III. Public Diplomacy Forum, Shanghai 2014
Practice and Exploration of City Diplomacy: Dialogue between China and Europe
The 2014 Forum focused on city diplomacy and the roles of cities in international relations. The conference had been invited to Shanghai and was integrated into the events of the first UN World Cities Day. Academic and government participants from cities in China, Europe and the US explored opportunities and strategies of cities to serve as international public diplomacy actors, formulated recommendations and a joint consensus for the promotion and innovation of city diplomacy and on developing a city’s soft power, based on local stories, values and culture.
The conference stressed that cities carry national images. Their cultural and historic heritage are splendid resources for public diplomacy. Diversity – and not cultural sameness – is an important resource for a meaningful story telling to surprise and convince international audiences. For the international community, cities carry important roles, such as even small cities like Geneva and Nairobi acting as global information centers, knowledge hubs and innovative cultural melting pots. Cities, in turn, benefit from enhancing their cultural, economic and political internationalization and networking. A city’s attractiveness can evolve into an own „brand“. The nurturing and development of a city’s international cooperative ties can be a fertile resource and the building blocks of the integration of a nation into the global sphere of knowledge co-production, cultural exchange networks, economic innovation and joint global political problem solving.
This conference culminated into a consensus formulated by the participants on the roles of cities in international relations:
Most people are conscious of existing cultural differences between China and Europe. In the meantime, relations between both sides are becoming more and more important and diverse. This conference centred on the cultural dimension of soft power in China-Europe relations. It assumed that further rapprochement between China and Europe was fundamental to support policy agendas on global issues in international economics and in the field of security. About forty cultural relations experts and practitioners from China, Europe and the United States aimed to deepen our understanding of Europe-China exchanges; to explain, share and understand each other’s world views and ways of thought. The meeting compared Chinese and European approaches in cultural relations and public diplomacy, and the roles played by various levels’ government, non-state actors and civil society. Changing patterns of governance and public participation can be observed in Europe as well as China, and this conference reflected on their importance in the context of cultural relations.
The conference concluded with a public lecture by Zhang Weiwei, distinguished Professor at Fudan University in Shanghai and Director of the Institute of China Studies, Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. Discussant to this lecture was Prof. Jonathan Holslag, Professor at the Free University Brussels and Research Fellow at the Brussels Institute of Contemporary China Studies. The main outcome of this conference was a joint consensus:
Photo: Sander Pot