When the United States or any other Western country embraces a “pivot to Asia” as a central element of its foreign policy, it must be more than a “pivot to China.” Nations such as South Korea, Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam and others all keep a close eye on China, but they also know that they individually and especially collectively possess enough economic and political vitality to offset some of China’s regional dominance.

At a conference in Brisbane, Australia May 18-20, “Soft Power and Public Diplomacy in the Indo-Pacific,” government officials and academics from an array of Pacific countries discussed ways that they might best use soft power — attraction rather than coercion — to advance their strategic interests. The roundtable conversations underscored the importance of relying on innovative public diplomacy to reach soft power goals. In this region, as elsewhere in the world, internet-based media are connecting growing numbers of people, and this connectivity empowers them to an unprecedented degree. They expect to be involved in the policymaking that affects their lives. Governments, in turn, increasingly understand that they can no longer conduct diplomacy in ways that are detached from public scrutiny and participation.

That is the essence of the change in global politics that enables the rise of public diplomacy. The theory is not complicated, but putting public diplomacy to work requires imagination and persistence.

Read the full “Public Diplomacy in the Pacific” article in The World Post by Philip Seib, Vice Dean and Professor, University of Southern California, and “Soft Power and Public Diplomacy in the Indo-Pacific” Dialogue participant.