During the last four years, starting in 2012, The Charhar Institute (China), Clingendael Institute (The Netherlands) and ifa (Germany) - with the generous support by Robert Bosch Stiftung–established a Chinese-European cooperation of think tanks that works on aspects of public diplomacy. This cooperation aims at engaging Chinese and European practitioners, students and scholars to discuss concepts, perceptions and practices of public diplomacy in China and Europe. Through a series of yearly conferences, we sought to carry out scholarly debate on public diplomacy especially in the context of wisdom, culture and the role of cities. This concerted process was held in the spirit of an open and cooperative atmosphere in cities of Beijing, The Hague and Shanghai, respectively.
In the year 2015, the 4th International Public Diplomacy Forum was held in Berlin during 8-9 October. In the run-up to COP21 of the UNFCCC, the Forum focused upon the interrelationship between public diplomacy and Global Public Goods (GPGs). Experts from India, South Korea, Japan and USA also took part. One of the highlights of the Forum was an evening panel discussion on “(Mis)understanding of Climate” with experts from India, China and Europe.
In the course of this Forum the international participants agreed that the world is undergoing historic changes. A sense of community around our shared future is becoming more salient around the world. The global environmental changes have woken us up to the importance of global citizenship. This poses a new challenge to diplomacy.
In terms of the provision of GPGs, we found that there are a number of issue areas where there is convergence in European and Chinese perspectives. There is a similar search for effective solutions to global environmental problems - a specific and urgent interest perceived by both sides. We also point to shared interests in a range of non-traditional security issues, though differences remain, especially concerning state sovereignty.
GPGs, as personal and social rights, should become the new foundations for diplomacy in a globalized world in the digital era. They need to be institutionalized and regulated effectively for cooperation among different stakeholders.
There is no single normative framework for public diplomacy. Instead, China and Europe, from different historical and cultural experiences, recognize the existence of different interpretations of public diplomacy and the varying roles of different stakeholders.
Global public diplomacy requires various forms of new diplomatic tools, including digital, climate and science diplomacy. In this context, there appear obstacles and challenges in developing joint public diplomacy initiatives between Europe and China.
The Chinese participants presented the Belt and Road initiative as a GPG aimed at achieving collaborative modernization. It was recognized, that more understanding and elaboration of this initiative is required. In our quest for new diplomacy for GPGs, social players including think tanks, universities and NGOs have a vital role to play.
Public diplomacy needs more cross-border thinking. There is an apparent benefit in engaging in topics such as transboundary environmental cooperation, non-traditional security issues, the impact of technologies and the emergence of non-state actors.
The participants of the Berlin Forum resolve to continue the concerted process of deliberation between Europe and China and to explore ways and means of enhancing understanding as well as collaborative partnership.