Public Diplomacy and Global Communication 2014c

Changing or enabling the rape culture?

The term ‘Rape Culture’ has been flashing around us in recent years and it is a popular subject in conversations, social media and pressed media. A report made by Marshall University Women’s Center defines rape culture as a term as follows: “Rape Culture is an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalised and excused in the media and pop culture […] it is perpetuated throug the use of misogynistic language, objectification of womens’s bodies and the glamorisation of sexual violence, therefore creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety”. ( You can read more about it here.

In social media rape culture shows in very various ways and it is argued that social media makes todays rapes even more unbearable than they already are. There was a case in 2011 in Steubenville, Ohio, where two high school students, stars of their football team, raped a 16-year-old girl whilst she was intoxicated and unable to respond to the act. The act lasted for several hours and had viewers who did not intervene, but photographed and videoed the act and later on published these horrific images in online platforms such as Twitter and Instagram using words like “rape” and “drunk girl” in their postings. (

The boys were charged by the jury for minimum sentences, but the comments and discussions online were the other kind. Media outlets started to pour with sympathy towards the rapists, and not the victim, saying for example that it was her fault to get raped as it was her choice to get so drunk that she could not say no. ( This is a perfect example on how the media and especially social media acts when it comes to rape, seeking wrongdoers and victims. The rape culture enables comments like “well she should not have worn those clothes” or “she should not have been walking home by herself if intoxicated”, but it clearly states that the victim was wrong and that boys will be boys. Of course it needs to be acknowledged that not all sexual assaults are towards women, and that it happens the other way around as well.

Is social media enabling or changing the culture of rape? On the other hand, these occasions, like in Steubenville, have gotten worse because of the humiliation of the victim through social media, but it has made detecting the rapists easier. There are also many anti-rape culture communities online posting about these issues such like @StandtoEndRape and organisation called People Against Rape Culture, but how can we make sure the information reaches the people who might be needing it the most? The social media platform allows individuals to post about rape and its horrors, but then there lies the danger that many are offended, as these videos and lists are conducted so that it refers all men to be rapist. You can find these kind of publications here and here.

One thing everyone does agree on, is that rape culture can be changed. Culture in general is ever changing, and always evolving to fit the present, so if we have successfully created a rape culture, we sure can evolve away from it. It just takes time, patience and a tremendous amount of effort from communities, private and public to bring up a generation that does not have to live in this kind of culture.


MACUR, J. and SCHWEBER, N. (2012). Rape Case Unfolds Online and Divides Steubenville. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].

MACUR, J. and SCHWEBER, N. (2012). Rape Case Unfolds Online and Divides Steubenville. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].

Madden, K. (2015). Campus Times » Rape Culture: The media’s role in normalizing assault. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015]., (2015). Rape Culture | Women’s Center. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].

People Against Rape Culture, (2015). People Against Rape Culture. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].

Storify, (2015). Changing The Culture of Rape via Social Media #SMWEndRape (with tweets) · StandToEndRape. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].

Twitter, (2015). Sarah Silverman on Twitter. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].

YouTube, (2015). How to Not Get Raped. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].


Finland, branding or promotion?

Finland. That tiny little country in the cold North right next to Russia and separated from Sweden by the Gulf of Bothnfinl-MMAP-mdia, that no one really knows anything about. There are 5,268,799 people in 338,145 square kilometers which of 70% is forest, 10% lake and 8% arable land. (

According to Simon Anholt, nation branding plays a vital role when a state is pursuing their national goals in the global stage. How the nation is perceived by others has an affect on their success in global markets. The strategies of nation branding vary depending on what the nation wants to achieve, and they can put the focus on marketing or public diplomacy and policymaking, only imagination is the limit, but it needs to happen in public to get the brand to be seen. (Anholt 2007)

So what is the Finland known of? As a Finn, it is hard to think what other countries remember or know from Finland, but what comes to mind after asking about it from my non-Finnish friends are Sauna, Father Christmas, Nokia (which by the way thanks to Stephen Elop was sold to Microsoft…), ice swimming and the silly games they play, such as Wife carrying competition and air guitar world championships.

As Finland was, and still is perceived as this silly northern country with great qualities hidden behind the public picture, the government realised that in order to gain more reputation in the global scale, they had to promote the good aspects of Finland, and not just the silliness of it. It has been proved by PISA (a programme for international student assessment in OECD) that Finland has is in the last 40 years after the reforms of the educational systems been on the top of the list for its education system year after year.

Although, in recent years Finland’s ranking has dropped in PISA records, not very far, but still dropped. To keep the association of the best education is in Finland, and actually prove it, Finland decided to reform its educational system by not teaching subjects anymore, but teaching by topic. For example “pupils will be taught cross-subject topics such as the European Union – which would merge elements of economics, history (of the countries involved), languages and geography” and the education manager of Helsinki argues towards this reform by saying: “There are schools that are teaching in the old fashioned way which was of benefit in the beginnings of the 1900s – but the needs are not the same and we need something fit for the 21st century”. This reform has had a lot of attention in the media, so far so, that even the United Kingdom has done a trip to Finland to learn from the schooling system and draw lessons that could be applicable in the UK schooling systems. You can read more about Finnish school systems here.

Moving forward from branding Finland with education system, to the healthcare and support from the government for mothers. The Government sends every new mother a “Maternity box” which includes basic supplies for babies when they are first born, and at the same time it acts as a crib for the babies themselves. The BBC wrote an article called Why Finnish babies sleep in cardboard boxes, which had a lot of international attention in the news media promoting healthcare and support forbabybox624_2 mothers, and lead to another wave of ‘how we can learn from the Finns’, such as the educational system did.

As mentioned earlier, Simon Anholt coined the concept of nation branding, but later on came to realise that it might actually be impossible. He argues that people do not tend to change their minds about countries as they don’t really think about countries in general. He says that human is not born as a cosmopolitan, and normal people think only three countries in average; their own country, the United States and a third one that depends on individuals. He also argues that we reject new ideas of a country if it doesn’t fit into out individual norms. (notes written in a seminar held in London metropolitan university by Simon Anholt 25th of February 2015)

Even if these actions do not brand Finland differently, it still is clear that Finland is promoting equality in the global media. I would like to end this post with a song by our Eurovision entry from Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät a song called “I always have to”.The band is a Finnish punk band formed of mentally handicapped men who enjoy music and want equality.

Air Guitar World Championships, (2015). 20th Air Guitar World Championships | Air Guitar World Championships | Air Guitar World Championships. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].
Anholt, S. (2007). Competitive identity. Basingstoke [England]: Palgrave Macmillan.
BBC News, (2015). Microsoft to buy Nokia’s mobile phone unit – BBC News. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].
BBC News, (2015). Why Finnish babies sleep in cardboard boxes – BBC News. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015]., (2015). The World Factbook. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015]., (2015). Home -Sonkajärven Eukonkanto Oy. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015]., (2015). Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät – Aina Mun Pitää (Finland 2015). [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].
National Union of Teachers | NUT | The Teachers’ Union, (2015). National Union of Teachers | NUT | The Teachers’ Union. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].
National Union of Teachers | NUT | The Teachers’ Union, (2015). National Union of Teachers | NUT | The Teachers’ Union. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015]., (2015). The Finnish National Board of Education – Education system. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].
The Independent, (2015). Schools in Finland will no longer teach ‘subjects’. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].
Washington Post, (2015). Are Finland’s vaunted schools slipping?. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].
YouTube, (2015). ESC FINLAND 2015 – ENGLISH LYRICS – PKN – Aina mun pitää/ I always have to. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].

notes written in a seminar held in London metropolitan university by Simon Anholt 25th of February 2015

See, think, think again and share after.

Social media is a part of our everyday life. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and many other platforms help us to stay connected with family and friends, spread ideas and thoughts and even organise a revolution if needed. Social media is a vital part of companies marketing strategies, raising awareness on issues and acts of public diplomacy of states, but it is easy for individuals to get lost in social media, and loose sight of what is appropriate and what is not. Internet bullying and so called trolling has become a major issue simultaneously with the positive development that social media has gone through over the years.

A big question is that who is responsible for misbehaviour in social media? Of course the first reaction to answer is that the person whose posts we are talking about, but what if these people can’t be held responsible, such like children or people with learning disabilities, should the social media platform be held responsible for letting inappropriate posts to go public?

There is, of course, a difference on who is publishing and what, so if it is an individual or an representative of an organisation. An organisation usually have strict policies on who is posting and what is being posted in the name of that particular company, but an individuals are only responsible to themselves and there is a possibility that they do not understand the digital identity it might create, again especially if the individual is a child or otherwise not quite able to comprehend the scale and the permanence of social media.

Facebook and Twitter describe themselves as platforms that make communications possible, rather than being there for the sake of publishing content, a characterisation which essentially moves their responsibility of the content to the user. Twitter has 302 million active users monthly when Facebook has 1.44 billion active users monthly and with user amounts like that, they had to come up with something to point out misbehaving users, and so someone who finds a post offensive can report it to the administration of the site and they can remove these posts and give penalties, for example expel a user for a certain period of time. This is a step in to the right direction, but there is no way that a platform with that many users can never be completely free of misuse.

Social media has a tendency to have so called “viral’s” where a photo, a video or a page of a community spreads fast in to peoples feeds and become popular. These can be absolutely anything, and there is no clear cause for them. They are usually very relatable for people and cause discussion, for example this dress and it’s color:

Dress photo

This case went viral in a matter of hours and even traditional media was writing stories about it trying to explain why people see the colours of the dress differently. One can read more about the conversations here, here and here.

This is a great example of a viral, but there is another way of looking at these viral’s. Earlier this year in Kenya, a group called Al Shabaab attacked Garissa university and killed 147 people. This act in itself was horrifying, and it had a lot of attention and discussion in social media. People were understandably worried and compassionate about this act of violence against students, and they wanted to raise awareness on what is happening in the world by posting and tweeting a photo of dead bodies taken in the university. You can find the photo here but I do warn that the image is disturbing for sensitive viewers.

I’m sure the intention was good for most people, but the fact that people are raising awareness to horrible acts by posting photos of violently killed corpses, which degrading to their lives and offensive to their remaining relatives, is not really appropriate use of the platforms of social media.

Publics were so overwhelmed by emotion that they became desensitised to the horror and forgot that the photo was taken of real people who had lost their lives, but if the thought process would have gone any further, they might have realised that if the photo had themselves or their own relatives in it, no one would actually want it to be published let alone shared in the intention of raising awareness.

There are various training programmes and information sites provided for several groups of social media users, such like teenagers, parents and public officials which you can read more about in herehere and here. These sites gives guidelines for the code of conduct when using social media, which is very important to know about especially if one is still learning or does not fully understand social media. Is it enough though as then this is left for individuals to decide if it is necessary or not. As social media is part of everyday life, shouldn’t it be practiced how to use it in everyday life so that we don’t harm ourselves and the identity offline by posting or sharing something potentially harmful for our future.

References, (2015). [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 May 2015]., (2015). Company | About. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 May 2015].

BBC News, (2015). Kenya attack: 147 dead in Garissa University assault – BBC News. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 May 2015].

BBC News, (2015). Kenya attack: 147 dead in Garissa University assault – BBC News. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 May 2015].

BBC News, (2015). Why everyone is asking: What colour is this dress?’ – BBC News. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 May 2015]., (2015). Social Media Policy. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 May 2015].

IFLScience, (2015). The Science Of Why This Dress Looks Different Colors To Different People. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 May 2015].

Pannoni, A. (2014). Talk to Teens About Being Responsible on Social Media – US News. [online] US News & World Report. Available at: [Accessed 31 May 2015].

Statista, (2015). Facebook: monthly active users 2015 | Statistic. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 May 2015].

Team, S., Team, S., Team, S., Team, S., Team, S., Ochs, J., Ochs, J., Ochs, J., Ochs, J., Team, S., Team, S., Ochs, J., Ochs, J., Ochs, J. and Team, S. (2015). Teens Social Media Safety | [online] Safe Smart Social. Available at: [Accessed 31 May 2015].

Wallisch, P. (2015). An Expert’s Lessons From the Dress: Why Don’t We All See the Same Thing?. [online] Slate Magazine. Available at: [Accessed 31 May 2015].

Culinary Thailand

Gastro diplomacy and effectiveness on Thailand.

There is an old proverb that most people know; “The way to a mans heart, is through his stomach”. Of course this is widely seen as a proverb to win someones affection, but we can think of it in a wider context. The way to win foreign publics over, might as well happen through their stomachs.

Thailand was known previously through its beautiful nature, white sandy beaches and paradise islands combined with happy and generous people, buddhas and of course the sex tourism. Origins for the association of Thailand and its’ sex tourism started during the Vietnam war when the United States proposed a treaty with Thailand to get their soldiers a relief allowing them to retreat to Thailand for ‘Rest and Recreation’ (1). After that, prostitution has flourished and tourism from the West was highly for this purpose even to the extent where children were acting out as prostitutes (2).

Needless to say that this was not a desirable image Thailand wanted to uphold, and as the law enforcement started to do their job to reduce the illegal sex industry, the government wanted to change the view the country was perceived internationally. Gastro diplomacy is the practice seeks to make a national image better by promoting national delicacies, and in Thailand’s case, this was the perfect way to start reforming her reputation in the global stage.

Leah Selim explains perfectly how important food is to create an image and build bonds between people as one can see from this video below:

Thailand was a pioneer in this practice of gastro diplomacy, by offering affordable loans and grants to small businesses for her people around the world. Since 2003 the government has supported this with a yearly budget of 500 million baht which comes to approximately 10 million pounds (4). There was already about 5,500 Thai restaurants around the world in the year 2002 but with this help the government wanted to increase the number to 8,000 by the year 2003, and they have succeeded unbelievably well, it also created a new kind of tourism to Thailand, which was culinary tourism, where people travel there to learn how to cook Thai food and explore all the possibilities within it. Sam Chapple-Sokol, a researcher of gastro diplomacy said that “you can go to a Thai restaurant and eat Thai food and meet Thai people and understand more of what that culture is about”,(3) which was more than welcome for improving Thailand’s image and raising awareness for the good aspect of the country and drawing the negative connotations about Thailand away from the mainstream.

Obviously Thailand still does suffer from a bad image, but due to this, not in the same extent than just a decade ago. Because they have successfully mostly eliminated the sex industry image, the good qualities of Thailand are more on the show in the global stage, and tourist view Thailand more through its beautiful nature, white sandy beaches and paradise islands combined with happy and generous people, buddhas and of course the delicious food!

Bon appetit, or ทานให้อร่อย (taan hâi a-ròi) as they say!


  1. Truong, T. (1990) ‘Sex, Money and Morality’, Zed Books Ltd., London, UK.





FOOD + POLITICS = Gastrodiplomacy


It consist on enhancing unique heritage food, shared among states and non-states actors. It not only shares states typical dishes but also, expressing the culture and its values. It is also an important way of practicing soft power which can, therefore lead to increase trade, economic investment and tourism.

Gastrodiplomacy is essentially a subfield of cultural public diplomacy that was first mainstreamed and perfected by Thailand through their 2002 “Global Thai Program [1].

Thailand’s main purposes was to spreads the culture and heritage earned from the past over countries and different generations by offering them, blend of tastes, nutritional value, seasonings and cooking charms. At the same time, improving states’ capabilities and reflecting culture on economic growth. Thai program’s aim was also to raise the number of restaurants worldwide, which has almost double in quantity although keeping its quality and mores.

A great comparison of soft power can be agreed to Joseph Nye concept when he refers to soft power being used through ‘carrot and sticks’, which literately are used on the gastrodiplomacy and international relations, not just over individuals but also over states, where its power of persuasion brings people and cultures together. [2]

It is interesting the perception of a French Chef Chef Loïc Dablé, with inherence in Africa’s cuisine trying to implement the very common ‘fish and chips’ in England, although only using African ingredients. It comes from breadcrumbs made of ‘cassava’ flour (bread of the tropics, introduced to African through Portuguese traders in the 16th century) and also by using African fishes only. According to the chef, it makes the food more attractive and better known in the European market. Another example it is the raise of the Peruvian culture among French cuisine and specialities, where a Peruvian Chef Gastón Acurio, (see here) and ambassador of the cuisine, has worked over two decades towards improvements and sees gastrodiplomacy as way to promote tourism and introduce Peruvian’s cuisine among states. It would not be possible without the support of the French government to better popularise it, of which still considered the best cuisine nowadays. [3] 

Japan also, in order to  promote their cuisine globally has ‘seasoned’ it early in the 1950’s and encouraged legislation over Japanese ‘Natural Cultural Treasure’. The Japanese intentions of recognising its practices and preserves heritage was seen of an influential policy-maker by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisations . (UNESCO). Ever since, UNESCO also adopted a Convention Concerning the Protection of the World and UNESCO’s designation of cultural and natural heritage sites have become increasingly significant in many nations’ strivings for status and prestige (and tourist revenue). As of December 2013, UNESCO has designated 981 World Heritage Sites across the globe (759 cultural sites; 193 natural; and 29 mixed; across 160 states). Seventeen of these are Japanese, including the recently added Mt. Fuji in 2013.

washokuThe washoku or ‘’Japanese Cuisine’’  has recently been included on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage Cuisine list – a privileged formerly reserved for French Cuisine. [4] Where it includes chefs from worldwide in a meeting, to understand better and exchange ideas and knowledge. In Britain, the first restaurant to introduce the washoku ideas was in Nottingham, by the British chef Michelin, after it success of flavours, he came back to Japan to learn and improve his knowledge on the hague cuisine which mixes tiny courses, again well flavoured as the Japanese Cuisine, although mixed with sweet and sour flavours, balanced on its contents, proteins, and cutting the salt and fat its their main aim. A healthier dash (stock made with dried kelp and bonito flakes)[5] makes part of its great mix in a broth. The English based chef Jozef Youssef, who’s a specialist of food, sees the Japanese cultural heritage as an amazing technique on exploring food, he says, “They are taught to bring out the essence of an ingredient. It seems very simple, but some of the methods are quite complicated. They use colour, texture, scent and presentation to enhance the diner’s sense of seasonality and transience.” [6] It is great the importance of the Japanese cultural aspects when it refers to quality, and the way its seen and respected by others. The Japanese ambassador from England, noted a diversity of implications when cooking outside Japan, and specialised it way of growing and picking Japanese ingredients in order to get results and flavours as the vegetables and seasonings grew in their homeland. And the knowledge was only gathered by studying and practicing the making and theory by going to Japan.

Gastrodiplomacy has the power of influence, using food and not only for politics but in order to foster countries, it providing creativity and public relations. The gastrodiplomacy encourages the expertise of the chef to tells the history of a country.


[1] Rockower, Paul. “The Gastrodiplomacy Cookbook.” The Huffington Post. September 14, 2010

[2] Joseph Nye (2011)ICD – Academy for Cultural Diplomacy. Available t < > Last seen on 14th of May 2015

[3] The Telegraph (2010) UNESCO declares French cuisine ‘world intangible heritage’. [online] Available at < > Last seen on 13th May 2015

[4] Sybil Kapoor (2014) Japanese Cuisine: how washoku is taking over Britain | Life and Style | The Guardian. [online] Available at: < > Last seen on 14th of May 2015

[5] Just One Cook Cookbook (2011) How To Make a Dashi. [online] Available at < > Last seen on 14th of May 2015

[6] Sybil Kapoor (2014) Japanese Cuisine: how washoku is taking over Britain | Life and Style | The Guardian. [online] Available at: < > Last seen on 14th of May 2015

  • France 24 (2014) Gastrodiplomacy : is French food losing its flair? . Available at < > last seen 13th of May 2015


It is difficult, if not impossible, to name a society without any music heritage. It is argued that music is unusual among all human activities for both its abiquity and its antiquity. There is very little theory and academic exploration about the relationship between music and politics, but it is believed that music is widely applicable to political process. Music, one of the most fundamental elements of every culture, has the ability to represent a nation´s cultural values and political ideologies. Music´s diplomatic potential is illustrated its ability to reach beyond the common medium of political meetings and forums, in which certain outcomes are expected. But is music a feasible candidate for creating common ground upon which to build more positive relations?

During the Cold War, Western countries increasingly turned towards popular music in their public diplomacy. At the beginning, the use of music was limited to genders such as jazz and gospel, the second half of the twentieth century brought more genders to diplomatic context, such as country, bluegrass, rock, reggae and hip-hop. It is believed that as an instrument of public diplomacy, popular music plays a complex role in contested terrain. Music diplomacy has not only impacted the ways in which audiences perceive foreign cultures, but is has also helped to shape the cultural horizons of politicians, diplomats, cultural managers, and musicians involved in diplomatic programs. In this way, music diplomacy has had highly significant cultural and aesthetic effects (Technische Universität Dortmund, 2015).

jazzIn the half of the twentieth century, when the Cold War was at its peak, America deployed Dizzy Gillespie, a famed jazz musician, and a jazz band to change the world´s view of American culture through rhythm and syncopation. It was very successful, however, cultural diplomacy died down after the Cold War ended. But the events of 9/11 convinced the U.S. to send out America´s musician to win hearts and minds with melody once again.

Rhythm Road, a programme run by the state department and a non-profit organization Jazz at Lincoln Centre, has made informal diplomats from both musicians and audiences. Since 2005, musicians have travelled to more than 96 countries and places, where some people have never seen an American. It is argued that jazz is well-suited to diplomacy. It is collaborative, allowing individuals to harmonise, as well as play solo – much like a democracy. Jazz is also a reminder of music´s power. It helped break down racial barriers, as enthusiasts of all colours gathered to listen to jazz when segregation was still the law of the land (The Economist, 2009).

It is argued that music diplomacy can facilitate intercultural communication, and therefore ultimately forestall miscommunication and misunderstanding. Intercultural communication is viewed as a mean of bringing people together, and as a power to assist international organizations in the exercise of their services to the world community. It is believed that this type of communication should be used in foreign politics as a way to encourage people to discover one another through personal interactions. Learning about music different from our own can open our eyes on diverse culture and values (Einbinder, 2013).

An example of one of the leading music diplomacy initiative in the world is the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, created by Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said in mid 1990s. Daniel Barenboim is the internationally acclaimed pianist and conductor of Jewish descent, who believes that music should be valued as a useful tool to learn about our society. He sees music as a possible platform for people from different backgrounds to meet and engage in a cross-cultural dialogue. Edward Said is a Palestinian literary critics and philosopher. Their friendship gave birth to an idea of combating intolerance and prejudices through art. In their case, sharing a passion for music became a common ground for building interaction between the Israeli conductor and the Palestinian philosopher (West-Eastern Divan Orchestra).

Today, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra is one of the only instances where Palestinian and Israeli youth are able to meet, debate and share their experiences. The project allows for intercultural dialogue and the sharing of knowledge between people from different countries that would, under normal circumstances, never have the chance to meet. The assumption underlying this project is that the orchestra could be a place where an alternative way of making peace can take place. The project is also supposed to suggest that bridges can be build that encourage people to get closer, showing that it is possible for people from different backgrounds to co-exist peacefully (Ibid).

The orchestra, as well as jazz bands proved that music diplomacy is a useful way to break down barriers that used to be considered insurmountable. It is suggested that governments should acknowledge the potential of music diplomacy for improving intercultural communication and understanding. A better knowledge of the other´s culture, beliefs and interests is the first step towards the improvement of international relations. Moreover, it is believed that the more we develop music diplomacy, the more we will be able to shape the international arena in a more cooperative and harmonious system (Einbinder, 2013).


More than a singing competition


The Eurovision song contest was found in 1956 and it can be argued that it was designed as a platform to promote european unity in a cold war context, with its purpose being the “ fostering good relations between neighbors after the violence of the Second World War.” (McGrane 2014; Jordan 2010) In a little over a weeks time between May 18 and 23, 2015 the 60th Eurovision Song Contest will take place in Vienna. This year the motto is ‘Building Bridges’. Hosting the Song Contest will allow Vienna to present itself as the open, energetic and dynamic city it is. With the Life Ball, Europes largest AIDS charity event, taking place this weekend, the Song contest next weekend and the 20th Rainbow Parade in June, Vienna is fully embracing diversity at the moment. The city has even installed gay-themed traffic lights.

“From the perspective of national governments, the principal objective of cultural diplomacy is positively to influence public and high-level opinion in a foreign state.” (Caspian Information Centre 2012) The Eurovision Song Contest is a suitable setting for states to achieve this objective. This year 40 nations will meet in Vienna to compete for the title, but also to share theire culture and to show the world who they are. The sound contest draws a large audience, it “remains the single largest televised annual cultural event in the world” (Ray 2015)

Azarbaijan, a country which did not have many opportunities to stand out positively in the first years of it independence, won the Song Contest in 2011 and making it the host for 2012. The country acknowledged the potential that being host of such an event could have for nation branding and integrated organizing the Song Contest in its wider Public Diplomacy strategy. (Ismailzade 2011)

While most contestants sing in english, each year some contestant decide to sing in their native language. Last year Sergej Cetkovic was one of them and his choice did not do him any harm, he became the first candidate from montenegro to make it into the final. He explained his choice “I think we need to keep our cultural heritage — that’s why I think it’s important to sing in my mother tongue” and added “We’re a new country. People have to know we exist.” (Donadio 2014) His statement shows the potential that participation at the Song Contest has for nation branding. By standing out of the crowd, small little known countries have the chance to put their name on the map. They do not have to necessarily have to win the contest to achieve this, but a extraordinary performance highlighting their culture can do the trick as well. 

The rules of the competition do not allow voters to vote for their own country. From a cultural diplomacy standpoint this is important, because it puts an emphasis on appreciating songs from other cultures. However it also leads to bloc voting where countries with close relations support each other. For example the balkan countries and the scandinavian countries usually make up one bloc each. (Donadio 2014) The degree to which the Eurovision Song Contest is a politicized event became evident last year. Not only was the Russian spokesmen booed at when trying to read out the countries result, also the countries giving high points to Russia were booed at. Russia was focus of international criticism during the event for the crisis in crimea as well as it’s ant-gay law. (Wyatt 2014)

However while it is unclear if politics have the power to decide the winner of the contest it is important to highlight that, despite the European Broadcasting Union claiming it is an apolitical event, the Song Contest has repeatedly been used as a platform to get across political messages by participants. One example for this is that Cyprus gave 8 points to Turkey in 2003 after only giving few if any points to the country since the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974. ‘Europe, peace to Cyprus, Turkey eight points’ Declared cyprus’ spokesperson, indicating a change in the relationship between turkey and cyprus. (Jordan 2010)



brandNation branding is a new discipline and a very complex phenomenon. Its practice is based on several well-established disciplines, such as marketing, public policy, international relations, trade and tourism promotion, psychology, public diplomacy and many others. Today, states have to compete for their positions on a global stage and to create suitable environment for their citizens. It is believed that nation branding is a powerful tool which can help to improve image of a country and create competitive advantage in global markets. Therefore, more and more countries are trying to use nation-branding techniques with a vision of improved image and reputation. And Japan is one of them (Anholt, 2007).

Japan decided to improve its image and to start its branding initiatives in 2002. Its main goal is ´to improve the image and reputation of Japan and turn it into a nation that is loved and respected by people throughout the world, with the focus on the lifestyle and the overall power of Japan´s cultural assets´. The most important objectives of Japan´s branding strategy are to promote diverse and reliable local businesses, attractive lifestyle reflected in a food culture, brands and fashion, and to establish Japanese fashion as a global brand (Akutsu, 2008).

It is argued that countries have various options and ways how to promote itself and implement its nation-branding strategy. Three most common areas for promotion are tourism – as it is a powerful element of the nation branding because it can brand a country directly through holiday adverts, cultural and public diplomacy – as they are inevitable in communication with foreign public, and brands – as they are important vectors of the image and reputation and channels for communicating national identity. Japan places biggest efforts to its tourism promotion and cultural diplomacy (Anholt, 2007).


Japan´s cultural diplomacy uses its diverse culture to attract the interest of foreign population in the country and make them to trust the country. For cultivation of mutual understanding and trust between Japan and other countries Japan has been practising cultural exchanges, which have been playing an important role in the process of Japan´s modernization and enhancement of peaceful relations with other countries. Because of growing interdependence between countries, according to Japan´s Prime Minister, it is important to create common values and principles among different countries, while still protecting their cultural diversity (Prime Minister of Japan and his Cabinet).

Japan has been running a wide-range of initiatives and activities to fulfil its objectives. Since 2002, it has established various bodies and councils for promotion, it has revised many laws and made many reforms in order to provide more support and protection for local businesses, it also opened new film production and cooking courses at many universities, and in 2005 and 2006 Japanese Fashion Week was held in Tokyo (Akutsu, 2008).

Despite Japan has been widely criticized for being too insular and closed, in recent years Japan made huge investments and efforts in its branding and presenting its attractive qualities to the outside world. It is argued that from being an economic power in 1980s, Japan became a cultural superpower of the 21st Century (Dinnie, 2009).

It is evident that Japan´s reputation among foreign audience has been on the rise recently. According to the FutureBrand´s annual Country Brand Index x2014-11-11-country-brand-index.2014-2015, Japan became the best country brand, when it overtook Switzerland to earn the first place. Index says that respondents associate Japan mostly with advanced technology, health and education, art, culture, and good infrastructure. Respondents also said that the country is unique and that it is always improving and not standing still. The most associated brands with japan are Nintendo, Sony, Toshiba, Toyota, Panasonic, Honda and Hitachi (Country Brand Index, 2014-2015).

So, as we can see, Japan has been running its branding activities very successfully – from its early initiatives and establishments of different bodies, through the setting of its main objectives and promoting its various cultural aspects, to the reaching its goals and becoming the best country brand in 2014. The case of japan shows that nation branding is a powerful tool which can create a real difference and improve reputation of a country, if it is applied rationally and effectively.


Akutsu S., (2008), The Directions and the Key Elements of Branding Japan, in Nation Branding: Concepts, Issues, Practice, Dinnie K., (2008), Elsevier Butterworth-Heinemann, UK

Anholt S., (2007), Competitive Identity: The New Brand Management for Nations, Cities and Regions, Palgrave MacMillan, NY

Dinnie K., (2009), Japan´s Nation Branding: Recent Evolution and Potential Future Paths, Temple University, Japan

Country Brand Index, 2014-2015, FutureBrand, accessed May 2015

Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet, Establishing Japan as a ´Peaceful Nation of Cultural Exchange´, Urban Renaissance Headquarters, accessed May 2015


Everybody likes pandas because they are cute, cuddly and very rare. While it looks that they do not do anything else, just sleep and eat bamboo, actually, they play an important diplomatic role for China. For more than half a century, pandas have been sent to zoos in different countries as cuddly ambassadors, to help foster relations with those countries, what has become known as panda diplomacy.


China started the practice of panda diplomacy in 1957, when it sent two pandas as a diplomatic gift to the Soviet Union as a symbol of establishing diplomatic relations between the Soviet Union and the People´s Republic of China. Later in 1972, China gifted another two pandas to the United States after President Richard Nixon´s visit to China. The gift was seen as a huge diplomatic success and establishment of official relations with the U.S. Between 1958 and 1982 China gifted 23 pandas to different countries, such as France, Mexico, North Korea, UK and some others (Duggan J., 2014).

When China realised that numbers of pandas fell, since 1980´s it has stopped giving pandas just as diplomatic gifts. China, instead, began to give pandas to other countries on loan, which is approximately US$ 1,000,000 per year. The loans started to be used for panda conservation facilities and scientific research in an attempt to increase their numbers (Duggan J, 2014).

pandaAfter the First Lady Michelle Obama´s trip to China, she said in her blog that “In fact, just last fall, a new baby panda – Bao Bao, which means ´precious´ – was born in the National Zoo in Washington D.C., giving new life to our growing relationship with China. Even for nations as big, complex and different as the United States and China, small gestures can mean a great deal. They can bring people together and help them form bonds that can stretch across the globe” (Brinded L., 2014).

According to a research paper published in Environmental Practice, panda diplomacy has entered a new phase since 2008, when the Sichuan earthquake devastated the main panda conservation centre. The paper says that in recent years, panda loans are connected with trade deals for valuable resources and technology. There are two types of deals, paper says. The first involves “close Asian neighbour nations that have signed free-trade agreements with China since 2009” and the second involves “nations supplying China with natural resources and advanced technologies” (Duggan J., 2014).

In 2011, two pandas arrived to the Edinburgh Zoo and shortly after the arrival, trade deal worth £2.6 billion was signed for the supply of salmon, Land Rover cars and renewable energy technology to China. After signing the contract, a Scottish government spokesman said: “Strengthening our relationship will bring substantial benefits to both countries. We are committed to working hard to deepen existing ties and establish new areas of cooperation – an approach that is clearly paying dividends” (Hogenboom M., 2013).Panda-Overseas-Malaysia-Jib-Gor-Roast-Mah

The article also says that panda loans to France, Canada and Australia are connected with trade deals for uranium, which China needs for increasing its nuclear capacity by 2050. In 2011, two pandas were sent to Japan as well, and both countries stated that they hope the pandas will enhance friendly feelings and mutual understanding between them, as their relations were soured by a sovereignty dispute over islands (Ibid).

Dr Buckingham said that “the panda can be used to seal the deal and signify a bid for a long and prosperous relationship. If a panda is given to the country, it does not signify the closing of a deal – they have entrusted an endangered, precious animal to the country, it signifies in some way a new start to the relationship.” She also argues that China is interested to have “soft power influence through a global visual seal of approval” gained from loaning pandas (Ibid).

As we can see, a new phase of panda diplomacy has made it evident that China has a lot to gain through panda loans. China´s expansion and its use of panda diplomacy have become more interlinked and motivations behind panda loans have become more unclear. It is obvious that they are no longer just about conservation and diplomatic gifts, but become to the big extend bound up with political and economic aims.


Brinded L., March 2014, Panda Diplomacy: How China Uses Animal to Get What it Wants, International Business Times, accessed May 2015

Duggan J., February 2014, China´s cuddly ambassadors with diplomatic clout, The Guardian, accessed May 2015

Hogenboom M., September 2013, China´s new phase of panda diplomacy, BBC News, accessed May 2015

China Daily, February 2011, Panda diplomacy likely to boost ties,, accessed May 2015


Turkey’s prime minister Erdogan’s rhetoric is in name of democratic and social liberties, prior to his reelection almost a year ago he released a “Vision Statement” in which he said “We should adopt democracy,not as a political model, but as a culture dominating every field of our lives.” However his actions are clearly contradictory to his rhetoric and since 2002 his rule has taken on an increasingly authoritarian direction. One way this has become evident is in relation to press freedom among others.  (Huijgh 2015) 

Especially the Gezi Park protest in Istanbul and other turkish cities two years ago have brought to the attention the growing restriction of press freedom in Turkey. The events were hardly mentioned by the turkish news media and even the “professional private” news channels refrained from extensively reporting on the events. (Baydar 2013) While CNN international reported new from Turkey, its local counter part aired a documentary on penguins. (Tufekci 2013) Turkish authorities wen as far as attempting to “to discredit the BBC and intimidate its journalists”. (Halliday 2013) According to Baydar this is nothing new Erdogan has the traditional news media firm under control and there have been news blackouts on other serious issues, especially regarding the Kurdish conflict. (Baydar 2013) Additionaly a growing number of investigative and critical journalists have lost their jobs in mainstream print and TV media during Erdogan’s rule. (An interesting article on this and the translation of a column that the turkish newspaper Millyet refused to print can be found here)

But this is not all! For Erdogan it is not enough to have the traditional press and news media under his control, more than anything social media is the thorn in his eye. “We’ll eradicate Twitter. I don’t care what the international community says. Everyone will witness the power of the Turkish Republic.” He said shortly before a ban on twitter was implemented following the leaking of recordings that supposedly reveal corruption in his administration on the social media platform. (McCoy 2014)

One of the first responses to Erdogan’s court orders to restrict the use of Twitter was Neelie Kroes’  (vice-president of the European commission), tweet: “The Twitter ban in  is groundless, pointless, cowardly. Turkish people and intl community will see this as censorship. It is.” (Letsch 2014)

Shortly after the ban started being effective, instructions on how to keep tweeting despite it proliferated and were shared among the social media community. (three ways to to tweet despite the ban) The number of Tweets even rose after the ban was in effect, “according to social media agency We Are Social the number of tweets sent from Turkey went up 138% following the ban.”(Letsch 2014) The reaction within turkey and also the international perception show that social media have become a vital mean of communication in the 21st century and it has highlighted the will of people to find ways to express themselves freely. It also has shown that in todays world you cannot shut down a whole social media platform (especially not in a country that is democratic), just because you are a powerful leader. 

Erdogan’s attempt to ban twitter has also shown another important thing. Before the emergence of social media it was enough to control the conventional new media and censor ship was more easily applied. However today in a world where you can share your thought with the rest of the world within seconds, social media has the overhand and as his failed attempt at shutting down twitter has shown it is far harder to control social media than it is to control the conventional new media. People are eager to express their opinion and freedom of expression has found a new outlet, enabling to circumvent censorship by the state.

Here you can find the story of the turkish journalist Yavuz Baydar on why he was fired from Sabah,  according to the author “one of Turkey’s oldest and most vocal ‘mainstream’ papers.”

Here you can find an Article on the number of journalists jailed in Turkey


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