history & theory

At a time when Pakistan-US relations are possibly at the lowest ebb for a number of reasons, few people remember or even know of the peak days when a US first lady visited Pakistan and extensively travelled across the country to a rousing welcome by thousands of men, women and children 55 years ago. From Karachi to Lahore, Rawalpindi and Peshawar, people were seen lining the roads and streets, waving, cheering and cherishing their country’s friendship with the United States.

It’s called “panda diplomacy” and it’s thought to have started as early as the Tang Dynasty in the 7th century when Empress Wu Zeitan sent a pair of bears (believed to be pandas) to Japan. This Chinese policy of sending pandas as diplomat gifts was revived in 1941, on the eve of the United States entering World War II, when Beijing sent two cuddly black-and-whites to the Bronx Zoo as a “thank you” gift. 

Now, an exhibition featuring more than 100 artworks and models of the museum has turned the spotlight on the institution itself. It illuminates the story of the Louvre and its transformation from a medieval fortress 800 years ago, to a grandiose palace and then a home to academies and studios before it became the world’s most visited museum and a cultural titan.

Over the past few years, the UAE’s multitude of diplomatic initiatives have included cultural diplomacy — such as an exhibition of Emirati art that toured nine US cities over two years and was titled Past Forward. This was in addition to major artistic events the UAE hosts including the Sharjah Biennial, Art Dubai and Abu Dhabi Art that bring thousands of people together. [...] However, very few of us know about the UAE’s historic role in sports diplomacy.

On February 28, we celebrate the 45th anniversary of the Shanghai Communique. The 1972 agreement, brokered by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai, ended 23 years of diplomatic estrangement between the United States and China, and laid the foundation for a peaceful and prosperous Asia. The Vietnam War was still raging when the Communique was signed but there has been no major war in the Asia-Pacific since that time. 

The cultural relationship between Canada and China predates both countries. Canada is 150 years old. The People’s Republic of China, in its modern manifestation, barely 67. But known cultural connections between the two societies begin 158 years ago for British Columbia, when many emigrated from China, first to the Fraser River gold rush and then to build railways, work in the coal mines and build merchant empires.

A little more than seven weeks after the United States officially entered World War II, a live, 15-minute shortwave radio broadcast was transmitted into Germany from a small studio in New York City on February 1, 1942. It was introduced by the American patriotic song "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." Then, announcer William Harlan Hale's voice could be heard saying: “We bring you Voices from America. 

This is the early version of what we now call the DIME model of national power — diplomacy, information, military, economic. A July 1945 report from the State Department recognized that the “nature of present day foreign relations makes it essential for the United States to maintain informational activities abroad as an integral part of the conduct of our foreign affairs.” 

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