In the first of a series of posts from Grenadian students studying at universities around the world, public diplomacy student, Tricia Bethel, shares her thoughts on how China’s approach to public diplomacy could be a useful model for Grenada…
My name is Tricia Bethel and I am a Grenadian student currently pursuing a master’s degree in Jilin University in Jilin City, northeast China, where I am studying public diplomacy.
From the year 2006 to 2011 I studied for my undergraduate in Diplomacy in one of China’s top rated universities in Beijing; the People’s University of China ( Ren Min Da Xue). I am therefore not new to China.
The reason I returned is that I genuinely missed China, aside from the fact that I wanted to obtain a master’s degree and be submerged in an environment where I could practice my Chinese after three years of being back home in Grenada.
Why diplomacy and public diplomacy? I chose this subject because I thought I was always better at social sciences and writing when I was in secondary school. I am also concerned about the world around us and how people are living.
Public diplomacy is basically a new concept that uses dialogue to enhance the image of one’s country. It is taken from the hands of government and placed in the hands of NGO’s, businessmen and individuals who are conductors of public diplomacy.
Traditionally diplomacy has mainly taken place through high profile speeches between governments but recently it has been recognized that more can be achieved through less formal engagements.
The first thing that may come to mind when one hears the term public diplomacy is propaganda, however the two are not the same. I urge interested persons of public diplomacy to read the book written by Joseph Nye called Soft Power.
China is a great conductor of public diplomacy and this is associated with the fact that it is a rising power. All rising powers place emphasis on public diplomacy to correct negative images, win friends, and conduct effective policies to name a few. The US has been the oldest conductor of public diplomacy.
China conducts its public diplomacy through soft power, a phrase coined by Joseph Nye, as the use of seduction rather than force to obtain your purpose. This can be applied to any aspect of life. One does not necessarily have to be a bully to achieve one’s goals. Governments globally are recognizing the importance public diplomacy plays in their policy today.
China is a developing country with a pollution of 1.3 billion. It comes as a cultural shock to anyone visiting but the three things that stand out the most after my first stay was the friendliness of the people, their helpfulness and hard working spirit.
I am quite interested in the future of China and how third world nations can benefit from its friendship and assistance. China considers the third world as the foundation of its foreign policy. Isn’t that comforting?
Aside from being exposed to international information, I can explain my life here as an eye-opening experience. I am surrounded not only by Chinese but peoples from many different countries who come to China seeking jobs, educational advancement or out of simple curiosity.
I get to understand how the world interacts when you bring everyone together. It has both negatives and positives but as students of international relations we have one aim. That aim is learning to create a better world for yourself and the people next to you.
It begins with cooperation and friendship. Out of cooperation and friendship, trust is established. Once trust is established anything is possible. The Chinese know best about establishing trust before business agreements. Their culture is different and one worth exploring and understanding. It took me a few weeks to really understand the concept of losing face.
In July 2015, I return home. If I could lessen the travel time in coming to China, I would definitely stay and find a job here. But I do believe more can be done between Grenada and China and I want to be a part of that while at home.
I would like to see a tourism office here one day and more Chinese elites travelling to Grenada. I would like to see interesting crafts and other items being exported to China and more investments. I don’t know what my future holds for me but with a positive attitude, determination and self-preservation; these are the basic tools I will apply to get me across the bridge.