FOR a lesson in the use of ‘soft power’, turn to Beijing. China has made culture and people-to-people contacts an essential cornerstone of its global diplomacy. The key focus so far has been on countries in the neighbourhood, with China working hard to defuse perceptions that it seeks to dominate the rest of Asia. The rest of the world is now also getting a taste of China’s cultural diplomacy.

Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Tara Sonenshine will travel to Beijing May 3-4 to serve as co-coordinator of the third annual U.S.-China Consultation on People-to-People Exchange (CPE) with Chinese Vice Minister of Education Hao Ping.

"Six years ago, the two countries had decided to sign an MoU with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, but it was stuck for cultural exchange. But we want to carry the MoU forward to promote people-to-people contact. Every Pakistani heart is open... India should also open the door of its heart to Pakistani art and culture," Nasir said.

Some argue that when we talk of exporting Australian arts to Asia, we ought to be talking only of their role in soft diplomacy: that is, assisting Australia's political and economic agenda.....The implication is that the arts in Asia should not be valued on their own terms.

These were the words of China’s highest ranking female politician on the second day of her trip. Madam Liu Yandong, the most powerful woman in the country’s ruling Communist Party, said she “especially” selected Northern Ireland as the first stop on her European tour. She was speaking as she opened the new Confucius Institute at the University of Ulster..

As the Year of Chinese Culture in Turkey is being held in 2012 and the Year of Turkish Culture in China will be held next year, Hu suggested that both sides take this opportunity to boost bilateral people-to-people exchanges and enhance bilateral traditional friendship through cultural activities.

So what does digital diplomacy even mean? In short, it means a government putting out it’s foreign policy messages via social media channels, looking to engage in dialogue with the target countries. It’s not without some controversy and there are those who suggest it’s just a form of cultural export…

Several years ago I organized a conference designed to encourage those involved in the work of cultural diplomacy – policy makers, practitioners and cultural producers, public diplomacy officers, and academics; who too seldom talk to one another ...participants were asked to address what they took “culture” to mean in this context in the first place and to characterize its efficacy: what did they imagine “culture” does as part of the work of diplomacy?