How do governments select their public diplomacy targets? Officials can shake hands with important allies’ presidents, they can honour writers from far-away states, or they can visit slums to meet victims of violence. This article proposes a conceptual typology of strategic publics based on two dimensions: the strategic importance of the represented polity; and the individual’s power position. The variables are parallel to universal psychological dimensions of social cognition — that is, warmth and competence — and they are combined with diplomatic theories revolving around the primacy of representation. Six ideal types of strategic publics are defined and exemplified. The typology integrates governmental and non-governmental, foreign and domestic, and elite and non-elite publics. In addition, the article proposes a three-level heuristic device that facilitates the analysis of cases with multiple publics. The proposed analytical tools seek to stimulate future efforts to refine conceptualizations of strategic publics.
Diplomatic gifts are deeply paradoxical: they signal ‘peace’ between polities constituted by ‘power’ (peace-and-power paradox); they are exchanged between rulers of contiguous territories so as to momentarily signal a merger of separate entities (paradox of overlapping sovereignties). This essay uses a systems-theoretical approach to uncover this paradox in national laws of state awards. The analysis culminates in a conjectural legal norm prohibiting states to use diplomatic gifts or, to the extreme, a paradoxical norm containing the self-negation and self-prohibition of diplomacy. The essay finally discusses how the peace-and-power paradox and its invisibilisation permeates the whole system of diplomacy.