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AIAS Symposium: Public Diplomacy: From Cold War to COVID

Art by Hiep Le Duc

Date: 16 September 2020 

The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us of the crucial role of soft power for the advancement of governments' foreign policy goals. The resurgence of public diplomacy as central element of state self-representations has been framed by a renewed sense of global competition. China, Russia, or Cuba boldly showcase their medical capabilities and political systems. The European Union, United States, or countries in Latin America or Africa struggle with the twin challenges of pandemic governance and the pre-existent surge of right-wing populism. 

The current turmoil invites historical comparisons with the Cold War period, when two versions of Eurocentric modernity, liberal capitalism and communism, vied for influence over the world. The event explores potential analogies and continuities between contemporary soft power deployments and those from the Cold War. Such historical contextualization can offer valuable insights into the ideological dynamics of the present beyond the unilateral dichotomy liberalism vs. authoritarianism. 

Public diplomacy offensives in the present accompanied by their opponents' fear-mongering underline that Cold War mindsets are still with us - expedient fall-back narratives as the world navigates uncharted waters of pandemic politics.


14.00 - 14.10: Introduction 

14.10 - 15.25: Self-representation and Soft Power  Chair & discussant Lisanne Wilken

Rósa Magnúsdóttir: “Reflections on Exchange Diplomacy from the Cold War to the International (Online) Classroom” 

Casper Andersen: “Science Diplomacy and Afrocentrism during Cold War and COVID” 

Georg Fischer: “COVID, Public Diplomacy, and the Ghosts of Dictatorship in Brazil” 

15.25 - 15.40: Coffee break 

15.40-17.00: Health Politics and History  l  Chair & discussant  Christian Axboe Nielsen   

Niels Brimnes: “When the Americans Pull Out – and When They Don’t: The United States and WHO in Historical Perspective” 

Mette Thunø: “Masks, Medication and Medics: China’s New Public Diplomacy during the Pandemic” 

Bogdan C. Iacob: “Epidemics and Diplomacy in Eastern Europe: From Cold War to COVID”