Sunday, April 30, 2017

Should the Chinese Government Be in American Classrooms?

Richard Bernstein

Imaginechina via AP Images
Students from a Confucius Institute in the US visiting the Confucius Temple in Qufu, China, April 17, 2013
Since their beginning in 2005, Confucius Institutes have been set up to teach Chinese language classes in more than one hundred American colleges and universities, including large and substantial institutions like Rutgers University, the State Universities of New York at Binghamton and Albany, Purdue, Emory, Texas A & M, Stanford, and others. In addition, there are now about five hundred sister programs, known as “Confucius Classrooms,” teaching Chinese in primary and secondary schools from Texas to Massachusetts.
But while the rapid spread of these institutes has been impressive, in recent years their unusual reach in the American higher education system has become increasingly controversial: Confucius Institutes are an official agency of the Chinese government, which provides a major share, sometimes virtually all, of the funds needed to run them. Though they are housed in US institutions, their curriculum is largely shaped by Chinese guidelines. Moreover, they have often been set up in secretive agreements with host institutions, which has caused Western scholars to question whether their universities are ceding undue control to a foreign government—in this instance, a foreign government well known for aggressively propagandizing its official views, censoring dissenting opinions, and imprisoning those who express them.
Responding to such complaints, a number of schools, including the University of Chicago, Penn State, and McMaster University in Canada, have closed their CIs down. The University of Chicago, for example, did so in 2014 after some one hundred faculty members signed a petition saying that the CIs were incompatible with the “values” of the University. “This is really an anomalous sort of arrangement,” Bruce Lincoln, one of the organizers of the petition, told Inside Higher Ed, “where an entity outside the university and a powerful entity and an entity that has strong interest in what’s taught is in effect seriously influencing who’s teaching and what’s taught under our name and inside our curriculum.”

Now the National Association of Scholars, a conservative group whose members are mostly American university professors, has issued the most complete report on the CIs to date, a detailed 177-page document called “Outsourced to China: Confucius Institutes and Soft Power in American Higher Education.” The NAS study, which was conducted by Rachelle Peterson, the group’s director of research projects, comes to conclusions similar to those of a study by the American Association of University Professors three years ago, and it makes similar recommendations: that the CIs either be closed or reformed. (There are about ten CIs in Canada, where the Association of University Teachers three years ago likewise recommended that they be reformed or closed.)
Among the NAS report’s findings are that CI teachers face “pressures to avoid sensitive topics” like Tibet, Taiwan, or China’s human rights record; that the teachers, recruited and trained in China, adhere to Chinese restrictions on speech; and that there is an absence of “transparency” in the CIs’ operations. Peterson visited twelve CIs in New York and New Jersey and almost all of them refused to make their contracts with the Chinese government public; administrators at some of them refused even to talk to Ms. Peterson or to allow her to visit classrooms. The NAS report also echoes concerns expressed by earlier critics of the CIs that the Chinese funding they attract has given universities a strong financial incentive to host them, to the point that some universities may find it hard to close their CIs “without jeopardizing other financial relationships.” Instead, there is an interest in presenting “China in a positive light” and in focusing “on anodyne aspects of Chinese culture,” glossing over “Chinese political history and human rights abuses.”
The CI program is supervised and controlled by the Chinese government. The supervisory body is the Office of Chinese Language Council International—the Hanban for short—which is a department of the Chinese Ministry of Education (although it is ultimately supervised by the Communist Party’s Central Propaganda Department, whose former head, Li Changchun, has been quoted in newspaper articles calling the CIs “part of China’s foreign propaganda strategy”). The senior official in charge, Liu Yandong, is a member of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee. The Hanban provides subsidies—generally around $100,000 each year for the five-year duration of a contract—to participating institutions. It screens the teachers, all of them Chinese nationals, trains them, pays their salaries and airfares, dispatches them to the institution in question, and in most cases designs the curriculum. It also sends a Confucius Institute director who shares responsibility for running each program with a local co-director.  
Yet it is hard to identify the specific threat the institutes pose. The NAS report does not contain what the organization’s director, Peter Wood, calls any “smoking guns” showing some egregious violation of academic principles, or even much in the way of widespread opposition from faculty or students. Indeed, the report contains testimonials from American participants in the program who deny they have felt any pressure from China to adhere to the country’s line, or any threats of losing their contracts and subsidies if they don’t.
“My sense is that our CI is not really doing anything nefarious,” David Stahl, a professor of Japanese literature and a CI board member at SUNY Binghamton, told Peterson. “I think, actually, given the terrible state of state funding for SUNY, it’s benefited us greatly.” Stephen Dunnet, an administrator at the University at Buffalo, told her, “It’s shameful that the only way we can offer Chinese in the Buffalo school district—which is almost bankrupt—is that we have to ask the Chinese…  There is no way for them to learn Chinese if not for this program.”
So what, then, is the terrible danger? What worries many critics of the CIs is not that they will somehow be able to establish pro-China propaganda departments inside the American academy, but something more subtle—that close relations with a Chinese state agency and dependence on Chinese financial support will give China, not exactly a disinterested party, a strong say in how the country is presented to American elementary schoolchildren and college undergraduates alike.  Chinese officials have extolled the CIs as an admirable and effective way of extending what they refer to as China’s soft power, and this is what makes some critics nervous. Will programs on China have the free, critical inquiry that American academic programs are supposed to have? Given China’s concerted efforts to control the discourse on sensitive topics like Tibet, Taiwan, and human rights, it seems unlikely that they could be discussed openly within the precincts of the CIs.   

Paul Hackett/Reuters
Liu Yandong and Li Changchun at the London Book Fair, April 15, 2012

In a 2014 book, Confucius Institutes: Academic Malware, the University of Chicago anthropologist Marshall Sahlins expressed many of these points, arguing that self-censorship is virtually inevitable; otherwise the American partner institution would jeopardize China’s financial support. Sahlins argues that if prominent institutions like Chicago itself give credibility to the CIs, smaller places, especially those without existing, independent China programs, will be encouraged to set them up also, and as they become an accepted part of the academic scene, China will gain considerable influence over how it is presented in American classrooms. There are precedents for this concern: China has successfully pressured Hollywood to make changes in movies so that they can be shown in the Chinese market, has gotten Internet companies to turn over information about their users to the security police, and has used its economic power to dissuade countries from criticizing its human rights record. 
Perry Link, professor emeritus of Chinese literature at Princeton, commented on the current and likely future effects of the “outsourcing,” as the NAS report puts it, of Chinese language teaching to China itself: “I would say mainly two things: 1) It induces self-censorship in CI recipients, which is very effective even in the absence of ‘smoking guns’; and 2) It projects a partial view of China, which incurs a double cost: a) taboo topics are not seen, and b) non-taboo topics would not look so innocuous if they could be seen in full context.”
One of the disturbing aspects of the Confucius Institutes is the secrecy in which their relations to host institutions are often kept. The authors of the NAS report were able, mostly by filing Freedom of Information Requests, to obtain the contracts signed between some of the American schools and the Hanban, and these contracts contain some strange clauses. One such clause, for example, prohibits “any activity conducted under the name of the Confucius Institute without permission or authorization from the Confucius Institute headquarters.” Another indicates a Chinese expectation that the CIs will observe Chinese law. What this means exactly is hard to know, since Chinese law does not extend to American universities, but it certainly sounds as though the American partners would be unable to have a program on, say, Tibet, unless it was prepared to denounce the Dalai Lama. The NAS report cites an incident in 2009 wherein North Carolina State University, which has a CI, rescinded an invitation to the Dalai Lama to speak on campus. 
Peterson notes what she calls the “veil of secrecy” that seems to surround at least some of the CIs she visited in New York and New Jersey, which is the reason the NAS had to file FOIA requests to get the contracts signed between the Hanban and some of those institutions. Peterson was, for example, able to make an appointment to meet the CI director at SUNY Binghamtonthis person canceled the appointment a couple of days later, citing too many other responsibilities, then told Peterson that no member of his staff would be able to meet her and that she would be barred from sitting in on a class. A similar series of events took place at SUNY Albany, she says.
At Alfred University, a small private school that has had a CI since 2008, Peterson was sitting in on a class, having, she says, gotten permission from the teacher to do so, when the provost, Rick Stephens, appeared and ordered her to leave both the classroom and the campus right away. (A spokesperson at Alfred, Susan C. Goetschius, said in an email that Peterson “did not follow appropriate protocols as a non-student and/or journalist attending a class. She was asked to leave and she did so.”)
Peterson was cordially received at other campuses. Still, one wonders about this atmosphere of secretiveness at some schools. Do the administrators or the program worry that disclosing their Chinese connections and their need for Chinese funding will give material to critics of the program? Are the Chinese directors appointed by the Hanban, even those at public universities, fearful that they will get questions on human rights in China or Tibet or on how they deal with the subject of the 1989 crackdown? 
Then there is the matter of Chinese teachers, selected and trained in China. A recent documentary film on the Confucius Institutes in Canada, called In the Name of Confucius, tells the story of Sonia Zhao, who was sent by the Hanban in 2011 to teach in the CI at McMaster University. When she went to the Hanban in Beijing to sign her contract, Zhao noticed a provision banning practitioners of Falun Gong, the sect that has been ferociously repressed in China. Zhao signed anyway, fearing that not to do so would identify her as the Falun Gong practitioner that she in fact was. She went to Toronto, and after some time living in terror that she would be found out by the Chinese director there, she left the program and got political asylum. McMaster terminated its CI arrangement in 2013.
Zhao’s case might be an unusual one, but if it is true that Falun Gong members are barred from membership, that would be religious discrimination and would appear to violate both American and Canadian law. Reporting on the Zhao case, the Toronto Globe and Mail cited a passage in the Hanban contracts according to which teachers are “not allowed to join illegal organizations such as Falun Gong.” This wording used to be posted on the Hanban’s English-language website, but it was removed after the Zhao case. Zhao says in the Canadian documentary that during their training in China, teachers are instructed in ways to avoid student questions on what are effectively banned topics, like Tibet or Falun Gong itself.   “Don’t talk about that,” she says she was told. “If the student persists, you just try to change the topic or say something the Chinese Communist Party would prefer.”
The expansion of China’s presence in schools in the US and other countries is taking place at the same time that China itself is intensifying its crackdown on dissent, tightening its censorship of the internet, and publishing prohibitions on what it calls “false ideological trends,” which include promoting that the propaganda machinery calls “Western values.” Recently, the journalist Hannah Beech, writing in The New Yorker, cited a statement by Chen Baosheng, China’s minister of education, who warned that schools in China “are the main target for infiltration by hostile forces,” and he vowed that he would “never let textbooks promoting Western values appear in our classes.”
The Confucius Institutes, it will be remembered, are run by an agency under the very Ministry of Education that Chen heads. The Hanban website currently carries reports on the Confucius Institute’s eleventh annual congress, which was held in Yunnan Province last December with 2,200 delegates participating from 140 countries. Several senior Chinese officials, including Politburo member Liu Yandong, gave speeches. On the program was a presentation of China’s “One Belt One Road” initiative, the country’s plan to build a network of relationships across Eurasia. Chen was the official host of the event.
Again, there’s no “smoking gun” here, but there is a paradox. Chen has had remarkable success in building a presence for China in American (and many other countries’) schools even as he has publicly expressed his determination never to allow Western influence—or, as he called it, “infiltration”—to flow in the other direction.

Murphy confronts Trump’s isolationism, calls for boosting foreign aid

Paul Choiniere,

image from

Earlier this month Connecticut’s junior senator, Chris Murphy, addressing the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, argued that President Trump’s foreign policy proposals would take the nation in the opposition direction of where it needs to go.

Whereas Trump, in keeping with his “America First” agenda, would slash funding for the State Department and for foreign aid, Connecticut’s Democratic senator argued for boosting spending on diplomacy and assistance programs.

“President Trump’s medieval view of the world, in which the U.S. can protect itself with a big army and a bigger moat, is wrong and dangerous,” said Murphy in his April 10 address.

The speech, “Rethinking the Battlefield,” and an accompanying report, were further evidence that Murphy, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is burnishing his image as a player on the national political stage.

Trump’s budget proposal calls for a 28 percent spending reduction for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, with USAID, which provides food, health and other humanitarian assistance, hit particularly hard.

As Murphy noted, military and intelligence spending already outpaces the State Department and USAID by a 20-to-1 margin. “We have more people working at military grocery stores than we have diplomats in the State Department,” Murphy observed.

Yet calls for cuts in spending on foreign policy and international assistance are politically popular, a reality Trump seized upon in his campaign. With so many needs at home, why spend our treasure elsewhere? So goes the thinking of many.

Our competitors, said Murphy, recognize that international assistance pays dividends.

“In the global competition for foreign investment, China is lapping us,” Murphy said. “Our budget for public diplomacy is $650 million and their budget for creating economic and political goodwill is $10 billion.”

The senator called for doubling the foreign affairs budget over the next five years. That’s not going to happen in the current political environment, of course. But it puts down a marker where Murphy thinks the Democrats should stand in opposition to isolationism. It’s a tough sell, politically, but the wiser policy approach.

If U.S. assistance can prevent fewer countries from becoming unstable, either due to weather, natural disaster, health problems, or economic disruption (and often a combination of factors), that will mean fewer ungovernable places for threats to our national security to grow, be they terrorist organizations or untreatable viruses, said Murphy.

“As political instability grows all over the world — a record number of displaced persons; four current famines — states break down and extremist groups step into the vacuum,” he told his audience. “The emerging threats to global stability exert influence that cannot be checked with military power alone.”

Slashing foreign aid and diplomacy increases the chances that our military will be called on to fight in foreign lands or that a deadly virus will confront the U.S. population, rather than being dealt with at the source.

At the time of the Marshall Plan — which rebuilt Europe and set the stage for peace and prosperity there that has lasted 70 years — the United States was devoting 2 percent of GDP to international assistance. The investment is now 0.1 percent of GDP.

Murphy called for a wiser use of foreign aid, including an emphasis on energy assistance, attacking corruption, reducing red tape attached to economic development initiatives, and adding flexibility so that a president can quickly redirect money and aid where most critically needed.

The senator is making a name for himself. With these policy proposals, he is on the right side of history.

Paul Choiniere is the editorial page editor.

From Wikipedia (not from above entry):
In March 2016, Murphy authored the bipartisan bill the Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act, along with Republican Senator Rob Portman.[69] ...
Also from Wikipedia:
In the version of the bill incorporated into the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, the U.S. Congress would ask the United States Secretary of State to collaborate with the United States Secretary of Defense and other relevant Federal agencies to create a Global Engagement Center to fight against propaganda from foreign governments, and publicize the nature of ongoing foreign propaganda and disinformation operations against the U.S. and other countries.[10] The bill said this inter-agency effort should: "counter foreign propaganda and disinformation directed against United States national security interests and proactively advance fact-based narratives that support United States allies and interests."[7]
On 23 December 2016, President Obama signed the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act into law.[11] Supporters of the resolution inside the Defense Department have publicly expressed their desire to weaken the interpretation of domestic propaganda protections, laws which prevent the US State Department from gathering information necessary to develop targeted propaganda messaging and prevent them from explicitly attempting to influence opinions.[7]

Questions for Frank Sesno to ask BBG CEO John Lansing

BBG Watch Commentary

Protest against censorship at Voice of America.

EVENT: MAY 1, 2017
World Press Freedom Day: A conversation with BBG & GWU.
BBG Watch has drafted some questions which we hope former CNN correspondent Frank Sesno will pose to Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) CEO John Lansing at the World Press Freedom Day: A conversation with BBG & GWU on Monday, May 1. Frank Sesno is a journalist of many years who no doubt cares about his reputation and would not want the upcoming event at the George Washington University to be turned into a BBG public relations maneuver designed to mislead rather than to inform American public which pays almost a billion dollars a year for the Voice of America (VOA) and other BBG media outreach programs.
The BBG with its bloated bureaucracy costs American taxpayers more than the cost of the entire U.S. propaganda effort during World War II in today’s dollars. The current BBG budget is greater than the annual budgets of the Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Europe (RFE) and Radio Liberty (RL) in today’s dollars during most of the Cold War. In 2013, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the BBG “practically defunct.” The bureaucracy expanded even further under John Lansing who added to the already multilayer management structure the new position of VOA deputy director. Critics say that with so many managers in charge at the BBG and VOA, no one is in fact in charge, judging by multiple news reporting failures and various programming and management scandals.
1. The Voice of America has suffered a major blow to its reputation in China when VOA Mandarin Service journalists were forced to cut short an interview with Chinese businessman turned whistleblower Guo Wengui. They were ordered by VOA director and deputy director to shorten the interview and did so but only under a strong protest. This is a typical comment among thousands on social media in response to VOA’s action, which happened after the Chinese government strongly objected to VOA interviewing Mr. Guo.
J. Zhang

When I heard Sasha Gong and Fred Wang say: “because of special reasons we must stop our interview…,” my feeling was exactly as same as when I heard the announcement of the Chinese communist government on the eve of 04.06.1989 [Tienanmen Square Massacre]. Tears were in my eyes. I just don’t know if it was for Mr. Guo’s fate, the deaths of 04.06.89, or for the death of VOA –because VOA was my beacon through all the dark nights when I was in China.

QUESTION: What does Mr. Lansing have to say in response to thousands of such comments and how does he explain the actions of VOA director and deputy director?

2. Ann Noonan, Executive Director of the independent, nonpartisan NGO Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting (CUSIB – made recently the following statement to the BBG Board:
ANN NOONAN: Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, a VOA reporter — who must be ALWAYS perceived as unbiased — is completely out of line telling in public a sexist joke about the First Lady, lampooning the President’s daughter simply for being a woman, or calling Mr. Trump an F-word in a public Facebook post. Mr. Lansing should not have told NPR that, I quote, “we have the greatest respect for the President.” End quote.

VOA’s credibility and the agency’s funding by taxpayers have been seriously undermined under his watch. Human rights defenders in Russia, China, and Iran will be the victims if bipartisan support for VOA and the agency completely evaporates as a result of such irresponsible behavior.”

QUESTION: How does Mr. Lansing respond to Ms. Noonan’s charge that he and the VOA director Amanda Bennett have allowed an unprecedented level of partisanship to infect Voice of America programs?

QUESTION: In light of some VOA reporters posting memes on their personal but publicly accessible Facebook pages showing Donald Trump with a Nazi swastika, as a sex organ, calling him an F-word and making jokes about him, his wife, and his daughter at a party in a VOA building while on official time, as well as attacking an independent dog watch website, does Mr. Lansing still maintain that they have the greatest respect for the U.S. President and for free media under his watch?

Ms. Noonan also made this statement:
ANN NOONAN: We would like the BBG Board to discover and report to the American public why countless BBG and VOA management elements and managers have, for years, followed and legitimized a VOA Persian Service Twitter account, which VOA now admits was fake and established by an impostor.

How is that possible at the agency that is supposed to exist as a counterweight to fake news?

Scores of BBG’s own reporters as well as outside journalists were fooled by this phenomenal management failure.

QUESTION: Can Mr. Lansing explain how the head of the VOA Persian Service was for several years unaware of a fake Twitter account in her name that was followed by her own service, BBG and VOA managers, VOA reporters and many other journalists?

3. Ms. Noonan also made these observations:
ANN NOONAN: We were also stunned by the VOA director’s Facebook post highlighting a blatantly false claim from a Somali pirate who told VOA that he was not a pirate. As someone observed, VOA used to take pride in interviewing Vaclav Havel who told the truth. It now takes pride in interviewing a hostage taker who told lies.

Equally baffling was the VOA director’s post praising a VOA report which compared information being given out by the White House to the press to — I quote — “manure.”

Other VOA reports we have seen imply, to poorly-informed audiences abroad, Stalin-like persecutions in the United States under President Trump. RFE/RL posts with anti-Israel themes from Iran border on being anti-Semitic. They all distort history and trivialize real human rights violations and threats to democracy.

QUESTION: How does Mr. Lansing respond to such charges?

QUESTION:How does Mr. Lansing explain that in the latest 2016 Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) while he was already in charge of the agency BBG federal employees gave the management even lower ratings in the categories of “Leadership” and “Employee Engagement” and the agency continues to be at the bottom of federal agencies in employee morale?

QUESTION: How does Mr. Lansing respond to a comment from a VOA English Newsroom journalist that VOA’s own worldwide web traffic numbers for individual VOA news reports are so low that even a newspaper in a small American city would be ashamed if it had similarly low number of views?

Here is more information about the event for those who may want to register to attend it and pose their own questions to BBG CEO John Lansing and other panelists:

Chance for China press freedom supporters to ask BBG CEO about censorship at Voice of America

John Lansing

BBG Watch Commentary
On Monday, May 1, supporters of press freedom in China and in the United States may have an opportunity to ask Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) CEO John F. Lansing about the recent censorship of a Voice of America Mandarin Service broadcast to China in which an interview with Chinese businessman turned whistleblower Guo Wengui was cut short on orders of VOA executives while he was discussing corruption among Chinese Communist Party officials.
VOA executives, VOA director Amanda Bennett and VOA deputy director Sandy Sugawara who are both Obama administration holdovers as is Mr. Lansing, took this action after the Chinese government protested against Mr. Guo being interviewed by VOA.
VOA executives deny that they caved in to pressure from Beijing and insist that they were only concerned with protecting journalistic standards, but many Chinese were appalled by this action and see it as censorship.
Journalists in the VOA Mandarin Service strongly opposed the management’s decision to cut the interview short and tried everything they could to continue the live conversation with Mr. Guo. They were forced to interrupt the live interview at the beginning of the second hour.

Protest against censorship at Voice of America.
A protest demonstration by Chinese Americans, former Chinese dissidents and Chinese students was held in front of the VOA building in Washington, DC. They called the VOA director’s decision shameful.
To participate in the event at which BBG CEO John Lansing is scheduled to speak, advocates of press freedom need to register following the instructions provided below.
BBG Announcement
Join the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) and The George Washington University School of Media & Public Affairs for a conversation about the role of US international journalists, defending press freedom, and protecting journalists.

RSVP here

Monday, May 1st, 2017
8:15 AM – 9:00 AM (EDT): registration and networking breakfast
9:00 – 11:00 AM (EDT): program
The George Washington University
Elliott School of International Affairs
City View Room, 7th Floor
1957 E Street, NW
Washington, DC 20052
Frank Sesno, Director, GW’s School of Media & Public Affairs
Ambassador D. Bruce Wharton, Acting Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Department of State
Panelists include:
John F. Lansing, CEO & Director, Broadcasting Board of Governors
Elise Labott, Global Affairs Correspondent, CNN
Michael Oreskes, Senior VP of News and Editorial Director, NPR
David Smith, Washington Correspondent, The Guardian
Maryam Bugaje, Multimedia Broadcaster, Voice of America Hausa Service
Setareh Derakhshesh, Director, Voice of America Persian Service
Mike Eckel, Senior Washington Correspondent, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Bay Fang, Executive Editor, Radio Free Asia
Omar Fekeiki, Managing Editor, “Raise Your Voice” Digital, Middle East Broadcasting Networks
Nada Alwadi, Assignment Editor of Community Managers, “Raise Your Voice” Digital, Middle East Broadcasting Networks
This #BBGWPFD event is free, but registration is required:

Click to RSVP

We hope you can join us.
For questions or further information, contact the BBG’s Office of Public Affairs at
Broadcasting Board of Governors
330 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, DC 20237
END OF BBG Announcement

China's soft power exposure: An opportunity for Bangladesh

Md Nadim Aktar,

image from article

Under major diplomatic initiatives and foreign policy reforms China has been putting enormous effort to lead the republic in the direction of peaceful rise enunciating the idea of peaceful development, demonstrates its soft power exposure. To that end from Deng Xiaoping to Xi Jinping a several policy changes were recommended and gradually introduced to expose it as a responsible stakeholder in the global community. 

It is obvious that from the time of 2003 to until now the USA and other major powers have been waging war and projecting hard power as the way to consolidate power and lead their sphere of influence. China, on the other hand, holds a quasi-role not to appoint all the conflict concentrates purely on image build up advocating peace and development which reflects Beijing's superior stand than the USA. 

China's long-established history, cultural appeal with rich cultural relics and historical site, large investment in public diplomacy, strong commitment to cultural exchange and education sector laid the ground of its soft power implication. Taking flavour from these substances, China is using its diplomacy with full rhythm investing hundreds of billions of dollars to manipulate world consent what the USA did after the Second World War.  

When we evaluate the current dictum of China's policy decoration, it is apparent that China has established a deep linkage between economic influence and soft power orientation to implement its goal to become an actual hegemony. To do so, China takes the initiatives of regional connectivity through link road and infrastructure framework which would alleviate Beijing's easy access to dominate economic affairs as well as give it additional leverage on manipulating public consent in a large scale. 

In this policy recommendation, China has also set the goal to make Xinhua and CCTV as global news network with true international standard. Its aim is to confront the monopoly of western media. Therefore, it has already launched a multi-floor TV studio complex in Washington DC. 

China has been actively establishing a broad network of Confucius institute on the model of British council and French Alliance and set up numbers of classroom worldwide to spread language and culture. It has also increased a considerable number of scholarships and research programme offered by the Confucius institute.

In this ongoing tendency of moving forward Asia pacific region has always been a geo-political pivot to Beijing where Bangladesh maintains a very substantive relation in good faith with mutual understanding. 

Moreover, now our bilateral relations are not just limited to economic, diplomatic or geo-strategic peripheries, rather we have achieved a momentous progress on cultural exchange, education, sports, scientific research, press and publication. This is what a very special feature of our bilateral relation resorted from 1779 [sic] when Bangladesh and China entered into an agreement of cooperation on cultural exchange, sports and education.

Bangladesh is a country with 35 per cent youth. This country has an opportunity to use the benefit of this demographic dividend in the years to come. To transform this huge youthful population into potential manpower is one of the major challenges. 

To take these challenges into consideration Bangladesh has continued to resort its effort to shift its population into full potential where China's response is likely to be more cordial. China has been granting a huge number of Bangladeshi students and academics under the direct sponsorship of their government offering accommodation, living allowance, tuition fees, and comprehensive medical insurance. 
At present, approximately three million Bangladeshi are enrolled in higher education in abroad and University Grants Commission projects that the total number will climb 4.6 million by 2026 where China would be one of the leading destinations to the students for Bachelor, Masters, and PhD programmes. 

China's unprecedented economic growth and their capacity to produce everything from needles to submarine have accomplished it as the suppliers of the world. It has business correspondence with every nation in every corner of the world. In this context, the Chinese language has occupied a great attention where Chinese language speaking community can add extra benefit in any terms of bilateral collaborations of a country. 

Thus the Chinese language has opened a new dimension in the global job market where students from the different continent are learning Chinese to keep them consistent with running stance of globalization. Bangladesh is no exception where Confucius institute is playing a key role to teach Chinese language. In one hand it helps us maintain fruitful communication with Chinese entrepreneur; on the other, it creates a new scope in our job market. At present, a huge number of youth are working in Chinese firms and joint ventured government project.

However in the accelerating process of development Bangladesh has been projected as Asian tiger in terms of economic growth (GDP) and its progress in education, health, and infrastructure has evidently enhanced its confidence to go. But still, Bangladesh has some serious drawbacks. 

The country has been failing to get the full advantage from its huge manpower, need to pay more attention to engender potential manpower resources by upgrading education system with global standard, promoting scholarly exchange programme, building world class universities with an emphasis on research. 

Md Nadim Aktar is a PhD scholar in School of Law, Zhongnan University of Economics and Law, China - See more at:

Cold War Diplomacy: Exploring American public diplomacy during the Cold War...; see also (1) (2)

image from entry

The Boston Globe: “The Fulbright, History’s Greatest War Surplus Program”

In a 2013 article for The Boston Globe, Sam Lebovic discusses the origins of the Fulbright program, of which most of the American public are unaware. The Fulbright program, created in 1946, has earned a reputation of high value within the scholarly community; to be awarded a Fulbright is to truly distinguish yourself as an intellectual and a scholar. As Lebovic highlights, the prestige of the program reaches even beyond the scholarly community, and since its inception the Fulbright program has supported 320,000 students, scholars, and teachers to either pursue academic and professional goals abroad or to come to the U.S. in pursuit of those goals.
In Lebovic’s article, he focuses on the disconnect between the program’s perceived intentions and the actual intentions in implementing it initially in 1946. As Lebovic states:
…the Fulbright is often seen as among the most civic-minded international programs of the U.S. government – a vast effort to improve mutual understanding between nations and foster the exchange of ideas…But the origins of the Fulbright program suggest it was actually established for quite different reasons—ones that are less heart-warming, but more interesting. Whatever the program became, it was first conceived as a budget-priced megaphone to transmit American ideas to the world, rather than as a genuine international dialogue. The early history of the Fulbright program offers a window into America’s towering self-confidence in its new role as global superpower in the 1940s. That the program’s effects were ultimately more complicated—and that we have come to see it so differently today—suggests both the hubris of that moment and the impossibility of predicting or controlling what international educational exchanges really do for the world.
Lebovic goes on to explain the origins of the program – created after World War II, the program was initially seen by many American policymakers as the perfect way to showcase American life and the American story to foreigners who would come to America on the exchange program. I take some issue with Lebovic’s conclusions, however, as he removes a lot of nuance from his argument.
I can agree with him that the policy atmosphere at the time certainly was not conducive to an exchange program solely for the long-term goal of “mutual understanding.” As Lebovic says, those who supported implementation ultimately believed that
…While foreigners in the United States would absorb American values, Americans abroad would do no such thing, and would instead spread American culture wherever they went.
It is undeniable that some in the Senate invested in the Fulbright program solely on this basis. What Lebovic misses, however, is Senator J. William Fulbright’s original intention. Senator Fulbright was undeniably a committed internationalist. He believed in the power and the necessity of educational exchange for the betterment of our country as well as the international community. While some who supported funding the program may not have believed so, Senator Fulbright truly believed when he pitched the program that its true value and purpose lay in increasing “mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.” From the perspective of the program’s founder, this certainly was not meant to be a one-way exchange. In fact, at the end of his career, when he was asked what he had sought to achieve with this program, Fulbright stated: “Aw, hell, I just wanted to educate these goddam ignorant Americans!” Clearly, Fulbright understood the necessity both of combatting negative images of Americans internationally, as well as educating the American public who, at the time of the program’s inception, were not typically globally-educated or familiar.
It is true, though, that Fulbright’s idealistic internationalist vision was not enough at the time to sell his program. The U.S. had just gone through a war; the American public was increasingly expressing isolationist views (not atypical after a war). Tensions were growing, however, between the U.S. and the Soviet Union; Fulbright took advantage of the beginnings of this ideological conflict by pitching the program as a “soft weapon” in the war for hearts and minds abroad.
What Lebovic does get right is the unpredictable nature of such exchange programs, and that while it is hard for research to definitively prove the benefits of such programs, much of the anecdotal evidence that exists supports the success of the program. Lebovic also focuses on the fact that these programs can only be as successful as the individual participants:
But to the extent that the program has facilitated the growth of genuine cultural exchange—and there is plenty of anecdotal evidence, at least, that it has—we shouldn’t be too quick to give credit to the foresight of its first, surprisingly parochial administrators. Better to credit the individual scholars, students, and teachers who have traveled overseas with open minds, both to the United States and away from it, and the countless individuals who have welcomed them. They created the Fulbright program as we know it. In a way, that is one testament to the power of educational exchange: It was far easier to create than it is to control.
That’s something Lebovic and I can certainly agree on.
To read Lebovic’s full article for The Boston Globe, click here.

Book Review: The Cold War and the United States Information Agency: American Propaganda and Public Diplomacy, 1945-1989, by Nicholas J. Cull

In The Cold War and the United States Information Agency: American Propaganda and Public Diplomacy, 1945-1989, author Nicholas J. Cull details the history of public diplomacy and the role that the United States Information Agency (USIA) played in American policymaking during the Cold War. The book details public diplomacy’s beginnings, borne from America’s national security establishment and originally housed in the USIA. Cull argues that after the USIA was abolished in 1999, the United States lost any type of cohesive public diplomacy strategy, and has not regained one since. Cull focuses on the institutional history of the USIA and the concept of public diplomacy, providing a comprehensive and in-depth overview and understanding of the agency in a way that I do not believe has been done previously.
Cull organizes the book in a chronological order, starting just before the birth of the USIA in 1953 and following its many iterations through various presidential administrations. In this way, it seems that Cull seeks to make it easier for the reader to visualize American propaganda alongside concurrent policy decisions. The reader can see how support for public diplomacy programs and propaganda rose and fell during the Cold War years, the ways in which policy priorities and support for these programs affected USIA’s priorities and objectives, and the importance of the USIA during this conflict. This brings up one issue that I had with Cull’s account – Cull often seems to treat the term “public diplomacy” synonymously with the term “propaganda.” While I certainly believe that propaganda falls under the umbrella of public diplomacy, it seems a disservice to the vast scope and the array of other services provided under that same umbrella to treat public diplomacy as if this might be all that it is. Cull rejects any kind of nuanced analysis on the ever-evolving nature of the term, which I found quite disappointing (and honestly, a bit lazy). Cull also seems to totally ignore the fact that the historical context in which public diplomacy is placed can change the way it is treated – thus while during the Cold War, public diplomacy efforts may have focused on aggressive propaganda efforts and psychological warfare, this cannot be said to hold true in every other era. This treatment seems ironic to me, considering he does so well to nuance the USIA’s effectiveness and prioritization of goals according to the historical context in which the agency was acting. Even more interesting, in a review of the book for The Wall Street Journal, Martha Bayles states that
“Nicholas Cull’s comprehensive history of USIA begins by clarifying what is meant by ‘public diplomacy.’ This is a great service, because since 9/11 every committee, think tank, advisory board and broom closet in Washington has published a report on the topic … none cuts through the semantic muddle as deftly as Mr Cull.”
Unfortunately I would have to disagree. While Cull seems to try to “cut through the semantic muddle,” he does a poor job of it by seriously restricting his definition. I think the “semantic muddle” surrounding public diplomacy probably has to do with the fact that it’s a very complex, and at times subjective and idea-driven, concept. To be fair, simply saying “it’s a tough thing to define” seems like a bit of a cop-out as well – perhaps neither of us have fully succeeded here.
Either way, Cull does provide a very thoroughly-researched and useful source on the beginnings of public diplomacy, the use of American propaganda during the Cold War, and the way that these developed over the course of USIA’s history. Cull seems to be appealing to the American policymaking community and the public, asking for a reconsideration of our treatment of public diplomacy in a time where these functions are housed across various agencies. As Cull says, the U.S. Information Agency was originally created to “tell America’s story to the world” by engaging internationally through the mediums of information, broadcasting, culture and exchange programs. The blurb on Cambridge Press’s website for the book claims it is “the first complete archive-based history of the subject,” and it is certainly a valuable resource for anyone looking to understand the history and the beginnings of public diplomacy, as well as the institutional history of the USIA.

For Further Reading:
  • Cull, Nicholas J. The Cold War and the United States Information Agency: American Propaganda and Public Diplomacy, 1945-1989. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 2009. Print.

American Propaganda During the Cold War

From the start of the Cold War in 1945 to its end in 1991, ideological and political hostilities between the U.S. and the Soviet Union resulted in the use of subversive techniques to win hearts and minds both domestically and abroad. As said on Man’s Propaganda blog, subsequent propaganda from these countries embodied “a power battle between both nations to sell their respective ideologies to the world.”
In a post from Man’s Propaganda analyzing the output of American propaganda, the paranoia surrounding the communist threat is palpable. Communism is frequently portrayed as if it were a transmittable disease. Posters and newspaper articles frame Soviet communism in a threatening way, referring to it as “the red menace.” Target audiences for this propaganda included the broader American public, moviegoers, and children. Here are some choice examples of such propaganda, taken from Man’s Propaganda‘s blog post relating to this topic:
“Is this Tomorrow?” A propaganda poster courtesy of the Catechetical Guild Educational Society

“The Red Menace,” a 1949 theatrical poster for the film by director Robert G. Springsteen

“He May Be a Communist,” American Informational Video
As Man’s Propaganda aptly points out, anti-communist propaganda in film, print media, and in schools was meant to manipulate mass opinion, clearly domestically but also internationally. Of course, one of the easiest ways to manipulate an audience is through fear-mongering and presenting a clear and imminent threat in order to other your opposition. The problem, however, is that this kind of ideological messaging often relies on inaccurate stereotypes and can create public paranoias that can quickly spiral out of control (think McCarthyism).
For more on the subject of American Cold War propaganda, and to read it from a more media-based perspective, please visit the source blog at Man’s Propaganda by clicking here.

Huffington Post: “International Student Exchanges Make a World of Difference”

In an older article from The Huffington Post, Stacie Berdan writes about the increase in cultural exchange programs in 2013 – both in the number of exchange students coming to the U.S., and in American students studying abroad. Citing the International Institute of Education’s 2013 Open Doors Report, Berdan uses the report’s statistics to reinforce her argument that international education can help bolster bilateral relationships, not to mention the individual benefits of studying abroad. To share a quote from Berdan’s article, Evan Ryan, then-Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, said that:
“International education promotes the relationship building and knowledge exchange between people and communities in the United States and around the world that are necessary to solve global challenges. The connections made during international education experiences last a lifetime.”
Such programs, which encourage strong people-to-people connections between nations, are crucial in improving and furthering foreign relationships. Not to mention the invaluable skills that students who study abroad will gain, including increased cultural knowledge, the ability to hold cross-cultural dialogue, knowledge of a foreign language, and a more international, broader outlook and understanding.
Today, I would argue that these programs are at risk of being undercut and undervalued – especially as the American public seems, compared with other nations, to undervalue the importance of studying foreign languages, cultures, and countries. The current presidential administration proposed a 28% budget cut to the Department of State, which funds many of these international educational exchanges. While I doubt this kind of gutting will pass through Congress, it is disheartening to see these functions so devalued and threatened. As Berdan says at the conclusion of her article:
“Through education, we can create greater understanding between the U.S. and every other country in the world. But in order to be successful, Americans must recognize the importance of these relationships and how study abroad can play a significant role. We’ve got a ways to go.”
These words still ring very true today.
You can read Berdan’s article for The Huffington Post here.

Book Review: Dismantling Utopia: How Information Ended the Soviet Union, by Scott Shane

In Dismantling Utopia: How Information Ended the Soviet Union, author Scott Shane gives his unique perspective on the collapse of the U.S.S.R. Shane witnessed the collapse of the empire firsthand – he was a journalist in Moscow representing The Baltimore Sun from 1988 to 1991. As Shane describes it, the faults of the Soviet system that had always existed began to widen in these years. While the leadership tried initially to simply reform the system, by 1991 it became clear that reform would not save the Soviet Union. The system, grossly inefficient under central planning and single-party rule, would have to be dismantled. Shane argues that while such inefficiencies were easily masked in the earlier years of the Soviet Union, by the time of its collapse and after the world experienced an information revolution, masking inadequacies was no longer an option for Soviet leadership. Thus, Shane provides a detailed and rich narrative of the fall of the Soviet Empire, arguing that “information slew the totalitarian giant.”
In the early Soviet era, the state had a monopoly on information that was virtually unchallenged. The state leadership was responsible for running the centralized economy in the most efficient and productive manner possible; the secret police was responsible for knowing everything about everyone. The leadership was able to manipulate public information to suit their purposes and to keep people placated. As time passed, however, and as inefficiencies in the system grew while information technology also improved exponentially, the inherent contradictions of the Soviet system would result in its inevitable death. It was Gorbachev who came to power during this final period, and it was Gorbachev who was forced to confront the issue of image vs. reality head-on in an age that made it increasingly difficult to maintain an image contradictory to reality.
Gorbachev chose to pursue policies of glasnost and perestroika, recognizing that if socialism was going to survive, the system would have to change. In a world that was becoming increasingly competitive, the Soviet program of central planning was quickly becoming obsolete. Gorbachev’s vision was that economic restructuring would revitalize the Soviet economy, while increased openness would allow the state to better utilize information. What he did not realize was that once glasnost was implemented, there was no turning back – people were able to see for themselves that the only way to improve living standards was to end communism and allow markets to deliver what consumers wanted rather than what the state mandated.
With the acute perspective of a journalist, Shane describes how the softening of information control revealed to the Soviet people the horrors of Stalinism, the inefficiency and corruption of central planning, and the problems with the Soviet illusion of a “family of nations.” Shane provides evidence of corruption in the Soviet system which runs the gamut from minor details to serious scandal – from the illegal use of Xerox machines by party members, to the “Uzbek Affair,” in which party members made themselves richer by underreporting cotton production, selling the difference on the black market, and pocketing the profits as well as accepting large bribes.
Shane uses the first half of the book to provide the foundations of his argument that the Soviet system was inefficient and largely corrupt. In the second half, he details the forces that ultimately brought on the collapse of communism and the important role that glasnost played in that process. As a result of greater freedom of information, people began to learn the truth about Soviet history, which had previously been modified to fit into party rhetoric. By the 1980’s, television had become the main medium for communist propaganda; after glasnost, new programs were allowed and broadcasters began to cover politics in a different way. Television became a way to expose the lies of corrupt officials; films that had been previously banned were now being aired. As Shane notes here, the Soviet government compulsively kept records on everything; they filmed everything and kept those films locked away, but under glasnost such films became fodder for the growing unrest of the Soviet public. The unintended consequences of glasnost were to paralyze the KGB and to transform the Soviet Union into what Shane calls a “coup-proof society.”
Shane’s book is both well-written and engaging as well as thoroughly researched. He relies both on personal observation from his time in the Soviet Union and archival research using what were, at the time, newly released Soviet documents. He paints a compelling and reasonably understandable picture of an element of Soviet collapse that we tend to ignore – the role that information played. At the same time, Shane interweaves an argument that also includes the traditional notion that an inefficient and sluggish economy also had a role in the system’s collapse. The Soviet Union was a country of immense wealth, and yet the rejection of economic reasoning and corruption at the heart of the system prevented it from prospering. Despite trying to deny these realities to the rest of the Soviet public, eventually – with changes over time and in technology – it became impossible to reconcile these differences in image and in reality, and Shane’s book does an excellent job of explaining this concept in a nuanced and clear way.

For Further Reading:
  • Shane, Scott. Dismantling Utopia: How Information Ended the Soviet Union. Elephant Paperbacks: Chicago, 1995. Print.

The Nixon and Khrushchev Kitchen Debate

On July 24th, 1959, the U.S. opened the American National Exhibition at Sokolniki Park in Moscow. The display was an agreement between the Soviet and American sides to hold exhibits in each other countries, hoping to promote understanding through cultural exchange. The month before, the Soviet exhibit had opened in New York; in July, President Nixon went to Moscow to open the exhibit and to meet with Khrushchev for the opening. It was at this exhibit that a serious debate over ideology took place with perhaps the strangest backdrop for such discussion.
The exhibit was meant to showcase a typical American lifestyle. As Nixon was showing Mr. Khrushchev some new American color TV sets, a debate began regarding the merits of communism and capitalism, an exchange that took place through the two’s interpreters. While the dialogue took place in a number of the exhibits, most of the debate took place in a mockup of a typical American suburban kitchen.
nixon khrush debate
While passing the TV sets, Khrushchev launched into an impromptu speech regarding the “Captive Nations Resolution” that had been passed by the U.S. Congress days earlier. The resolution condemned Soviet control of “captive” peoples of Eastern Europe, asking Americans to pray for their deliverance. Khrushchev denounced the resolution and then mocked the technology on display, announcing that Soviet technology would catch up with American gadgets and appliances within a few years. Nixon goaded Khrushchev further, telling him that he should “not be afraid of ideas. After all, you don’t know everything.” Khrushchev responded in turn, stating, “you don’t know anything about communism – except fear of it.”
With a crowd of reporters and photographers following, the debate continued into the space of a kitchen in a model American suburban home. As tension rose, with voices rising and fingers pointing, the debate went past treatment of women under the two systems and into the territory of nuclear debate. Nixon suggested that Khrushchev’s constant threats of the use of nuclear missiles could lead to war; he chided Khrushchev for constantly interrupting him. Khrushchev took Nixon’s words regarding the missiles and war as a threat, and warned Nixon of “very bad consequences” in return. Finally, perhaps feeling that the tension had pushed dialogue too far, Khrushchev said that he simply wanted “peace with all other nations, including America.” Nixon returned his deescalating statement by saying that he hadn’t been a very good host.
kitchen debate headline
The next day the kitchen debate was front page news in America, demonstrating the importance and significance of cultural exchange. While the dialogue here did get very heated, both leaders clearly attached significance and meaning to the American cultural display beyond the banal. A suburban American kitchen and living room set became a demonstration of technological superiority and a higher standard of living, leading to a larger discussion regarding ideology, security, and national relationships. On the most basic level, both leaders saw such exchange as an opportunity to reach a potentially hostile foreign audience and to educate and enlighten that audience to the realities of their home culture.
For a partial transcript of the debate from the CIA Library, click here.


The History of Voice of America

Voice of America (VOA) is an international multimedia broadcaster, now in service in more than 40 languages. VOA provides news, information, and cultural programs funded by the U.S. government. The VOA began broadcasting in 1942, and was initially meant to be a tool for combatting Nazi propaganda and misinformation.
In fact, the U.S. was one of the last world powers to establish a government-sponsored international radio service. Many other countries had already seen the power of international radio as a tool for foreign policy; the Soviet Union had built a center in Moscow and was already broadcasting in 50 languages by the end of 1930. By 1933, Italy, Britain, and France had already launched broadcasts of their own. In 1933, Nazi Germany also began broadcasting, focusing specifically on broadcasts of hostile and aggressive propaganda in other nearby countries and Latin America.
In 1941, Roosevelt established the U.S. Foreign Information Service (FIS), motivated by his belief in the power of American ideals and the need to communicate those ideals with foreign audiences. This belief is best captured by the man who would be the first director of the FIS and the father of the VOA, Robert Sherwood:
“We are living in an age when communication has achieved fabulous importance. There is a new decisive force in the human race, more powerful than all the tyrants. It is the force of massed thought-thought which has been provoked by words, strongly spoken.”
Faced with a second world war, and with both Japan and Nazi Germany using radio broadcasts to promote their own national agendas, the VOA was established as an organization to tell the truth, regardless of whether that truth was good or bad.
While support for the VOA dwindled in the initial years after the war, and along with it funding, the Berlin Blockade of 1948 changed many minds in Congress as it made apparent the need for an American voice internationally to combat hostile broadcasting from the Soviet Union and Soviet-controlled countries. That same year, Congress would also finalize the Smith-Mundt Act, which permanently established America’s international educational and cultural exchange programs that had previously been functions of the VOA. The need for exchange and an international voice was becoming increasingly apparent and vital for the coming Cold War effort.
In 1960, when the VOA had come under the authority of the new U.S. Information Agency, director George Allen endorsed the VOA charter which laid out the principles that would govern broadcasts. These principles were:
(1) VOA will serve as a consistently reliable and authoritative source of news. VOA news will be accurate, objective and comprehensive.
(2) VOA will represent America, not any single segment of American society, and will therefore present a balanced and comprehensive projection of significant American thought and institutions.
(3) VOA will present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively, and will also present responsible discussions and opinion on these policies.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) was established, the VOA established a daily flow of news and information into the region. In response to the requests of some Eastern European leaders who were seeking to establish new democracies, the VOA began broadcasting programs explaining the ways in which democracy and market economies functioned in the West. While the broadcasting of news and information to Eastern Europe and CIS countries was seen as a priority at this time, the VOA also continued to broadcast to regions throughout the world.
Today, the VOA broadcasts in 53 languages to audiences in every world region. While the VOA continues to broadcast, it has faced serious programming and budget cuts in recent years. As per their website, the VOA’s mission is still stated as “providing comprehensive coverage of the news and telling audiences the truth” and exemplifying the principles of a free press to international audiences.
Sources for Further Reading:

Book Review: The First Resort of Kings: American Cultural Diplomacy in the Twentieth Century, by Richard T. Arndt

In The First Resort of Kings, Richard Arndt sets out to detail the long history of American cultural diplomacy, its importance, and why this matters for American foreign policy today. Arndt starts with a brief and whirlwind history of cultural diplomacy starting from the Bronze age and continuing all the way through World War I in roughly 25 pages, meant to demonstrate cultural diplomacy’s longstanding importance in the foreign policy of virtually all global actors. Starting around World War I, cultural diplomacy as a foreign policy concept started to really develop in the U.S., and this is where Arndt truly begins his story. Focusing almost exclusively on the complex and at times infuriating inner machinations of the Washington bureaucratic structure, Arndt details cultural diplomacy’s golden age in America, and then its decline through the push and pull of bureaucratic politics and the pressure placed on the concept by those leaders and public officials who did not see the worth of cultural diplomacy in American foreign policy. Arndt argues, however, that cultural diplomacy is a crucial part of promoting understanding and tolerance between nations, and improving America’s image abroad at a time when such improvement is desperately needed.
Arndt, a self-described cultural internationalist, spends a lot of time focusing on the shifting of responsibility for cultural diplomacy to various agencies, offices, and bureaus. Initially a part of State, cultural diplomatic functions were, at one point, moved out of State and into USIA. Much of the debate for this initial movement out of State started with the first World War. Cultural relations were considered by many public officials as the perfect tool for disseminating information and the “American side of the story.” Arndt emphasizes this time as the point where the first serious schism developed among cultural diplomats – those who he calls “informationists,” and those who he refers to as “culturalists.” The culturalists believed in what Arndt refers to as a reciprocal flow of education, free from bias or attempts to propagandize. As Arndt defines this, he refers to exchange programs, American universities abroad, arts exchanges, and the like which he calls “mirrors” of American culture. Foreign audiences are provided glimpses into American culture, but the culturalists allow them to interpret or assign value to this cultural learning. The informationists, on the other hand, Arndt classifies as unidirectional propagandists – they provide “showcases” instead of mirrors, assigning positive value to positive aspects of American culture which they pick and choose to put on display, and essentially pitching America through cultural exchange with very specific intended messages. He likens the informationists to advertising agents and public relations specialists. The problem created by these informationists is that they undermine trust, understanding, and confidence in the U.S., which Arndt believes can be built gradually through cultural diplomacy as it was meant to be done, as opposed to an operation of spin-control. As Arndt states, “Education, in the cultural diplomat’s sense, is neither brainwashing, reeducating, nor reprogramming, but only a means of bringing out the best in people by showing them how to handle alternate truths (550).” Cultural diplomats do not predict where change from their cultural programs will lead, and they do not try to force it. They simply provide programs that reflect American culture and allow foreign audiences to decide how they wish to interpret them.
While Arndt makes a compelling and passionate plea for the revival of cultural diplomacy in its truest form, there are some problems with the book. For one, the book seems to actually be two separate books forced together – part history of American cultural diplomacy and part memoir. At a whopping 556 pages, Arndt would do well to edit and separate some of these pieces. Additionally, by focusing exclusively on the bureaucratic machinations in Washington that affected cultural diplomacy’s path, Arndt almost entirely ignores foreign perceptions until the end, as well as the roles that women and minorities played. This might not have been accident, however, as Arndt says at one point of cultural diplomacy’s decline under the Clinton administration that “…Clinton’s unrestrained political appointments primarily favored women and minorities over experience, as part of “making the administration look like America” – which created a stress on appearance over excellence that did not encourage the professionals (539).” I found this quote particularly disturbing, as it seems to imply that Arndt believes diversity is not an important concept for the American foreign service and perhaps even undermines its quality. If a true interpretation, this deeply undermines his argument that the best way to promote foreign policy and diplomatic success is to allow true and unfiltered exchange between peoples of different backgrounds, experiences, and cultures.
If you are able to accept that the book is written from the bias of the university-educated intellectual elite, this book is an excellent overview of the history of cultural diplomacy in American foreign policy, as well as a prescriptive warning that despite two decades of decline, our public diplomacy program (where the cultural programs are currently housed) can still be saved. Arndt details the problem of undervaluing cultural diplomacy especially in times of war. During the 40s and 50s, many American politicians deemed cultural diplomacy just another aspect of “globaloney.” The gradualist goals of the culturalists were not attractive when pitching to the decision-making elite, which opened the door for informationists to sales pitch cultural diplomacy as a public relations and propaganda tool – essential for wartime diplomacy and with a faster payoff, albeit short-term. Although the book is a frustrating chronology of the decay of American cultural diplomacy, Arndt ends on a positive note, saying that “rebuilding cultural diplomacy is not an impossible dream, only a long task requiring steady hands and an unusual kind of total U.S. national commitment, inspired by the kind of bipartisan friendship which Fulbright and Taft forged in 1945 (556).”

For Further Reading:
  • Arndt, Richard T. The First Resort of Kings: American Cultural Diplomacy in the Twentieth Century. Potomac Books: Washington D.C., 2006. Print.