In an article published in the New York Times on November 18th, 2018, titled How China Is Rewriting Its Own Script, Ami Qin and Audrey Carlson affirmed that “China wields enormous influence over how it is depicted in the movies Americans make and watch. It’s part of a broader push by the government to take control of its global narrative and present a friendlier, less menacing image of China to the world.” In the article titled Chinese Cultural Diplomacy: instruments in China’s strategy for international insertion in the 21st Century just published in the Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional (RBPI, vol.61, 1/2019), Paulo Menechelli Filho and Danielly Ramos analyzed how China is using instruments of cultural diplomacy, such as the cinema, but also the media, and the Confucius Institutes, to strengthen its presence in the world.
The authors argued that, since the Hu Jintao (2003-2013), and especially the Xi Jinping (2013 to present day) eras, China spared no efforts or resources to strengthen its cultural diplomacy. Among the most evident actions in this process, the internationalization of the Chinese media, the strengthening of Chinese movies and the spreading of Confucius Institutes (CI) are the most prominent. The academics pointed out that the attention to international image has been one of the driving forces of China’s foreign policy. In this context, the paper’s hypothesis is that the Chinese government used cultural diplomacy as a tool to improve its image and others’ perception of China. In this sense, cultural diplomacy would have allowed more knowledge about China abroad, which contributed to lowering tensions and creating a more favorable environment for China’s international insertion. To test this hypothesis, the researchers analyzed the perspectives and characteristics of Chinese cultural diplomacy over the past few decades. They also analyzed actions that China put into practice, their effects and potential results, as well as the perception of the environment where these initiatives were received. Moreover, they conducted a case study of the CIs in the U.S., as this is the country that received and closed the most CIs in the world.
Based on qualitative and quantitative data, the authors concluded that the Chinese government has recognized the need to improve China’s image so as to strengthen its presence worldwide, and that cultural diplomacy could be used as a tool to disarm tensions and create a favorable environment for China’s international insertion. Moreover, despite the fact that China uses instruments of public and cultural diplomacy very similar to those from other countries, such as the media, cinema, and cultural instruments, the researchers observed that there are important particularities in China’s conception of soft power and cultural diplomacy. The importance of the cultural dimension to the concept of soft power, as well as the broad definition of culture, justify the use of the term “cultural soft power” in academic debates and Chinese political rhetoric. Furthermore, the Chinese state is prominent in the conduction of cultural diplomacy, whether in the command of government agencies that promote cultural diplomacy or in choosing topics to be debated and disseminated. In addition, there is a double use of China’s cultural diplomacy: besides spreading the Chinese culture abroad, they aim at goals relating to cultural security and domestic social cohesion. These particularities might not suffice to characterize a Chinese model of cultural diplomacy, but they make the analysis of China’s cultural diplomacy actions more complex, and, besides, even when they make use of traditional mechanisms of cultural diplomacy, China’s actions are seen differently. Therefore, from an academic perspective, the authors argued that comprehending conceptual nuances and differences in its approach might make the analysis of Chinese cultural diplomacy more objective and pragmatic. Perceptions of Chinese cultural diplomacy are still not clear and erratic and studies that focus on their origins, actions and results are still not very abundant, which legitimizes the analysis effort presented here. However, this article concludes that there is strong evidence that the Chinese government will continue to invest heavily in its cultural diplomacy and act so that Chinese stories are heard, their voices are disseminated, and their characteristics are well explained, as stated by Xi Jinping in 2014.
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Becard, Danielly Silva Ramos, & Menechelli Filho, Paulo. (2019). Chinese Cultural Diplomacy: instruments in China’s strategy for international insertion in the 21st Century. Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional, 62(1), e005. Epub April 29, 2019.https://dx.doi.org/10.1590/0034-7329201900105
Danielly Silva Ramos Becard is Associate Professor at the Insitute of International Relations of the University of Brasília, Brazil.
Paulo Menechelli Filho is a PhD candidate in International Relations at the University of Brasília, Brazil.
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