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The Daily: Soft Serve Power

February 10, 2014 6:52 am by: Category: The Daily Comments Off on The Daily: Soft Serve Power A+ / A-

Our round-up of news, notes, tips, and Tweets exhibiting how public diplomacy affects the world each and every day.

Michael Rubin’s take on sports diplomacy: pretty much only good for messing with dictators.

But if it sounds convincing in theory, the record of sports diplomacy is spotty in practice — and the Olympics are a case in point. Proponents of sport diplomacy like Goldberg say that the four-gold-medal triumph of African-American runner Jesse Owens in the 1936 Berlin Olympics discredited Nazi ideology on its home turf. But Owens’ triumph did nothing to discredit Hitler in German eyes. On the contrary, the IOC arguably legitimated his rule by allowing him to host a major international sporting event. [Newsday]


Coincidentally, the State Department posted this on the very same day on DipNote:


Read and listen to Sam Chapple-Sokol talk culinary diplomacy with Splendid Table.

“The destiny of nations depends on how they nourish themselves,” said Jean Brillat-Savarin, the 18th-century epicure. The idea is still alive and well today. Take Sam Chapple-Sokol: His main interest is the nexus of food and diplomacy, and how they can be combined to change the world. He calls this tool culinary diplomacy. [Splendid Table]


There is a new book out on U.S. public diplomacy during the Cold War.

Frederick (Tony) Mabbatt, a retired Foreign Service Officer, published a new book describing his and his family’s experiences during Mabbatt’s career in diplomacy. On the Front Lines of the Cold War is a first-person narrative telling of Mabbatt’s work in Sudan, Jordan, Brazil, Tanzania, Indonesia, and the Netherlands. According to the book notes, “His job was to conduct public affairs programs designed to present America’s side of the story and to persuade audiences that democracy and a free market economy work better than Communism.” In an epilogue, Mabbat provides “guidelines enabling any citizen to arrive at a reasoned opinion on foreign policies.” [PDAA]



The Weekly Standard has a lengthy review of Martha Bayles’s new book on American popular culture and public diplomacy.

Martha Bayles, one of the great unsung critics of the baby boom generation, has written a book that is unusual for her. This is a brisk, how-policy-has-gone-wrong-and-what-to-do-about-it book, which conceals in its pages something more: a brilliant and courageous meditation on the difficulty of communication between modern and traditional societies. These difficulties, in turn, suggest that the values we regard as universally desirable may not be universal, or even desirable—and we certainly aren’t living by them. The argument is simply told. Public diplomacy is vital to American foreign policy. It wins us friends in the world, explains our ideals to skeptical foreign audiences, and shows that we are serious about those ideals. Ever since the United States entered World War I, we’ve conducted public diplomacy with varying levels of finesse, funding, and commitment. [The Weekly Standard]

(Hear Prof. Bayles talk about her book here and read an excerpt here.)  


A British politician calls on the UK to leverage its soft power in Africa to challenge LGBT rights violations. (Interesting because supposedly homophobia in Africa is a leftover consequence of British colonization, soft power gone awry, if you will.)

Labour MP Diane Abbott has accused the UK Government of not doing enough to challenge LGBT rights violations across Africa. The former shadow public health minister asked Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalites, to do more to support LGBT rights internationally in a Commons exchange this week. [Pink News]



Interesting nation brand case here: Kazakhstan mulls changing name to “Kazak Yeli” because the “-stan” carries negative connotations.

Life-long Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev has suggested changing his country’s name to to “Kazak Yeli” to make it friendlier to investors and tourists. “The name of our country has the ending ‘stan,’ as do the other states of Central Asia,” he said Thursday. “At the same time, foreigners show interest in Mongolia, whose population is just 2 million people, and its name lacks the suffix ‘stan.’ Perhaps with time the question of changing the name of our country to Kazak Yeli should be examined, but first this should definitely be discussed with the people.” [Washington Post]



Vietnam gets its first McDonalds, which would be an American soft power win (or loss, depending on your attitude) if it were not for the 135 KFCs in the country already.

For most of the Vietnamese customers, it was a chance to experience an iconic brand that they had only known from afar. A group of teens and 20-somethings had been wondering when McDonald’s would finally come to Vietnam, and the group wholeheartedly agreed that the burgers and chicken sandwiches were well worth the wait. But the french fries didn’t go over as well, with piles left unfinished on several of their trays. “We don’t really like the fries,” admitted Mai Phu Toan, 24. [USA Today]


A commentary in the South China Morning Post calls on China’s diplomats to get out more and be more approachable.

China’s diplomats tend to keep a low profile when abroad, living in closed compounds and rarely being seen outside official functions. They are more often than not perceived as being rigid and businesslike rather than friendly and approachable. Ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai has made an obvious effort to break the mould, attending the Super Bowl, one of America’s most popular sporting events, and ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange. At a time of rising American mistrust of Beijing, there is no more basic form of soft power to help strengthen relations. [SCMP]



I am not exactly sure on which side the Pacific the greatest public diplomacy/soft power benefit lies, but almost a third of all foreign students in the U.S. are Chinese.

More than a quarter of a million Chinese students (287,260, to be exact) hold active U.S. student visas, which is more than the number of students from Europe, South America, Africa, Australia, and elsewhere in North America combined. In fact, Chinese students account for 29 percent of all foreign students studying in the United States. China sends more than twice as many students to American colleges, universities, and postsecondary vocational programs as does India, which, with more than 105,000 students, is the second-largest source country. South Korea comes in third, with 91,693. [Chronicle of Higher Education]



Not much new in this article about Chinese soft power in Africa, but the headline says something about mediated public diplomacy in the process.

As China makes real efforts to export its culture in Africa, the question that comes out is how this will play out. What are the likely consequences of the new cultural imports on the cultures of Africans that had already been eroded by European influence? Are there prospects that this could turn out to be a newer version of imperialism? Well, be that as it may, the Asian giant must prove the world wrong on the misconceptions it sees being propagated by the Western media. [Global Times]



Russian broadcasters made damn sure that fifth ring opened at the Sochi opening ceremony. What did RT broadcast, if anything?

Organizers confirmed to the Associated Press that they had cut to prepared footage, which, it turns out, isn’t such an uncommon phenomenon at the Olympics. In 2008, the Beijing opening ceremonies included some pre-recorded footage, and during the 2006 Turin games, famed singer Luciano Pavarotti lip-synched his aria. Organizers claimed the cold made a live show impossible. But the fake footage is sure to feed the chorus of criticism that has already been directed at the Sochi Olympics. As I wrote earlier this week, the unfinished accommodations and ongoing construction projects feed into a long-standing Western image of Russia as a country filled with Potemkin villages. Friday’s television fake-out will only further feed the notion that Sochi is one big vanity display. [Foreign Policy]

conflict kitchen dictators DipNote homophobia LGBT McDonald's Michael Rubin opening ceremony PD Forum 2014 Sam Chapple-Sokol Splendid Table U.S. Department of State Weekly Standard
The Daily: Soft Serve Power Reviewed by on . Our round-up of news, notes, tips, and Tweets exhibiting how public diplomacy affects the world each and every day. [divide] Michael Rubin’s take on sports dipl Our round-up of news, notes, tips, and Tweets exhibiting how public diplomacy affects the world each and every day. [divide] Michael Rubin’s take on sports dipl Rating: 0

About Michael Ardaiolo

Michael Ardaiolo is currently a student in Syracuse University's Public Diplomacy Master's Program: M.A. in International Relations from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and M.S. in Public Relations from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. In addition, he is a recovering record slinger, a Criterion Collection addict, an NBA obsessor, and a struggling student of the Korean language.
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