Japan’s public diplomacy (PD) profile rests almost exclusively on the promotion of its cultural soft power. Today, in the complex geopolitical setting of Asia, in which national rivalries are reviving competing wartime history narratives and territorial disputes, this approach is no longer sufficient to advance Japan’s own national interests and gain favorable opinion abroad. Under the Prime Minister Abe, Japan has begun to transform and upgrade its public diplomacy. However, the country is still facing a number of of challenges.
First, Northeast Asia is a complicated region to navigate: despite strong economic interdependence, countries are jockeying for influence, and the competition among national narratives is fierce. Second, Japan has a mixed image: the Cool Japan brand full of cute idols, anime and pop music has to coexist with the darker figure of a more nationalist Japan that aims to normalize its military status and reinterpret in a rosy way its war history. Third, Japan has yet to develop efficient tools to communicate with the world. If Shinzo Abe were successful in giving a new impetus to develop a truly global public diplomacy, developing new tools and narratives, his legacy is still mixed.
The paper suggests five paths Japan could follow to raise its international image and better communicate its story to the world. First, Japan should go beyond political personality in promoting its public diplomacy. Second, it should expand communication skills and public diplomacy study in its education system. Third, its PD should target not only foreign governments, but also people. Fourth, Japan should be careful to increase information sharing about itself. Fifth, national narrative and PD tools should be strengthened in a systemic manner.
Nancy Snow is the first public diplomacy professor in Japan, Pax Mundi Professor of Public Diplomacy, Kyoto University of Foreign Studies, where she is establishing Japan’s first academic initiative in global public diplomacy. She holds a Ph.D. in International Relations from the School of International Service, The American University in Washington, D.C. She has been a public diplomacy scholar-practitioner for over two decades, with two Fulbright fellowships (Germany, Japan) and an Abe Fellowship at Keio University. Snow worked in public diplomacy at both the State Department and the U.S. Information Agency as a Presidential Management Fellow.
A Princeton PhD, was a US diplomat for over 20 years, mostly in Eastern Europe, and was promoted to the Senior Foreign Service in 1997. For the Open World Leadership Center, he speaks with
its delegates from Europe/Eurasia on the topic, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United." Affiliated with Georgetown University for over ten years, he shares ideas with students about public diplomacy.
The papers of his deceased father -- poet and diplomat John L. Brown -- are stored at Georgetown University Special Collections at the Lauinger Library. They are manuscript materials valuable to scholars interested in post-WWII U.S.-European cultural relations.
This blog is dedicated to him, Dr. John L. Brown, a remarkable linguist/humanist who wrote in the Foreign Service Journal (1964) -- years before "soft power" was ever coined -- that "The CAO [Cultural Affairs Officer] soon comes to realize that his job is really a form of love-making and that making love is never really successful unless both partners are participating."