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The Daily: Japan’s soft power in Washington

The Daily: Japan’s soft power in Washington

April 14, 2014 9:01 am by: Julia Watson Category: The Daily Leave a comment A+ / A-

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

Professor Kent Calder of Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies gives an interesting interview on Japan’s need to keep stride with South Korea and China’s soft power, from a Washingtonian perspective.

I can’t help but think the Chinese have been quite strategic. I suspect they might have seen some of the problems that continuing political change in Japan was creating for Japanese diplomacy. Interestingly, in 2009 the Chinese government created a huge new program with almost $1 billion for public diplomacy and it was centered primarily in Washington. The CCTV network set up a 100-person bureau for the Americas. The Chinese government reaches out to ordinary Americans, and this is one reason it has grown more confident, or perhaps more aggressive, on the Senkakus issue—they have so much firepower and such an active information mechanism in Washington. And from the American point of view, they are nonthreatening, and simply trying to inspire trust and friendliness. [The Japan News]



This half-hour long video lecture by Professor Jeffrey Haynes of London Metropolitan University delves into how religion has influenced world affairs, and how that is changing in the globalized world.


Author Joel S. Migdal talks about the importance of soft power for the U.S. to maintain a presence in the Middle East over the long term in this interview about his new book, Shifting Sands: The United States in the Middle East.

The United States needs to be a very different kind of permanent player. Still the most powerful nation on earth, it needs to move from might to persuasion, from military intervention to negotiations, from protagonist to mediator. America can nudge but not push. To be sure, there are limits to this sort of roleplaying too. But building ties and finding local allies in the process can lead to some significant achievements. The region is simply too important for the United States to turn its back on. The need now is to develop a game plan that takes advantage of U.S. strengths while recognizing its limits. To be sure, Secretary of State John Kerry’s frenetic activities in and on the Middle East point to policies designed to keep the United States highly engaged in the region, especially on the diplomatic front. What is less clear is the degree to which all hands are on board for this sort of action or if Kerry is basically playing this role alone. To shift the nature of America’s presence in the area would take a coordinated effort, involving multiple agencies, such as USAID, the Treasury Department, the Pentagon, intelligence agencies, and more. Together, such agencies could not only cover the multiple dimensions of U.S. presence in the region but also wield the “soft power” that would be necessary to exert influence. Soft power involves such actions as speaking up in international forums for and against particular countries and wielding aid as a scalpel rather than a hatchet. A shift in American policy away from military-based intervention towards diplomacy and economic leverage would need the full backing of the President himself. At this point, one could not say that the President has demonstrated the commitment necessary nor provided the leadership for inter-agency coordination needed for such a significant shift in policy. Whether he will in the last half of his second term is something that is worth watching. [IslamiCommentary]


This opinion column gives a harsh critique of modern U.S. public diplomacy and the BBG, but also includes an interesting idea for reform.

It’s time for Congress to hit the “reset” button on public diplomacy. One reform idea that’s gathering steam: abolish the BBG. The Voice of America would then be stood up as an independent organization, operating under a clear, concise charter and the direction of a long-serving nonpartisan CEO. Radio Free Europe and other BBG-managed services that operate mostly as independent contractors could be placed under the direction of the National Endowment for Democracy. The NED could then keep them focused on promoting democracy and freedom of expression. Along with better oversight, our public diplomacy needs better investment strategies. Washington needs to stop cutting language services, radio and shortwave broadcasting and start acting like a serious superpower. [Washington Examiner]


A bit smaller in scale than our usual international scope, but this is an interesting (and darkly humorous) opinion piece from British Columbia about the overuse of the “economic diplomacy” concept and its impact on local interests.

“Economic Diplomacy” is the new buzz phrase in governance. You’ll be hearing more of it on newscasts regarding Canada’s foreign policy, and business pundits are using it to discuss diversified trade and investment plans. Where there’s a new action plan in the works, “economic diplomacy” is bumping out “opportunity cost” as the right phrase to wow the hicks… Alas, this is the dark side of these multicultural times when eager salesmen will sell away the soul of a place. And if the buyers are foreign and can’t be bothered to learn the history of the place they’re now willing to call home, why let’s just invent a slick new history for their convenience. [North Shore News]



photo credit: Business Weekly

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The Daily: Japan’s soft power in Washington Reviewed by Julia Watson on . Our round-up of news, notes, tips and tweets exhibiting how public diplomacy affects the world each and every day. [divide] Professor Kent Calder of Johns Hopki Our round-up of news, notes, tips and tweets exhibiting how public diplomacy affects the world each and every day. [divide] Professor Kent Calder of Johns Hopki Rating: 0

About Julia Watson

Julia Watson is a current public diplomacy graduate student at Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Her interests include cultural diplomacy, international communication and Middle Eastern affairs, and in her free time she enjoys learning obscure languages and experimenting with new recipes.
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