Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Promoting public diplomacy

By Yang Jiechi (China Daily) Updated: 2011-09-02 07:59

We should promote public diplomacy to bring China and other countries closer together and show its commitment to peace and cooperation

The world is undergoing a period of great change at present in which the trends of economic globalization and multi-polarization are continuing to accelerate. Under this backdrop, perceptions of countries are determined by a number of factors, including the state of their development and the influence of their cultures, social systems and ideologies. "Soft power", which mainly comprises values, systems, political views and cultural influence, is being increasingly emphasized by various countries around the globe, and particularly by major countries. This has given rise to public diplomacy, which is considered an important means of developing soft power.

Various countries have taken steps to increase their strategic investment in public diplomacy in a bid to boost their soft power. China should also actively engage in public diplomacy in order to comprehensively develop its soft power, further boost its international appeal and influence, and ensure that the Chinese people gain a greater understanding of not only the outside world, but also themselves. This is both a pressing task and a long-term strategy with far-reaching implications.

The reform and opening-up drive has not only brought about the enormous success of China's development, but has also fundamentally changed the way that China interacts with the rest of the world. Today, China needs the world as much as the world needs China. As China's international standing and influence continue to attract greater attention from the international community, more and more countries are actively seeking to enhance ties with China.

However, prejudice, misunderstanding and suspicion are still commonplace in international perceptions of China, which is mainly due to differences in values and ideology, lingering Cold War mentalities, and uneasiness over China's rapid growth. These tendencies are embodied in the "China threat" theory, the notion that China must assume more responsibility, and in assertions that China is getting "tough" or "arrogant".

We should respond to this complicated environment by engaging in public diplomacy. By actively engaging in public diplomacy, we should strive to establish an objective and comprehensive view of China in the international community, allow the world to better understand China's history, culture, mode of development, government concepts, domestic and foreign policies, and seek to establish and maintain a global image of China as a responsible country committed to peace, development and cooperation. This will give us a greater say in international affairs, and will help to ensure the smooth implementation of China's development strategy and foreign policy.

China's foreign interactions are continually expanding as the country continues to develop economically and socially. The Chinese people are demonstrating a higher level of interest and participation in foreign exchanges and international affairs than ever before, with more opportunities to participate in the building of China's national image. They are also exhibiting a greater desire to safeguard China's national interests. Thus, we should listen to the people, consider their demands, and seek their support in the course of our diplomatic initiatives.

However, it is a fact that perceptions of China's national strength, international status and influence tend to vary, as do interpretations of its foreign policies. Therefore, one of the important functions of public diplomacy should be to make the public aware of China's current stage of development and foster rational perceptions of China's external relations, to ensure that China's foreign policies and international roles are understood, and, by doing so, establish correct perceptions of national interests, strengthening the cohesiveness of the Chinese nation, and foster open-minded, tolerant, peaceful and rational citizens.

The objective of China's public diplomacy is to promote common development and prosperity around the world. China's public diplomacy revolves around the core tasks of the Party; it is designed to serve the overriding trends of reform, development and stability, and its highest priority goes to safeguarding and promoting China's national interests.

China has no intention of exporting its ideology and values to any other country, nor does it have any intention of exerting its influence on the development modes or domestic and foreign policies of any other country. The aims of China's public diplomacy are to bring China and other countries closer together, show the world the true China that strives for lasting world peace and prosperity, and to put an end to misunderstanding, prejudice and suspicion toward China in the international community. China's public diplomacy is also about promoting cooperation, understanding and trust between peoples of different nations, and thereby contributing to world peace and development.

Increasing interactions between China and other countries have blurred the distinction between domestic issues and international issues. An overall plan for public diplomacy should be mapped out in the context of both domestic and international situations. We must balance the domestic situation of reform, development and stability with the international requirement for peace, development and cooperation as we advance public diplomacy, so as to ensure success both at home and abroad. In addition to ensuring that people around the world gain a fair understanding of China, we should also ensure that the Chinese people gain a better understanding of the global situation and China's diplomacy.

China's profound civilization, which spans over 5,000 years of history, is the source of the wisdom and ideological wealth that enriches China's public diplomacy. Chinese culture traditionally puts people first, values harmony, cherishes friendships with neighbors, and advocates unity in the face of adversity. It is characterized by openness, tolerance and a capacity to absorb and integrate the strengths of other cultures. We view public diplomacy as an important vehicle for promoting interactions between Chinese cultures and other cultures of the world. China has increased dialogue and exchanges with other cultures in recent years, particularly since the beginning of the reform and opening-up drive, which has laid solid foundations for China's public diplomacy.

In the future, the main tasks for our public diplomacy are: to take advantage of summit diplomacy, large-scale domestic events and other opportune occasions to publicize our policies and raise China's national image; optimize mechanisms for the management of routine operations and emergencies in public diplomacy, and increase our capacity to release information and guide public opinion; provide foreign correspondents with services and assistance so that they can convey China objectively in their reports; and encourage more diplomats to engage the public in regard to the international situation.

The author is China's foreign minister. This is an excerpt from his article, which appears in Qiushi magazine.

(China Daily 09/02/2011 page8)

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