Rich, yes; Beautiful, maybe; And then what else

David Shambaugh argues in his recent book “China Goes Global: The Partial Power” that China is absolutely not a cultural power and not yet a diplomatic power in the world today. His assertion may sound that he underestimate China’s power since many view China as the “rising power” or “to-be super power” of 21st Century. However, I personally agree with his argument that China is still a partial power in the world today, and missing piece of China’s power is greatly due to its not yet successful public diplomacy. Yes, the Chinese government has poured large amount of money into public diplomacy. However, I am suspicious of the effect of such investment.

One public diplomacy program I want to talk about today is the promotion video of China that was played in New York’s Times Square. This 60 seconds video was shown in six big screens on the center of New York’s Times Square in order to promote China as a “beautiful country with many faces.” The idea behind is to show various faces of Chinese people—the famous and the ordinary—to give Western audience a more direct visualization of mysterious “China”. This video was played in the center of Times Square and the use of six big screens can certainly tell us this is not a small amount of advertisement fee for the Chinese government. Despite the big investment in this program, the promotion video lacks a focus or a clear central motif which makes it another “nice but not very helpful” branding for China. Though it does show many different faces of Chinese people, the message of this video is unclear. Furthermore, the abstract and seemingly classy showcase of China as “beauty” only reinforce the idea that China is a distant oriental nation. No ground breaking. And no agenda can be really achieved, so as many other public diplomacy programs implemented by the Chinese government so far. China is still a somehow distant concept for many people in the other half of the earth. As David Shambaugh argues in his book that the most intuitive way to know China’s cultural power is that ask ourselves or our friends that how many Chinese songs or Chinese movies that they can name. The answer for many Americans will be “none.” It is a clear sign of failure of public and cultural diplomacy since China is a country to be remembered for its GDP or population, and anything else are largely abstract and distant for non-Chinese people.

Small, but Mighty! The New Zealand National Narrative

In 1840, New Zealand signed the treaty of Waitangi to become apart of the British empire, and for roughly the next one hundred and thirty years, New Zealand followed the foreign policy of the British Empire. It supported Britain in World War I and World War II, and it supported the United States during the Cold War. New Zealand also supported nuclear testing in the Pacific ocean because the small nation felt believed that supporting large western powers was essential to its security and diplomatic power. This kind of thinking led to the signing of the ANZUS treaty in 1951, which established a military alliance between New Zealand, Australia, and the United States, which in essence, stated that if one of the nations were attached, it was the same as an attack on the other two nations. Yet, as Western powers continued to test nuclear bombs in the Pacific, New Zealand became weary with concerns that the testing was harming their environment and population.

This concern turned to the public outcry through petitions and protests. Then in response to its concerns, New Zealand and Australian approached the World Court in 1973 to protest nuclear testing in the Pacific. This only forced all testing underwater to which the World Court believed was a sufficient response to New Zealand’s concerns. This only fueled New Zealand’s frustrations, and protests continued as opposition to nuclear ships carrying nuclear arms rose from 32% to 72% between 1972 and 1983. But, as a part of the ANZUS treaty, New Zealand had to allow U.S. ships to port in New Zealand. In an effort to at least establish transparency, New Zealand asked the United States to clarify which ships carried nuclear weapons and which ships did not, but the United States refused and merely noted that it could neither confirm nor deny which ships carried nuclear weapons. New Zealand did not accept this answer, and after attempting to negotiate with the U.S., it declared New Zealand a nuclear free zone in 1984, broke the ANZUS treaty, and banned nuclear ships from its ports.

So, with this important context in mind, New Zealand formed what has become its national narrative; one in which is adequately defined by a nuclear protester comment, “we were like a little fish in the world telling a big fish no.” New Zealand, for the first time in it’s national history, had made its own foreign policy; one that has serious repercussions on the United States. New Zealand Prime Minister at the time, David Lange stated after establishing the ban,

“This will change everything – there’ll be no going back. We’ll cut ourselves adrift economically, militarily, culturally . the umbilical cord to our past has been severed. New Zealand will never be the same again… we were hedgehog New Zealand, curling ourselves up into a frightened little ball and praying the outside world wouldn’t run over us. Tomorrow we stand up in the full glare of the international spotlight and say: “This is who we are, this is what we believe, and damn the consequences!”

This narrative has defined New Zealand since the 1980s, and it has led the country to become a very fair and good international player. Today, it is celebrated for this narrative, which was most recently displayed in October of this year when New Zealand, a nation of 4.5 million, won more than two-thirds of the UN General Assembly to win a seat on the United Nations Security Council. Foreign Minister Murray McCully stated after the vote, “We want to be the sort of country that listens to countries that are affected by the deliberations of the council. I think there’s been a view abroad that that doesn’t happen.” Thus, it seems that New Zealand and its leaders will continue to adhere the small, but politically mighty narrative as they take their seat on UN Security Council starting next November. It certainly will be interesting to watch how this narrative impacts their efforts on the council.

Narrative of past, justification for now

Week 11/12

  1. Explain how a specific narrative provides an important basis for a country’s foreign policy. You could write about how a narrative constrains the options for policy or action, or, how it provides a consistent resource of justification (i.e. how narratives of American exceptionalism fuel certain kinds of US policies). This speaks to the arguments we talked about in class regarding the role that strategic narratives play in framing how leaders and publics understand, rationalize, and argue for particular policies and obligations.

For this blog entry, I will talk about how narrative for Japanese invasion of China for both first and second Sino-Japanese war contribute to a consistent justification for Chinese government’s claim over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands.

It is often argued that there is a rising anti-Japanese sentiment in China nowadays, given evidence by regularly break out of anti-Japanese protests and strong reaction towards Japanese governmental behaviors such like officials went to visit controversial Yasukuni Shrine. Many regard this as a historical problem after the Japanese invasion in China and the legacy of the war continuously shadow over the relationship between two countries. However, it may be too hasty to say that Japan and China have always struggled for historical issues after the end of war. In fact, after Japan established a formal foreign relation with China in 1978, China and Japan was in “honey moon” period for almost two decades. As a tacit unofficial war compensation to China, Japanese government provide a huge amount of Official Development Assistance (ODA) to China over years. An example from IR field will be that when China was criticized by almost all western countries for its cruel crackdown on student demonstration in Tiananman Square 1989, Japanese government did not exercise too much financial constrain or public criticism. Instead, Japanese emperor and empress actually visited China after the event and this was interpreted as a sign of support for the Chinese government by Japanese government.

If the anti-Japanese sentiment is not so much a product of history—or at least, not always so—what cause Chinese people today appear to be so anti-Japanese? I argue that it is not so much about history itself, but the narrative of history that the state is trying to create. There is a change in perspective about history between Japan and China. When China and Japan established formal diplomatic relation, both countries agree to leave the disputes over history for the future generation and build relationship for now. This consent agreement of putting economic cooperation in front of historical dispute make China and Japan close partners even until today. The history education did not emphasis on the part about Japanese invasion, nor did broadcast program or national propaganda. It is believed that the Chinese government do so in order to focus on work with Japan for economic development.

The narrative changed, however, when China’s economy grow fast and become a rising power in the world. The national education campaign put much more emphasis on patriotism toward PRC and the narrative behind is that China suffer from “a century of humiliation” by invasion of foreign nations and it finally rise up again as a big power in the world. The patriotism education call youngsters to know the suffering of their nation’s past to appreciate development of China today, it also warn youngsters to be aware that “if you leave behind, you will be bitten by others” which refers to what happened to China in last century. The implication will be that if China stop growing economically and militarily, it will once again face the crisis and humiliation in history.

Japan is a big part of this narrative. And de depiction of Imperial Japan as a “thief”, “robber”, and “murder” which take away many territory of China under “humiliating” concession is prevailed in history textbook, documentary, movies, dramas, and even news report. The narrative is set in such way that the resistance of Japanese government or officials to acknowledge or admit some historical views that are in discussion (for example, number of victims in Nanking Massacre) is a danger sign that Japanese militarism is still alive and it may come back one day to reproduce the tragedy in history again.

Then some may ask, but how does this link to the island dispute? In my opinion, the narrative established here is very crucial for Chinese government’s justification for its claim over islands, especially to convince Chinese people. Chinese claim over Senkaku/ Diaoyu island has three key component: First, Diaoyu Island is historically a part of Taiwan; Second, Taiwan is always a part of China, and therefore Diaoyu, as a part of Taiwan, should be always a part of China as well. Thirdly, China ceded Diaoyu as a part of Taiwan in Shimonoseki Treaty with Japan 1895. Shimonoseki Treaty is a treaty signed by China’s Qing government after lose to Japan in the first Sino-Japanese war. Shimonoseki treaty is regarded or told by Chinese media and textbook as a humiliation to Chinese nation, and “robbery” of Imperial Japan which take away territories from China.

Therefore, the narrative set the tone in such a way that Diaoyu island is a part of Chinese territory should be “returned” to China and Japan is ruthless invader who occupy China’s Diaoyu Island since it defeated China in its first invasion war. Chinese scholars further attack that this island should be returned under Japan’s statement for unconditional surrender, however due to protection from Western countries like the U.S., it is not returned to China. However, such claim is never voiced out clearly by the Chinese official when occupy period ends and U.S. return autonomy to Japan, it is never openly discussed when China and Japan establish formal diplomatic relation. This power narrative now is used as a justification by Chinese government to claim that this island was always a part of China until it is lose to Japan in the first Sino-Japanese war; Japan should return it after the ending of the Second World War, but it never done so and continued to occupy Diaoyu island. Therefore, it is in every right of China to “tack back” Diaoyu island which lost to “foreign invader.” The implication of this whole set up of narrative is clear: China is no longer the Qing Empire in the century of humiliation; China is again return as world’s big power and will never allow formal invader like Japan to insult China by occupying Chinese territory which Japan “robbed” from China. This narrative is a powerful one, since it has historical assertion, backed up by strong nationalism sentiment, and also warned Chinese people for “Japan’s reviving militarism.” I would therefore argue that this narrative is the strong source of justification for Chinese foreign policy towards Japan especially regarding territorial dispute issue.

How Narrative Shapes Opinion

A country’s narrative construction can take many forms and can shift and evolve over time. Take the United States, for example. Following World War II and through the Cold War, the United States maintained a narrative of good versus evil. The United States capitalized on its status as the victor following World War II and established a narrative which allowed Americans to feel safe and secure in a post-war society. The simplistic, relatable narrative has been reiterated throughout the past few decades and has been maintained by multiple Presidents. The Miskimmon reading does an excellent job of describing the evolution in the United States’ narrative structure from President Bush’s first and second terms.

The 2002 narrative was focused on coalition building around a common threat following a newly initiated war. This narrative surrounded partnerships, states as players in maintaining peace, and cooperation. The 2002 narrative was focused more on recognizing the importance of emerging and developed states while the 2006 narrative was more focused on the success (however questionable) of the war. The 2006 narrative, in contrast to the 2002 narrative, was focused more on reiterating positive outcomes from the war than with maintenance of partnerships and relationships. Miskimmon writes that a reason for this was the international backlash and condemnation of the war. What is most interesting to me through the shift in this narrative is the continuation of the United States to assert that it is the leader of the international community, even when this may no longer be (if it every was) true.

The notion of United States supremacy has been reiterated by many Presidents, and that key narrative aspect does not seem to know one party or one President. The supremacy structure continues to show the American public (at least in speeches and in official) that the United States is a super power and will be successful in eliminating whatever enemy it has because they are evil and the United States is ultimately good. This projection of power is also important when understanding the United States’ position in relation to other people. Through this narrative where the United States is the ultimate power, it could be noted that alliances are not really necessary, because the United States could go at it (whatever the target is) alone if the country had to. This is more in line with the 2006 narrative that focused more on our enemies and maintained that the United States would be (as it has been in the past) victorious.

I think this is an interesting narrative position for the United States that may do more harm than good in a variety of ways. First, the rise of social media and alternative news sources for Americans, such as Al-Jazeera, showcase an alternative side to the United States narrative where the United States is not always correct in their approach to targeting an enemy. Second, a globalized world presents a necessity for partnerships and cooperation which may not be possible if the United States maintains a dominant position and continues to push a narrative that does not include the importance of alliances. The narrative wherein the United States will be successful with or without international cooperation does little to help its international image and even less to gain sympathy and support for controversial military actions.

Th good versus evil narrative is successful in projecting a strong image to the American public but with varying degrees as people continue to expand their news sources and knowledge base. Narratives like good versus evil are successful because they are simplistic and project a lasting image around which people can rally. As international pressure mounted following the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions, the good versus evil narrative provided a continued source of justification for President Bush.

Russia’s Justification of the Annexation of Crimea

Russia’s justification of the annexation of Crimea stems from two main narratives: a historical narrative dating back to Kievan Rus; and Putin’s self-proclaimed responsibility to protect the ethnic Russian population of the world. Both narratives have their own strengths, and I’ll attempt to delve into them in the following paragraphs. First, let’s examine Crimea’s historical narrative which may provide some insight into Russia’s justification of the annexation of the peninsula.

Crimea has been the center of struggle since ancient times.  From the 9th Century AD, Crimea was fought over by the Greeks, the Romans, the Huns and the Goths. Once empires started emerging, Crimea became even more entrenched in an unruly game of tug-of-war. Although the peninsula was in the process of being fought over by Ottomans, Byzantines and Kievan Rus from the 10th to the 13th Century, once Genghis Khan came along, Crimea became a part of the Tatar Empire and thus remained until the Turks came along roughly 200 years later.  However, despite the Turkish influence, the population of Crimea remained predominantly Tatar.

It wasn’t until the end of the 18th Century that Russia earned its first claim to the Crimean peninsula when Catherine the Great came along and decided she wanted it. During Catherine’s reign, the Black Sea Fleet was established and Sevastopol proclaimed its primary port. Crimea remained a part of Russia throughout the 19th Century and into the 20th until the establishment of the Soviet Union, where Crimea was declared an Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic in 1921.  However, once Stalin came power, the Greek and Tatar population of Crimea were systematically supplanted to Central Asia and a wave of native Russians were imported into the peninsula.

In 1954, Nikita Khrushchev became leader of the Soviet Union and decided that as an act of goodwill, he would “gift” Crimea to Ukraine.  This act was significant, because it changed the identity of the entire population of Crimea, gave Ukraine claim the resources of the peninsula, and simultaneously dissociated those resources from the rest of the Soviet Union in just a few minutes. This territorial transfer was controversial back then, and it has been controversial ever since.

Today, although some Russian’s might claim a right to Crimea dating all the way back to Catherine the Great or even Kievan Rus, Putin is using the 1954 Khrushchev arrangement as his primary justification for the Russian annexation of Crimea and violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty. That’s understandable, right? After all, Russia did legitimately own Crimea for three centuries, and Russians have been Crimea’s predominant population for the past seven decades.

However, what about the last eleven centuries? If Russia is going to claim ownership of Crimea as a point of historical justification, should they not take us all the way back to where Crimea started, rather than where history becomes most convenient for them?

Narratives in international relations require attention to how actors select from the raw materials of international affairs to lend narrativity to the experience of international affairs so as to try to create the intended meaning to the political past, present, and future.[1]

It is apparent that Putin is attempting to elevate Russia to the narrative of a great power. The characteristics of a great power narrative include an emphasis on sovereignty, a strong leadership structure and a proclaimed responsibility to others.[2] Putin’s actions in Crimea provide evidence of Russia’s strong leadership and responsibility to ethnic Russians. However, what did annexing Crimea say about Russia’s opinion of sovereignty?

Within Chapter 2 of Strategic Narrative alone, Russia is designated as a great, normal, and rising power. I venture to claim that Russia’s annexation of Crimea exemplified characteristics that could be analyzed through all the primary narrative categories. Despite the fact that narratives are supposed, “to help us understand how status is defined and determined, and is central to setting out expectations about the behavior of states, including great powers,” when it comes to Russia, I don’t agree.[3] Russia has created it’s own narrative, which does not fit snugly into any of the aforementioned categories.

[1] Alister Miskimmon, Ben O’Loughlin, and Laura Roselle. Strategic Narratives: Communication Power and the New World Order. New York: Routledge, 2013, 1-54.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

Vuvuzela Diplomacy

The 2010 World Cup in South Africa was a spectacle for the football fans and the world alike to witness.  It was the first time the international tournament was ever held in Africa, and brought large hopes for the participating African nations to make their mark in the world-football stage.  In the end, Spain emerged victorious while only a select few nations (Ghana, in particular) demonstrated that they were able to compete with football’s world elites.  In any case, the World Cup was spectacle to hear (yes, the vuvuzelas) and watch.  The country’s hosting embodied a national initiative in cultural diplomacy, in which, the intended narrative was that of a peaceful, democratic and inclusive South Africa — and Africa as a whole.

Far removed from the apartheid era, a dark and troubling time in South African history, football has become an instrument of the nation’s post-segregation foreign policy.  South Africa was banned from FIFA in 1960. Prime Minister John Vorster, notably of the apartheid regime, only supported small racial integration measures within the sports in hopes of ending international isolation.  Moving forward, the country’s emphasis in foreign policy shifted toward promoting “trade, finance, culture and sports relations that will benefit the country as a whole”.  Apartheid was ended in 1994 after years of negotiations and the country was ready to embark on a new path.

Pan-Africanism, concerned with the values of freedom, equality, solidarity and tolerance, was meant to enhance the image of the whole continent.  Focusing on sports diplomacy posed a significant opportunity to rally positive attitudes and media attention to the world’s most popular sport on its biggest stage.  South Africa’s bid to host the tournament centered around the ideal that the Cup was all for Africans – on the rest of the continent, the United States, the Caribbean,Brazil and around the world.  In addition, the Cup was meant to signify an international commitment to human rights and the combatting of racism.

Several African players, most notably forward Samuel Eto’o, became poster for the fight against racism.  The striker said, “I’d like my country to win but I am first African before being a Cameroonian”.  Such a statement not only created a continental solidarity but also demonstrated that South Africa is less concerned with exceptionalism and is in touch with its continental neighbors.  Using the Cup as a platform for human rights and the end of racism did wonders for the nation’s international image as it sought to distance itself from the white apartheid institution.  The vision of a “better South Africa, a better Africa, a better world” was finally being cultivated.

Ndlovu, Silfslo Mxolisi. “Sports as Cultural Diplomacy: The 2010 World Cup as South Africa’s Foreign Policy.” <i>Soccer and Society</i> 11, no. 1-2 (2009): 144-53.

Communication and Governance: A Plethora of Elements and Actors

Daya Thussu discusses in her chapter “Creating a global communication infrastructure,” the shift in communication policy that occurred in the 1980s and 1990s in which deregulation dominated the policy landscape. This deregulation drastically altered and impacted both the international market-as depicted in her article through the discussion of the world’s satellite industry-and the United States’ domestic market.

Avshalom Ginosar contributes a foundational framework for understanding this new communications landscape in his article “Media Governance: A Conceptual Framework or Merely a Buzz Word?” In this article, Ginsor describes different foundations by which we can understand the many communication systems that exist and states that “once the governance type of a communication system is exposed, it is possible to point to the type of system that might exist.” In this statement  Ginsor demonstrates how governance is pluralistic in nature. It involves numerous institutions, stakeholders, policies, modes, mechanisms, and levels.  As Ginsor states “the communication and media world is much more complex, diverse, and dynamic than in the past.”

So does the politics of governance matter in communication?Absolutely, as Ginsor shows, governance is a holistic process that involves many elements and actors who influence legislation and policy, which also impact the norms of how we communicate. The outcomes of these influences ultimately dictates how we communicate.

Thussu, Daya Kishan. International communication: Continuity and change. London: Arnold, 2000.

Ginosar, Avshalom. “Media Governance: A Conceptual Framework or Merely a Buzz Word?.” Communication Theory 23.4 (2013): 356-374.