This series of three lectures was given in April 2003 at the Cape Cod Community College, West Barnstable, Massachusetts. The fourth lecture "One China or Two?" was given in 2003 to the Cape Club. Note that the biographical and bibliographical notes apply to all four lectures.
Until recent years one didn’t hear about or read about “public diplomacy.” It was as though it did not exist. Diplomacy, yes, but what is “public diplomacy"? It has always been there as a part of our diplomatic efforts in working with other countries, but it was not tabbed with the name, nor did it receive the public attention that it does today. It was known as the press and cultural side of each embassy’s job, and it was administered from Washington by the U.S. Information Agency, not the State Department. It has played a significant role in the evolution of United States – China relations since the Shanghai Communiqué was announced in February 1972.
At that time, Americans and the mainland Chinese, as they were referred to at that time, were complete strangers. Mao Zedong was considered an enemy, much as Saddam Hussein in 2003. With the exception of the academic Sinologists and a few Chinese-speaking State Department specialists, there were few Americans who understood the complexities of Chinese life and culture. However, the Nixon visit and the Shanghai Communiqué were the beginning of dramatic change.
Seven years later in 1979, the opening of United States – China relations was announced. From that date forward, the growth in understanding between the two countries has mushroomed, despite the events of June 1989 in Tiananmen Square, the May 2000 U.S. bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, and the downing of the U.S. Air Force plane in 2001. Today it would not be an exaggeration to view the United States–China relationship as one of interdependence. Throughout this period of dramatic transition and change, “public diplomacy” (as it is known today) played an important role.
Most of the material for this lecture series is based on my personal experiences related to the evolution of United States–China relations over the past three decades.
---Robert L. Nichols