Communist Review - Cultural diplomacy is one of the three pillars of Vietnam's comprehensive diplomacy in the period of global integration. By its flexibility, cultural diplomacy has promoted its active role in building and defending the socialist Vietnamese Fatherland, reinforcing overall power and concretizing national goals in foreign policy.
The role of culture in promoting international exchanges and cooperation
Cultural diplomacy is diplomatic activities associated with culture, whereby, culture is used as an object and means to establish, maintain and develop foreign relations, achieve basic national goals related to security, enhance international influence, and build the diplomatic identity of the nation. Cultural diplomacy is often conducted by countries in various forms, such as propaganda and communication in external affairs; construction of cultural and historical sites abroad; cultural and art exchanges, organization of cultural events; membership in international cultural organizations; mobilization of overseas Vietnamese in promoting cultural exchange activities...
Amidst globalization and deep integration, culture is used by many countries as an effective tool of "soft power". Most countries, not only developed countries but also emerging countries advocate spreading culture abroad, thereby establishing, maintaining, and developing foreign relations. Through cultural diplomacy, countries, especially big countries, enhance their international influence. The US, China, Japan, Korea,... are active actors in popularizing their "values" and enhancing influence through cultural diplomacy. In addition, through cultural exchange and interaction, countries can absorb other cultures and at the same time adjust, and promote their values to adapt to current trends shaping the world and the era.
For developing countries like Vietnam, cultural diplomacy plays a role as an instrument to spread cultural and human values, promote the image, raise the position and voice of Vietnam in the international arena, and create a driving force and much room for growth. Cultural diplomacy is an integral part of comprehensive and modern Vietnamese diplomacy. Throughout its history of thousands of years of safeguarding independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity, and building the nation, Vietnam has creatively and flexibly implemented cultural diplomacy through the strategy of "heart-to-heart diplomacy" and "peaceful diplomacy".
Vietnam is a country with a long-standing culture and civilization, and a history of thousands of years. That culture has its value system and identity, creating the "soft power" of Vietnamese culture. Cultural diplomacy is identified as one of three pillars (political diplomacy and economic diplomacy) that create comprehensive and modern Vietnamese diplomacy. Political diplomacy has the role of defining goals and orientations for cultural diplomacy. Economic diplomacy serves as material foundation, creating resources to promote cultural diplomacy. And vice versa, cultural diplomacy transfers cultural values, identity, harmony, and humanity into political diplomacy, thereby deepening relations with partners, promoting the national image, local brand, and national growth, and arousing patriotism among the overseas Vietnamese community.
Cultural diplomacy promotes its role as one of the three pillars of Vietnam's comprehensive diplomacy
The 11th Party Congress (January 2011) advocated "proactive and active international integration". The expression "cultural diplomacy" used for the first time was placed on an equal footing with political and economic diplomacy. The Strategy for Cultural Diplomacy toward 2020 promulgated by the Prime Minister under Decision No. 208/2011/QD-TTg, dated February 14, 2011, emphasized that: “Along with economic and political diplomacy, cultural diplomacy is one of the three pillars of Vietnam's modern and comprehensive diplomacy. These pillars are closely linked and integrated to implement the Party and State's foreign policies and undertakings. Political diplomacy holds a guiding role, economic diplomacy is the material foundation and cultural diplomacy is the spiritual foundation of foreign activities”. Moreover, new or renewed international treaties and agreements on culture have established a legal framework, raised awareness of cultural diplomacy, and gradually institutionalized the role of cultural diplomacy in the foreign affairs of the country.
Cultural diplomacy has been conducted more professionally, contributing to enhancing political and economic diplomacy, and reinforcing national power, realizing the country's foreign policy goals.
Cultural diplomacy has been paid due attention to major projects, programs, and action plans of localities. Cultural diplomacy activities are deployed domestically and internationally on all continents, to diverse subjects and under various forms through high-level visits by leaders of the Party and Governments, major international conferences and events hosted by Vietnam; the celebration of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Vietnam and other countries in odd or even year. These activities have helped popularize the spirit and cultural identity of Vietnam, affirming the consistent diplomacy of independence and self-reliance for peace, friendship, cooperation and development, multilateralization, diversification, and deep integration, and also highlighting the beauty of Vietnam's tradition of humanity, fidelity, peace, harmony, and friendship.
Cultural diplomacy goes hand in hand with economic diplomacy in investment, trade, and tourism promotion activities in order to make Vietnam an attractive destination in the world thanks to its political stability, peaceful people, and unique and diverse culture. The United Nations Educational, Scientiﬁc and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has recognized multiple of Vietnam's world cultural and natural heritages. The fact that Vietnamese sites are included on the world heritages, biosphere reserves, and geo-parks list confirms the national commitment and the need to pursue green and sustainable development. As of December 2020, 44 heritages of Vietnam have been inscribed on the World Heritage List recognized by UNESCO. Many localities have succeeded in making tourism one of the spearhead economic sectors by exploiting the strengths of scenic spots and cultural heritages, thereby enhancing the image of Vietnam on the map of world heritage and culture, and promoting the biodiversity, culture, traditions, and people of Vietnam to the international community.
Through cultural diplomacy, the image of the country and its people, and the beauty of Vietnamese culture are popularized in many countries and regions around the world. Promotion activities are effectively conducted at diplomatic events, festivals, fairs, cultural and tourism festivals, Vietnam week or day organized in its strategic and comprehensive partners, programs honoring national heroes and men of culture, especially the project "Honoring President Ho Chi Minh, the Hero of Vietnam National Liberation, an Outstanding man of culture abroad" that has been effectively deployed in more than 100 countries and territories around the world... The combination of political, economic, cultural, tourism, and community affairs has been paid special attention in an attempt to tell the world about Vietnam’s heroic history, a beautiful country rich in potential; Vietnamese people love peace, are tolerant, human, diligent, creative, friendly and hospitable; Vietnamese culture is advanced, imbued with national identity. These activities also help international friends and the overseas Vietnamese community understand more about Vietnam's policies and its integration process.
Within the framework of multilateral forums, cultural diplomacy has gradually deepened cultural integration, strengthening national capacity to shape the "rules of the game" and making significant contributions to the achievement of peace, security, and development goals and enhancing the position of the country. At UNESCO's meetings, Vietnam has actively shared experiences, showing itself as a responsible member of this organization for many years. Recently, a Memorandum of Understanding from 2021 to 2025 between the Government of Vietnam and UNESCO has been concluded on the occasion of Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh's visit to UNESCO. By promoting Vietnam's interests at UNESCO, cultural diplomacy has contributed to effectively mobilizing resources, and applying ideas and experiences of this organization to develop culture, education, and research. Vietnam has become a member of most of the major multilateral cultural institutions and forums at all levels, ranging from regional level to inter-regional, and international level such as the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), East Asia Summit (EAS), Forum for East Asia-Latin America Cooperation (FEALAC), Francophonie, cultural non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and so forth. At the regional scale, through cultural diplomacy activities, Vietnam has promoted its active role in building the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community and promoting ASEAN cultural cooperation, raising awareness of Vietnamese people about ASEAN, and promoting Vietnam's image to member and non-member countries, building ASEAN identity.
Cultural diplomacy activities for the overseas Vietnamese community have also been actively implemented under diverse forms, contributing to the implementation of Resolution No. 36-NQ/TW, dated March 26, 2004, of the 9th Politburo on "The work for overseas Vietnamese in the new situation"; Directive No. 45-CT/TW, dated May 19, 2015, of the Politburo on "Continuing to accelerate the implementation of Resolution No. 36-NQ/TW of the 9th Politburo on "The work for overseas Vietnamese in the new situation”; Conclusion No. 12-KL/TW, dated 12/8-2021, of the Politburo on "The work for overseas Vietnamese in the new situation". For example, the program "Vietnam Days Abroad" held in many countries, such as Switzerland, Denmark, Spain, India, Russia... has created a positive effect, creating a driving force to boost Vietnam's relations with its partners. This is a program that integrates political, economic, and cultural activities carried out in certain countries in a certain period to mainly promote opportunities for investment, tourism, and services, and introduce Vietnamese culture and people,... Rich cultural activities towards the overseas Vietnamese community have promoted cohesion among Vietnamese oversea and mobilized them to make practical contributions to national defense, construction, and development. These actions have made a profound impact in arousing national pride, and patriotism, spreading Vietnamese values to the world, and preserving and promoting the cultural identity and good traditions of Vietnam.
Cultural diplomacy also holds a crucial role in supporting industries and localities to successfully achieve socio-economic development goals, gradually building local brands. Cultural diplomacy has been gradually introduced into local strategies, projects, and plannings for cultural, tourism, and socio-economic development. Many periodic and annual cultural festivals and events have become local "brands", thus attracting diplomatic corps, domestic and international visitors, and investors to visit friendly and open localities, enabling economic growth of localities in particular and the whole country in general.
In summary, over the past years, especially during the 10 years of implementing the Strategy for Cultural Diplomacy toward 2020, cultural diplomacy has been conducted professionally, effectively, and closely linked to political and economic diplomacy, creating a driving force to improve the efficiency of foreign affairs in general.
Solutions to promote and spread the word about Vietnamese values to the international community
The regional and international situation is predicted to change rapidly, complicatedly, and unpredictably. Political, economic, cultural, and social changes, especially the modern technological revolution, will create strong, multi-dimensional, and multi-level impacts on each country and sector, including culture. The demand for cultural exchange and people-to-people cooperation between countries is given due consideration. By nature, culture is considered an important factor in creating the country's soft power amid accelerated globalization and integration. Therefore, countries tend to see culture as an important element in establishing international relations, boosting trust, promoting cultural products to spread national identity, enhancing the image and position of the country, and at the same time preserving, absorbing, and enriching national cultural treasures. It is the culture that is a guiding factor, an indispensable condition for the realization of economic and political diplomacy goals. It helps enhance mutual understanding, consolidating and deepening relations between nations, directly contributing to safeguarding peace, and security for cooperation and development.
As a country with a long history of building and defending the country, and a diverse culture imbued with national identity, Vietnam has great potential to develop and implement a worthy cultural diplomacy as well as an inclusive and deep integration in the coming years. The Strategy for Cultural Diplomacy to 2030 has set the goal of "using culture in diplomacy to deepen and stabilize Vietnam's relationship with partners, ensure national interests, maintain a peaceful and stable environment, mobilize external resources, transform favorable conditions and position of the country into an engine for socio-economic development, and at the same time using diplomacy to enhance the values and beauty of Vietnamese culture, absorb the cultural quintessence of humanity, thereby arousing the aspiration for national development, strengthening soft power and national position) (1). This goal reaffirmed the importance of cultural diplomacy in comprehensive and modern Vietnamese diplomacy. Cultural diplomacy, political diplomacy, and economic diplomacy enable the concretization of national goals, specifically in safeguarding peace, and security, enhancing national growth and status; closely associating culture with socio-economic development strategies, overall strategy on international integration, and diplomatic orientations toward 2030 of the Party and Government. Cultural diplomacy of Vietnam in the coming time shall accomplish the 5 following tasks: 1- Promoting and deepening relations and trust between Vietnam and other countries, regions, and international organizations; 2- Promoting inclusive integration in the culture at regional and international organizations and forums; 3- Fostering the image of the country, people and culture of Vietnam in the international arena; 4- Mobilizing, protecting and promoting the world recognized Vietnamese heritages; 5- Selectively absorbing the quintessence of human culture to enrich the national cultural identity.
Amid rapid globalization and strong global linkages, culture is increasingly recognized by countries as an important factor, an endogenous resource, and a driving force to grow and safeguard the nation in the new situation. Therefore, it is required to popularize as much as possible humanistic values of national culture when conducting external affairs so that culture can make effective and substantive contributions to the implementation of diplomacy goals and tasks in the coming time.
To achieve that goal, cultural diplomacy needs to focus on protecting national interests, namely maintaining peace, and security, and enhancing the influence and status of the country. The implementation process needs to be closely linked with major diplomatic orientations of the Party and the country, socioeconomic development strategies of the Government, ministries, branches, and localities. In addition, it is essential to be aware that cultural activities are not limited to specific cultural and artistic activities, but extended to science, education, people–to–people exchanges,... and other areas of social life.
Due consideration should be given to combining cultural diplomacy, political diplomacy, economic diplomacy, and overseas Vietnamese work. Between them, there always exists an organic and interactive correlation. If political diplomacy plays a guiding role, economic diplomacy creates a material foundation, and cultural diplomacy is a spiritual foundation for foreign activities, providing political diplomacy a soft and flexible art of diplomacy, the spirit of peace love, harmony, and humanity, thus contributing to promoting international integration, building and enhancing the national and local brand, ... supporting economic diplomacy.
It is crucial to uphold awareness that the comprehensive and effective implementation of cultural diplomacy is the common task of the whole political system, Party organizations, public agencies, mass organizations and localities, enterprises, individuals, and Vietnamese overseas under the leadership of the Party and unified management of the State. It is essential to continue to promote decentralization and create a favorable environment in terms of mechanisms and policies to implement cultural diplomacy.
Continue to inherit, absorb and apply creatively to perfect the shaping of implications, key messages, and identity of Vietnamese cultural diplomacy; closely combine cultural diplomacy and public diplomacy. In addition, in the current context, cultural diplomacy should adapt to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, especially digital technological advances to deeply integrate Vietnam's cultural diplomacy into the region and the world.
Along with a national vision toward 2030 and 2045, the 13th Party Congress advocated a " comprehensive and modern diplomacy with three pillars: Party diplomacy and state diplomacy and people-to-people diplomacy” (2). This is a major policy, reflecting the maturity of Vietnam's diplomacy and showing the urgent, strategic, and long-term requirements for foreign affairs including cultural diplomacy. By sticking to the set goals and tasks, and being flexible and creative, cultural diplomacy will continue to promote its role as an important foreign policy pillar in raising and spreading Vietnamese values to the international community.
(1) Decision No. 2013/QD-TTg, dated November 30, 2021, of the Prime Minister on “Approving the Strategy for Cultural Diplomacy toward 2030”
(2) Documents of the 13th National Congress, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2021, vol. I, p. 162
This article was published in the Communist Review No. 998 (November 2022)