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China`s public diplomacy and activist

Posted July. 28, 2012 04:05,   


The Chinese people I met while I was studying in the U.S. in the early 2000s gave me the strong impression of being aggressive in pursuing their goals. In many cases, five people shared a one-room studio to save on rent, though things might have changed now that China is the world’s second-largest economy in gross domestic product and trade. Back then, those who talked loudly at restaurants and attempted to buy a 10-dollar chair at half price at garage sales were mostly Chinese.

Late last month, a deputy director of Tsinghua University’s China`s Statecraft and Public Diplomacy stopped by The Dong-A Ilbo during his visit to Seoul at the invitation of the Korea Foundation. He said he visited the newspaper company to offer explanations about Beijing’s efforts to become a harmonious neighbor by growing in a peaceful way. He also asked for Dong-A’s views on its standards for reporting on China and the importance of bilateral ties. As he turned around to leave, I felt he was an “international gentleman” with dignity and class. Though it was a purely personal experience, I saw how much the Chinese have changed over the past decade.

Strengthening public diplomacy is Beijing’s national agenda. Its strategy is to break away from its traditional diplomacy with foreign governments. China is seeking to enhance its national image and foster its soft power by approaching the people of another country to enhance their understanding of China. In short, public diplomacy is aimed at turning the people of other countries in favor of my country. Zhao Qizheng, head of the foreign affairs committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, said in a lecture in Seoul early this month that his country will take the lead in seeking harmony in the world.

However, many still feel China is an imperious country that is sometimes impossible to communicate with. When Chinese fishermen violated South Korean waters and killed a South Korean coast guard, Beijing told Seoul to “enforce its law with full respect” for the Chinese people rather than offer an apology. China also occasionally pressures other countries to follow the Chinese way. China’s 113-day detention and electric torture of a South Korean human rights activist for North Korea will likely deal a severe blow to its public diplomacy efforts toward Seoul. If China considers South Korea a true friend, it should investigate the case and offer an apology.

Editorial Writer Ha Tae-won (triplets@donga.com)