Cultural Diplomacy is a Way of Public Diplomacy

by Tayyaba Khurshid
The Foreign policy of one state is greatly influenced by public opinion in the contemporary world and therefore states have focused more on public diplomacy where the narrative of people of other states is shaped by using soft power and people’s diplomacy. Soft power in diplomacy refers to the activities of one state to persuade, attract and influence the public of other states and hence it involves government-sponsored efforts to communicate with the foreign public and influence them to have a positive outlook of that state.
Cultural diplomacy is a way of public diplomacy that focuses more to introduce the culture and tradition of one state to other people but in public diplomacy, the intent of states is that their policies and actions must be comprehended by the public of other states in a way that those states want.
However, Public diplomacy can be defined as the process or series of processes through which governments seek to create a positive political and social environment among foreign publics. Cultural Diplomacy is to showcase the culture of one state through dramas, cultural exhibitions, and tourism and aims at fostering and reinforcing cooperation on cultural heritage and developing peaceful inter-community relations (Public Diplomacy in a Multipolar World). Hence, the relationship between public and cultural diplomacy is very straightforward as the latter is the type of public diplomacy. It is more of a long-term goal where states present their cultures to foreign audiences to win the heart and minds of people and these people in turn shape the policies of the state towards that country. It is more focused to promote friendly knowledge and understanding of peoples of one state and their way of life. It is very crucial in the 21st-century globalized world for states to be active in cultural diplomacy to be successful in this global world. Cultural Relations Vs Cultural Diplomacy: Cultural Relation has no agreed universal definition but it is agreed that it is engagement for mutual understanding, intercultural dialogue, and conversation for mutual benefit which is a two-way process whereas cultural diplomacy is a one-way process for instance showcasing one culture through concerts and exhibitions and educational programs. One good way to define cultural diplomacy is ‘the exchange of ideas, information, art and other aspects of culture among other states and their people to promote mutual understanding and trust’. The more the level of engagement between people through cultural activities related to a country, the more they become familiar with and understand that country, the more they trust it, and the more they want to go there for studies, for business, and hence better relations between states because when the people of two states have mutual understanding then policymakers have to be cautious in designing policies towards states. Cultural Relations hence are the natural and organic development of culture across borders without government participation and funding. And those relations become cultural diplomacy when government officials and formal diplomats shape and channel that natural and organic flow of cultures to advance national policies and interests. The importance of cultural relations is recognized at the supranational level too. In 2016, EU Commission and its high representative issued a joint commission on the importance of intercultural relations seeking to define how the European Union would engage with other countries in the cultural domain. They identified three main areas for support.
  1. Cultural development that becomes the engine for economic and social development
  2. Intercultural dialogue to promote peaceful inter-community relations.
  3. Inter-heritage matters and their emphasis to promote and foster cooperation.
In cultural diplomacy, the art of a state is represented worldwide through exhibitions films, exchanges of actors, educational exchange programs, and various other ways. The aim of any sort of diplomacy whether public or cultural is to promote national interest and secure policy objectives abroad. The diplomatic process through which culture is promoted to other states has been institutionalized nowadays. Traditionally governments promoted cultural and educational exchanges, although these exchanges lack political messages people encounter the culture, and the richness of any culture gives a positive outlook therefore states encourage such exchanges to promote cultural diplomacy. Through cultural exhibitions, people are also aware of another culture and this also promotes the image of that state to other public.
In contemporary times, the Internet has made it easier where all the world is connected via social media, every state has a widespread opportunity to spread their messages to any desired state.
Examples of States with Cultural diplomatic Practices: In the UK, British Council operates as the International Organization for cultural relations established in 1934 as a reaction to the rise of Fascism and Nazism and increased disinformation in Europe. It spreads UK soft power around the world and works as a cultural relations organization. It is an independent organization from the government but gets funding from the government. In America, culture was utilized as the best tool to attract public opinion about America and their culture has been presented through movies and series that have been followed at a large scale by world audience. The United States Information Agency was founded in 1953, with the intent to promote public diplomacy initiatives along with informational and cultural promotion. Later after 1990, the programs were relocated to State Department. The Agency not only provided Information abroad but also International broadcasting which led to increased awareness among the public about America and its liberal world order. The American ambassies also have their Facebook accounts and use other social media handles to give firsthand information to people. The US full bright scholarship and other programs like the International Visitors Leadership Program, and Community Engagement Program all are manifestations of cultural diplomacy with the manifestation of promotion of culture because intelligent students of other states are provided quality education and get a first-hand experience of American culture and return to their native states promoting American culture and way of life. They build the narrative of young people of other states through these cultural exchanges who are future leaders and who will in the future hold essential positions in statecraft.  A wide range of cultural diplomacy programs including exchanges, tours, and exhibitions are managed by The US State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. This is overseen by the Secretary of the State, the White House, the Government Accountability Office, and the US Congress and hence it is more a developed political institution. China has also been active to promote its positive image through the use of cultural diplomacy where Chinese culture is exhibited and Chinese products are present in every household. China is also working on educational programs where Pakistani Universities have China study centers and many Chinese scholarships are provided to Higher Education Commission students those who study in China have to learn the basic Chinese language and hence get to know Chinese culture. In China, Confucius Institute has been active to deal with cultural relations and play an active role to uplift its image abroad with Chinese Characteristics. India has also been active to promote its policies abroad via the positive outlook of its culture through the television and film industry. Through the use of soft power, India has shaped the public opinion of local Afghanis which now are more tilted towards India than Pakistan.
Cultural diplomacy along with public diplomacy is an important tool of foreign policy and it can help states to develop their relations with other states easily via engaging initially with the public of that state.
Conclusion: Cultural Diplomacy is the way of public diplomacy where more focus is to develop relations via the promotion of culture. As rightly stated by the Associate Director of USIA, ‘if we strive to be successful in our efforts to create understanding of our society and our policies, we must first understand the motive, culture, history and psychology of the people with whom we wish to communicate.’ The promotion of cultural diplomacy not only fosters political relations but also is beneficial for the economic development of the state. Multinational companies like KFC and Mcdonald’s can be understood as examples of how business can be promoted and the food culture is introduced to various regions of the world. Hence, Cultural diplomacy can be beneficial to improve cultural relations and improved relations between people of two states and lead to effective and friendly policies at the state level because in the prevailing democratic setup of states people’s voice has a major say in politics and foreign affairs and the availability of social media particularly Twitter, Facebook has given a direct say to people to speak of their opinion about domestic and foreign policy issues. The globalized world has led to the interaction of different cultures daily through various avenues and even in the past cultural relations have existed between states, but those relations have been converted into a long-term investment by a state in the face of cultural diplomacy. Some states like US and UK have special institutional arrangements while others are also using various avenues through education and promotion of tourism etc.
The Author is Researcher at the Center for International Strategic Studies, AJK, working on Comprehensive Security and Strategic Stability. She is also an M.Phil. Scholar at Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad.

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