At the British Council – the UK’s international cultural and educational body – we’ve been thinking about what we call the International Relations Positioning Spectrum. It draws on work by Nick Cull and work done by Ali Fisher and Counterpoint, our cultural relations think tank on ‘'Options for Influence’. The spectrum sets out in broad terms what we think a nation can do in the world and how what we do – cultural relations - fits into it.
In the aftermath of the Beijing Olympics, there's been much discussion about an increase in China's soft power, not least by Joseph Nye, the originator of the concept. [Link] Nye and others (this writer included) have evaluated China's film industry and U.S.-Chinese co-productions as a strategic asset for the Middle Kingdom. I was discussing the subject recently with a U.S. motion picture industry executive, who agreed that Hollywood production in China is an important soft power issue. Still, she told me, at least as important is that Hollywood is betting with its Asian production investments not primarily on China, but…... Full Text
It is about time that the Al-Jazeera Network received some good news from America. Having been accused by the former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld of inciting terrorism and assisting Iraqi insurgents, and then allegedly considered as a potential target of a U.S.-led military strike, Al-Jazeera has not exactly felt welcome here in the United States since the beginning of the war in Iraq. When Americans hear the words "Al-Jazeera", many immediately associate it with Osama bin Laden, the world's most recognized face of terrorism. It is thus easy to see why Al-Jazeera English has had trouble finding room in…... Full Text
I have to admit I did not expect to be writing what could be deemed a defense of Al-Hurra -- the U.S.-sponsored Arabic language television station beamed across the Arab world. Al-Hurra (which means "the free one" in Arabic) has come under scrutiny over the past few years for its potential impact on U.S. public diplomacy objectives. Yet the recent story by CBS News on the failings of Al-Hurra and coverage by The Washington Post, necessitates a critical response. The following blog entry provides two critiques -- first of the oddly framed arguments in CBS's coverage of Al-Hurra, and second…... Full Text
Globalization is contributing to a growing international divide -- political, economic, cultural, and digital. This gap, characterized by the polarization of wealth and resources and the breakdown of shared goals and identity, has contributed to heightened instability and the generation of conflict. Terrorism and holy war have been among the reactions. Unfortunately, the West's organizational tools, policy instruments and military doctrine, mired still in Cold War era thinking, appear incapable of responding adequately. Foreign ministries and departments of defense tend to be rigid, compartmentalized and hierarchic; they aren't designed or equipped to connect with populations, forge partnerships with civil society,…... Full Text