Today, art is one of many weapons utilised by governments – including our own – in the battle for political influence. In its Public Diplomacy Strategy 2014-16, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) notes that culture and the arts are one of many ‘public diplomacy initiatives’ employed to strengthen Australia's influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

New ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie has outlined plans to renew an international expansion into overseas markets like China as part of a “soft power push” to influence Australia’s standing on the world stage. Two years after the controversial Australia Network was shut down because the government did not believe the ABC was meeting its contractual obligations, Ms Guthrie has foreshadowed a new offensive. 

We write on the occasion of the forthcoming 13th Australia-Vietnam human rights dialogue, scheduled to be held in Vietnam in August 2016. Australia should raise pressing human rights issues in an unambiguous manner, set clear benchmarks for improvements, and make the outcome of the discussions public.

The fete is a celebration of life in the two continents that blends tradition with modernity, marking the youth's contribution to the common pool of the world's culture. [...] Themulti-faceted fete incorporated lively celebration of the richness of African and Asian cultures through a range of activities from Kung Fu martial arts, comedy, cuisine, dance, exhibitions, literature, music, theatre and sports.

India is keen on deepening its cultural relations with Australia which would create "greater understanding" between the two countries, the Indian High Commissioner here has said. Stressing on the power of cultural and public diplomacy, Navdeep Suri said, "if we were to think India-Australia relations can only be done at government levels, we will be missing major opportunities". 

British television network BBC2 is planning TV shootings in Thessaloniki and Imathia from July 24-31, with the support of the Greek National Tourism Organisation (EOT), with the view to promoting popular and lesser-known Greek destinations abroad, through the entertainment industry. Other “filming trips” with the support of EOT are ongoing in Athens, Peloponnese and Crete by the Australian television travel programme “The Travel Bug TV Show”. 

Etihad Airways and Arab Film Festival Australia are joining forces again in 2016 to bring the best of contemporary Arab cinema to Australian audiences. The 13th annual Arab Film Festival Australia opened in Sydney showcasing diverse films from Australia, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Palestine and Syria. [...] The festival will travel to Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and Perth over the next three weeks.

Acting under directives from the central government, China's propaganda department is co-ordinating a global effort to step up its soft power outreach commensurate with its economic and political stature in the world, spending $US6.8 billion ($9.1 billion) a year to run and expand the international reach of official state-run media including Xinhua, CCTV, China Radio International and the China Daily.