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What do American comedy shows, such as South Park, an animated cartoon sitcom, and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, a parody of news broadcasts, have to do with public diplomacy? Well, more than you think.
In the midst of the current global tumult, I decided to take an afternoon’s break and escort my young children to the local movie theater to watch the new animated feature film Rio. As the first brightly colored 3-D computer-generated images flashed up on the screen, I felt assured of at least ninety minutes’ respite from the so-called real world.
With the establishment of its first academic research center on public diplomacy at Beijing Foreign Studies University and a well-publicized International Forum on Public Diplomacy in 2010, China has been taking some major steps forward as it tries to, in Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying’s words, “effectively present its image to other countries” and overcome a lack of experience “in handling relations with the media and the public in foreign countries”. T
Whether Americans realize it or not, our public diplomacy touches the lives of people around the world on a daily basis in unexpected ways: whether it’s a cup of Starbucks coffee; a McDonald’s Big Mac; a sporting event on television; or a music concert at a theater. The very things Americans often take for granted at home—be it food, sports, or some other form of entertainment—are also widely available around the world, exported to other countries for the pleasure – and sometimes displeasure – of foreign publics.
Good cultural diplomacy is always drawn from the unique. American country music is one area that projects a wholly American image of the rugged hero sitting high in the saddle or a scorned yet powerful woman singing about lost love. Country songs are about what the French would call la condition humaine, universal stories strummed on a guitar. As such, country music has a vast global appeal.
What does it mean when the term “diplomacy” is grafted onto another word?