Friday, 8 April 2011

Another US Deficit: China and America Public Diplomacy in the Age of the Internet

I have just started to read this report to the US Senate's Committee on Foreign Relations (16 February 2011), available via my website:

What strikes me in the first few pages that I have read is how reactive this document is. The report is suggesting that because Chinese public diplomacy is well-resourced and appears quite successful in particular parts of the world, American public diplomacy is somehow 'falling behind' and needs to catch-up: China does A, 'we' need to do A x 2. In short, the report expresses a horse-race attitude to the practices it describes.This is a peculiar attitude towards public diplomacy and soft power which should be designed around foreign policy objectives, not who is perceived to be more popular or whose public diplomacy is attracting more government resources. In the sections I have read so far, the report has concentrated only on shortfalls in America's public diplomacy capacity (hence the title's reference to a 'deficit'), and this is a serious mistake; bean-counting will only get you so far before the absence of a clear strategy built around clear objectives inhibits further pd progress.
Perhaps this is the real deficit(?)

Does the US really want to start playing a tit-for-tat game with China and thus risk losing credibility? More in future posts when I have read more of the report ...   


  1. I fully agree Gary. Chinese diplomats were very surprised by all this praise for China's public diplomacy. They see China's PD as still being in its infancy. Like you say: this focus doesn't help US PD.

  2. The competitive spirit applied to PD may serve to reinforce the image of the audience as pawns in battle over heart and minds ... thank you for the perspective.