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Sonenshine on public diplomacy and China

Case Study: How other countries approach public diplomacy: China, EU, BBC, Alliance France. Fmr. Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs of the U.S. Tara Sonenshine in conversation with Charlie Firestone of The Aspen Institute.

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Video transcript

I'm Charlie Firestone with the Aspen Institute here with Tara Sun and shine so let's talk about at least one other country maybe others China's approach to public diplomacy they use economic diplomacy they rattle some swords but they also have some major Internet companies out in the world how is china doing the job today and how do you see them moving in that direction China is practicing controlled public diplomacy which is to give the public some diplomatic maneuvering at some individual but not too much they first used the phrase Chinese public diplomacy in late 1990s early 2000s the government said we want this public diplomacy stuff so what did they do they opened Confucius centers all around the world which teach Chinese language let's make Chinese less foreign they seem to do well with that English all over the world let's open up on college campuses Confucius centers and while we're teaching the language maybe we'll be on some programs and explain our culture let's start exporting our art and ballet and music and museums let's start being present let's tell the story of our great Chinese history how do they do that with the news let's put a supplement into the Washington Post I asked students did you order that supplement no do you read it not really but I'm aware of that big blue thing that says China China Daily what that does is it makes people think China number one china number one important in my newspaper in my theater in my classroom in my language everywhere so then when you look at perceptions of China people say i think it's the number one country that boosts chinese morale and chinese sense of self and helps them turn it into real economic power so Chinese public diplomacy is real they have its limits they say well no Facebook where they say we're going to try to hack or we're going to try to control we're going to we didn't talk about you know from banning books to closing websites there are ways that governments say enough is enough too much and ours as we talked about so messy it spills over everywhere others try to contain it is it a genie that's just out of the bottle and publix are just so powerful now that there's no way to contain or confine any of it and will chaos lead to order we don't know yet but the Chinese are masterful at beginning to bottle their culture is there any other country out there that you would look to as a example of great public diplomacy I think the Europeans are getting better as a European Union NATO they were not very good the British have BBC the French have Allianz France the Germans have their equivalent of cultural centers I think they're finding that they're better as a community if they can get a storyline as a European community together the big challenge for them is that they have different storylines so you know that'll be interesting to see if they can do that Japan has struggled with its Japanese public diplomacy they gave us cherry trees and not a lot has happened since those but we can go country by country every country is exploring it India has public diplomacy there is Israeli public diplomacy I have yet to find one country that hasn't approached the u.s. to say teach me a little bit about how this public diplomacy works where do we open embassies the US embassies have parallel public centers in many countries outside the embassy so there's a lot of experimentation but a lot of imitation which I think in the end is flattering that American public diplomacy was there early and I hope will be there long into the future