EN | 中文

“Civic diplomacy” serves to promote China-Malaysia relations

Previous 15 / 16 Next

“Civic diplomacy” serves to promote China-Malaysia relations Columnists


Civic diplomacy” serves to promote China-Malaysia relations

 Qianye Zhang-Master of Harvard University
“Civic Diplomacy” is a unique creature of China’s diplomacy. At the early stage of the founding of PRC, the challenge to foreign relations is tremendous, and China sought to establish and maintain its foreign relations through official, semi-official, and civic channels.
The concept of ‘Civic Diplomacy” in Chinese context evolves from “people’s diplomacy”. The latter contained more political meaning before the open-up policy. Since 1980s, civic diplomacy by and large has become well accepted and has been used widely in China’s bilateral relations, though its exact meaning is not clear to many. If we use “civic diplomacy” to represent the diplomacy with individuals or people as entity, then individuals or people become the representative of a sovereign state.
A relevant concept, also one with more exposure to the West, is “citizen diplomacy”. According to the Department of the States, citizen diplomacy is the concept that the individual has the right, even the responsibility, to help shape U.S. foreign relations, "one handshake at a time." 
Therefore, no matter in China or the U.S., the concept of either “civic diplomacy” or “citizen diplomacy” has a meaning of promoting state-led foreign relations through non-state side of society.
In a pragmatic perspective, “civic diplomacy” definitely can promote official bilateral diplomacy and benefit from it in return, but it can be independent of official channel as well. A more comprehensive bilateral relations should include not only official channel, but channels linking between societies, cultures, and values.
In China-Malaysia bilateral, more efforts should be invested in society, culture and value aspects which sits on the healthy official bilateral relations. Take MH370 issue as an example, there were conspiracy theories and myths in public sphere in China towards Malaysia. If Malaysia could have an open gesture to Chinese media, and if Chinese public sphere could have a better understanding of Malaysia’s social institution, Malay tradition, and Islamic culture, the bilateral relation would have been a better place.
China’s involvement in the “Belt & Road” Initiative, at least in current stage, is a state-led move with SOEs and major players. If categorized by ownership, SOEs’ conduct in foreign countries should be “semi-official”. One of the major difference between the involvement of China and that of Japan and Korea in Asia and Africa lies in the fact that the former favors more easily visible infrastructure projects, such as toll-road, port, oil field, etc. which aligns with both SOEs’ KPI and host-countries’ politician appetite, while the latter also focuses on soft power and has an eye on impact on local elites, youths, and society by providing training program and capacity building service to increase their respective influence in host countries.
Apart from official and semi-official channel, civic groups including private sector, can be a crucial part of bilateral relation. A variety of civic group contributes to the democratic and social development of Malaysia and its robustness, which is apparently at a higher level than China in terms of the openness, complexity and diversity. Therefore, China should pay more attention to its own openness, accept different sets of value and recognize civic society and its influence on Malaysia society, and find a way to engage to better serve both peoples interest.
 
 
 
 
Please leave your enquiry here, we will reply as soon as possible.
Name*  
Company Name  
Product Interested  
Quantity  
Email*  
Contact No.*  
Messages*  
   

Switch to Mobile Version
available in