For a few hours on Sunday, Ariana Grande, a 23-year-old pop star from Boca Raton, Florida, was the leader of the free world. The position has been open for months. Contestants ranging from German Chancellor Angela Merkel to, improbably, Chinese President Xi Jinping have been auditioning for the job. [...] While President Trump gutter-tweeted argle-bargle and played another round of golf, Grande delivered what will likely stand as the official American response to the bombing in Manchester and to another terrorist attack, the night before the concert, in London.
What happened to me in the first two weeks of 2017? I became a novice K-pop fan. But seriously, what’s so unusual about that? Are there not millions of K-pop fans too? Yes, that would be true, until I tell you my age. K-pop bands target teenagers, not grown-ups and certainly not people who are almost senior citizens like me. But wait, I also became a novice fan of Korean drama shows.
China, which regards itself as one of the world’s oldest civilizations, but one that has been repressed by outsiders, has often made culture a battlefield. It has tussled with its neighbors and rewritten history textbooks. In other instances, soft power skirmishes may be seen as substitutes for hot war. So China’s recent embrace of Japanese movies may be more complicated than audiences falling for the cuteness purveyed by Japan’s cartoon factories.
In the wake of the Edinburgh International Culture Summit, how can we think about cultural diplomacy?
The 21st century has redefined power dressing for western women on the world stage, reflecting a seismic shift in our society. Ironically, the culture of “dressing down” has infiltrated the corridors of power in Europe and the US, making the elite more accessible and “of the people”.
But even if the New York of song and film never existed, or has long vanished, the images keep their power. Can that same mental colonisation work for Singapore? That is what officials will find out in a cultural diplomacy project by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Takeshi Matsui’s new article, "Nation Branding through Stigmatized Popular Culture: The Cool Japan Craze Among Central Ministries in Japan", has recently been published in Hitotsubashi Journal of Commerce and Management. This article explains how various Japanese ministries are competing to promote “Cool Japan” and make Japanese “content industry” more attractive in order to enhance Japanʼs soft power.