Strong public diplomacy vital for China

By Ma Liyao (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-04-08 07:22
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BEIJING - China needs to look for better ways to convey its stance on various issues to the global community, said Zhao Qizheng, head of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).

Strong public diplomacy vital for China
Zhao Qizheng (left), head of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), talks with Vice-Foreign Minister Fu Ying at a meeting on public diplomacy in Beijing on Thursday. Wang Jing / China Daily 

Speaking at a meeting on Thursday, he said senior officials in China are now more aware of the need to communicate effectively with the rest of world.

Stressing on the importance of enhancing "national rhetorical competence" - the ability Zhao said is highly important to express the country's unique features effectively, and it is the key to successful public diplomacy, he added.

"China cannot always be the gentleman who works more but talks less in the present world flooded with information."

Public diplomacy has become a hot topic ever since the latest session of CPPCC in March. But the awareness of China's own national image was clearly visible in 2008 when China successfully hosted the Olympic Games.

Discussions on how China should express itself became more noticeable after it started taking center stage in global affairs after the financial crisis.

Next week, China will host the annual Boao Forum for Asia in Sanya, Hainan province. Many experts consider the meeting as a successful international platform for public diplomacy.

China, however, needs to think how it can express its stance more clearly and also rethink the use of words to describe its uniqueness, Zhao said.

"For example, we often say China is practicing socialism of its own style, without any explanations. But people are still confused because the word, 'socialism', is hundred years old and comes from Europe. It has a different meaning from what we are doing now," he said.

Vice-Foreign Minister Fu Ying said the job of talking and expressing oneself through public diplomacy has an integral role in China's future development.

"We have been doing well on the development front, and we are facing an even better new decade. Now we need to talk better, to make our messages clearer to the world. That can not only help form a better environment, but also boost the nation's confidence," she said.

China launched a national image film in the US during President Hu Jintao's visit there earlier this year.

Such steps clearly show that China is now acting positively on publicity, and "as far as I know the Americans were really interested in the film". Fu said.

But "still, the information that the film was trying to deliver is not all that clear", Fu said.

Fu said China should not attach undue importance to the word "defense" when communicating with the outside world. "We need to positively talk with them, and tell them what we are thinking and what we are doing, effectively."

China can learn from the United States on handling such issues, said Fu.

The United States has been hesitant and soft, unlike its earlier stances, on the current turmoil in the Middle East.

"The US is not doing well in the area and is trying to balance its moral standard and overseas interests," Fu said.

"But it does have a successful public diplomacy, and that's why we can see very little information on its human rights dilemma in the world media."