Taiwan’s Public Diplomacy

Due to its international position and contested relationship with mainland China, Taiwan has relied heavily on soft power and strategic public diplomacy as part of its foreign affairs strategy. As part of these efforts they are building up robust cultural diplomacy initiatives. For instance, in 2012 they turned their Council for Cultural Affairs into a Ministry of Culture with 4 core policy objectives:

1) “To ensure that every village and township in this nation, regardless of its geographic remoteness, has an equal chance to achieve its full cultural potential.”

2) “To contribute to the nation’s soft power by promoting Taiwan’s unique blend of modern and traditional cultures on the international stage.”

3) “To enhance the overall output and value of the nation’s cultural and creative sectors.”

4) “To offer the nation’s citizens equal accessibility to cultural resources by harnessing the power of cloud computing.”

Taiwan has also been involved in nation-branding from creating logos:

Old Taiwan Logo     Heart Logo   New Taiwan Logo

To bidding to host or participate in international events:

In 2010 Taiwan participated in the World Expo for the first time since 1970 when it was held in Osaka, Japan. They made a considerable investment in their 2010 World Expo Pavilion which was designed by Taiwanese architect Lee Tsu-yuan (李祖原), the architect who also designed the famous Taipei 101 building.  

2010 Shanghai World Expo submitted design:

“Mountain, Water, Heart and Lantern” Pavilion:

World Expo

Another example of public/cultural diplomacy was the Taiwanese government’s support of AIESEC in Taiwan’s bid to host the 2014 AIESEC International Congress, which brings together AIESEC youth leaders from 113 countries. Their video, while not official PD since touches on common themes that Taiwan tries to highlight in their nation-branding, tourism outreaches, and public/cultural diplomacy. Namely what they say in this video: “diverse culture, amazing foods, and warmest people…Taiwan will touch your heart.” Though the quality of the video itself is not great, I think they did a great job of tying together all of the themes Taiwan likes to highlight. The video utilizes both English and Chinese lyrics with some aboriginal singing intermixed, scenes of beautiful places in Taiwan (emphasized by the refrain referencing “Formosa,” Taiwan’s old name which translates into “beautiful island) as well as popular tourist attractions like Taipei 101, night markets, the lantern festival, etc.

Lastly, Taiwan’s Tourism Bureau has teamed up with Google to launch a Wow! eye Taiwan Video Contest. While on the surface this looks more like an effort to encourage tourism, it also looks like the Taiwanese government has more in mind for this contest when one reads the stated contest purpose:  “To encourage public participation in digital content production as we enter the era of Web 2.0, the Government Information Office (¡GIO,¡ ¡the organizer¡) will hold the Wow! eye Taiwan Video Contest, in the hope that people both at home and abroad will be able to gain a new and multifaceted understanding of Taiwan.”

Taiwan is still integrating its public/cultural diplomacy and nation branding efforts and have encountered some challenges. For example at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, Taiwan’s pavilion was placed in the China “domestic” pavilion area right by Hong Kong and Macau. Also, Taiwan wanted to participate in Milan’s upcoming 2015 World Expo, however, they were only offered a space in the “corporate” area, and told that World Expo invites were only for UN member countries.

However, winning the bid and hosting 2014 AIESEC International Congress is an example of their PD/CD efforts paying off. Taiwan seems to be quite successful at hosting niche international conferences and events like 2010 Taipei International Flora Exposition which attracted more than 8.9 million visitors. Ultimately, the strength of Taiwan’s PD/CD efforts stem from the truth of many of their claims. Speaking from personal experience, Taiwan does have great food, incredibly warm and hospitable people, and breathtaking beauty. It certainly has its faults like anywhere else in the world, but if you do have the chance to visit, the experience will certainly “touch your heart.”

Logo Photo Credit: http://logos.wikia.com/wiki/Taiwan_(tourism)

World Expo Pavilion Photo Credit: http://www.meet-in-shanghai.net/expo_pavilions_taiwan.php


Qatar’s Knowledge Diplomacy

In a 2012 Globe and Mail article, His Excellency David Johnston defines the “diplomacy of knowledge” as “our ability and willingness to work together and share our learning across disciplines and borders.” He points to 3 critical C’s of learning including creativity, communication and co-operation. A blog posted by KMbeing entitled “The GG’s 3 C’s Of Knowledge Diplomacy” expands on this definition, drawing on the blogger’s work on “knowledge mobilization” and stating that knowledge diplomacy should “’open up relationships between peoples’ at all levels and ‘foster harmony in an interconnected world.'”

A fascinating example of the application of knowledge diplomacy/knowledge mobilization can be found by looking at the Qatar Foundation’s WISE Summits. For example, the recent 2014 WISE Summit, entitled “Imagine-Create-Learn: Creativity at the Heart of Education,” brought together 1,500+ experts, innovators, and political/corporate leaders from more than 100 countries to explore the current challenges facing education.

In the April 2012 Issue No. 218 of University World News, Hans de Wit, co-founder and past president of the EAIE, states in his article “Thoughts on the international education conference circus,” that though there seems to be an education conference somewhere in the world each month, they tend to be primarily national or regional in nature and attendance. He calls for the internationalization of international education conferences, suggesting that it would be profitable to have a global international education conference including all the major national and regional IE associations every 3 to 5 years.  Furthermore, he suggests that it should not be held in Europe or the US, but rather on a different continent.

This is why Qatar’s WISE Summits are so interesting because they are truly international and engage leaders across many different sectors.  However, can WISE Summits really function like the type of international forum that Hans De Wit is talking about? The thing about WISE Summits is that they are definitely a strategic way for Qatar to engage in educational diplomacy, utilizing what Joseph Nye would refer to as soft power. As Jane Knight points out in a CBIE Briefing Note entitled “Higher Education and Diplomacy,” “Given higher education’s current obsession with branding, rankings and competitiveness, it is strongly attracted to the concept of soft power… But, the common motivation behind soft power is self-interest and dominance through attraction – whether the benefits are political, economic or reputational. This reality raises hard questions. Are the primary goals of international higher education to serve self- interests and achieve dominance? Is the term soft power, really hegemony dressed in attractive new clothes?”

In a 2011 article posted on the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy website, Philip Seib talks about how Qatar is using its plentiful financial resources to invest in public diplomacy and becoming a “new kind of superpower.” Not only has it invested in education but it has also invested in architecture and put in a successful bid to host the World Cup in 2022.

Seib goes on to say, “Qatar’s ascendancy, like that of nearby Abu Dhabi, represents a change in the contemporary world order. Small but enormously wealthy states are using their resources to become centers of culture and education as well as finance, and they seem intent on proving that in this new century spending money to enhance intellectual capital is a viable means of wielding global influence.”  So, though Qatar is not necessarily using education to try and achieve political dominance, it is certainly using it to increase its influence in the world.

There seems to be a fundamental tension within knowledge diplomacy. “Are the values of self-interest, competition or dominance going to effectively address issues of worldwide epidemics, terrorism, failed states, the bottom billion in poverty, environmental degradation and climate change? The answer is no,” according to Jane Knight.  However, she argues that knowledge diplomacy can be used for more than States’ interests but actually for the public good. It will be interesting to see if Qatar does use its growing educational expertise and influence to address the pressing problems of the world.  Ultimately, nations should move beyond soft power to John Arquilla’s and David Ronfeldt’s Noopolitik, which Arquilla asserted in his recent Building Peace article is “about acknowledging what is right and just, as a basis for negotiated settlements to conflict, peaceful interactions, and the protection of human dignity.”

Internet Governance

In her book, the Global War for Internet Governance, Professor Laura DeNardis states that the question over who should have authority over “critical Internet resources” (CIRs) is the most tangible disagreement when it comes to a potential central authority governing the internet. Most nation states actually do not have direct jurisdiction over the distribution of CIRs and this distribution also tends to occur outside traditional economic markets. 

So who governs the internet?  The answer: Multiple institutions which have multiple stakeholders.  These institutions include the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), regional Internet registries (RIRs), Domain Name System registries, and domain name registrars. Because of the United States’ relationship with key parts of this governance infrastructure, especially ICANN, it has played a key (and what some have criticized as overly influential) role in internet governance.

The current global internet governance structure brings to mind questions of equitable allocation of resources and undue influence of the nations that are most closely intwined with the key governing institutions.

Ramifications of Media’s “Participatory Turn”

In Part 3 of the International Journal of Communication 8 (2014), Henry Jenkins states: “To what degree has the rise of networked computing encouraged us to reimagine the public sphere?”  We are seeing the ramifications of media’s participatory turn played out across the world from Hong Kong to Iraq.  However, as Moya Bailey in that same journal, asserts that “political participation via social media often feels reactionary,” and may lead to higher levels of burnout. In the case of Hong Kong, it remains to be seen whether the movement will continue to go strong or be subject to intimidation and burnout.

What does the internet actually look like? There’s an app for that!

The internet is key to today’s global media system.  However, how often do we think and talk about the internet as a nebulous entity, divorced from its physical reality? After all, as Andrew Blum states in the prologue of his book Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet:

“For all the talk of the placelessness of our digital age, the Internet is as fixed in real, physical places as any railroad or telephone system ever was. In basest terms, it is made of pulses of light. Those pulses might seem miraculous, but they’re not magic. They are produced by powerful lasers contained in steel boxes housed mainly in unmarked buildings. The lasers exist. The boxes exist. The buildings exist. The Internet has a physical reality, an essential infrastructure, a ‘hard bottom,’ as Henry David Thoreau said of Walden Pond.”

So, what does the internet actually look like? In 2003, the Opte Project became the first to visually map the 14 billion pages that, at that time, made up the internet. In the 2003 picture, the colors are based on allocation (Class A) of IP space, with red (Asia Pacific), green (Europe/Middle East/Central Asia/Africa), blue (North America), yellow (Latin America and Caribbean), Cyan (RFC1918 IP Addresses), and white (unknown).  In 2010, the Opte Project created another image using BGP rather than traceroutes as the data points and basing the colors on incandescence, where the highest number of connection points represented the highest temperatures (i.e. colors of light).

Looking at the resulting images, I agree with the Creator’s Project, which points out that “the internet is our new milky way.”

optepic             Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 2.26.13 AM

Picture Credit: The Opte Project, 2003 (left) & 2010 (right)

However, these images still contribute to a nebulous feeling when thinking about the internet.  In his TEDGlobal 2012 Talk “Discover the physical side of the internet,” Andrew Blum argues, “If the internet is a global phenomenon, if we live in a global village, it’s because there are cables beneath the ocean.” In the map below you can see the 285 submarine cable systems that are either currently active or are going to be active by 2015.


Picture Credit: TeleGeography

However, perhaps the most compelling and comprehensive visualization of the internet is PEER 1 Hosting’s map of the internet app, which they launched in March 2013.  Their 3D interactive map not only shows you where the internet’s more than 22,000 nodes (information hubs) are physically located, but also allows you to visualize the internet’s evolution (from 1994 to the present) and perform traceroutes from your location to any node. It also predicts what the internet will look like by 2020, though we will almost certainly see further innovation in visualization technology by then.

Globalization is Not Over

When I think about globalization I think about K-pop star Taeyang’s song, “Wedding Dress.”  I was introduced to this song during my junior year of college when my Pakistani roommates grabbed my Chinese roommate and I and excitedly shared Taeyang’s YouTube video with us.  This song, which incorporates both English and Korean lyrics, also incorporates the familiar tune most of us in the US and much of the Western world know as “Here Comes the Bride” or “Wedding March,” which you can hear distinctly at the 3:20 time mark. Interestingly enough, this song is not American as some might think but was actually derived from the “Bridal Chorus” of German composer Richard Wagner’s famous opera Lohengrin, first performed in 1850.

But how did we move from this: 

To this: 

To this?

I would argue that the only way to truly understand the evolution of this tune into an iconic part of popular culture and media consumption across the globe is through the concepts and theories of globalization. However, not only can you see globalization at work in the production of Taeyang’s song, but also in making that midnight conversation possible in the first place.

After all, without the movement of people across borders and the technology to enable the transnational transportation of ideas, I would not have been born in America to two immigrants from South Korea and El Salvador and then twenty-some years later have the surreal experience of sitting on my apartment floor with my roommate from Nanjing, China, YouTubing and learning about Korean popular culture from my Pakistani roommates.

Recently, some have argued that globalization is now in a state of retreat, leaving behind problems it has caused but cannot actually effectively resolve. However, though this may be true, my personal experience has led me to conclude that globalization is far from over.

Some may argue that experiences like the aforementioned are only accessible for the global elite – and I would say, for the most part, absolutely. After all international students in the US tend to be from the upper socioeconomic levels of their societies and the DC metropolitan area is host to an incredible amount of financial, educational, technological, and cultural resources that I, myself, have been privileged to be able to access.

There are still others that are still quite concerned with globalization and see it as a threat to their own national cultures. Witness the ongoing conflict between Netflix and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. While concerns over nationalism and identity are certainly understandable, it would be more productive to explore how globalization and its effects can be utilized as an opportunity for public diplomacy and nation branding rather than try to hold back a powerful and seemingly inevitable force.

Better yet, why not explore the ways that globalization can be used for building a more peaceful world? The lighthearted conversations my roommates and I had about K-pop paved the way for more serious conversations about Muslim-Christian relations, ethnic tensions in Pakistan and China, and educational equality and access for women in South Asia and the Middle East.

Globalization may be in retreat but it is far from over. In order to be able to address and explore its resulting challenges and opportunities, practitioners of international communication must continue to strive for a comprehensive understanding of globalization’s underlying theory, current applicability, and future implications.

Media’s Influence on Nationalism

Media has certainly played and continues to play a role in catalyzing and sustaining nationalism. However the size of its role and the scope of its influence tends to ebb and flow. A case in point is the way the US media handled reporting during and in the aftermath of 9/11.  In his chapter, “What’s Unusual About Covering Politics As Usual,” Michael Schudson argues that there are three instances when US journalists instinctively give up the effort to be neutral in their reporting: 1) moments of tragedy, 2) moments of public danger, and 3) threats to national security. September 11th combined all three of these situations and thus, Schudson asserts, journalists moved into what Daniel Hallin has termed a “sphere of consensus.”

Journalists limited criticism of national leadership and embraced a “consensual we.” Anchors on Fox News started donning American flag pins, though ABC News prohibited its reporters from wearing these pins on air citing the need to maintain “journalistic credibility.”  Two-thirds of the 142 local TV stations that responded substantively to a survey sent out on October 16, 2001 indicated that they used on-air “patriotic symbols” in the aftermath of 9/11, according to results presented by Jennifer L. Lambe and Ralph J. Begleiter at the Broadcast Education Association Convention in April 2002. However, this “sphere of consensus” eventually dissolved and the US media’s influence on nationalism went back to those familiar and oftentimes unconscious reminders of nationhood, described by Michael Billig as “banal nationalism.”

New media adds a fascinating dimension to this phenomenon since it can be used as a tool of nationalism by everyday people. Take the Sunflower Movement in Taiwan.  From March 18-April 10th of this year, hundreds of university students protested the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement (CSSTA) agreement with China by occupying the Legislative Yuan, Taiwan’s legislature. Their main concerns were with the agreement itself which they saw as threatening Taiwan’s freedom and democracy by, in their words, “binding [Taiwan’s] economy and society irrevocably closer to China,” and the legislative maneuver that the Kuomintang Party or KMT (which is currently in power) used to bypass an agreement with their opposition (Democratic Progressive Party or DPP) to review each section of the pact and instead move it out of committee to a full vote – a move that they saw as unilateral and thus, “authoritarian and undemocratic.”

However, what started out as a hundred students protesters grew rapidly into a movement that drew between 350,000 to more than half a million protesters to the streets of Taiwan outside the Presidential Office Building on March 30th and engaged overseas Taiwanese students and diaspora communities in rallies all over the world, including in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, England, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Ireland, Scotland, Spain, Switzerland, and the US.  How did the Sunflower Movement gain such traction?  The organizers were quite strategic and successful in their use of new media. Along with their use of Facebook and Twitter, they utilized Ustream to broadcast live coverage of their protests to the world and shape their message without having to go through mainstream media. They created a Reddit Ask Me Anything Forum where they reached out to the public and answered hundreds of questions the online community posed to them. They used hackfoldr.org to set up a public document that hosted volunteer sheets, lists and an online donation form for needed supplies, English/Mandarin press releases, and live transcription and centralized information. They drew inspiration from the viral “I Am a Ukrainian” Youtube video to create their own “‘I’m a Taiwanese’ Young Generation Guarding Taiwan Democracy” video and posted powerful pictures of the violent March 23rd riot police crack down on Facebook and Tumblr.

Though the students ended the occupation on April 10 after obtaining a promise from Legislature Speaker Wang Jin-pyng to hold off discussions over the CSSTA until the legislature passes a law to oversee cross-strait negotiations/agreements, it is likely the CSSTA will eventually be passed.  It remains to be seen whether the Sunflower Movement will ultimately lead to policy changes.  However, it has reinvigorated Taiwanese civil society, aroused significant interest from national and international mainstream media (albeit an interest which has since died down internationally), and inspired activists/dissidents beyond its borders (for instance, Hong Kong students produced a Youtube video showing scenes of solidarity with the Sunflower Movement to the tune of John Lennon’s “Imagine” and stated in the information section that the Taiwanese students had given them “hope.”) Ultimately, these achievements were possible through the Sunflower Movement’s creative and strategic use of new media, which in turn, offers a compelling example of the power of new media to inspire and cultivate nationalism.