public diplomacy focuses on the cool and easy life of local universities. Some countries are trying to attract their lot of foreign aid and produce movies or send public figures to discuss poverty or humble living in their countries, while some countries are trying to get rid of their stereotypes as countries with rigid social norms and rules. Of course pornography aims at promoting the sex tourism industry and the sex industry itself, while some movies and public figures promote gangs which engage in illegal trafficking, namely that of drugs, gold and human trafficking.

Economic public diplomacy

When movies, soap operas and music videos are produced, a lot of times the stage decoration is carefully studied, partly to promote local products, imports or exports of products and investing in any given country. Kitchens are carefully studied, so is the furniture, fashion and decoration items that are shown. Coffee shops with comfortable couches have become the norm through the media, and so have boardrooms with large tables and neatly dressed employees become.

Investing in technology or energy sources is a big topic in public diplomacy, despite both sectors being largely dominated by very big companies. Sports, entertainment and public figures have also been serving as ambassadors for brands of investment in certain countries, with mixed results. A famous case was Psy, the author of the hit song “Gangnam style” who served as the country's ambassador for tourism, yet did very little to explain why anyone should visit South Korea. For many countries public diplomacy is merely being on the map though. Many countries still don't have sports starts, famous entertainers or politicians who can put them on the map. 

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