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date: 21 September 2023

Public Diplomacy and Foreign Policyfree

Public Diplomacy and Foreign Policyfree

  • Atsushi TagoAtsushi TagoGraduate School of Law, Kobe University


Public diplomacy has become an essential subject for both practitioners of foreign policy and scholars of international relations/world politics. The more the term achieves popularity and is used in policy papers, magazines, academic books, and articles, the greater the number of different definitions of the concept. Unfortunately, no universally agreed-upon definition exists. With regard to the international relations debate on the “-isms,” some researchers claim that public diplomacy is part of constructivism. Yet, while it may be appropriate to categorize public diplomacy as constructivist for norm-oriented reputation politics such as “naming and shaming,” many realists working from the rationalist paradigm have recognized the importance of public diplomacy in international relations. Recently, beyond discussions on definitions and scope of public diplomacy, many data-oriented, empirical studies have been published on the subject. For instance, moves have been made to rank which state can achieve the greatest level of soft power through the effective practice of public diplomacy. Moreover, quantitative text analysis (QTA) or content analysis frameworks have frequently been utilized to study how international media focus on controversial diplomatic issues between states. Even tweets and social networks are being studied to reveal what types of international diplomatic communications are supported and opposed by third-party domestic audiences. Rapid developments continue to be made in the methodological sophistication of public diplomacy studies.


  • World Politics


Public diplomacy has become an essential subject for both practitioners of foreign policy and scholars of international relations/world politics. The term has garnered wide popularity and is frequently used in policy papers, magazines, academic books and articles. Indeed, the more popular the term becomes, the more diverse and in some cases contradictory definitions of the concept appear. Unfortunately, no agreed definition exists. In particular, it is important to clarify the similarities and differences among the related key concepts of international relations, such as soft power, propaganda, and nation-branding.

With regard to debates within the international relations community on the nature of the “-isms,” some researchers claim that public diplomacy is part of constructivism. Accordingly, other researchers, such as those from the realist school, may choose to ignore it. While it may be appropriate to categorize public diplomacy as constructivist for norm-oriented reputation politics, such as “naming and shaming” (e.g., Hafner-Burton, 2008), many realists working from the rationalist paradigm have recognized the importance of public diplomacy in international relations.

Recently, many data-oriented, empirical studies on the subject have appeared. For instance, moves have been made to create data to rank which state can achieve the greatest level of soft power through the effective practice of public diplomacy. Moreover, quantitative text analysis (QTA) or content analysis frameworks have frequently been utilized to study how international media focus on controversial diplomatic issues between states. Even tweets and social networks are being studied to reveal what types of international diplomatic communications third-party domestic audiences support and oppose. Rapidly increasing methodological sophistication in the study of public diplomacy continue to be seen.

Finally, experiments are a promising and perhaps the most advanced technique in studying public diplomacy. In particular, by using online survey experiments and providing different types of public diplomatic messages as key manipulations, it is now possible to measure the degree to which third-party domestic audiences (studied through online survey respondents) can be influenced through international diplomatic communications.

Definitions: Old and New

Scholars have provided a variety of definitions of public diplomacy.1 For instance, Nicholas J. Cull argues that public diplomacy is an international actor’s attempt to conduct its foreign policy by engaging with foreign publics (Cull, 2008, p. xv). Also, he emphasizes that public diplomacy is traditionally regarded as government-to-people contact. Propaganda wars by American and Soviet governments during the Cold War are typical forms of government-to-people information transmission, with the aim of influencing how foreign nationals think (positively in terms of their own country; negatively in terms of the opposing country). According to Cull, public diplomacy during the Cold War had five core components: listening, advocacy, cultural diplomacy, exchange diplomacy, and international broadcasting. Cold war public diplomacy was largely characterized by a top-down process whereby governments distributed information to foreign publics using capital-intensive methods such as radio, exhibitions, and libraries. State-centric viewers of international relations would consider this to be a traditional and authentic definition of public diplomacy.

Since the end of the Cold War, however, some scholars have started to argue that public diplomacy has entered into a new phase. For instance, Gregory considers public diplomacy to be an “instrument used by states, associations of states, and some sub-state and non-state actors to understand cultures, attitudes and behavior; build and manage relationship; and influence thoughts and mobilize actions to advance their interests and values” (Gregory, 2011, p. 353).2 This new definition came into being after the dynamic of public diplomacy shifted toward a more horizontal structure in which people began connecting with each other in international networks aided by new technologies. Therefore, a debate over definition of the concept has arisen between the traditional school, the name Cull gives to the traditional view of government-to-people contact, and the new school, which emphasizes the roles of emerging nongovernmental actors in public diplomacy.

No matter which definition scholars use, the instruments of public diplomacy, according to Gilboa (2008), include advocacy, broadcasting, public relations, cultural diplomacy, exchange, and national branding. Advocacy and broadcasting can be categorized as immediate, reactive forms of public diplomacy; news management would be a typical example of these forms. Governments would send advocacy information through a statement issued by a press secretary and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. State media would air their political position in English, as the Japanese government under Prime Minister Abe funded public broadcasting (through Nippon Hoso Kyokai: NHK) to strengthen Japan’s English programs abroad (through NHK World) and as Chinese state media Xinhua increased funding for a similar effort in their English broadcasting programs.

Besides such direct and immediate management of information by the state, there are also longer, more time-consuming expressions of public diplomacy; Gilboa (2008) categorizes these as public relations and presents them as proactive, strategic forms of communication with the aim of increasing the favorable view of a nation. Foreign visits by state leaders can be used as an intermediate public diplomacy instrument. President Obama’s visits to Vietnam and to Japan in May 2016 are excellent examples. Obama’s visit to Vietnam was hugely popular with the local people. A large crowd on the streets in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City welcomed him. Positive comments about Obama embracing the local culture, food, and his open and relaxed style were all over the news media and Facebook positing (Bui & Vu, 2016). Moreover, President Obama’s historic visit to Hiroshima, where he made a sort of “non-apology apology,” generated both nationwide general public and Hiroshima-residing respondents overwhelming positive perception toward the United States and its president (Tago & Inamasu, 2016).

As for the final category, Gilboa (2008) claims that long-term instruments can be used to construct better relations with foreign nations. Mutual trust is the key mechanism, and as such, cultural diplomacy, the exchange of people, and national branding are forms of long-term public diplomacy. The Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme (JET), developed by the Japanese government, is a well-known long-term policy that promotes people-to-people exchange and fosters pro-Japan foreign citizens. And as a national branding policy, the U.K. conducted the “Cool Britannia” campaign during Tony Blair’s premiership.

In making a distinction from other similar concepts such as soft power, note that the famous definition by Nye (2004) suggests that soft power is the ability to shape the preferences of other states through appeal and attraction. It is determined by a country’s policies, culture, or political values, and it is contrasted with hard power, which is based on material capability, coercion, and side payment. In relation to public diplomacy, Nye considers credibility of information to be a crucial base for soft power, and thus propaganda would ruin it. By its nature, propaganda will harm the credibility of a state’s information, at least in the long run. Therefore, soft power is not achieved through propaganda. Furthermore, Melissen (2005b, p. 4) suggests that public diplomacy is one of soft power’s key instruments, as was recognized in diplomatic practice long before the contemporary debate on public diplomacy. For instance, toward the end of World War I in 1917–1918, the Soviet Union’s leader Lenin and U.S. President Wilson had competed with each other over how old diplomacy had facilitated the onset of war and tried to obtain wider support from both the domestic and the international public on a soft power level. As long as it is an effort to change the hearts and minds of foreign nations and shape the preferences of their governments, an instrument of public diplomacy, including advocacy, broadcasting, public relations, cultural diplomacy, exchange, and national branding, would be crucial techniques for promoting soft power—but it should not be propaganda.

Especially in a traditional school’s definition, the concept of “propaganda” is connected to public diplomacy. As many scholars recognize, public diplomacy can be categorized as an outgrowth of propaganda. Indeed, U.S. and Soviet governments took propaganda seriously during the Cold War, and both utilized international media campaigns, cultural exchanges, and national branding techniques to increase the positive views toward them. As Richard Holbrooke once wrote in the Washington Post, “call it public diplomacy, call it public affairs, psychological warfare, if you really want to be blunt, propaganda” (Holbrooke, 2001). However, according to Melissen (2005b), such a “blunt” view would fail to incorporate the recent diversity and developments of public diplomacy.3

Indeed, Melissen (2005b, p. 18) argues that propaganda and public diplomacy are similar in their aims of changing what people think, but they are fundamentally different since public diplomacy also listens to what people have to say (i.e., public diplomacy is a form of two-way communication). In particular, new public diplomacy in our age would be facilitated by private entities in addition to governments. By using a variety of tools such as email, web page, and newspaper articles, civil society groups and private companies could contribute to how a particular country would be seen from the outside world. In the age of social media, even an individual may have significant power to influence how an international audience would see a country—they cannot be regarded as propaganda (propaganda, by its nature, is issued by governments).

With regard to the debate on the “-isms” over whether public diplomacy is a part of constructivism and the claim that, accordingly, others from the realist school would choose to ignore it, as a traditional school of thought in international relations, realism would consider public diplomacy propaganda. Such propaganda is based on its state-centric and power-oriented worldview, and thus realism scholars welcome it as an analytical framework (state secrets and deception—propaganda—is a traditional international relations stories that realists would think of as central to international relations). Also, rationalist scholars would treat public diplomacy as a collection of purposeful behaviors in a series of strategic interactions by multiple actors (here, the purposes would be to change what people to think). Thus, it would be possible to utilize formal modeling and experimental methods to figure out how equilibrium can be achieved by rational actors’ interest-maximization choices (see the experimental approach of public diplomacy studies such as Kohama, Inamasu, & Tago, 2017). However, as long as public diplomacy is a simultaneous two-way (or more precisely N-ways) communication at multiple levels and related to a common group perception onto another national group, public diplomacy would be properly understood with a constructivist (i.e., agent-structure and intersubjectivity) way of thinking. In particular, intersubjectivity could be crucial in the effort to determine how a group thinks of others in a certain context.

A social psychological approach is also key to understanding how public diplomacy could work. In the late 1940s, the U.S. Department of Defense commissioned a series of studies to understand the dynamics of propaganda campaigns or old public diplomacy (Iyengar, 2016, pp. 231–233). Yale University’s social psychologists, led by Carl Hovland, conducted a series of experiments to identify the conditions under which people might be persuaded to change their positions and perceptions on political and social issues. Message learning theory, a guiding analytical framework at the time, suggested that attitudinal change depends on the sender of a message, the content of the information, and who is a receiver. Based on the research conducted by social psychologists, there are a variety of media effects on public perception such as priming, framing, and agenda-setting effects. If there are successful public diplomacy engagements, they must be based on these social psychological mechanisms to change attitudes and perceptions.

Nation Branding and Mega-Events

An example of successful public diplomacy may be national branding through daily exposure to media materials such as TV dramas, movies, animations, and manga. For instance, South Korea has invested heavily in exporting its cultural products and has successfully built its image of a sophisticated, advanced, democratic country. Indeed, after seeing the stylish dramas and movies produced by South Korea, people may even forget that the country had struggled to be democratic until the end of the 1980s and was suffering from financial crisis at the end of the 1990s. In a similar vein, Japan is famous for its animations and manga culture. Productions of Hayao Miyazaki (such as Spirited Away) and recently featured Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name have gathered wide viewers throughout the world and are often thought to enhance the country’s positive image.

Indeed, national branding is becoming an important factor for many countries, and multiple data-generating projects show which country has achieved a higher score in its branding. For instance, a company called GfK conducts a global nation-branding survey together with Simon Anholt, an independent policy advisor. The Anholt-GfK Nation Brands Index (NBISM) has been created to measure a nation’s image and reputation by combining six dimensions: governance, exports, tourism, investment and immigration, culture and heritage, and people ( In their 2014–2015 report, Western market economies dominate the top 10 countries along with Japan (see Table 1). The 2014 NBISM saw Germany taking the No. 1 position from the United States, a position the United States had held for five consecutive years. According to the GfK’s assessment, the German image as a sports powerhouse was reinforced by its win of the FIFA World Cup in 2014 and contributed to its push past the United States.

Table 1: Top 10 Nations of National Brands Index


2015 rank

2014 rank

United States






United Kingdom

























In a similar vein, a company called “Future Brand” issues the Country Brand Index, or CBI ( The top 10 country brands of 2014 were, in order: Japan, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, Canada, Norway, the United States, Australia, Denmark, and Austria. According to the company, the key drivers of a higher CBI include having a reputation for high-quality products, a desire to visit or study in a country, and perceptions of good infrastructure.

It has been suggested that awareness alone does not lead to a higher-ranked country brand. For example, Italy enjoys higher awareness levels than Japan (89% compared to 84%), but it is lower in the rankings. Country brands are associated with consumer brands. In that regard, Japan is able to leverage its associations with Toyota, Nintendo, Honda, Sony, Toshiba, and Panasonic. Country brands tend to have expertise across categories; France is most strongly associated with Fashion (65%), Germany with Automotive works (77%), and Japan with Technology (78%—the highest score of a country in a category).

It is widely believed that the higher the score, the better it is and the more likely a state can enjoy a favorable international environment with a higher degree of soft power. In fact, it is not certain what those numbers are.

No matter how the national branding image is measured, in recent years, governments have become seriously concerned about their image. To promote their national image, states are eager to host mega-events, such as the Olympic Games, FIFA World Cup, and World Expo, which gather global attention (Grix & Houlihan, 2014). In a similar vein, a government’s effort to obtain UNESCO recognition on its natural and historical monuments and its cultural heritage can be regarded as a national branding strategy.

It may not be so easy, however, to achieve the goal of national branding through such mega-events or through UNESCO recognition as a world heritage site. For instance, according to Manzenreiter (2010, pp. 39–40), the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games did not change the world’s perceptions of China in a positive way. PEW’s global attitudes survey in 2008 reveals that in only 7 out of 23 countries (26%) did majorities express a favorable view of China. In the same survey conducted in 2007, 27 out of 47 states (49%) held a majority-favorable view. It is possible that news reports on the Olympic Games may not be all positive, which may come with regional variations.5

Public Diplomacy 2.0

An innovation in technology (Web. 2.0) brings a new approach to national branding and public diplomacy in general. Accordingly, the term public diplomacy 2.0 is now frequently used by both scholars and practitioners. As a well-known case from the U.S. government, in 2008 James K. Glassman made a speech entitled public diplomacy 2.0: A New Approach to Global Engagement to the New America Foundation, a think-tank in Washington, D.C. According to Glassman, public diplomacy 2.0 is a “new approach but not a new technology,” and two way indirect interactions work best in public diplomacy 2.0.

For instance, Glassman describes what the American embassy in Rabat had done to a TV production team from Morocco. The embassy helped the team to tour the United States and talk with Moroccan-born Americans about how they live, including discussions of their practice of religion. The Moroccan TV network, working on its own with the embassy’s support (not its direction), “produced a long-running series that showed the U.S. to be a tolerant nation where Moroccan-Americans are thriving.” Letting Moroccans themselves speak achieved what the U.S. government wanted to see: that is, to deny the belief in Muslim nations “that the United States is out to destroy Islam.”

Blog posts, pod casts, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media on the Internet are becoming the official tools of public diplomacy. Millions of people, including many residents of foreign countries, followed President Obama. Official tweets and Facebook try to reach out to those who are heavy Internet users as a key source of information. As newspaper and TV news face ever-increasing challenges from the Internet media, approaches to public diplomacy must change.

According to a detailed case study (Harris, 2013, pp. 10–11), a successful tweet can promote positive views toward the American ambassador and image of the country. Immediately after the March 11, 2011, earthquake in northern Japan, U.S. Ambassador John Roos used tweets to find where to send U.S. military forces, which helped with disaster recovery efforts. For one year following the event, the ambassador’s followers increased by about 1,000 per day and ended up with over 50,000 by the end of December 2012. His tweet was highly interactive, and two-way symmetrical exchanges were seen by the broad public—this is how public diplomacy 2.0 is quite different from the traditional approach.6

In another attempt to measure the impact of social media in public diplomacy, Zhang (2013) provides detailed case studies about the social media activities surrounding the U.S. ambassadorial appointment to China and the American Embassy’s PM 2.5 measure. Based on those two case analyses, Zhang suggests a life-cycle model indicating how an issue is raised in social media activities and how it contributes to overarching public diplomacy goals. In this model, Phase 1 starts with what he describes as the issue ferments and goes viral. There are signs of an issue emerging on social media, and diplomats need to decide to act or not to act. Once an action is selected, Phase 2, the proactive phase, begins. Diplomats conduct some research on the viral trends and act to strengthen the favorable trends. They use both social and traditional media to position the agenda and to generate the public opinion that would be supportive for the country they represent. Next is the reactive phase where diplomats may counter and react with some backlash and conflicts that have emerged in the social media. The cycle ends with the final phase, which Zhang describes as the issue recedes and a new issue ferments.

Public Diplomacy in Positive and Negative Tones: QTA and Experiments

There has been a growing level of interest in the role of public diplomacy in international relations. Mediated public diplomacy is defined as systemic, organized attempts by a government to exert as much control as possible over how state policy is portrayed in foreign media. Scholars widely believe that frame building plays a central role in mediated public diplomacy.

For instance, Sheafer, Shenhav, Takens, and van Atteveldt (2014) show that relative proximity strongly leads to positive news reporting. Their computerized, automated qualitative text analysis (QTA) by “AmCAT” is a promising tool for future researchers on the topic. Sheafer et al. used QTA for Israel’s public diplomacy when the Israeli government was faced with relatively negative international media coverage following Israeli military maneuvers (against Hamas in Gaza) and a casualty ratio of about 100:1 (1166 to 1417 casualties in Palestine versus 13 Israel fatalities). There had to be some justification for why the Israeli military operation was required. According to the Israeli government, the use of force was necessary to stop the bombardment of Israeli civilians by destroying Hamas’s mortar and rocket launching apparatus and infrastructure. The research team’s collection of English news media articles from 26 countries is matched and compared to the Israeli government’s 18 official documents regarding Gaza. The two kinds of text data enable us to see which country’s media support or oppose the Israeli government’s public diplomacy. Their partial regression plots clearly show that the relative political and value proximity to Israel has a positive impact on the relative number of references to the various pro-Israel frames.

A different QTA study on media coverage of international terrorism (the Al-Qaeda attack of the United States on 9/11, the Palestinian attacks against Israel, and Islamic terror against British targets) reveals that political value proximity leads to more frequent reports of terrorism attacks (Yarchi, Wolfsfeld, Sheafer, & Shenhav, 2013). If a victimized country has a closer political value (i.e., liberal democracy and a high standard of human rights protection), the media will report in detail what happened in the country and follow the framing of the victim government. This recent research employing QTA methods promises to uncover the international biases in media coverage, and thus they should be done in a different subject field of foreign policy.7

Furthermore, a rigorous causal analysis approach unveils more about what public diplomacy can achieve. In this regard, Goldsmith, Horiuchi, and Wood (2014) is a seminal work. The authors considered that public health aid provided by advanced industrial nations could function as a source of soft power by improving the image of the aid-providing countries. Foreign aid could be used as a public diplomacy tool, and the research group could try to determine whether there was such an effect and if so, how strongly it could improve the perception of the aid provider.

Goldsmith, Horiuchi, and Wood (2014) selected the United States’ anti HIV/AIDS aid campaign, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), to African countries. By using the instrumental variable approach, they confirmed that people receiving the PEPFAR would increase their favorability to the United States. According to Goldsmith et al., “doubling the per capita amount of the PEPFAR funds increase the ratio of the percentages of Approve and Disapprove by about 30%. For example, if the percentage of Approve was initially 40%, the estimated coefficients suggest that it would increase to 52%” (2014, p. 100). Aid with a national flag can play a significant role in generating a positive perception of an aid-provider state.

More data-driven studies of public diplomacy exist. Advocacy, as noted earlier, is a key instrument of public diplomacy. Related to the advocacy activities between governments, Kohama, Inamasu, and Tago (2017) show how interstate negative campaign would end up with a quasi-prisoner’s dilemma situation. States experiencing international disputes often engage in severe “verbal fights” and try to promote a good, positive image and to generate an evil, negative image of their opponent in international society.

For instance, when Chinese and Japanese military aircraft were scrambled over the East China Sea in May 2014, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Qin Gang condemned Japan, claiming that “the Japanese actions are very dangerous and also very provocative … The Japanese side will bear any and all consequences from this” (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, 2014). As a counter action, the Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera made harsh accusations against the Chinese government, saying that “[t]his series of one-sided actions by Chinese military aircraft is extremely dangerous” (Japanese Ministry of Defense, 2014). Furthermore, the U.S. government has also been involved in similar incidents and has engaged in negative campaigns against certain foreign countries. In January 2016, for example, a U.S. Defense Department spokesperson announced that U.S. reconnaissance aircraft flying over the Black Sea “was intercepted by a Russian Su-27 in an unsafe and unprofessional manner” (Starr & Lendon, 2016). Following a similar case involving an Iranian drone in the Persian Gulf, a U.S. spokesperson publicly denounced the unmanned aerial vehicle’s (UAV’s) actions as “abnormal and unprofessional” (Starr, 2016). They are all public diplomacy’s advocacy efforts to promote a positive image for its own and to damage an image of the opponent.

Given the public advocacy activities of such states, multiple Internet-based, between-subjects survey experiments have been performed in line with those actual cases. Respondents (self-enrolled online users) in Japan, the United States and South Korea were asked to read the following passage;

Country A and Country B maintain conflicting territorial claims over land and sea. They also contest over airspace, leading to an increasing number of cases where fighter jets of the countries fly simultaneously in the disputed airspace. As a result, a “near-miss” incident recently occurred where their fighter jets approached very close to each other.

Following the incident, the government of each country publicized the following announcements …

Participants were then randomly assigned a message from each side of the disputing countries, which adopted one of the following tones: denouncing the other side, self-promoting itself, or remaining silent.

The experiment in Japan with approximately 2,000 participants demonstrates (see Figure 1) that denouncement is the best strategy to win popular support regardless of the opponent’s verbal action, although the effect disappears when the opposing country also denounces. The favorability of a state that remains silent in face of a silent opponent is about 1.5; that is somewhere between the choices of “oppose” and “somewhat oppose.” If a state denounces a silent opponent, the favorability exceeds 3 or the choice of “somewhat support.”

Kohama, Inamasu and Tago found that the effect of the messages is mediated primarily by the perceived legitimacy and sense of secrecy. One-sided denouncement generates an impression that the denouncing state is acting legitimately for its own defense. By contrast, silence in the face of self-promotion and denouncement leaves a negative impression that the silent side is “hiding something.” However, it must be emphasized that mutual denouncement makes neither party more popular than the other country because whatever gain that comes from denouncement is canceled out by the loss of being accused by the counterpart government. These results suggest that countries commit verbal denouncements not necessarily to gain support from international society but rather to avoid the loss from being denounced.

Figure 1. Mean support level for different advocacy message (Japan experiment).

Note: The left panel shows the effect of State A’s strategy on its own popularity, given the strategy of State B. The right panel shows the effect of State B’s strategy given the strategy of State A. Figure drawn by using replication dataset of Kohama, Inamasu, and Tago (2017).

A similar trend (i.e., denouncement is effective toward an opponent’s self-promotion and silence) was found in South Korean and American experiments that used the same scenario but identified the countries as Japan and China rather than State A and State B (see Figure 2, which shows the treatment effect calculated by linear regressions where the manipulation conditions are only inserted and when the baseline is set in the silence vs. silence category). These expected verbal accusation effects are clearly observable only in the American public toward the Japanese and in the South Korean toward the Chinese (see the upper left and lower right cells). Information produced by the Japanese can be convincing in the United States (and thus denouncement actually works). For Chinese information, the same was true in the Republic of Korea. They may suggest that one-shot government public diplomacy (in this particular case, advocacy by public announcement) will be heavily influenced by a long-term, national-branding effort. The United States and Japan, despite their past devastating war, now have mutual respect for each other, and thus a government’s information is regarded as more credible. For the South Korean case, either the Koreans have trusted the Chinese for their years-long cultural ties and/or they simply do not trust the Japanese, their former brutal, colonizing state.

Figure 2. Effects of key treatment effects calculated by OLS regression (U.S. and ROK experiments).

Note: The upper panels show results in South Korea, and the lower panels show those in the United States. The positive value indicates that respondents rated China (or Japan) more favorably, in comparison with the case where both China and Japan remained silent. The red bar shows 95% confidence intervals. Figure drawn by using replication dataset of Kohama, Inamasu, and Tago (2017).


Public diplomacy is an important emerging topic for scholars of international relations and foreign policy analysis. While definitions of the term as provided by many scholars are indeed a bit overwhelming to digest (and in lieu of an agreed “definition”), some loose consensus on a definition has emerged. For instance, in this age of new public diplomacy, nongovernmental agencies, private companies, volunteer groups, or even an individual can affect the process of public communication beyond the border. Propaganda ( done solely by the government) could have been the core of public diplomacy, but that is probably no longer the case.

Furthermore, technological transformations regarding how people communicate and form networks suggest new changes in one’s approach and comprehension of the new public diplomacy processes. On this particular point, qualitative text analysis and experimental approaches promise a more empirical analysis of new public diplomacy.


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  • 1. Other than definitions listed in the main text, other definitions could expand understanding of public diplomacy. For instance, according to Melissen (2005b, p. 11), the most succinct definition of public diplomacy was given by Paul Sharp, who defined public diplomacy as “the process by which direct relations with people in a country are pursued to advance the interests and extend the values of those being represented.” Also, from the East Asian point of view, Wang (2008, p. 259) says that the Chinese more often use the concept of “dui wai xuan chuan or wai xuan (external propaganda).” Unlike its English counterpart “propaganda,” in Chinese, the words “xuan chuan” has a positive connotation. On Chinese public diplomacy, see also d’Hooghe (2005).

  • 2. The same author has an excellent overview of public diplomacy as a field of study (Gregory, 2008).

  • 3. An additional crucial difference between propaganda and public diplomacy exists as to how they treat state secrets and deception. In propaganda, states justify secrecy and even sometimes use deceptive information to shape people’s opinions. This leads to governmental control of the media. By contrast, in public diplomacy, credibility of information and transparency are admired. In some cases, the truth can be differently claimed by each government, but such a framing effort must be based on hard evidence, credibility of information transmitted by agent, and trusted independent media, none of which governments can control. For this point, see Colaresi (2014). Furthermore, it should be noted that the traditional school, which emphasizes the top-down mechanism of public diplomacy, would see propaganda as equal to public diplomacy, whereas the new school, which emphasizes the roles of emerging nongovernmental actors, would see a clear and definitive difference between propaganda and public diplomacy.

  • 4. The company collected quantitative and qualitative data from 2,530 opinion-formers and frequent international business or leisure travelers in 17 countries (the United States, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, Turkey, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, India, China, Thailand, Japan, and Australia). The questionnaire was developed to understand how strongly audiences perceive countries from levels of awareness to advocacy. The global research sample of 2,530 respondents was selected according to the following screening criteria: aware of and familiar with all the countries covered; interested in travel abroad; have traveled internationally at least once in the last year, in a mix of business and/or leisure; and 21 to 65 years of age.

  • 5. The Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change conducted a quantitative text analysis of 68 newspapers (in 10 languages from 29 countries). According to the analysis, the most positive reports were seen in the Middle East (0% of negative coverage), followed by China itself (1% negative) and Asia/Latin America/Europe-Canada-US-Australia (17% negative). The most negative reports were found in Africa (24% negative). A mega-event would surely increase the frequency of media coverage, but it might not necessarily be reported positively (Manzenreiter, 2010).

  • 6. In a similar vein, the U.S. State Department’s Digital Outreach Team (DOT) is in charge of engaging political information transmission to Arabic readers and obtained over 470,000 “likes” as of December 1, 2016 (

  • 7. Other than studies mentioned in the main text, multiple attempts have been made to use QTA and experiment design to study public diplomacy. Examples can be seen in Sheafer and Gabay (2009), Sheafer and Shenhav (2009), Shenhav, Sheafer, and Gabay (2010), Segev, Shenhav, and Sheafer (2013), Sheafer, Ben-Nun Bloom, Shenhav, and Segev (2013), and Yarchi, Wolfsfeld, Sheafer, and Shenhav (2013).