Thursday, July 21, 2011

7'7" of Public Diplomacy

My friend Prof. Gary Rawnsley has a post about the retirement of Yao Ming, and the misuse of the term "soft power." While I don't disagree with Prof. Rawnsley about the overuse of the title, and doubt that Yao reflects Chinese softpower (nor do I disagree with Prof. John Brown's comment about the dilution of the term "public diplomacy", even if I do try to push the boundaries of the term), I still feel that Yao and all the hubub surrounding the phenomenon of a 7'7" Chinese basketball star has had some public and cultural diplomacy value.  Yao has been an avatar for cultural exchange, and a bridge to facilitate such exchange.  ESPN got the intrinsic cultural diplomacy value of Yao, as seen here in this hysterical commercial.  And while I don't think that Yao playing basketball increased China's influence globally, he did help connect disparate parts of the world, something that we hope of all public diplomats.

1 comment:

Gary Rawnsley said...

Thanks for the comment on my blog Paul (http://wwwpdic.blogspot.com). I understand entirely what you are saying, but my reservations with the use of soft power in this specific case is that we have little knowledge about effect. It reminds me of the debates about the popularity of Japanese culture in China, though the Chinese remain very hostile to Japanese power, influence and strategy.