US Public Diplomacy in the Asia-Pacific: Opportunities and Challenges in a Time of Transition

Author/s (editor/s):

Sarah Ellen Graham

Publication year:


Publication type:

Working paper

Find this publication at:
IR Working Paper 2007/6 (PDF, 247KB)

Sarah Ellen Graham, ‘US Public Diplomacy in the Asia-Pacific: Opportunities and Challenges in a Time of Transition’, IR Working Paper 2007/6, Canberra: Department of International Relations, Research School of Pacific and Asian Affairs, The Australian National University, December 2007.

Two key themes stand out within current US government reports and foreign policy commentaries on American public diplomacy. These are: firstly, that US efforts to attract ‘hearts and minds’ in the Middle East were inadequate before and immediately after the 11 September 2001 attacks on America and must be improved, and secondly that the administration of public diplomacy has required major reform in order to meet the challenge of engaging Arab and Muslim audiences into the future. This paper assesses US public diplomacy in a regional context that has not been subject to significant scrutiny within the post-11 September debates on US public diplomacy: the Asia–Pacific. This oversight is lamentable, given Washington’s significant security and economic interests in the Asia–Pacific, and because the Asia–Pacific is a region undergoing significant economic, diplomatic and political shifts that are likely to complicate Washington’s ability to bring about desired outcomes in the future. This paper demonstrates, furthermore, that the Asia–Pacific represents an important case study from which to reflect on the administrative and substantive questions raised in recent critiques of US public diplomacy at a general level.

This paper has four sections. I first survey the history of US public diplomacy, with a focus on the Asia–Pacific, and then outline the main programmatic components of US public diplomacy and their target audiences. The course of administrative reform to Washington’s agencies of public diplomacy is surveyed in the third section of the paper. In the final section, I analyse the reasons why Washington should regard public diplomacy as an important second-track diplomatic strategy in the Asia–Pacific and specify the key determinants of Washington’s ability to effectively pursue public diplomacy in the future.

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