1. CALLING OUT CHINA: In case you haven’t noticed, official statements on U.S policy towards China have recently become much, much tougher. For proof, go no further than the June 24 speech delivered in Phoenix by National Security Advisor Robert C. O’Brien. It was a stinging critique of the Chinese Communist Party as a threat to America.
In remarkably strong remarks, O’Brien explained that the U.S. has “deep respect and admiration for the Chinese people” but not for the Chinese Communist Party and not on terms currently on offer from Beijing. He emphasized: “America, under President Trump’s leadership, has finally awoken to the threat the Chinese Communist Party’s actions pose to our way of life.”
According to O’Brien, the U.S. and its allies and partners “will resist the CCP’s efforts to manipulate our people and our governments, damage our economies, and undermine our sovereignty,” and “the days of American passivity and naivety regarding the People’s Republic of China are over.” Noting propaganda plays a central political role for the CCP, he said “over the past decade, the Party has invested billions of dollars into overseas propaganda efforts to great effect.” For the full text, go to: whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/Chinese-communist-partys-ideology-global-ambitions/.
O’Brien announced that several other senior Administration officials will be speaking out about China over the next few weeks.
2. RESEARCH MAKES THE PD TOOL KIT: Kudos to the bipartisan U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy for successfully hosting its first-ever virtual public meeting. Held June 23rd on the Zoom platform, the Commission’s quarterly meeting focused on how the State Department is doing evaluating and assessing public diplomacy in the six years since the Commission issued a major report on evaluation as a PD tool. The text of that 2014 report, called “Data Driven Public Diplomacy: Progress toward Measuring the Impact of Public Diplomacy and International Broadcasting Activities,” is available at state.gov/data-driven-public-diplomacy-progress-towards-measuring-the-impact-of-public-diplomacy-and-international-broadcasting-activities.
A panel of Amelia Arsenault from the Office of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Luke Peterson from the new Bureau of Global Public Affairs, and Natalie Donahue from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs discussed how research, analytics and evaluation are increasingly being used to strengthen PD. Problems, such as “risk-averse cultures”, budgetary constraints, training needs, and how to get much-needed support out to posts, certainly remain, but it seemed clear from the discussion that the importance of research is finally getting the attention and resources it deserves The Commission plans to post the transcript of the meeting on its website.
3. PANDEMIC THREATENS DEMOCRACY: What do Bill Burns, Dennis Blair, Jeb Bush, F.W. De Klerk, Francis Fukuyama, Mark Green, Anwar Ibrahim, William Kristol, Cindy McCain, H.R. McMaster, Walter Mondale, Victoria Nuland, Jose Ramos-Horta, Maria Ressa, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Kurt Volker, George Will and Muhammad Yunus have in common? All recently signed the same open letter to defend democracy and raise awareness during a time when the current pandemic and authoritarian leaders present a formidable global challenge.
They all are among more than 500 political and civil leaders, Nobel Laureates and pro-democracy supporters who have signed up for “A Call to Defend Democracy,” an initiative by the Stockholm-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) and the Washington-based National Endowment for Democracy and supported by 73 pro-democracy institutions. The letter says that “while it is unsurprising that authoritarian regimes are using the crisis to tighten their grip on power, some democracies have also introduced emergency powers without the necessary safeguards to ensure measures can be rolled back.” According to NED President Carl Gershman, “This unprecedented demonstration of global solidarity is a sign that democracy, while threatened, is also resilient.” For more information, visit www.idea.int.
4. VIEWS OF TWO “HOT” ISSUES: Pew Research Center, the nonpartisan “fact tank”, continues to produce a steady stream of solid research that can help public diplomacy understand issues, attitudes and trends shaping our society and the world. Two fresh reports are worth a look to find answers to two questions impacting our quality of life and human rights: What do Americans think about climate change, and what do people around the world think about homosexuality?
- Climate change: A June 23 Pew report found that “public concern over climate change has been growing in recent years, particularly among Democrats, and there are no signs that the COVID-19 pandemic has dampened concern levels.” The analysis found that “60% view climate change as a major threat to the well-being of the United States, as high a share taking this view as in any Pew Research Center survey going back to 2009.” According to the research, “A majority of Americans continue to say they see the effects of climate change in their own communities and believe that the federal government falls short in its efforts to reduce the impacts of climate change.” For survey details, go to: https://www.pewresearch.org/science/2020/06/23/two-thirds-of-americans-think-government-should-do-more-on-climate/.
- LGBTQ Rights: A June 25 Pew report found that — despite major changes in laws and norms surrounding same-sex marriage and LGBT rights — sharp divides on the acceptance of homosexuality remain by region, as well as religious and political attitudes. It reported, “But even with these sharp divides, views are changing in many of the countries that have been surveyed since 2002, when Pew Research Center first began asking this question. In many nations, there has been an increasing acceptance of homosexuality, including the United States where 72% say it should be accepted, compared with just 49% as recently as 2007.” For the findings on the 34 countries surveyed, go to: https://www.pewresearch.org/global/20209/06/25/global-divide-on-homosexuality-persists/5.
5. MUSIC VIDEO SALUTES “FRONTLINERS”: American PD professionals always enjoy watching foreign missions in the U.S. try to implement PD plans directed at American audiences. A recent initiative by the Philippine Embassy in Washington, DC to hold a “Philippine Independence Day 2020 Virtual Celebration” caught my attention.
To honor Filipino and Filipino-American “frontliners in action” during the current COVID-19 pandemic (and help mark June 12 as Philippine Independence Day), the Embassy put together a touching, nearly 7-minute music video. It showed scenes of health workers around the U.S. up-close and tirelessly doing their community service work, often at great personal sacrifice. At the end, Embassy and Consulate staff posted around the U.S. were shown saluting and clapping for the heroic workers. What really made the video click with both American and Philippine audiences was a popular song, “We Heal as One,” performed in English and Filipino. The catchy song was originally rearranged by Philippine National Artist Ryan Cayabyab, a famous Filipino composer, musician and conductor, back in March to rally Filipinos at the inset of the pandemic. The Washington, DC-based US-Philippines Society, co-chaired by former Ambassador to the Philippines John D. Negroponte, thanked Philippine Ambassador Jose Romualdez and his team for “this timely salute to members of the Filipino community across the country and beyond.” The video is posted on the Society’s website: https://www.usphsociety.org/
Dr. Michael H. Anderson is a public diplomacy and Asian affairs specialist with nearly 30 years of Foreign Service experience serving in the US Department of State and the US Information Agency (USIA) and working in South Asia and Southeast Asia. His Public Affairs Officer (PAO) postings included New Delhi, Jakarta, Karachi, Singapore, Manila and Port Moresby. He also has been a journalist, a teacher, a Peace Corps Volunteer in Malaysia, an information officer with UNICEF, and an East-West Center grantee. He is a member of the PDC Board.