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Countering Public Diplomacy

June 9, 2011

One issue that I’ve never seen discussed as a general theme in the public diplomacy literature is how countries deal with what they regard as hostile or undesirable PD efforts directed against them.  There is quite a lot discussion of this from the sending countries point of view in terms of difficulties for PD, for instance through radio jamming (or in the current version internet blocking), harassment of PD activities, refusal of visas to PD visitors and so on but how does this look from the other side?

But  what would a more systematic treatment look like?

One question would be when and why do countries seek to counter PD activities

The overall state of diplomatic relations plays a role.  Tense political relations will make the receiving country more suspicious of incoming PD activities.

Regime type makes a difference.  Democratic states are probably less sensitive to most foreign PD than authoritarian ones.  Differences in the regime type between the two countries make a difference.  Because most of the literature on PD is about western countries conducting PD in authoritarian regimes we know quite a lot about what authoritarian regimes do.  On the other hand democratic countries may be more suspicious of PD by non-democratic countries.*  For instance look at US reactions to the expansion of Chinese PD activities.

A second question is how is PD countered.

There’s a continuum between physical interference and rhetorical strategies – arguing with the PD themes or attempting to delegitimate the activity and participation in it.

*This raises the unexplored  question of authoritarian to authoritarian public diplomacy.  Authoritarian regimes still need exports, investments, tourism and influence.

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