- Su, Alice [Browse]
- Senior thesis
- 125 pages
- Kurtzer, Daniel [Browse]
- Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs [Browse]
- Class year
- Restrictions note
- Walk-in Access. This thesis can only be viewed on computer terminals at the Mudd Manuscript Library.
- Summary note
- This thesis is a comparative study of U.S. and Chinese public diplomacy in Egypt. It
seeks to answer a question that frustrates U.S. officials especially in the Middle East: how
can American public diplomacy convey a positive image when U.S. policies are provoking
anti-Americanism at the same time? By examining U.S. and Chinese differences in public
diplomacy policy, message and audience, it hopes to determine their strengths and
weaknesses and find ways to better win hearts and minds.
Because limited academic literature exists on this topic, this study focuses on direct
analysis of current policy, asking what messages the United States and China are trying to
communicate, how they attempt to do so, and how they are received. To investigate these
questions, the author spent three weeks interviewing Egyptian, Chinese and American
diplomats, academics, journalists and officials in Cairo, Beijing and Washington, DC.
In the process, this thesis finds a problem deeper than questions of messaging form
or content: that U.S. message lacks a credible messenger. U.S. public diplomacy highlights
American values, couching policies in rhetoric of democracy and freedom. Egyptian
audiences appreciate these values but do not believe U.S. talk of them – not because of its
wording, timing or medium, but because they do not trust the speaker. Thus a key concept
of this thesis is that identity matters. Egyptians hold a more favorable view of China than of
the United States, but not because Chinese messaging strategies are superior. Egyptians see
America as an intrusive hegemon. China, while a rising power with similarly aggressive
behavior elsewhere, has little history of involvement in the Middle East. Egyptians do not
feel threatened by China, even if Chinese messaging is inconsistent, because China’s position
simply does not matter as much.
Meanwhile, the United States is popular in terms of soft power. While Egyptians
dislike U.S. policy, they still buy American goods, apply for American visas and think well of
American people, especially after person-to-person exchanges. The United States far
overshadows China in this regard. The problem of improving public diplomacy then turns
upon a new question: how can U.S. public diplomacy harness the America’s social soft
power to make the American message credible?
This thesis argues that the United States can best support its values through a classic
creed of communication: Show, don’t tell. Instead of trying to sell America by rephrasing
U.S. messaging, the United States should communicate its values via demonstration. That
means involving the domestic public, America’s source of soft power, in the policies and
processes of public diplomacy. This can be done in two ways:
Diversification of public diplomacy speakership: State should decentralize public diplomacy
by shifting to a role of facilitating American voices in the Egyptian public sphere
rather than inserting its own voice.
Domestic outreach: The State Department should encourage the American public to
learn about foreign affairs and actively question U.S. foreign policies, and then factor
domestic opinion more into its policymaking in response.
America should live up to its values by bringing the public back into public
diplomacy. The core of U.S. messaging should not be that the United States supports
democracy, but that the United States is a democracy. Soft power will render U.S. messaging
credible when public diplomacy shows that America practices what it preaches at home.