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Into High Gear: China's Public Diplomacy

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In recent months China's public diplomacy has had to move into high gear. Recent problems with the safety of China's food and toys exports, Beijing's close relations with the regimes of Sudan and Myanmar, and telling pictures of China's environmental problems on newspaper front pages have seriously undermined the projected image of China as a reliable and responsible world power. Even more importantly, these issues have a direct negative impact on China's economy and domestic political situation. If the safety issue is not dealt with adequately, the label 'Made in China' may become known as 'Buyer Beware' and exports may plummet. If China distances itself too much from the international mainstream on Sudan and Myanmar, the call by various non-governmental groups and Hollywood individuals for a boycott of the Beijing Olympic Games of 2008 may gain support and lead to actions that could blemish or even disrupt the Games. The Olympics have become a two-edged sword: a major public diplomacy tool for China but also an international stick to urge the Chinese government to step up its compliance to international norms and values. These recent developments illustrate the importance of image and public diplomacy for a country that is rising to play a more substantial role in world politics and economics.

Affiliations: 1: Netherlands Institute of International Relations 'Clingendael', Clingendael 7, 2597 VH The Hague, The Netherlands


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