Chinese-style soft power
US soft power once meant that the rest of the world dreamt of living like Americans. Recently, soft power is something attributed to China as well, but as much as all of us use Chinese-produced goods, no one really wishes to live in China. Upon closer inspection, China’s soft power is nothing more than lazily hidden strong power, i.e. attempts to achieve economic, political and military dominance through the use of force.
In response to China’s rapid economic growth, the establishment of networks of economic cooperation and its increased role on the global political stage, many political experts are tempted to talk about China’s soft power. However, most often they must talk about aggressive tactics employed by China that has nothing to do with the true meaning of soft power.
The wealth acquired by the Chinese through hard work began to worry the West when it became clear that China has aspirations to become a global superpower. China has the second largest defense budget, although it makes up only a third of that of the US. China has many trade partners, but they often complain that China tries to force unfair rules. Former US president Donald Trump began a trade war with China, and the EU has also accused China of favoring protectionism instead of a competition-based system. When in 2018 Canada, after a request by the US, detained Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, China responded by detaining several Canadians, although Huawei denied having any ties to the Chinese government.
China has territorial claims in the South China Sea, of which it reminds by holding military exercises and causing tensions in the region.
What concerns China’s soft power, the usual suspects are the Confucius Institutes, which have been established all over the globe, and the Belt and Road Initiative. Another soft outlet of influence is China’s participation in international organization. However, if we look closer at each of them, none can be considered soft power instruments.
The Confucius Institutes teach not only the Chinese language, but also the Chinese government’s worldview. Professors in the US, Canada and Europe have urged to close the Confucius Institutes that operate in their universities, saying that they restrict academic freedom.
There have also been allegations that the Chinese Embassy has attempted to disrupt meetings between Latvian and Tibetan representatives. Former head of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Latvian Saeima (parliament) Ojārs Ēriks Kalniņš revealed that in 2015, after a protest phone call from the Chinese ambassador, he tried to convince his colleagues not to welcome the Tibetan delegation in the Saeima. In 2013, after “instructions from higher authorities” posters advertising Dalai Lama’s lectures were removed from Riga International Airport, and since 2010 Latvia’s highest officials – president and the prime minister – have not officially met with Dalai Lama. The Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs advises officials not to meet with Dalai Lama or ministers of the Central Tibetan Administration, as confirmed by Latvian Minister of Foreign Affairs Edgars Rinkēvičs.
Many nations cooperate with China, but quite often they complain about China enforcing unfair conditions. This is a state-level policy – to further economic relations with numerous countries, at the same time imposing different restrictions and obstacles against them in order to tip the scales economic benefit in China’s favor.
Nevertheless, none of this can hide the ugliness of China’s communist regime in the eyes of other nations, especially at a time when China is suspected of withholding information on the true extent of the Covid-19 pandemic in the country, after the outbreak in Wuhan in 2019. Moreover, China is also being accused of Uyghur genocide, with more and more information on this issue coming to light in recent years.
Authoritarian regimes in their essence are incompatible with true soft power, as it’s three main pillars are an attractive culture, political values and a morally just foreign policy, and the only thing China has is an attractive culture. To compensate for the lack of benign political values and foreign policy, China employs means that cannot be considered part of the arsenal of soft power.
Water Diplomacy – A Tool for Peace and Well Being
Authors: Kiran Bhatt, Prof Dr Sanjay Pattanshetty, Prof Dr Helmut Brand
On March 22nd every year, World Water Day is celebrated. The theme for 2023 focused on accelerating changes to resolve the water and sanitation crisis as part of the Agenda 2030. Starting in 2015, Sustainable Development Goal 6 aims to achieve everyone’s access to water and sanitation by 2030, while Goals 14 and 15 focus on conserving water to ensure sustaining marine and freshwater ecosystems. In 2018, the United Nations General Assembly initiated the “International Decade for Action: Water for Sustainable Development – 2018-2028” to promote the management of water resources in an integrated manner. Further, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, as part of its Action Plan, stated that the demand for freshwater is estimated to grow more than 40 per cent by 2050. He added that the increased demand and the adverse impact of climate change would make water scarcity worrisome. Scholars and reports have highlighted that tackling the increasing stress on natural resources such as freshwater while battling climate change would be a primary challenge in the coming years. Thus, with the challenge evolving to affect worldwide, there is a spike in demand for international and regional cooperation despite trends of disregarding globally accepted agreements and geopolitical tensions.
Water as a Source of Conflict?
With the increasing water demand, managing transboundary water basins has become challenging for countries. Although wars or conflicts are not directly instigated by tension over water sharing, using water resources to intimidate the belligerents can potentially drive conflicts, both at the internal and international levels. In addition to the impact on security, scarcity and accessibility to water resources threaten individuals’ socio-economic conditions, including food insecurity. Therefore, water impacts regional and international relations through its ability to control tensions and conflicts. As per the United Nations, a territory is termed “water-stressed” if it withdraws 25 or more per cent of renewable freshwater. Statista, an online consumer and market data platform, recently published a report highlighting the regions facing the highest water stress by 2040. Going by the definition given by the UN, the regions of Central and Southern Asia experience high levels of water stress. At the same time, it is critical in the case of Northern Africa and West Asia.
SDG 6 targets equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water. However, in many developing countries, contaminated water and poor sanitation facilities have resulted in the transmission of water-borne diseases like cholera, diarrhoea, and typhoid. Further, the absence of sanitation also enhances the breeding of vectors, which exposes threats of individuals to vector-borne diseases. Another impact of water scarcity and sanitation is its critical role in food security – from food production to ensuring adequate nutrition, which is possible through safe drinking water and improved hygiene practices. Water insecurity also has a far-stretching impact on the well-being of individuals. One of the aspects is social impact, where women are seen to encounter repercussions since they bear the responsibility of water acquisition for household tasks. Studies have further established that gender-based violence is closely related to the factors such as access, adequacy and reliability of water insecurity. Most research linked violence against women to gendered norms that justified aggression, made water and related household activities the primary responsibility of women, and limited women’s capacity to seek help.
Figure 1: Sustainable Development Goals Related to Water
Source: Authors’ own
Conflict and Crisis due to Scarcity – A Case of Sub-Saharan Africa
Fast-growing urban centres with a booming population dot the African continent on one side while it suffers from increased stress on the already overburdened water systems on the other. Multiple conflicts in the region trace their origin to increased competition for accessing depleting natural resources, among which water is placed high. The issues have risen at all levels of society; for example, the states of Sudan and Egypt have continuing disputes over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam with Ethiopia. While in 2021, a dispute between fishermen and herders in Cameroon turned violent, claiming the lives of 22 people while displacing close to 100,000 due to the continued clashes. The dispute was rooted in disagreements over the rights to water from Lake Chad. While water shortage triggers violent clashes, it also leads to food insecurity in the region due to the adverse impacts on agricultural output and wildlife. The impact of water scarcity has taken a severe turn on agriculture, thereby affecting agrarian economies. For example, South Africa, a relatively stable economy in the continent, depends on the agricultural sector for job creation, food supply and development through foreign exchange. However, the water shortage has negatively impacted commercial and subsistence farmers, affecting the latter more severely.
The nexus between climate change and conflict is a complex issue with context-specific factors playing an important role. However, water scarcity has proven to be a threat multiplier affecting lives and impelling migration. While the scarcity of water alone might not be able to explain tensions between conflicting parties, it can be used as a tool to enhance cooperation due to the mere necessity of water for survival.
Water – A tool for peace?
Water can trigger clashes between neighbours, especially in transboundary water basins, and lead to political tensions between upper and lower riparian states. Various factors, such as geography, influence these transboundary water interactions within a basin. For example, while considering the geographical setting of the course of a river, the states upstream are considered more advantageous merely because they can control the flow and volume of water. Actions such as building dams or diverting water to meet their demands are claimed to showcase power to other members. However, an upper riparian state is not always necessary to be the dominant player. This is evident in the case of the Nile basin, where Egypt has a more significant say.
It is in this context that one must view the importance of negotiations surrounding water sharing. Water negotiations provide an opportunity for the riparian states to discuss, debate and deliberate agreements on various critical factors, such as sharing technical information to agreeing upon commitments related to sustainable management of water resources. A further step in the process is water diplomacy, wherein water could be used to build diplomatic relations between states and international relations in general. While water may itself be a cause of conflicts, situations include groups competing for scarce resources. Disagreement may arise over water used for unilateral or mutually beneficial gains. Hence, the failure to address such disagreements could turn into potential conflicts. It is in these scenarios that water diplomacy becomes a tool for preventive tool. Such a diplomatic tool ensures regional cooperation by bringing stability and peace.
A good example of problems arising from water sharing can be analysed in the case of India. India and Bangladesh are known to share cordial relations, but water sharing has been an issue between the South Asian neighbours. The Ganges Water Treaty was signed in 1996, and the recent developments in signing an MoU regarding sharing water from the Kushiyara are some of the successes of water negotiations. However, an exception is the Teesta water sharing which has yet to be implemented due to remonstrance from West Bengal. On the other hand, a commonly sighted example of successful water diplomacy is the Indus Water Treaty, signed between India and Pakistan in 1960. The Treaty, which the World Bank mediated, aimed to ensure equitable access to water in the Indus River basin. Despite numerous flashpoints, the pact is viewed as a milestone not just in the political relations between the two countries but a model to negotiate, collaborate and address other outstanding concerns. The conflicts that had erupted in the Darfur region of Sudan also find water scarcity as one of the root causes of the dispute between the farmers and pastoralists communities. The international community has employed water to address the conflict that killed several and displaced thousands. Led by the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), a project was initiated for sustainable recovery of peace in the Darfur region by enabling efficient water management, which helps build peace.
As a bottom line, water diplomacy ultimately works towards preventing and mitigating issues arising due to disputes and disagreements related to water sharing. But its success depends on the parties’ willingness to cooperate. This willingness depends on the interests and motivations of the riparian states. A question arises if a powerful riparian might stall the entire process or the need for such engagements for a comparatively weaker riparian state even if there is no improvement in the prevailing imbalances. One angle to explain such unlikely cooperation is maintaining diplomatic relations and securing unexpected future circumstances that are dubious. The cooperation, if successful, could be extended beyond water management to include economic and security matters, ultimately bringing stability and peace to the region. While the success of such diplomacy centred around water depends on political will, linking the financial aspect to ensure further its implementation is also necessary. Political will is needed to establish relationships and networks for mobilising essential actors. It is also a requisite to bring all the crucial actors around a single table during disputes or crises. India’s G20 presidency, along with Lifestyle for the Environment (LiFE), has provided an opportunity to share its successful programs related to water conservation, such as Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM), Namami Gange Programme Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation and Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana. By explaining and sharing the sustainability of such programmes, India can lead the way for other countries in designing action plans which ultimately help achieve the SDG targets. This would also help address the over-stressing water resources in South Asia. On the other hand, there is also a need to involve other players like the Finance Ministry within the government, regional organisations, Multilateral Development Banks and International Financial Institutions, which ensures financial support. In addition, they also provide a third perspective and act as a binding force for the entire process. Water diplomacy can be used as a practical approach that will ensure a link between sustainability and security.
*Sanjay Pattanshetty is Professor and Head of the Department of Global Health Governance and Coordinator of Centre for Health Diplomacy at Prasanna School of Public Health, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Manipal, Karnataka, India. He completed Doctor of Medicine in Community Medicine (MD) from Manipal Academy of Higher Education, and Double master’s in public policy and human Development with a specialization in Foreign Policy and Development from United Nations University and Maastricht University, The Netherlands. He has over a decade of experience in Public Health policy education program development, implementation, field research and practice. He has several scientific projects, and publications in reputed journals and has contributed to policy briefs in relevant areas.
*Helmut Brand is Jean Monnet, Professor of European Public Health and head of the Department of International Health at Maastricht University, The Netherlands. He studied Medicine in Düsseldorf and Zürich and holds a Master’s in Community Medicine from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the London School of Economics. Prof. Brand is a specialist in Public Health Medicine. He holds an honorable doctorate from Sofia Medical University. After working in several Health Authorities and Ministries of Health, he was director of the Public Health Institute of North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany. Since then European Integration in Health is the main topic of his work. He is past president of the Association of Schools of Public Health in the European Region (ASPHER) and the European Health Forum Gastein (EHFG) president.
As a policy advisor he serves on the European Advisory Committee on Health Research (EACHR) of WHO Europe and served on the Expert Panel on “Investing in Health” (EXPH) for the European Commission. At MAHE, India, he is the Founding Director of the Prasanna School of Public Health.
The Role of Student Research in Shaping Diplomatic Discourse
Diplomacy is a complicated field that is always changing. At its core are the fields of international relations and negotiations. To make good decisions in this fast-paced, global world, you need to know a lot about different themes and points of view. One of the key drivers of this understanding is student research, which plays a vital role in shaping diplomatic discourse. This article explores how important student research is and how it affects diplomacy efforts.
Understanding Diplomatic Discourse
Before we talk about the role of student research, let’s get a handle on the idea of diplomatic discourse. This is the exchange of ideas, opinions, and negotiations between nations. The goal is fostering cooperation, resolving conflicts, and addressing global challenges. It involves diplomats, policymakers, and experts who engage in dialogue and decision-making processes to shape international relations.
Conducting a thorough investigation requires careful planning, data collection, and critical analysis. It is important to gather reliable and credible sources to support your research. To master the art of academic writing, you need to know how to make a research paper that combines solid research with clear writing. You can make a good contribution to your area of study by carefully interpreting and presenting your findings. A well-written research paper not only shows that you know a lot about the subject, but also adds to the larger academic discussion.
The Value of Student Research
1. Fresh Perspectives
Student research brings a fresh and innovative perspective to diplomatic discourse. When young minds start to learn about many different things, they often approach problems with an open mind and a creative spirit. This can lead to the generation of new ideas, alternative viewpoints, and unconventional solutions. Even those which may not have been previously considered by established diplomatic circles. Diplomatic talks could be more open-minded and focused on the future if they took into account different points of view.
2. In-Depth Analysis
Students often have to do in-depth research on complex global issues. This study goes deeper than a simple understanding and looks at how political, economic, social, and cultural factors shape international relations. It shows that you know more than just the basics about the subject. By thoroughly examining these factors, students provide valuable insights that can enrich diplomatic discourse and inform policy decisions.
3. Cutting-Edge Research Areas
Students are the first to look into new technologies, world problems, and new trends. Their research often focuses on human rights, climate change, sustainable development, and hacking. Which are of great relevance to diplomatic agendas. When diplomats use the results of student research in their discussions, they can stay up to date on the latest developments and adapt their strategies accordingly.
4. Bridge between Academia and Practice
Student research acts as a bridge between academia and practical diplomacy. It allows academic institutions to contribute directly to real-world challenges by producing research that is applicable to diplomatic contexts. This helps to build a more complete plan to solve global problems by making it easier for people to share information and skills.
Promoting Student Research in Diplomacy
To maximize the impact of student research on diplomatic discourse, it is important to create an environment that encourages and makes it easy for students to start their own projects and activities. Here are some things that can be done to get students interested in studying diplomacy:
1. Establish Research Programs
Academic institutions and diplomatic organizations can collaborate to establish research programs focused on international relations and diplomatic studies. These programs can provide funding, mentorship, and resources to students, enabling them to undertake high-quality research projects with direct relevance to diplomatic discourse.
2. Foster Collaboration
Encouraging collaboration between students, diplomats, and policymakers can enrich the research process. By putting on events like workshops, conferences, and lectures that bring together different partners, you can make it easier for them to share useful ideas and build important relationships. This collaboration ensures that student research directly contributes to diplomatic discussions.
3. Recognize Excellence
By recognizing and rewarding students for their great research in diplomacy, they may be more likely to study things that will have a big impact on the world. Institutions can bring attention to the best research results by giving out awards, grants, and publication opportunities. This recognition helps to make student study even more important to the international conversation by making it more well-known and legitimate.
4. Engage in Policy Dialogues
It is important to give researchers chances to talk about policy and take part in diplomatic forums. They get the chance to talk about their results, take part in conversations, and add their points of view to the decision-making processes. Student research and political talk are tied together in a way that is good for both sides. Diplomats and people in charge of policy can learn important new things from these talks.
In conclusion, student research plays a crucial role in shaping diplomatic discourse. Students contribute to the richness and diversity of diplomatic discussions. They give new points of view, in-depth analyses, and insights into areas of research. Promoting student research in diplomacy can help students reach their full potential. This can help answer problems around the world and put the power of young brains to good use. It is important that the international community recognizes and accepts the importance of student research as a catalyst for positive change in the field of diplomacy.
Modern Diplomacy and the New World Order
There is no doubt that the international order is currently in a state of transition. The changes experienced seem to be the most significant in the past few hundred years. This assumption is predicated upon an objective fact — never before in the history of international politics has it included so many participants with different historical and cultural backgrounds. This means that we are not talking about another redistribution of power within a limited circle of states, but about a new distribution of power, capabilities and influence within a wider than ever circle of participants.
However, in practical terms, such large-scale changes result in a paradox: diplomacy is heavily influenced by tactical manoeuvring, rather than strategic considerations. This is especially noticeable in the example of the behaviour of Western countries; however, most of the rest are no exception. Even the actions of such powers as China or Russia, which by many indicators are truly examples of diplomatic conservatism, contain signs of not strategic, but contextual considerations. What can we say about small and medium-sized countries, some of which have even managed to become famous as skilful tacticians, making the most of the most ambiguous international situations?
Suffice it to say, the leading states will not determine the composition of the new world order alone; they have been joined by lesser-order predators, which are now in a state of constant manoeuvre. This, in turn, can lead us to one of two assumptions. Either this order is still very far from its ultimate form, or it is arising through a set of manoeuvres that seem insignificant from our aesthetic point of view, which are not the result of big decisions made by the wise and powers responsible for the fate of mankind.
Despite the fact that in popular literature, the ability to constantly manoeuvre is now, as a rule, one of the attributes of medium-sized states occupying an intermediate geopolitical position, it is precisely the large countries that have become true masters of this genre. Here we see that Europe, which despite its loyalty to transatlantic relations in the long term, certainly occupies first place. The main powers of the European Union, acting in an individual capacity or under the guise of European institutions obedient to them, are in a state of permanent manoeuvring, as the outer contour of the West. This is true in relations with China, Russia or other countries of the so-called world majority, and with their direct partners; they are constantly entering into bargaining relations with Europe’s powerful patron, the United States.
For the rest of the world, this creates the illusion that Europe can one day break away from America and embark on a relatively independent voyage. For the Americans themselves, it creates little additional opportunity or concern, but never leads to situations that threaten Washington’s monopoly on power.
For example, the visit of French President Emmanuel Macron to Beijing in the first half of April was certainly an example of such manoeuvring. The French head of state tried in every possible way to strengthen the idea among his Chinese counterparts that continental Europe can, at least tactically, act as something other than a territorial base for the realisation of American interests. In part, this was facilitated by objective economic opportunities that make cooperation with the Europeans beneficial for Beijing and the Chinese economy. The Chinese side remains somewhat confident that Germany and France are behaving desperately regarding Russia, precisely because they won’t consider a conflict with Moscow that could lead to dramatic consequences for them.
The Europeans are being gently pushed by the UK and the US towards a confrontation with China. For the European Union, going along with this would be economic suicide, especially given the current not-too-cheerful state of the socio-economic systems of most of “old Europe”. Moreover, the Europeans’ reluctance to refuse the benefits of cooperation with the PRC could even be seen during German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s visit to Beijing.
In addition, China quite rationally believes that the conflict between the West and Russia is more fundamental for Europe than the confrontation between the United States and China itself. Our Chinese friends are well aware of the history of relations between Russia and Western Europe, and understand that the hostility there emanates from the European states. Despite some positive experience of cooperation with Russia in the era when its behaviour was relatively convenient for the EU, the largest EU countries have always had their grievances with Moscow, perhaps even more serious than those of Japan, another American ally in the fight against the restoration of Russian influence and the destruction of American dominance in general. Russia objectively and historically is an adversary of Western Europe; this cannot be said about China, which simply due to its geopolitical position cannot cause serious concern. So the diplomatic manoeuvres of France and the EU as a whole will, of course, continue to be seen very positively by our Chinese friends.
Moreover, China itself manoeuvres in everything except for its strategic partnership with Russia, the true nature of which is hidden from outside observers by the exclusively trusting relations between our political leaders. Regarding all other issues, China is also advancing its long-term vision through decisions that may seem purely tactical. Moreover, as happened in the case of the historical rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia, all the main features of international life are now contributing to the success of Chinese diplomacy. This will continue as long as Beijing can stay above the fight that the West and Russia are directly involved in over unfortunate Ukraine.
The United States is also conducting its own diplomatic manoeuvres, but, like Russia’s, they are more dangerous for global security simply because of the volumes of the deadliest weapons that the United States has at its disposal. Having proclaimed a decisive battle with Russia and an equally uncompromising confrontation with China, the US is also trying to play what enthusiastic observers call “subtle diplomacy.” However, if Europe relies here on its economic capabilities and certain charm of a sovereign player with a long history, then Washington manoeuvres in a deliberately brutal spirit, trying to play power games and pit everyone against everyone else. Of course, Washington succeeds less and less, but the resources accumulated over the past 50 years are still fantastically far from being exhausted.
Russia, in turn, is conducting its diplomatic manoeuvring by stubbornly refusing to “burn bridges” in relations with the West or damage the integrity of the world economic system. It has also demonstrates impressive tolerance towards those external partners that must take into account the wishes of the United States on the Russian issue, including even formally neutral countries that supply weapons to Kiev’s troops. In fact, only the diplomatic dialogue between Moscow and individual NATO countries has been completely stopped, and even there it was not done by Moscow, which emphasises that it is always open to resuming talks. Thus, almost no party involved is completely straightforward. In this regard, a relevant question that may confront experts of international politics is the following: are the general diplomatic manoeuvres simply part of the military activity that is growing on a global scale, or are they replacing the “big” negotiations about a new world order, about which theorists could dream of? It can be assumed that both are being done at the same time — to the particular chagrin of those of us who still believe that order in the world can be established through a single plan and rational, responsible calculations.
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