China’s cultural diplomacy

China has mastered the art of cultural diplomacy; it’s high time India gets inspired. John Lee in The Hindustan Times. Lee is a research fellow at the Center for Independent Studies (CIS), Sydney. His paper, ‘Unrealised Potential: India’s Soft Power Ambition in Asia’, was released by the CIS on June 30:

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is obsessed with building ‘soft power’ — the attractiveness of a country’s civilisation, culture, values and political system — as well as ensuring that China is respected and admired for its achievements since reforms began in 1978. In contrast, India puts little emphasis on promoting the country’s historical, economic, political and cultural credentials to the world. Its appreciation for the value of ‘cultural diplomacy’ is poor. One result is that the mere mention of India as a Great Power usually evokes only chuckles from an Asian audience. Although loathe to admit it, New Delhi would do well to learn lessons from Beijing about the importance of selling its strengths and achievements to the world.

One lesson is the sheer amount of economic and manpower resources Beijing devotes to shaping its messages and selling its story. For example, China has funded more than 270 Confucius Institutes in 75 countries teaching Mandarin and the CCP’s version of history to more than 100 million foreigners. Beijing aims to have 1,000 institutes up and running by 2020. In contrast, India has only 24 cultural centres in 21 countries functioning under its missions abroad.

Another example is Beijing’s active and effective diplomatic charm offensive, which has been in place since the mid-1990s. Currently, China has more diplomats than any other country in the world, including America. In China’s State-dominated society, diplomats are chosen from the cream of the crop and are given extensive language and cultural training. Moreover, according to some estimates, Beijing dispatches more diplomatic, business and cultural delegations to all corners of the region each year than all other Asian countries combined. In contrast, foreigners complain about the aloofness, ineffectiveness and bureaucratic stubbornness of many of India’s current diplomatic staff. For a country with a GDP of around $1.3 trillion and a population of 1.2 billion, official Indian delegations are small, infrequent and poorly utilised. More:

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