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Andrew F. Cooper


Public diplomacy has been externally directed via a strategy of assertive reputation- building. In an era of insurgent populism, this model faces strong backlash, driven by the image of public diplomacy being disconnected from domestic publics. Under these conditions, an opportunistic set of ascendant political leaders — even those located at the international system’s core — have considerable incentive to diminish ‘their’ own diplomats as part of a wider campaign to stigmatize the traditional establishment. While more attention needs to be directed to the causes of this disconnection between diplomats and public, this article highlights a number of key ingredients in a menu of adaptation to the populist challenge. Above all, the focus of engagement in public diplomacy should be broadened to include domestic as well as foreign audiences. Disruption, it must be emphasized, does not mean the end of public diplomacy. Rather, public diplomacy must take a domestic turn.

Kejin Zhao


Since 2012, China’s top leadership has argued that China’s public diplomacy should integrate with the ‘New Model of Major-Country Diplomacy with Chinese Characteristics’. Among this series of initiatives, China formulates a public diplomacy model that is different from those of other countries. China’s model of public diplomacy falls under the unified leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC), but coordinates various public diplomacy players culturally rather than institutionally. The current trends of China’s public diplomacy include to evolve from listening to telling, and to be more confident, positive and active. Based on empirical studies, this article concludes that China’s public diplomacy since 2012 has created a unique model that emphasises cultural and other informal norms under the CPC’s leadership. Moreover, public diplomacy will be regarded as a necessary wisdom to understand how China has integrated with the world harmoniously.

R.S. Zaharna


In contemporary public diplomacy, the idea of culture and nation-state are so intertwined that notions such as ‘national culture’ that fuel populism or culture as a soft-power resource often go unquestioned. This article critically revisits assumptions of state-centric diplomacy that tie culture to the state. Culture as a domain of the state, which helped carve up the world in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, has become limiting in a twenty-first-century milieu that is both culturally diverse and interconnected. The article probes the communication dynamics that are untethering culture from the state and giving prominence to forces of increased separation as well as global collaboration, including the phenomenon of humanity-centred diplomacies. Humanity-centred diplomacies’ distinguishing features — global consciousness, holistic perspective, cultural diversity and process-orientation — suggest advantages over state-centric diplomacy for leveraging cultural diversity and tackling complex global problems.

Jennifer M. Brinkerhoff


Diaspora diplomacy encompasses diasporas as: agents in their own right; instruments of other’s diplomatic agendas; and/or intentional or accidental partners with other actors pursuing shared interests. Diaspora diplomacy is not territorially bound, and agendas are fluid. Three important features of diaspora diplomacy distinguish it from public diplomacy more generally. First, the diaspora identity results in specific applications of diplomacy for which diasporans may play a unique role. Second, diasporans’ responses to global crises of identity and inequity yield particular motivations and targets of engagement. Third, diasporans may have an in-between advantage for public diplomacy. The complexity of diaspora diplomacy is likely to increase because of circular migration, layered identities, and continued improvements and access to telecommunications. Researchers and policy-makers should focus attention on how to integrate diasporas into existing efforts to account for the complexity of transnational relations.

Constance Duncombe


Public diplomacy is increasingly facilitated through social media. Government leaders and diplomats are using social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to communicate with foreign publics, changing the dynamics of interaction between broadcaster and audience. The key to understanding the power of social media in public diplomacy is the role of emotion in digital diplomacy strategies: social media statements relating to state identity can incite strong emotions that have the potential to undermine heretofore positive diplomatic relations, or provide communicative openings that move towards ameliorating crises. Examining the interaction of social media, emotion and identity provides insight into the increasing importance of digital diplomacy and the future challenges relating to digital disinformation that lie ahead.

Jan Melissen and Jian Wang

Caitlin Byrne


Public diplomacy practice is intensifying across the Indo-Pacific as global actors compete to keep pace with the emerging geopolitical realities of a contested world order. China’s rise is the dominant feature. It comes as the United States retreats from global leadership, further heightening the sense of uncertainty in the region. Amid this strategic re-ordering, competition to influence narratives, set political agendas and frame the rules of a changing order is intense. The stakes for public diplomacy could not be higher and the implications for political leaders are significant. This article examines the role of Indo-Pacific political leaders through the lens of public diplomacy. While there are significant differences in approach, findings suggest that the imperative for political leaders to inform, engage and influence public audiences increasingly lies in the desire to shape the narrative and thus the nature of a regional order that will be favourable for their national interests.

Erik C. Nisbet and Olga Kamenchuk


Policy discourse about disinformation focuses heavily on the technological dimensions of state-sponsored disinformation campaigns. Unfortunately, this myopic focus on technology has led to insufficient attention being paid to the underlying human factors driving the success of state-sponsored disinformation campaigns. Academic research on disinformation strongly suggests that belief in false or misleading information is driven more by individual emotional and cognitive responses — amplified by macro social, political and cultural trends — than specific information technologies. Thus, attention given to countering the distribution and promulgation of disinformation through specific technological platforms, at the expense of understanding the human factors at play, hampers the ability of public diplomacy efforts countering it. This article addresses this lacuna by reviewing the underlying psychology of three common types of state-sponsored disinformation campaigns and identifying lessons for designing effective public diplomacy counter-strategies in the future.

Geoffrey Wiseman


This article considers public diplomacy’s future through the prism of public diplomacy between hostile nations. It first sketches democracies’ past and present use of public diplomacy in hostile relations with non-democracies. It then discusses five particular challenges for democracies in their future thinking about the public diplomacy–hostile nations’ nexus. These challenges are: accounting for public diplomacy’s theoretical significance in hostile relations; deciding between isolating or engaging adversaries; avoiding the stigma of propaganda; managing democratic expectations; and settling on an appropriate role for governments. Democratic countries’ responses to these challenges will impact public diplomacy’s future, notably regarding its effectiveness in relation to hostile nations. The article concludes that public diplomacy is not a panacea for easing hostile bilateral relations. However, it is one of many elements that a judicious government can use — drawing on four ideal-type variants of public diplomacy — in order to improve relations with an adversarial state.

Corneliu Bjola, Jennifer Cassidy and Ilan Manor


As data fast become the ‘new oil’, the opportunities for public diplomacy to grow as a field of practice are real and game-changing. Drawing on social informatics research, this article seeks to advance our understanding of how digital technologies shape the context in which public diplomacy operates by reshaping the medium of public communication, blurring the boundary between foreign and domestic affairs and empowering new actors. Despite inevitable challenges, the future of public diplomacy in the digital age remains bright, as digital technologies create tremendous opportunities for public diplomacy to build stronger, more diverse and more enduring bridges between offline and online communities.