Saturday, June 30, 2018

Australia’s Short-Sighted Abandonment of Pacific Shortwave

The Diplomat; original article contains links.

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Australia’s newfound strategic competition in the South Pacific is proving to be a headache for Canberra. Until recently, Australia — working in tandem with New Zealand — had comfortably been able to operate as the region’s prime actor, secure in its status as the overwhelming top regional power. Yet, this lack of competition seemed to have bred complacency, an assumption that the South Pacific would be a permanent sphere of unchallenged influence. Now with Beijing keen to explore its burgeoning capabilities, Canberra seems to have been caught a bit flat-footed.

It was noted last week that some of the shortwave radio frequencies that Radio Australia ceased broadcasting on early last year had been taken over by China Radio International, the Chinese state broadcaster, allowing Beijing to move into broadcasting space that had been a trusted component of quality information and projection of Australian values for almost 80 years. As many as 10 ­frequencies that Radio Australia had previous used now broadcast China Radio International programs.

Radio Australia is the international broadcasting (and online) service operated by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). The ABC, like its British counterpart the BBC, is owned by the Australian state; however, it operates independently of the government. Despite this hands-off relationship, it still forms a significant component of the state’s international public diplomacy [JB emphasis], and is a vital component of Australia’s soft power projection.

The ABC began its shortwave service in 1939, and initially used it to counter propaganda transmissions by the Axis powers throughout the region. Understanding its value to the national interest, the service expanded over time to adopt new technologies as they arose, with higher quality radio signals and digital services, as well as further content that expanded the broadcaster’s reach. Radio Australia provided services throughout the Asia-Pacific in Mandarin, Bahasa Indonesia, Khmer, Burmese, and Vietnamese; however, major budget cuts in 2015 saw broadcasts in these languages abandoned. There remains some online content in Mandarin and Bahasa Indonesia, but Radio Australia now operates primarily in English, with a small arm in Tok Pisin for Papua New Guinea (PNG), and limited services in French for the Francophone Pacific.

Alongside the abandonment of its array of regional language broadcasts, last year’s cessation of its shortwave services demonstrated a major lack of foresight. While shortwave technology may seem outdated to those in Australia, the technology still performs a vital service throughout the Pacific. Shortwave transmissions can can travel thousands of kilometers and be picked up by low-cost radios run on batteries or solar power.

In remote parts of the Melanesian states of PNG, the Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu there is no access to an FM radio signal, and limited and expensive internet availability. To many people in these remote regions, Radio Australia’s shortwave broadcasts were their only ready source of credible and reliable news and information, including emergency service information (crucial in a region prone to natural disasters). FM frequencies can also easily be shut down by authorities, as Fiji’s Frank Bainimarama did in 2009. Shortwave doesn’t have such vulnerabilities, making the service an essential asset in times of political unrest.

At the time the shortwave services were shut down, Vanuatu Prime Minister Charlot Salwai expressed his concern about the move. Citing the country’s experience with Cyclone Pam in 2015, he stated, “some of the most reliable and comprehensive early warnings and post-disaster information came from Radio Australia’s shortwave service. Australian shortwave assisted communities to prepare for, survive and recover from a terrible natural disaster. For us it is not outdated technology at all. It is appropriate and ‘fit-for-purpose’ and an important means to inform and safeguard Ni-Vanuatu people.”

There seems to be broadly two main reasons for the decision to shut down Radio Australia’s shortwave broadcasts. First, a disconnect between the lives led by ABC management and the people throughout the Pacific that Radio Australia was designed to serve (highlighted by Salwai). And second, the incessant hostility toward the ABC from The Australian newspaper (in particular) and elements within the Liberal Party, leading to a culture of constant anxiety and second-guessing within the organization. Last week The Australian was forced to issue an apology for reader comments on its website threatening to burn down the ABC’s Sydney offices. And in a display of ideological chest-beating two weeks ago at a meeting of the Liberal Party council, the party voted to sell off the national broadcaster.

Although several government ministers have stated that selling off the ABC is not government policy, nor will it be, the culture that these events create makes it very difficult for the ABC to operate in an effective capacity. While strident elements within the Liberal Party — and their sympathetic press — have failed to understand the wider implications of their ideological crusades, the issue of China Radio International taking over Radio Australia’s former shortwave frequencies may bring these implications into clearer view for them.

It should also bring the Australian government a clearer picture of the efforts it now requires to maintain influence in the South Pacific, and become highly aware of what infrastructure it has in place throughout the region. Australia’s primary asset is its longstanding regional presence and positive legacy, but this incident has made it clear that Beijing will swiftly move into any of the spaces Australia abandons, and Canberra will lack the capability to reclaim them.

The Australian government is currently conducting a review of all Australian broadcasting services throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

Public diplomacy-related jobs

Click on the vacancy title for further details of the role and application procedure. 34 Opportunities found.
Vacancy titleLocationClosing Date
AUS (Sydney) - Communications Officer, A2Sydney1 Jul 2018 11:55 PM AEST
JPN - Olympic/Paralympic Events Project Manager C4(L)Tokyo1 Jul 2018 11:55 PM JST
CPK - Political Officer, B3(L)Beijing1 Jul 2018 11:55 PM CST
Senior Programme Manager, Energy and Low Carbon Team - C4New Delhi1 Jul 2018 11:55 PM IST
Communications Officer (ESP18.299) - Maternity CoverMadrid1 Jul 2018 11:55 PM CEST
Policy and Administration Support Officers (BEL18.228)UK Permanent Representation to the European Union, Brussels1 Jul 2018 11:55 PM CEST
Communications and Public Diplomacy InternBrasilia1 Jul 2018 11:55 PM -03
Events Manager (BEL18.224)UK Permanent Representation to the European Union, Brussels2 Jul 2018 11:55 PM CEST
Deputy Head of Communications & SpokespersonWashington3 Jul 2018 11:55 PM EDT
Brexit Coordination Officer for Ankara - INTERNAL CAMPAIGN ONLY (TUR18.305)Ankara4 Jul 2018 11:55 PM +03
Executive Assistant, PA to DHM BE AmmanAmman4 Jul 2018 11:55 PM EEST
Communications and Press Intern (BGR18.273)Sofia4 Jul 2018 11:55 PM EEST
Press and Communications Team InternMexico City4 Jul 2018 11:55 PM CDT
Visits, Immersion Programme and Support officer , New Delhi, B3New Delhi5 Jul 2018 11:55 PM IST
NZW - PF Programme Administrator, A2(L)Wellington6 Jul 2018 11:55 PM NZST
NZW - Political and Visits Officer, A2(L)Wellington6 Jul 2018 11:55 PM NZST
Programme Support Officer - A1Colombo6 Jul 2018 11:55 PM +0530
Press and Public Affairs Support Officer (CZE18.300)Prague6 Jul 2018 11:55 PM CEST
Higher Education Policy / Programme ManagerCairo8 Jul 2018 11:55 PM EET
EU Policy Advisor (IRL18.291)Dublin8 Jul 2018 11:55 PM IST
Senior Press and Public Affairs Officer (07/18 ABJ)Abuja8 Jul 2018 11:55 PM WAT
CPK - Public Diplomacy Campaigns Manager, B3(L)Beijing9 Jul 2018 11:55 PM CST
Policy Support Officer (FRA18.320)Paris9 Jul 2018 11:55 PM BST
CPK - Head of Trade and Investment Analysis, C4Beijing10 Jul 2018 11:55 PM CST
SIN - Regional Research and Innovation Coordinator, B3(L)Singapore10 Jul 2018 11:55 PM +08
Human Rights Intern (CHEG18.295)UK Mission to the Office of the United Nations, Geneva10 Jul 2018 11:55 PM CEST
Commercial and Programmes Officer (02/18 FT)Freetown10 Jul 2018 11:55 PM GMT
Communications Officer, Syria Office BeirutBeirut11 Jul 2018 11:55 PM EEST
Digital, Press and Public Affairs Officer (08/18 ABJ)Abuja11 Jul 2018 11:55 PM WAT
Political Officer - Cape Town (18/18 CPT)Cape Town12 Jul 2018 11:55 PM SAST
CPK - Head of Public Diplomacy Campaigns, C4(L) (Maternity Cover – 8 Months)Beijing13 Jul 2018 11:55 PM CST
Outreach intern (FRA18.296)Paris13 Jul 2018 11:55 PM BST
Political internBrasilia14 Jul 2018 11:55 PM -03
Political Officer (07/18 LIL)Lilongwe16 Jul 2018 11:55 PM CAT

The Danger of Photo-op Diplomacy

Charles Ray,

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Recent satellite imagery of North Korea appears to show that country making substantial improvements to one of its nuclear research facilities. This comes just weeks after U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s summit meeting with North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, and Trump’s public announcement that ‘there’s no longer a nuclear threat on the Korean Peninsula.’

Though marred by widely circulated images of Trump saluting a North Korean general, the summit was generally regarded as a positive step toward a diplomatic settlement of what could be one of the most dangerous situations of this century. As with many of the Trump Administration’s actions, though, this one seems to be mostly smoke and mirrors, and naïve, wishful thinking on the part of a president more impressed with appearance than substance.

In some ways this brings to mind George W. Bush’s ‘Mission Accomplished’ press appearance during the second Gulf War, just before things in Iraq went haywire. The difference this time, however, is that the stakes are infinitely higher, and the situation is even more dire. Iraq was found, after an exhaustive investigation by U.S. and international agencies, not to actually have nuclear weapons, despite some evidence of its efforts to get them. North Korea, as we well know, not only has a number of nuclear bombs, but has made great strides to mount them on missiles capable of reaching U.S. shores.

This tendency the U.S. president has of conducting off-the-cuff diplomacy, consisting of photos of smiling leaders shaking hands followed by rosy announcements of ‘victory,’ might play well to a certain audience, but it does nothing to change the reality on the ground. And, this latest imagery shows what those familiar with North Korea already know; North Korea has no intention of giving up its nuclear weapons, the only bargaining chip Kim has in dealing with his more powerful adversary.

It will be interesting to see how Trump deals with this latest development. Clearly a rebuke of his early, off-the-cuff assessment, will he admit he was premature in his announcement and take the necessary steps to get things back on track? Anyone who has observed the man during his time in the Oval Office, and who is willing to admit that when it comes to the complexities and nuances of foreign policy he’s clueless, will have to conclude that he won’t. Incapable of admitting mistakes and lashing out viciously at anyone who dares accuse him of being wrong, he’ll probably tweet some non sequitur, or even worse, ignore the whole thing. No, there is actually something worse he can, and might, do. As he did when the intelligence community published an assessment of Russian meddling in the U.S. election, or the FBI and DOJ did their jobs on the investigation of Russian involvement with the Trump campaign, he might tweet derogatory invective in an effort to undermine this latest finding.

When personal image is the thing foremost in your mind—his mind—and you appear to be ruled by ego gratification and the adulation of others, your actions are not likely to be rational; at least, not rational to rational people.

It would be nice to think that there are a few sane people working in the White House who will sit the man down and explain the ‘real’ world to him. Nice, but not bloody likely. This is a man who, like a mafia don, values personal loyalty above all, and who is not likely to listen to anyone trying to tell him something he doesn’t want to hear. In fact, that person is likely to be looking for a new job shortly after making the effort.

Public diplomacy [JB emphasis], reaching out to public audiences to get your message across, is an effective tool in the soft power toolbox, but public relations diplomacy, getting the right picture in front of the larges taudience [JB sic] to make yourself look good for a few moments, is a path to disorder,a nd [JB sic] a dangerous way to conduct international relations. As a matter of fact, it’s a pretty lousy way to conduct domestic affairs as well—but, that’s another story for another day.

U.S. Government Public Diplomacy Small Grants Program – Education and Culture U.S. Embassy Ukraine

Excerpt from U.S. Embassy Ukraine homepage

The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv announces the 2017-2018 Public Diplomacy Small Grants Program to support projects in education and culture. Subject to availability of funds, the Embassy will award small grants as described below to Ukrainian and U.S.-based non-governmental, not-for-profit organizations and individuals. Specific thematic priorities and program requirements are described in detail below. The project must be tailored towards Ukrainian audiences, and all project activities supported by the U.S. Embassy grant should take place in Ukraine.

Beijing People's Art Theatre: Where cultural public diplomacy holds

By Hwang Jae-ho

Liu Zhichen, part of the show planning team in the Beijing People's Art Theatre, gave an interview about her work. Courtesy of Hwang Jae-ho
On March 5, we happened to discover that a grand book fair was going to be held in the Beijing People's Art Theatre to celebrate Prime Minister Zhou Enlai's 120th birthday. Since my research area is China's diplomacy, I had a personal interest in Zhou Enlai, the godfather of China's diplomacy. He was the reason I took the train all the way from Beijing to Tianjin, a while after China and Korea established diplomatic relations in the 1990s, to visit the "Memorial to Zhou Enlai and Deng Yingchao." 

The title of the introduced book in the recent book fair was "Zhou Enlai and Beijing People's Art Theatre." I didn't attend the book fair, but could remember the Beijing People's Art Theatre. Then, fortunately, I came to meet Liu Zhichen in Seoul, who is in charge of external affairs at the theatre. Here is an interview with her.

Hwang: I heard you are in the theatrical industry in Beijing. Would you please introduce yourself and the specifics you work on?

Liu: I'm Liu Zhichen from Beijing. After graduating from the Beijing International Studies University in 2010, I got a job at the Beijing People's Art Theatre. Here, my main position was in the show planning team, especially dealing with international exchange performances. For the last seven years, I have projected the showcases of the Beijing People's Art Theatre's international festivals, which are the very superior products in this capital theatre. For example, there were Russia's Moscow Art Theatre, St. Petersburg Alexander Theatre, Israel's Gesher Theatre and Belarus' Janka Kupala National Theatre who came to Beijing to perform. The tasks I deal with the most are connecting and arranging the meetings with the respective countries' consuls in China. During the talks, we build up the contracts by selecting the performance teams and organizing other extra works. In addition, I support the technical aids, discuss marketing tactics and host the visiting teams once they arrive.

Hwang: People consider the Beijing People's Art Theatre as the Seoul Art Center in a Chinese version.

Liu: As a national theatre company of China, Beijing People's Art Theatre owns its unique performing style. The theatre was established on June 12, 1952, and the famous dramatist Cao Yu was its first president. Ever since its establishment, the theatre has put on nearly 300 ancient and modern plays of different styles, which are from both home and abroad. From the 1950s to the 1960s, the theatre was famous for putting on works by Guo Moruo, Lao She and Cao Yu. The representative productions include "Tiger Tally," "The Teahouse," "Peking Man," "The Death of a Popular Beijing Opera Singer" and Western plays like "The Miser," "Aesop," "People with Gun," "Even a Wise Man Stumbles," etc. 

Since the 1980s, a group of excellent artists of the young generation has emerged. During this time plays including "Weddings and Funerals," "Uncle Doggie's Nirvana," "The Top Restaurant," "Birds Men," and others went on. 

The theatre also introduced Western plays including "Amadeus," "Death of a Salesman," "The Gin Game," and "The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial," etc. Among these, many have been performed over 100 times, and were given awards like the national "Wen Hua Award", "Five-one Best Works Award," as well as the "Gold Chrysanthemum Award" and the "Literature and Art Works Award," given by the Beijing municipal government. 

The theatre company now has three theatres mainly for drama performances: the Capital Theatre, the Mini Theatre and the Experimental Theatre. The theatre's stage art center has a professional production base, which can make sets, costumes and props for the theatre itself and also for other performing troupes.

The Beijing People's Art Theatre. Courtesy of Liu Zhichen

Hwang: How is the international troupe exchange environment?

Liu: The "Beijing People's Art Theatre International Festival" is the brand program managed by the performance centre of the Beijing People's Art Theatre since 2011. Each year it invites both foreign and domestic theatre companies and groups to perform their classic plays, which not only offers an opportunity for Chinese theatre practitioners to learn from each other, but also shows the Chinese audience excellent plays from all over the world. With eight years of effort, this brand program has been highly recognized by both industry and the audiences and it has become a highlight of Chinese drama industry. The festival has already invited troupes from Russia, Israel, France, Britain, Belarus, Poland, Romania, Lithuania, Serbia and so on. Therefore, the theatre has established a cooperative relationship with artists and organizations all over the world and gained recognition. The Capital Theatre has already become the first choice for many world first-class theatres as their performing place in China.

Hwang: What are the Beijing theatre's criteria on collaboration with foreign plays?

Liu: Recently, we went to the "Edinburgh International Festival" in the U.K., the "Avignon Festival" in France, the "Radio Romania International's Festival," and another arts festival in Israel sequentially. During this tour, we extended out partnership to France, Russia, Poland, Lithuania and Slovenia. Our prior show selection principles were mostly oriented to 'the well-known play, theater and director', but the latest choices are more with the literary values. The worldwide popular plays such as "Tempest," "Don Juan" and "The Lady of the Camellias" were all performed in the Beijing People's Art Theatre. Not only these, but other literary works with ethnicities had favorable responses from public in our theatre. For instance, playwright Mickiewicz, who is famous as a Polish poet in the 19th century, wrote the epic "Dziady," which mirrored the folk ancestral rites customs of old Poland. The play written based on this epic is "Suitcase Packers," which Israel's Camel Theater performed at our place in March 2013. The stage settings and general management were following the old-fashioned Polish culture, which does not exactly fit into the public's taste these days. This play is quite difficult for modern society to understand that only a few audiences could bear till the end. Maybe a very dark stage where you can barely see the show was one reason people left. Nevertheless, we knew it was worthy enough to deserve a show in our theatre because this play has an unimaginable influence in Polish history.

Hwang: Can you give some evaluations on Korean theater?

Liu: The most impressive point of the Korean theatrical industry is the perfect market operation. From marketing and advertising, to selling tickets, the systems are just excellent. For instance, the promotion team kept handing out flyers not only on the streets but also inside the theaters. Talking about the advertisements, the theatre-related posters and other materials were everywhere, from the streets and subways to extra public places. The performance information is easily accessible on the internet and the ticketing process is very well described that the customers could purchase with no difficulties. Secondly, the standards of stage acting and the techniques are very sophisticated. The movements were delicate, the skills were talented, and I could see how various dance and techniques were applied for one performance. Then, that the play was taking a pretty large part of Korean public culture was impressive. As many Koreans were interested, so many people paid a fortune for plays even on the weekdays though the price was not so cheap. Also it had a very mature public culture. There's one example I remember. When I went to the musical "Gwanghwamun Sonata," the age spectrum of the audience was all the way from young to old. This actually means a lot, because it means it can bring sympathy from all different generations. In short, this proved the shows are deeply sitting inside Korean audiences' hearts.

Hwang: Any other comment you want to share??

Liu: Both Korean and Chinese play-related institutions must have learned and applied Western theories and knowledge; however, they clearly are distinguishable. In the future, I see the necessity of two countries' performance exchanges among staff or universities, so they can watch and explore each other's market operations, performing systems, or expression on the stage. So far, a considerable number of play-related students are registering for exchange programs, which is a smart idea. In this sense, I personally wish Korea and China can share the vision of this art industry by interchanging and developing what each has accumulated.

In conclusion, China as a socialist state, throughout the interview, I could see it was not only influenced by the Soviet Union's politics and economics but its culture as well. 

Since 1978, after reform and opening, Chinese society went through massive interactions with Western countries that changed Chinese culture in diverse aspects. Especially during Xi Jinping's era, the government fully supported plays so that the field expanded its international connections and could adopt developed countries' fine technologies. This can be interpreted as China's enthusiasm to make qualitative improvement beyond quantitative growth. 

From the Korean play market's perspective, expending [JB - sic] its international volume through China as well as contributing to Korean play development into the Chinese market might be an unexpected opportunity for Korea's cultural and public diplomacy [JB emphasis], along with economic outcomes.

Hwang Jae-ho is a director of the Global Security Cooperation Center, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, Seoul.

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