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“The New Public Diplomacy” by Jan Melissen Essay


The book “The New Public Diplomacy: Soft Power in International Relations” is a series edited by Jan Melissen. It is made to be used during the studies in diplomacy to reveal some information connected with theory and practice. Initially, the book was edited in 1994. G. R. Berridge was in charge of that version and coped with the task successfully. However, the initiative to adapt the book to the contemporary diplomacy issues and international relations required new editors to improve the work.

As a result, Mellissen, with the assistance of general editors Donna Lee and Paul Sharp, improved the series in 2005. Melissen is an experienced educator who works at the Netherlands Institute of International Relations. In addition to that, he is a Director of the Clingendael Diplomatic Studies Program. Lee is a “Senior Lecturer in International Organizations, and International Political Economy, University of Birmingham” and Sharp is a “Professor of Political Science and Director of the Alworth Institute for International Studies at the University of Minnesota” (Mellissen 1). As the book gathers numerous articles, it has many contributors.

They all are great professionals who discuss different elements of public diplomacy. Some of them are practicing professionals, such as the Director of the Centre for Political and Diplomatic Studies or the Director of the Fletcher Roundtable. Others are experienced educators, such as the Professor of International Relations or the Professor of Political Science. In addition to that, several researchers provided their articles for this book, including a Senior Research Fellow or a Research Associate. The fact that these professionals represent different organizations can be used to prove that the paper is not likely to be biased. It also ensures that different topics are taken into considerations and diplomacy is discussed from various points of view.

The book consists of 3 parts that gather different articles prepared by editors and scientists. The introduction to the whole source is written by Melissen, which ensures that it coincides with the improved content. Each article presented in the book starts with the introduction and ends with the conclusion, which proves that it is properly organized. Such an approach is rather beneficial for students because they can get to know what is going to be discussed without reading the whole article. What is more, focusing on the conclusion, they can get to know which parts of the text are the most critical and require thorough investigation.

In the introduction, Melissen claims that public diplomacy started to attract the enormous attention of the professionals and representatives of the general public after 9/11, but even today, “the relationship between diplomats and the foreign publics with whom they work” remains a confusing issue (xix). Coordinated terrorist attacks streamlined the establishment of public diplomacy in the US foreign policy and pushed professionals to the necessity to analyze deeper trends and define the best practices for official communication.

As a result, this subject was discussed from different points of view, which lead to the difference between the way theorists and students perceive diplomacy. Still, the majority of the professionals believe that public diplomacy, as well as its other types (such as commercial one), should be discussed as constitutes of diplomatic practice. To deepen into this subject, the readers should not focus only on one country, and this source provides them with the possibility to discuss foreign cases and becomes more effective as public diplomats.

All in all, the book reflects on public diplomacy. It is rather advantageous for the students that the editors ordered the paper in this way because they receive an opportunity to recollect the most basic information related to public diplomacy before deepening into the subject. It is especially critical considering this book, as it is written not just for students but also for professionals who are working in the sphere and are already aware of some issues and the ways they can be solved.

The book starts with Part 1. It gathers two articles that focus on the new public diplomacy and the environment in which it exists. They also discuss how it is affected by international interactions. The first one is written by Melissen (3). It reveals the most significant and simple information about the subject, such as the connection between theory and practice. As a result, the readers receive an opportunity to get ready to analyze more challenging topics. In the second one, Brian Hocking discusses the way public diplomacy is treated currently with the emphasis on the fact that a lot of things altered with the course of time (Melissen 28). He is willing to provide conceptual clarification of the subject.

It is critical to take into consideration the fact that these professionals emphasize the new public diplomacy is treating it as a part of world politics. Still, regardless of this similarity, their conclusions differ greatly. Malissen believes it to be a separate concept that develops along with more broad fields. He considers that good practice deals not with public diplomacy only but with its connection to propaganda and cultural relations. What is more, he discusses national branding in this framework.

The analysis of this topic is continued by Hocking. The professional speaks about the components of public diplomacy, explaining what it is. He provides the readers with information about soft power, which is familiar to many people who work in this sphere. In addition to that, the author adds some contrasting ideas related to public diplomacy. He looks at it in the framework of hierarchic international affairs. The usage of a network model allows one to re-examine the issue when focusing on states. In this way, it teaches the readers how to use the knowledge received from this article in practice when analyzing real cases.

Part 2 consists of seven articles united under the title “shifting perspectives.” The authors speak about a wide range of diverse practices in the framework of public diplomacy maintained by different countries all over the world. For the discussion to be as objective and authoritative as possible, they pay attention to those representatives of the sample that are radically different. An international organization is also examined in the same way, which allows the authors to consider various practical peculiarities. Professionals discuss the way the world’s leading superpowers utilize diplomacy. They pay attention to authoritarian and democratic powers as well.

What is more, the way rogue states interact with foreigners is described. Professionals believe these activities, including communication and diplomacy, to bear revolutionary character. The authors agree that the European Union is a unique object that should be definitely discussed because it gathers foreigners and promotes international relations. The fact that this consideration is generally supported by many professionals proves it to be true to life and authoritative.

It is also good for educational purposes that the authors of different articles have a lot of similar and opposite ideas. Perceiving them, the readers receive an opportunity to analyze different thoughts regarding one and the same topic so that they obtain enough information to form their personal point of view. In this way, their work-related and educational skills will develop faster.

The first article is written by Peter van Ham (Melissen 47). The author discusses the way power is utilized by the USA in the framework of public relations and diplomacy. He tries to prove the existence of the US Empire and the way it influences and determines public diplomacy. He reveals those normative assumptions that are usually taken into consideration by the professionals who work in the sphere and discuss them in relation to the Pax Americana. What is more, the author goes back to the concept of soft power that was mentioned previously and tells how it refers to the USA. He discusses how it was affected by the appearance of liberal imperialism and started to be used in the framework of the USA’s nascent empire.

Alan Henrikson pays attention to niche diplomacy (Melissen 67). He discusses the way Norway and Canada act in regard to their political strategies. In particular, he examines the way it is aligned with those policies that are used towards the USA. The author also speaks about the privileges those parties that provide the better argument have. For this purpose, he reveals the way the countries mentioned above use public opinion to improve their condition.

He also underlines the fact that success in this activity ensures gaining respect from foreign parties and, as a result, positive interactions. However, the professional mentions that different countries do not have one and the same attitude towards the USA. Some of them undertake a confrontational strategy, which presupposes rare communication and limited interactions. Others believe that such a position is not very beneficial and conduct parallel action. They do their best to develop an active partnership with the USA, applying diplomacy, policies, and promoting international affairs. Knowing such approaches, the readers receive a chance to master their skills.

First of all, they can consider the situation in which the USA turns out to be today or was previously found. They can discuss both positive and negative relations with other countries and the way they were reported to the representatives of the general public. Then, comparing personal conclusions, one can assess his/her knowledge and start using it to focus on those cases that are interesting in perspective.

Next, articles go away from the dominant discourse. They focus on specific forms of public diplomacy and treat it as an activity of democratic states. It is also presupposed that states in transition can conduct them. In her work, Ingrid d’Hooghe concentrates on China’s Diplomacy (Melissen 88). The author discusses foreign policy and the way it shapes China’s behavior. The fact that the author decided to choose this country is advantageous for the readers.

It is known for a history of political propaganda to the majority of the students and practitioners, so they will have an opportunity to align the new knowledge with the one they already have. In addition to that, it has a centralist authoritarian regime, which is not widely spread today. The author discusses both the global and bilateral behavior of China and reveals the way its culture affects diplomacy. In this way, the readers can learn different variables that affect diplomacy and international relations. They may also alter the sample and focus on another country that believes in such values as religion and let it affect interactions with other people enormously.

Paul Sharp connects public diplomacy with the war on terror (Melissen 106). He discussed various situations in which revolutionary states were involved. In particular, the professional uses the Soviet Union as an example of revolutionary states that interacted with numerous other parties. He claims that it also had much in common with rogue states and examined negative aspects of diplomacy. As a result, it is concluded that public diplomacy is used by these parties to reach some advantages and become superior in the framework of a global audience. Diplomats can use this information to build appropriate conditions and promote their countries and nationalities in the global market.

Anna Michalski discussed the power of persuasion (Melissen 124). She gives the readers a chance to analyze foreign policies and public diplomacy on the example of the European Union. The author believes it to be representative of soft power. She emphasizes the fact that persuasion turns out to be the most critical for the European Union requirement, which cannot be ignored in any sphere, including diplomacy. It tends to ensure the value of legitimacy and credibility.

However, Michalski also points out that it is not yet accepted and employed by all officials, which proves that some issues and challenges still exist and require reconsideration. Fortunately, information and communication strategies are aligned with these perspectives and emphasize persuasion through values, norms, and principles that are thoroughly discussed.

Part 3 gathers four articles that discuss improving practices. The professionals consider that public diplomacy has much potential that is not yet used, so they explore it for the practitioners to use the knowledge that reveals how public diplomacy can be undertaken. Cynthia Schneider speaks about the way cultures should communicate to reach positive outcomes (Melissa 147). The author explores cultural diplomacy. She believes it to be a prominent representative of soft power.

Still, it is also mentioned that it can be easily dismissed due to the lack of control and power. Moreover, Schneider thinks that cultural diplomacy is peripheral to the real problems of international policies that are faced currently. She offers the readers to focus on US diplomacy because she believes it to be rather successful in comparison with other countries. To prove her point of view, the professional discusses the history of cultural diplomacy, pointing out the way it was affected by the end of the Cold War. Moreover, its decline at the end of the 20th century is mentioned. The author identifies positive and negative aspects of US cultural diplomacy. She also adds some information about other countries and compares the data. In addition to that, those challenges that can be faced by the parties today are pointed out.

In his auricle, Wally Olins tells how to create a national brand (Melissen 169). The author focuses on the success of France and encourages others to follow its example. He believes that countries always wanted others to perceive them positively as prosperous nations that have a wonderful reputation. In this way, they can ensure loyalty from the native population and influence on foreign parties. The author underlines that different countries are always interacting and affecting each other, trying to compete and prove that they are the best. Still, such outcomes can be reached only long after the actions are conducted as the pay-off is slow. In addition to that, it is rather difficult to measure results.

Shaun Riordan discusses the interaction between the parties involved in public diplomacy (Melissen 180). The author believes it to be a part of collaborative diplomacy that has appeared just recently. He emphasizes the necessity to develop a guideline for a dialogue-based approach that is likely to become extremely beneficial. It is expected to ensure international stability with the help of antiterrorist actions. The professional believes that it is better to involve non-governmental agencies because they have more chances to promote new ideas and values of public diplomacy.

In the last article of this book, John Hemery represents an evolutionary perspective on public diplomacy (Melissen 196). The professional encourages the readers to consider diplomacy training as a tool that can be used to improve international relations and enhance the cooperation between the elements of the world as a system. He shares his ideas regarding the ideal public diplomacy course that can be referred to during the education. The author notices that today only a few institutions can provide decent training programs for diplomats and students who study this subject.

Thus, the authors who prepared the articles for this book tried to provide the readers with the most significant information about diplomatic communication. Their works provide a lot of information that can be used to answer the questions students usually have. Still, they also can be used to find out those trends and approaches that are rarely discussed and can be developed by students.

All in all, this book is rather helpful for those students who study diplomacy and international relations. It is full of theoretical knowledge and true-to-life examples, which ensures that students can understand discussed topics better. Unlike the first source, this one is not so easy to read, which can be explained by the fact that it is also targeted at practicing diplomats. Such a feature makes it more challenging for the readers to grasp all ideas.

However, the organization of the book is logical and appropriate so that it can be easily navigated. Unfortunately, there is no overall conclusion to this book, which makes it look more like a set of separate independent articles regardless of the fact that they are presented in a particular way and have a common introduction. Still, this drawback does not exceed all positive characteristics, including the fact that the authors and editors did a great job and are masters.

In general, I believe this book to be very helpful for diplomats because they can enhance their previously obtained knowledge and get to know more about the current state of public diplomacy. The learners who study it also can benefit. It makes them consider various related issues and encourages them to answer provocative questions using critical thinking skills. This source cannot be treated as a guide to the course because it does not include reflective tasks and activities. Still, the knowledge it provides is profound and priceless for future professionals.

Works Cited

Melissen, Jan. The New Public Diplomacy: Soft Power in International Relations. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. 2005. Print.

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""The New Public Diplomacy" by Jan Melissen." IvyPanda, 27 Feb. 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/the-new-public-diplomacy-by-jan-melissen/.

1. IvyPanda. ""The New Public Diplomacy" by Jan Melissen." February 27, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-new-public-diplomacy-by-jan-melissen/.


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IvyPanda. 2021. ""The New Public Diplomacy" by Jan Melissen." February 27, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-new-public-diplomacy-by-jan-melissen/.


IvyPanda. (2021) '"The New Public Diplomacy" by Jan Melissen'. 27 February.

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