Chinese Cultural Diplomacy: instruments in China’s strategy for international insertion in the 21st Century

  • 4th May 2019
Chinese Cultural Diplomacy: instruments in China’s strategy for international insertion in the 21st Century

Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional

Print version ISSN 0034-7329On-line version ISSN 1983-3121

Rev. bras. polít. int. vol.62 no.1 Brasília 2019 Epub Apr 29, 2019 Articles

Danielly Silva Ramos Becard1 Menechelli Filho2 Universidade de Brasília , Instituto de Relações Internacionais , Brasília , Brazil ([email protected])2 Universidade de Brasília , Instituto de Relações Internacionais , Brasília , Brazil ([email protected])
This article analyzes instruments of Chinese cultural diplomacy (2003-2018), such as the media, cinema, and the Confucius Institutes, as well as its potential to overcome barriers between states. China’s cultural soft power was studied in Confucius Institutes in the U.S.. The conclusion is that China increasingly used cultural diplomacy and turned it into a key instrument in its strategy for international insertion.
Key words: China; cultural diplomacy; cultural soft power; soft power; Confucius Institutes; China’s foreign policy …
The debate on the use of cultural diplomacy as an instrument of international insertion conforms to the increased value given to cultural soft power by the Chinese government in the 21 st Century. This has led to growing investments on instruments of Chinese cultural diplomacy (media, cinema, and CIs). The Chinese government has recognized the need to improve China’s image in order to strengthen its presence worldwide. Cultural diplomacy was seen as a tool to disarm tensions and create a favorable environment for China’s international insertion. It has been demonstrated that facing the difference between China’s self-image and how the world perceives the country is the most important raison d’être in the effort to promote Chinese cultural soft power ( Sun 2015 ).
In practice, China uses means of public and cultural diplomacy [JB emphasis] similar to other countries, such as the media, cinema, and cultural instruments. Notwithstanding, 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, justifies 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 turn, the idea of propaganda in China is closely related to the definition of public diplomacy, and the promotion of government actions abroad is free of negative meaning. Moreover, there is a double use of China’s cultural diplomacy: besides spreading the Chinese culture abroad, the country aims 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. Thus, even when they make use of traditional mechanisms of cultural diplomacy, China’s actions are seen differently: the importance of the state is seen as a form of intervention and censorship; the prominence and broadness of the concept of culture is criticized as being ideological; Chinese public diplomacy is seen as propaganda; attempts to protect the country from a perceived cultural invasion are seen as arbitrary state actions that impede social manifestation.
Therefore, from an academic perspective, it has been argued that comprehending conceptual nuances and differences in approach might make the analysis of Chinese cultural diplomacy more objective and pragmatic. This is due to the fact that, as seen in the case study, the United States’, perceptions of Chinese cultural diplomacy are still unclear and erratic. However, there is strong evidence that the Chinese government will continue to act so that Chinese stories are heard, their voices are disseminated, and their characteristics are well explained ( Xi 2014 ).
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