From "people-to-people" diplomacy to public diplomacy

16:55, October 09, 2009      

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New China has moved gradually to the ‘center stage" from the fringes of the world arena with its growing prosperity and strength in six full decades since it founding on October 1, 1949. In the course of marching toward the outside world, brilliant achievements scored in its cause of diplomacy and contingents of career diplomats trained have filled people in China with great pride.

A most salient feature of Chinese diplomacy is the mutual complementation of government diplomacy and people-to-people diplomacy, and both aspects of diplomacy almost operated simultaneously upon the establishment of new China. And people-to-people diplomacy has played an irreplaceable role in new China's different historical periods and will continue to make special contributions in this regard.

With the progress of economic globalization and world multi-polarization of the contemporary world, it has become a major trend that leading participating bodies and engagement modes in the state-to-state ties have turned increasingly pluralistic, and many new ways of global intercourse have enriched and also done away with the connotation of diplomacy from a traditional sense. For instance, the world forum annual meetings and the Boao Forum for Asia are both multilateral events, which have been drawing government officials and noted personalities from various walks of life from different countries.

Against this background, doing a good job with public diplomacy is an objective demand for the further improvement of diplomatic layouts under the new situation. The object of spurring or promoting China's public diplomacy is precisely aimed to acquaint general public overseas on the country's basic national conditions, outlook on value, road of development as well as domestic and external policies.

Those involved in actions or deeds of public diplomacy are mainly government institutions, the elite of society and general public. In this realm, government institutions constitute the leading factor, the social elite the mainstay, and general public the foundation.

To date, an average of 12 million Chinese have made trips overseas annually in recent years, and there were also 24 million inbound tourists from around the world coming to tour China each year during the same period.

Chinese citizens have been transfering to the status of "global citizens" in term of citizenship, and this has availed China of great possibilities for unfolding public diplomacy, and so it is imperative or essential for the nation to enhance its voice internationally by means of public diplomacy.

To enable the world to have a correct understanding of China, people in the country cannot count on "Western media to be fair and objective to China on the whole in their reportages some day," and still less to expect them to take the initiative in filling in an ideological gap or chasm left over by history. To introduce worldwide China's real situation, including the longstanding Chinese culture and social ethnics, the socialism with Chinese characteristics, and the nation's domestic and external policies, it should depend primarily on the communicating capacity of Chinese people, whereas China's public diplomacy is precisely a vital, crucial way of increasing such capacity.

In this endeavor, Chinese citizens should further raise their awareness about public diplomacy. This is not only a sort of responsibility but an embodiment of patriotic feelings. Only when people have undergone a solid, basic training by acquainting themselves with their concrete national conditions and situation elsewhere in the world, can they obtain high attainments for public diplomacy.

Consequently, in the course of performing China's external affairs, we should not only be able to speak and listen to people in other countries but also to communicate with them. While helping them to acquire a correct understanding of China's specific national conditions and policies, we should also directly acquire information, viewpoints or ideas from our counterparts, so as to facilitate drawing available resources for our reference.

By Zhao Qizhen, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), and dean of the School of Journalism & Communications at Renmin (People's) University of China
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