history & theory
Since its premiere in Beijing in 2013, the 90-minute show has become something of a cultural calling card for China as the country seeks to bolster its efforts to project soft power abroad. Having already toured in Europe, the production will move to New York in January and then to the Kennedy Center in Washington.
While much is made of Iran’s hard power, the recent nuclear deal hints at the prospect of the country’s untapped soft power being far more central to its long-term success in the 21st century. As the 13th-century Persian poet, Jalal ad- Din Muhammad Rumi, wrote: “Raise your words, not voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.”
The spread of outside information played a major role in expediting the fall of the Berlin Wall during the Cold War era. [...] In the first installment of our three-part series on global efforts to boost outside information access in North Korea, our Park Jong-hong wraps up the BBC and VOA’s roles in opening Eastern Europe during the Cold War era.
Globalisation may not be as old as the hills but it may be as old as Newgrange. Wholesale cultural exchange has been going on for millennia. Peter Frankopan’s new book, The Silk Roads, makes this point as it reframes our history in the context of dynamic interchange between East and West.
Thirty-three years ago this week, Soviet fighter jets shot down a Korean Airlines passenger jet that had strayed into Soviet airspace while on a scheduled flight from New York to Seoul. Two hundred and sixty-nine passengers and crew were killed, including a U.S. Congressman. At first, Moscow denied that this had happened, then it claimed that the commercial flight had been gathering intelligence. No apologies were ever made.
The planting of false stories is nothing new; the Soviet Union devoted considerable resources to that during the ideological battles of the Cold War. Now, though, disinformation is regarded as an important aspect of Russian military doctrine, and it is being directed at political debates in target countries with far greater sophistication and volume than in the past.
Indeed, the Olympic Torch may represent ‘peace, unity and friendship’ but the Games have always been about more than sportsmanship. The objective is to carry out sports diplomacy; however, the result is often dictated by power politics. This year, for instance, the participation of the first ever team of displaced athletes named ‘Team Refugees’ brings to light the instability of political regimes around the world.
This pattern was seen after the Second World War too, with the most notable example being of Tokyo hosting the 1964 Olympics to shed Japan of its militaristic past. In fact, one of the first major actions of post-apartheid South Africa under Nelson Mandela was to host the Rugby Union World Cup in 1995. [...] The success of it — South Africa became the champions — and the improved image of the country convinced Mandela to lend support for the FIFA World Cup bid.