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China, Russia, and the United States
John M. Owen

Nye defines soft power as ‘the ability to get others to want the outcomes you want’. Soft power is non-coercive; it persuades, seduces, and co-opts. Soft power is power, or the ability to achieve outcomes that one wants. Except in the unlikely event that a state enjoys universal appeal, its soft power will always encounter resistance and balancing from other actors who want different outcomes. Today, US soft power provokes balancing from China and Russia. That balancing sometimes is done with soft power. But soft and hard power are imperfect substitutes; if a state can use soft instead of hard power, it can also do the reverse. Thus Russia and China sometimes balance against US soft power with hard power. Russia has answered US soft power with military power in Georgia and Ukraine, while China has answered US soft power with the Belt and Road Initiative. Although the world is better off when states use soft power, it is ultimately entangled with hard power; soft power thus does not provide an escape from traditional great-power competition.

in Soft power and the future of US foreign policy
Rethinking the machinery of US public diplomacy for the post- COVID- 19 era
Nicholas J. Cull

This chapter considers the institutions of and approaches to public diplomacy necessary for bolstering reputational security: the elements of security that derive from a positive reputation. Implicit in the argument is the idea that a positive reputation requires both attention to image and reality. The chapter considers the past and future of the constituent functions of public diplomacy including: listening, advocacy, culture, exchange, international broadcasting, broader policy/quality control, domestic politics, and issues of coordination and leadership. The final section argues that in a connected world reputational security cannot rest on a state’s own institutions. In the same way that physical security has necessitated mutual security platforms like NATO so reputational security requires assistance to allies and an awareness of the shared interest in a stable media environment: collective reputational security.

in Soft power and the future of US foreign policy
Lessons learned from US cultural diplomacy
Carla Dirlikov Canales

Cultural diplomacy has been a vital tool of US foreign policy since the United States’ emergence as a global power. This chapter explores the history of those efforts from World War II onward. It includes examinations of well-known initiatives linked to Franklin Roosevelt's Good Neighbor Policy, Cold War examples including the Jazz Ambassador missions and Ping Pong diplomacy and more recent digital era efforts. It assesses the effectiveness of such programmes, offers a critique of past weaknesses and a prescription for harnessing the full, often untapped, power of culture in the future. The chapter draws directly on the extensive experience of the author, Carla Dirlikov Canales, who has served as a US cultural envoy for nearly the past two decades. Dirlikov Canales is also an internationally known opera singer and a well-known speaker, writer and professor focused on cultural diplomacy-related theme and the thrust of the analysis draws on her practical, on-the-ground experience doing this work.

in Soft power and the future of US foreign policy
Michael F. Oppenheimer

US soft power is in decline. The evidence and causes are both internal to the US. (and thus potentially subject to our control), and external/structural (and probably not reversible). The internal causes range from grievous and persistent mistakes in the use of our unrivalled hard power, to the incompetent administration of domestic and foreign policy, to our deeply dysfunctional politics. The external factors represent trends evident for some time: the diffusion of hard and soft power among multiple states; a nationalist reaction against liberal globalisation which has imposed barriers trade, investment, and ideas across borders; and the global diversity of home-grown political and economic institutions, which has defeated any convergence around democratic capitalism. It is difficult to imagine a reversal of these trends over the next decade. The recent spate of US legislation is impressive, but could succumb to structural forces within US politics-of polarisation, radicalisation-that show no signs of abating. The reputational gains achieved by competent US leadership in resisting the Russian invasion of Ukraine are also important, but the jury is out on the results. The good news for our ‘attractiveness’ is that we have it within our power to live up to our values. If we can, our soft power will follow, at least among like-minded states, even as our adversaries react to a deepening challenge to their institutions and influence.

in Soft power and the future of US foreign policy
Giles Scott- Smith

Over the past twenty years or so, cities have become increasingly visible as initiators, partners, and pathfinders of international relations. This new ‘urban agency’ has attracted increasing attention for the notion of city diplomacy and the role and legitimacy of cities as international actors in their own right. Despite – or perhaps because of – their cultural capital, US cities came relatively late to the game in terms of investing in paradiplomatic resources. However in the last five years there have been major developments, with Los Angeles becoming a significant actor in Trans-Pacific relations, New York presenting its climate agenda in defiance of the Trump administration, and the City and State Diplomacy Bill entering Congress. This chapter will examine the role of US cities in international relations, with a special focus on their place in the transatlantic context. It questions to what extent US (and European) cities have opened up novel forms of transatlantic dialogue, and how far their activities are changing the context for transatlantic relations.

in Soft power and the future of US foreign policy
Alister Miskimmon
Ben O’Loughlin
Laura Roselle
, and
Faith Leslie

Strategic narratives give insight into how to understand the foreign policy of Donald Trump. Setting out the structure and actors within the international system, what constitutes US identity, and what makes individual policies legitimate, strategic narratives allow one to bridge the divide between foreign policy and IR theory. This highlights the fact that how the international system is conceived affects what is considered to be possible and desirable in the foreign policy realm. In the case of Donald Trump, one can identify his administration’s strategic narratives in a number of places, including in the White House newsletters sent to supporters. An analysis of Trump’s communication (including these newsletters) finds strategic narratives that were transactional and mercantilist in nature. There is little connection to values previously associated with US foreign policy and international relations. In addition, there are rhetorical devices found within the strategic narratives that supported Trump’s different conception of the international system and foreign policy goals. The move to mercantilist and transactional narratives creates significant challenges for US foreign policy, which will resonate for some time. Certainly, EU countries have recoiled as these directly challenge existing, historically based narratives which underpinned multilateral cooperation as a normative good. It also makes diplomacy more generic – less reflective of prior relationships. Our analysis points to changes that can be made under a new administration in the United States to address these issues. Specifically, narratives that build on normative goods associated with shared commitments, democracy, and alliance-building will bolster US foreign policy under President Biden.

in Soft power and the future of US foreign policy
Beyond aggressive competition to mutual accommodation
Nancy Snow
Liwen Zhang

This chapter, co-authored by a US and a Chinese scholar, compares the information and persuasion sphere of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to that of the United States. China, more than the United States, is engaged in areas of soft power competition that far exceed trade wars to include elite exchanges (aka exchange diplomacy), international broadcasting, and humanitarian assistance. We claim that soft power is a socially constructed concept that is mostly shaped by a media environment where global actors are portrayed as winners and losers in an information war. In 2020, China and the United States lost collective soft power, with China receiving low marks for its coronavirus management that include suppressing domestic whistleblowers. Likewise, the rogue management of US foreign policy, combined with domestic political polarisation and social unrest centred on racism and police misconduct, found global media consumers conditioned to believe in a perpetual zero-sum game between the world’s leading superpowers. By initiating a practical and theoretical discussion over the concept of soft power in the context of Sino-US relations, this chapter suggests that both countries have the potential to work together on problems that can lead to mutually beneficial, non-zero-sum results.

in Soft power and the future of US foreign policy
The evolution of US cyber diplomacy
Eugenio Lilli
Christopher Painter

Today a country's national security, social cohesion, and economic wellbeing critically depend on a stable and secure cyber space. Moreover, because of their increased international salience, policy issues related to cyber space have grown progressively more politicised. Hence, governments are now commonly relying on diplomatic means to pursue their cyber-related national interests. This chapter provides an overview of the development of cyber diplomacy in the United States from the first Obama administration (2009), through the Trump administration (2017–21) to the first six months of the Biden one (2022). In particular, the chapter looks at how successive US administrations have adapted their diplomatic activity to promote the US national interest in this emerging policy area. Special attention is given to the key legislative measures, organisational reforms, and diplomatic initiatives that took place during these years. The chapter ends by offering a number of policy recommendations for the future direction of US cyber diplomacy.

in Soft power and the future of US foreign policy

The volume explores the role of soft power in US foreign policy – past, present, and future. Bringing together a diverse group of leading international scholars and practitioners, it combines conceptual contributions to soft power research with empirical studies examining the state and significance of US soft power. In so doing, the volume focuses on recent years as it discusses in particular the Trump presidency as well as the first year of Joseph R. Biden in the White House. While the Trump administration severely damaged US reputation abroad, President Biden has made clear his intention to drastically change the United States’ outlook on the world from an early point in his presidency. In this endeavour, attractive soft power has featured prominently from the start. The volume addresses select issue areas – including terrorism threats, foreign economic policy, and cultural diplomacy – as well as crucial foreign bilateral relations – including Sino-American, Russian-American, and transatlantic relations – from a soft power perspective. It offers an early assessment of Biden’s first year in office as well as future perspectives and recommendations regarding the role of soft power in US foreign policy. Consequently, the volume provides an essential and unique compendium – for students, scholars, and practitioners alike – on how soft power informs US foreign policy and diplomatic practice today and in years to come.

America’s abiding advantage
Hendrik W. Ohnesorge

Joseph R. Biden started his presidency with the vow to ‘lead not merely by the example of our power but by the power of our example’. After his inauguration on 20 January 2021, he promptly reversed some of the trademark foreign policy decisions of the previous administration that had cost the United States dearly in terms of attraction and reputation abroad. Accordingly, the Biden administration, by word and by deed, put a high premium on soft power in its dealings with the world from day one. Starting from these observations, the chapter discusses the state and future of soft power in US foreign policy. To that end, it first provides a brief introduction to the concept of soft power in international affairs. Next, it explores the devastating effects of the Trump years on US attraction abroad, especially in view of key foreign policy decisions and not least of the personality and demeanour of the 45th US President himself. Subsequently, it identifies and assesses the first steps taken by the Biden administration on the road to soft power recovery. In so doing, the chapter recognises US soft power as ‘America’s abiding advantage’ in a world faced with global challenges and challengers and as crucial for its future security and success on the world stage. Finally, and beyond these observations regarding US soft power, the chapter introduces the general rationale of the volume in hand, its structure, scope, and limitations, and lastly provides overviews of its twelve chapters.

in Soft power and the future of US foreign policy