Diplomacy in the Digital Age

By Brian Hocking and Jan Melissen
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, October 26, 2015
Adjust font size:

In a more general sense, diplomacy is characterized by hybridity. State-based diplomacy is not irrelevant but it assumes more complex forms, is adapting its structures to new demands, and the roles performed by its practitioners are changing. We are presented with a milieu in which traditional diplomatic forms and processes are interacting to produce more diverse and complex diplomatic scenarios. As far as such scenarios involve non-traditional actors, they will expect that governments adapt to the networking norms of public-private environments – and indeed accept the use of digital tools increasingly used outside the sphere of government.

Third, the challenges posed by digital technologies will demand strategies dealing with the integration of 'online' and 'offline' environments. In their book The New Digital Age, Eric Schmidt, Chairman of Google, and Jared Cohen, one of the architects of the '21st century statecraft' in Hillary Clinton's State Department, argue that the revolution in communications technologies mean that governments will have to develop two general orientations – and two foreign policies – the online and the offline. Whilst appreciating the thrust of their argument, we want to express the problem facing governments and diplomats in a slightly different form.

The juxtaposition of 'digital' and 'analogue' has clear limits. There are highly significant changes in the 'offline' world of diplomacy that intersect with the emerging 'online' world. Just as the 'real world' of contemporary diplomacy is not captured in the dichotomous categories of state and non-state actors locked in zero sum relationships, so digital technologies will demand a transition facilitating the integration of 'analogue' and 'digital' environments impacting on government. Rather than separate foreign policies attuned to each, the real test – now and increasingly in the future – will be integrating the two. The speed and the scope with which foreign ministries will be confronted with this challenge will be faster and probably more encompassing than anything they have experienced since their invention in the 17th century. It will require a redefinition of roles and new diplomatic skills, and involve a challenge to vertical organizational structures and traditional work processes within foreign ministries. The good news is that new technologies facilitate such fundamental change requiring the integration of existing analogue and emerging digital spaces.

The structure of this report

The remainder of this report is divided into chapter 2 The Context of the Digital Age; chapter 3 Offline and Online Perspectives; and chapter 4 The Changing DNA of Diplomacy, followed by Conclusions in chapter 5.

Chapter 2 sets the scene for the discussion by placing the changes associated with digitalization in their broader societal context. This is relevant and necessary as a background to the ensuing discussion on diplomacy in the digital age. Much of the history of diplomacy has paid insufficient attention to the societal context in which international relations have developed. Such an approach was problematic in earlier eras, and is wholly inadequate today.

Follow China.org.cn on Twitter and Facebook to join the conversation.
   Previous   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   Next  

Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:   
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.