CHAPTER 1: Introduction
This paper explores the practical potential of using online music industry events as a tool for cultural diplomacy and investigates the relationship between state and non-state actors in China. The case study focuses on the International Music Expo (IMX), which is an online platform for discovery and cultural expo for professionals, creators, and consumers in the music industry. The paper examines the motivation behind the organisation of the event from the perspective of cultural diplomacy and investigates whether digital music industry events can be used as a tool for Chinese cultural diplomacy. The research design is qualitative, associated with a pragmatist philosophy, and employs a deductive approach.
The paper presents the research problem, which aims to examine the context of cultural approach towards public diplomacy from a sino-international perspective. The research question is whether digital music industry events can be a tool for Chinese cultural diplomacy. The paper lists several intermediary questions to answer this question, including the goals and success stories of cultural diplomacy, the tools of cultural diplomacy, the characteristics of IMX as a cultural diplomacy tool, and the success stories aligned with the broader Chinese cultural diplomacy agenda.
The research design involves secondary research to identify what cultural diplomacy is, its goals, and the tools used in the field. Secondary research is also conducted to identify the success of Chinese cultural diplomacy. Finally, primary research is conducted on a convenience sample of IMX organisers and participants using in-depth interviews. Both exploratory and conclusive approaches were used to answer the research question and intermediary questions.
The paper argues that digital music industry events can be a tool for Chinese cultural diplomacy, as demonstrated by the case study of IMX. The paper highlights the importance of non-state actors in cultural diplomacy and the role of technology in enabling such diplomacy. The paper concludes by suggesting that future research could investigate the impact of digital music industry events on cultural diplomacy in other countries and regions. Overall, the paper contributes to the theoretical and practical understanding of the relationship between state and non-state actors in China and the potential of online music industry events as a tool for cultural diplomacy.
The aim of this paper is to inform state actors of the practical potential of using online music industry events as a tool for cultural diplomacy and, in the process, to cast new context on the relationship between state and non-state actors in China, which is of theoretical significance. For this purpose the following structure is adopted.
First chapter of the paper provides a background information of the International Music Expo (IMX) in order to better illustrate the case study, which then leads to the research problem, objectives and this chapter concludes with the methodology design. The second chapter examines the existing literature on public, cultural and non-state actors diplomacy and showcases Chinese cultural diplomacy success in order to illustrate the benefits of utilising culture into the diplomacy mix and to highlight the characteristics of Chinese culture and its positive effects across the globe. In conclusion, chapter three connects the case study of IMX to the existing literature on public, cultural and non-state actors diplomacy to the interviews conducted with IMX organisers, and in the process provide sufficient evidence to answer the research question.
The case study of IMX, examined in this paper, is situated within the non-state cultural diplomacy realm, seeking to organically enable diplomats to use IMX as a vehicle of music culture sharing. In the 2021 IMX opening ceremony various countries were able to deliver an official congratulatory address to the general public of this online music event, providing an opportunity for the diplomats to showcase their country, but also to engage with the representatives of other countries.
Organised by Kanjian, headquartered in Shanghai, global technology leader in music infrastructure and licensing automation, the International Music Expo is a platform for discovery for global businesses and cultural expo for professionals, creators and consumers in the music industry. Co-sponsored by the Shanghai National Copyright Trade Base (国家版权贸易基地(上海)) and Shanghai National Foreign Culture and Trade Base (国家对外文化贸易基地(上海)), and supported by numerous domestic and international trade associations, GOs and NGOs, IMX enables a global dialogue for creative copyrights trading and facilitates collaboration and protection (ChinaIMX.com, 2022). IMX had two editions so far, inaugural in 2020 and second in 2021. The third edition was planned for October 2022, though due to the Covid-19 epidemic situation in Shanghai in 2022, led to logistics issues for the organisers and ultimately to the postponement of IMX to April 2023 (Georgiev, 2022).
1.3 Research Problem (Basic arguments)
This paper is concerned with Chinese Cultural Diplomacy at a global scale, through the means of an online, digital music industry event (including conference, expo and festival sections) on the backdrop of a world put on hold due to a global Covid-19 pandemic, where the opportunity for online cultural events arises. This study examines the motivation of a Chinese for-profit business behind the organisation of an online international music industry event from the perspective concerned by the domain of cultural diplomacy as a subset of the more broader subject of public diplomacy. The case study presented in this exploratory paper is concerned with analysing the context of cultural approach towards public diplomacy, in a sino-international perspective.
Research question: Can digital music industry events be a tool for Chinese cultural diplomacy?
To answer the research question, the following intermediary questions need to be answered:
- What are the goals of cultural diplomacy?
- What are the tools of cultural diplomacy?
- What are the goals and success stories of Chinese cultural diplomacy?
- Does IMX have the characteristics of a cultural diplomacy tool?
- Does IMX have success stories aligned with the broader Chinese cultural diplomacy agenda?
1.4 Research Design
This qualitative research is associated with a pragmatist philosophy and employed deductive approach to examine whether digital events can be a tool for Chinese cultural diplomacy and the primary research is conducted in the form of in-depth interviews. Gaining popularity in recent years, the qualitative research method, and in-depth interviews in particular, allows a phenomenon such as IMX to be more comprehensively and thoroughly understood concentrating on the “meaning” of a particular case study as it is the case of IMX (Dworkin, 2012). The in-depth interviews conducted with IMX organisers aim to establish “categories from the data and then to analyse relationships between categories” by conducting in-depth interviews with IMX participants(Charmaz, 1990
Both exploratory and conclusive approaches were used to answer the research question and the intermediary questions, in an attempt to gain insights and deeper understanding from a small, but representative sample using in-depth interviews (Malhotra, 2012). After defining clearly the information needed, a descriptive research method was used to determine the extent to which digital events can be a tool for Chinese cultural diplomacy (Malhotra, 2012).
1.5 Research Objectives
This paper is concerned with an online music exhibition IMX, which arguably is a showcase of China’s cultural diplomacy stemming from the collaboration of non-state and state actors. It explores the motivation behind the organisation of IMX and the participation at it, given the unique knowledge with high contemporary importance made readily available at the event to both attendees and participants.
The approach adopted in this research starts with a secondary research conducted in order to identify what is cultural diplomacy, what are its goals and what are the tools used in the field. Then, a secondary research was conducted to identify the success of Chinese cultural diplomacy. And lastly, primary research was conducted on a convenience sample of IMX organisers and participants where the data collection method is in-depth interviews for the purpose of mapping the findings of both primary and secondary research in order to identify to what extent digital music industry events, such as IMX, are suitable to be a cultural diplomacy tool, and in particular for Chinese cultural diplomacy.
Primary Research Objectives
This research aims to evaluate whether online, digital music industry events can be a suitable tool for Chinese cultural diplomacy.
Secondary Research Objectives
This study aims further to inform Chinese cultural diplomacy practitioners about the potential of using digital music industry events as part of their toolset, as well as to provide a stepping stone for further academic research in the field, and in particular in the direction of developing tools for evaluation of the effects of cultural diplomacy in online settings.
1.6 Research Method
This research aims to examine in detail IMX from a cultural diplomacy perspective and for that reason case study methodology was followed.
Even though controlled comparison could be a viable option for a case study examination, this paper focuses on process tracing in order to answer the research question: Can digital music industry events be a tool for Chinese cultural diplomacy? As discussed by Mahoney (2012), the adoption of process tracing assists with the amalgamation of ‘pre-existing generalisations with specific observations from within a single case to make causal inferences about that case’. Also, answering the intermediary questions allows for reflection on the following study propositions:
- Cultural diplomacy aims to attain mutual benefits.
- Cultural diplomacy offers exposure to the culture, so that culture could be experienced
- Cultural diplomacy distances itself from the government, so as to not to be perceived as propaganda
- Cultural diplomacy initiatives are started organically by non-state actors, where state actors come in to participate later
With this in-depth exploration of the available evidence provided by IMX, it was assessed whether the research question is true or valid.
To ensure sufficient construct validity within this case study, the adopted measures include identifying key tools used by cultural diplomacy (in published cultural diplomacy studies) and examine how they relate to IMX, thus ensuring that the operational measures employed match the suggested concepts and reflect on multiple ‘sources of evidence’ within the data collection stage and initiate a sufficient “chain of evidence”(Yin, 2018). As discussed by Yin (2018), exploratory case studies, such as the present one, do not require an internal validity test, therefore such was not performed. In order to confirm that the findings from this exploratory paper can be made more widely applicable the external validity of the case study can be tested against the appropriate theory identified in a follow-up research.
1.6.1 Secondary Research
Existing literature of what are the goals for cultural diplomacy was reviewed in order to extract topics with potentially useful items to be implemented in the in-depth interviews. This research relies on relevant papers in recognized journals and to ensure the most recent research in the field is relied upon a Google Scholar search of papers released after 2018 has been performed.
Using the findings from literature review to identify the goals of cultural diplomacy, then the research pinpointed the relevant characteristics and tools used within the field. The shortlisted characteristics and tools were tested during the in-depth interviews analysing which of them are applicable to IMX, thus helping answer the research question.
1.6.2 In-depth Interviews
By conducting in-depth interviews, the aim of this research is to collect data to confirm or reject the validity of the research question, exploring whether IMX has the potential and the opportunity to influence both the participants and the general public. Due to the constraints of IMX being postponed from October 2022 to April 2023, as part of this research we do not have access to the general public and to comply with the deadlines for this research only a select, convenience sample of IMX participants from previous years are contacted. After clarifying first what are the main aims and goals of Cultural diplomacy as part of the literature review of this research, the questions compiled for the in-depth interviews were such as to answer whether IMX has the same goals and characteristics of cultural diplomacy tools.
In-depth interviews with the organisers of IMX were conducted to determine the motivation and aim behind the organisation of IMX. Similarly to Fisher’s (2013) building blocks of collaborative diplomacy, the interviews aim to identify, shortlist and abstract the 3-5 most common themes of importance with regards to the utility of cultural diplomacy events. A thematic analysis (Castleberry and Nolan, 2018) was conducted on the interviews in order to identify and quantify patterns and subsequently to abstract (or categorise) its elements (or items). The data collected from the interviews was used to check against the secondary research and to answer the research question.
This research employed a convenience sampling method, and six in-depth interviews were planned to be conducted. Respectively with the following parties – the Consul General of Republic of Bulgaria in Shanghai, who participated in IMX 2021 (representing the diplomats), representatives of Sounds Australia and Music Norway who participated in IMX IMX 2021 (representing GOs), representatives of Kanjian and Music Ally who participated at IMX 2020 and IMX 2021 (representing organisers), representative of one of the participating for-profit organisations who participated at IMX 2021, and which were shortlisted in conjunction with the IMX organisers.
However, due to the Covid-19 prevention measures taken in the period March-December 2022, the researcher’s ability to conduct the complete set of interviews was significantly impacted due to continues lockdowns and limited ability to conduct the primary research, thus two in-depth interviews was performed with Mr Tinko Georgiev, VP of International Business at Kanjian – the main organiser of IMX.
1.6.4 Ethical Issues and Possible types of error
It has to be taken under consideration that IMX is just one case and further research is necessary to validate the findings. The chosen design has a few advantages as it uses a qualitative approach to remove the interviewer’s influence in order to gain the most unbiased answers (Malhotra, 2012). The type of research design used does not violate the interviewee’s rights to safety, privacy or rights to choose. The information about the interviewee’s motivations to organise IMX is not sensitive or personal, and not considered privacy intrusive. The researcher’s aim was to use the most appropriate design to examine the research problem specified with the clearly outlined information needed to give guidance for a realistic solution (Malhotra, 2012; Saunders et al, 2012).
The population definition problem could be identified within this research, because of the time constraints for the research the population interviewed in the project might not be an accurate representative sample for the whole population that should be interviewed.
CHAPTER 2: Chinese Cultural Diplomacy
This chapter explores the concept of public diplomacy and cultural diplomacy, their characteristics and goals, and their relevance in a Sino-international context. Public diplomacy is defined as the government to people ecosystem that translates into foreign policy outcomes, which is primarily associated with the state apparatus. However, this association with the government may sometimes lead to public mistrust, which creates opportunities for non-state actors to bridge the gap between the government and the general public. Non-state actors are seen as neutral, credible, and expert-based organisations, and they usually view the public as active participants rather than a mere target audience. The non-state actors’ capacity to initiate public diplomacy has increased in the 21st century, and their involvement is seen as vital for capital (re)generation, establishing legitimacy, and authority in diplomatic arenas.
The chapter also highlights that the practice of cultural diplomacy is a replacement of foreign policy propaganda after the Cold War, and its main characteristic is states making every effort to achieve common goals. The use of cultural diplomacy tools to attract public opinion has immense strategic implications for states as it allows for new policy adoption more easily, thus allowing decisions to be based on the objectives of the states in question. Culture is seen as not just a diplomacy tool but the actual reason or cause of foreign policy, as it directly influences human beliefs and behaviours.
The chapter further discusses China’s public diplomacy success, which has undergone a shift since the reform and opening-up initiative in 1978. China’s public diplomacy efforts have culminated in several international and domestic successes such as the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and the Shanghai World Expo held in 2010. However, the main challenge for China’s public diplomacy is how the country’s image is perceived in the West. The chapter highlights that China’s pursuit of modernising its governance capacity and overall system has resulted in the country becoming the second-largest economy globally and a powerhouse in the global political system. China’s global success and development are partly attributed to its socialist rule of law system, deepening reform, major-country diplomacy, and its pursuit of a new type of international relations to build a human community with a shared future.
Moreover, the chapter acknowledges that China’s planned outcomes of activities related to arts and culture, such as those led by the Confucius Institute, could be politically or economically influenced. However, the emphasis on relationship building as the determining way forward is seen as crucial in public and cultural diplomacy, with dialogue within networks and collaborations leading to positive shifts in diplomatic pursuits. The Chinese Government’s efforts to endorse the digitalisation of cultural development are recognised as an opportunity to boost local economies, with an increase in national pride leading to a rising interest in Chinese cultural elements.
Finally, the chapter discusses China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which is China’s ambitious plan to develop infrastructure and trade networks across Eurasia and the Maritime Silk Road. The BRI focuses on infrastructure, policies, trade, finance, and people and is in line with the five principles of the UN Charter. The initiative aims to create a comprehensive world vision beyond geographic boundaries where goals are not only looking for economic growth but also peace, security, and environmental sustainability.
The chapter concludes that public and cultural diplomacy is crucial in promoting peaceful coexistence, and non-state actors’ involvement is seen as vital in bridging the gap between governments and the general public. Collaborative cultural diplomacy between state and non-state actors instead of the established competitive practices would enable states to explore the organic, successful long-term relationships and collaborations that non-state actors have built. The chapter also highlights China’s successful cultural diplomacy efforts and its Belt and Road Initiative, which aims to create a comprehensive world vision beyond geographic boundaries where goals are not only looking for economic growth but also peace, security, and environmental sustainability.
2.1 Public Diplomacy
Public diplomacy’s main goal is, arguably, to influence foreign societies views. This makes it hard to develop a clear definition, as different states have different needs and operate in different manners. Moreover, due to the traditionally introverted nature of the diplomatic circles, theory and practice sometimes differ greatly in the realm of public diplomacy (Melissen, 2011; Cowan. and Arsenault, 2008). Melissen (2011) describes public diplomacy from the perspective of three forms, namely partnerships between governments and businesses (public-private), citizen diplomacy and last but not least the inward dimension of public diplomacy concerned with domestic forces. He also argues that those three forms of public diplomacy constantly evolve and force the traditional concept of public diplomacy to change. Kim (2017) further dissects the attributes of public diplomacy into six categories: “(1) aiming to increase a country’s soft power; (2) seeking international credibility for the country; (3) managing two-way and symmetric communications; (4) pursuing collaborations to achieve common goals; (5) engaging non-state actors and embracing multi-stakeholders and partnerships; and (6) cultivating a favourable diplomatic environment in world politics.”
Following, it is safe to assume that the ever changing scope of public diplomacy enables cultural diplomacy to develop and mature where non-state actors play an integral part when it comes to attempts to influence foreign publics. The main focus of this paper is to explore the context of cultural approach towards public diplomacy (public-private partnerships) from a Sino-international perspective, evaluating cultural relationships initiated by non-state actors, identifying the motivation behind an organisation of a cultural event by a Chinese non-state actor – all from the perspective of cultural diplomacy.
Roberts (2006), Cull (2009) and Gregory (2008) all consider public diplomacy as a replacement of foreign policy propaganda after the Cold War. Nye (2004) further argues that the main characteristic of public diplomacy comes down to states making every effort in order to achieve common goals, which positions it as a great soft power tool as discussed by Melissen (2005). On the other spectrum though, Hocking (2005) points out that, even though public diplomacy was developed both practically and theoretically as part of the soft power toolkit, if successful soft power is achieved based on common appeal, the employment of public diplomacy would not be needed.
With the connected and interdependent scope of globalisation resulting in social changes on many levels, where the dividing line between foreign and domestic publics is blurring, the need for new public diplomacy arises as states and diplomats recognise the need for more two-way communication, as opposed to the one-way communication norm, where non-state actors assist securing some level of control over global issues and events, thus gaining more control, and organically facilitate this two-way communication with both foreign audiences and domestic publics. Therefore the main characteristic of new public diplomacy is defined by the new dynamic of states recognizing the increasing importance of non-state actors to facilitate two-way communication with the increasing global society on common goals (Fitzpatrick 2011; Batora 2005; Melissen 2005; Cull 2009).
Michael McClellan (2004) further debates that public diplomacy tools such as ‘informational, cultural, and educational programming’ used to attract the public’s opinion have immense strategic implications for states, as such activities could enable new policy adoption more easily allowing decisions to be based on the objectives of the states in question. Oliver Schmith (2003) on the other hand argues that within foreign policy a cultural aspect could be identified, where culture is recognised as a diplomacy tool and further allowing culture to be ‘instrumentalized to achieve a state’s goals through the foreign policy process’. In Schmith’s (2003) opinion the integration of cultural legacy such as music, literature, film, etc will allow the comprehensive goals of foreign policy of a state to be achieved. He further defines culture as the key structure which directly influences humans beliefs and behaviours and in that sense culture is not just a diplomacy tool, but the ‘the actual reason or cause of foreign policy’ and can help to enhance the understanding and the evaluation of how diplomacy is predisposed by culture.
2.2 Cultural Diplomacy Goals and Characteristics
2.2.1 Characteristics and challenges of Cultural Diplomacy
Academic discourse on assessing the effectiveness of cultural diplomacy circles around the argument that there are significant difficulties in connecting the key resources of public diplomacy (culture, values, political ideals, institutions and foreign policy motivations) to the desired cognitive and behavioural outcomes (emotions, perceptions, evaluative opinions and behaviours) due to the intangible and unquantifiable nature of these resources, and consequently due to the extended period of time and gradual manifestation of outcomes (Nye, 2004; Ji, 2017), whereas practice-derived literature shows an ever growing demand for better evaluation of the effort of soft power (and by extension, public diplomacy and cultural diplomacy) (Kim, 2017; Goff, 2020; Osipova-Stoker et al, 2021). While a considerable volume of research on evaluating the success of public diplomacy practice exists, much remains unknown about how to measure the outcomes of cultural diplomacy practice (Goff, 2020; Kim, 2017). More importantly, whereas existing cultural diplomacy scholars agree on the long-term practice of soft power, and thus focus on development of multi-layered, long-term, costly and reliant on vast amounts of data frameworks to measuring the success of public diplomacy, and cultural diplomacy in particular, diplomats and other cultural actors (agents) whose day-to-day job includes cultural diplomacy (whether spelled out or not in their job description) are left in an urgent need of an instrument that will provide them with a quantifiable assessment of the behavioural outcomes of a cultural diplomacy effort as success criteria currently is focused mainly on attendance levels, media coverage, and positive sentiment online, while not accounting for what the ultimate goal of cultural diplomacy is – influencing the audiences’ behaviour.
Even though cultural diplomacy lacks a standard operational definition (Ocón, 2021; Goff, 2013; Davidson, and Pérez-Castellanos, 2019; Ang, Isar, and Mar, 2015; Kim, Y. 1990; Kim, H. 2017), Simon (2010) debates that cultural diplomacy could not and should no be considered as a public diplomacy synonym and further define culture diplomacy as conceptual and practical subdivision of public diplomacy where government communications aimed at positive influence of international audiences is differentiated from propaganda and international cultural relations as they are not the same, as “Not all international cultural relations involve a government, nor do they contribute to foreign policy goals or to diplomacy”. From a state point of view cultural diplomacy was considered a subsection of public diplomacy for the first time by Edmund Gullion back in 1965. Today cultural diplomacy is surrounded by largely undefined boundaries, where strategies for attraction, rather than coercion allow states to secure accomplishment of international relations objectives and arguably advancing either political or national interests, moreover the employment of such strategies more often represents the predominantly interest-driven governmental use of culture (Ocon,2021).
Doeser and Nisbett (2018) argue that even though many consider art and culture to be one of the most powerful tools for a government and its soft power agenda, the impact or the efficacy of cultural diplomacy lack sufficient academic research. Furthermore, the discussions on cultural diplomacy are on one hand concerned with how and by whom is cultural diplomacy practised and what is the extent of government involvement, and on the other they portray cultural diplomacy as both opportunity and challenge, being the link connecting states with the cultural world. Davidson and Pérez-Castellanos (2019) also debate that advancing national interests, by implementing cultural diplomacy, will not only raise the government’s profile, but will also strengthen the relationship between a state and its population, which consequently assist with tackling negative impacts of controversial topics. Thus, inevitably help with the establishment and maintenance of the state’s ‘brand’. Davidson and Pérez-Castellanos (2019) further advocate that, due to cultural diversity across the globe, first-hand cultural exchange with the general public could be the most effective way to achieve mutual understanding.
2.2.2 Goals of Cultural Diplomacy
As culture deals with heritage and views of a wide range of people, the goals of cultural diplomacy as a process are arguably long-ranged and the techniques indirect (Mulcahy, 1999)
- Ensure the long-term value of the cultural exchange
- Cross-cultural understanding among various societies
- Promote and strengthen cultural relations and intellectual cooperation
- Exposure to the cultures of other nations
- Awareness of national histories and culture
Graph 1. Cultural diplomacy goals (Mulcahy, 1999)
2.2.3 Tools used by Cultural Diplomacy
Davidson and Pérez-Castellanos (2019) discuss that cultural centres, libraries and museums could be valuable cultural diplomacy tools and platforms for foreign policy. Albarracin and Shavitt (2018) on the other hand argue that culture represents ‘a shared meaning system and common values held among people who share a geographic region, language, or historical period’. They further debate that culture has a direct impact on information processing and models the thinking manner, affecting decision making and feelings.
The cultural diplomacy goals discussed earlier are directly reflected in the cultural diplomacy tools employed, with most commonly used (Davidson and Pérez-Castellanos, 2019; Albarracin and Shavitt, 2018):
- Diplomatic understanding
- Partnerships and shared interests
- Educational and cultural exchange programs
- Art – including music, literature, films, paintings and sculpture
- Language and people-to-people interaction
2.3 State and Non-state Actors
Even though there is no agreed upon definition for public diplomacy (Melissen, 2011; Cowan and Arsenault, 2008), the term represents that government to people ecosystem, which then translates into a foreign policy outcome centred within any given state apparatus (Lee and Ayhan, 2015). That specific association with government could in some cases lead to public mistrust (Nye, 2004) changing notably the socio-political conditions both internationally and domestically and creating space for non-state actors to become the link between governments and general public.
Melissen (2011) identifies as a challenge the lack of ‘systematic comparative analysis between (state and non-state) actors and across cultures’ suggesting that states could benefit greatly from collaborative cultural diplomacy as opposed to the established competitive practices.
Further debated by Lee and Ayhan (2015) is that the most invaluable characteristic of non-state actors is their neutrality, which then allows for scepticism minimisation. Also, typical for non-state actors is that their credibility is based on expertise and ample local knowledge in the field of operation and in many cases the public is invited as active participants and not perceived as just a target audience. The complexity of non-state actors enables them to develop organically successful long-term relationships and collaborations which then states could explore in order to fulfil their public diplomacy agendas (Nye, 2004; Zahara et.al., 2013).
Melissen (2011) debates that in the 21st century the importance and the role of non-state actors increases as they have the capacity to initiate public diplomacy. Many different agendas can bring together public and private sectors working together generally on capital (re)generation and establishing an image of legitimacy and authority in the diplomatic arenas. Public and private sectors are reaching those goals tapping into areas such as tourism, foreign direct investment, import–export trade, higher education among others to work together. This helps national leaders to achieve positive foreign public opinion abroad and consensus domestically, which also explains why nation branding is considered a practice of a soft-power (Aronczyk, 2013).
With the reform and opening-up initiated in 1978 a shift in China’s cultural diplomacy culminated with several international and domestic success stories such as the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and the Shanghai World Expo held in 2010 (Li and Wong, 2018).
Li and Wong (2018) further discuss that the main challenge for China’s public diplomacy is represented by how the country’s image is perceived in the West and the implementation of think tanks was recognised as essential when engaging with international audiences. In 2014 during a Central Leading Group for Deepening Overall Reform (中央全面深化改革領導小組) meeting President Xi Jinping stressed that ‘new type of think tank with Chinese characteristics is an important and pressing mission’, thus improve the facet of public diplomacy practices domestically and amplify China’s soft power in the international arena. In a report from 2015 ‘Opinions on strengthening efforts to build think tanks with Chinese characteristics’ the goal for establishment of ‘professional Chinese think tanks with global influence by 2020’ (Li and Wong, 2018) was set in motion resulting in various Chinese think tanks including China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR) 中國現代國際關係研究院; Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) 中國社會科學院; Development Research Center of the State Council (DRC) 國務院發展研究中心; Shanghai Institutes for International Studies (SIIS) 上海國際問題研究院 to name a few set the avenue towards mutual understanding and peaceful coexistence.
2.4 Chinese Cultural Diplomacy Success
Following a strong trend toward globalisation, cultural diversity and multi-polarity, countries are becoming increasingly interdependent and interconnected (Xinhua, 2018). At this international stage, China’s dramatic socio-economic achievements in the 21st century have made it not only the second largest economy in the world but also a powerhouse in the global political system (Benoit and Tu, 2020). Domestically, the transformation of China’s growth policy regime, initiated by Deng Xiaoping (Bowles et al., 2014) ultimately led to the unprecedented growth performance for such a large economy (Zhou and Tyers, 2017), and the major economic growth with Chinese characteristics ‘from rural, agricultural society to an urban, industrial one’, on one hand and ‘from planned economy to a market based one’ on the other (World Bank and the Development Research Center of the State Council, P.R.China, 2013). The interconnection of ‘power, ideology, and organisation’ on different spheres of Chinese society manifests in the Resolution on the Major Achievements and Historical Experience of the Party’s Centennial Struggle (Guo, 2013), which is ‘imbued with the same spirit as the two previous resolutions’ while also reflecting the spirit of the times (Xinhua, 2021b). The Resolution ultimately acts as an ‘action plan for the future’; a plan that on two previous occasions has served the Communist Party of China (CPC) and lead the people through hardships and to great achievements and uniting all party members and people of all ethnic groups in the country; a plan that will serve the CPC and will lead the Chinese people towards the ‘Chinese Dream’ and the world towards admirable progress of human society (Xiaojuan, 2021). Today’s success, both internationally and domestically, would not have been possible without the precious ‘century-old struggle of the Communist Party of China’. The founding of the Party in July 1921 marked the beginning of a long journey in ‘the pursuit of happiness for the Chinese people and the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation’. During its 100 years of ‘glorious history’, the Party led the people through enormous difficulties and great achievements (Xinhua, 2021b), gaining invaluable experience and growing up into a ‘systemic, interconnected, and indivisible whole’ (Xinhua, 2022).
The continuous pursuit of economic, political, cultural, social, and ecological development is at the heart of addressing the main challenge faced by China’s society, namely the people’s ‘ever-growing needs for a better life’. Modernising China’s governance capacity and overall system and advancing socialism with Chinese characteristics is further subject to extensively deepening reform, establishing a socialist rule of law system with Chinese characteristics, and major-country diplomacy to ‘foster a new type of international relations and build a human community with a shared future’ (Xinhua, 2021a), showing to the world that China is growing strong (Xinhua, 2021b).
Indeed, McPherson et al (2017) do recognise that the planned outcomes of activities related to arts and culture, such as those led by the Confucius Institute could be either politically or economically influenced, and that the approaches to soft power are subject to the ‘varying state-led attitudes to its exercise’, but they also define the objectives and success of cultural diplomacy pursuits. Zaharna, Arsenault and Fisher (2013) argue that the main differentiating factor in public diplomacy and by extension cultural diplomacy is the emphasis on relationship building as the determining way forward. They further debate the significance in development of sound relationship building strategies, where dialogue within networks and collaborations see positive shifts in diplomatic pursuits. Moreover, a Mintel report (Attitudes Towards Culture Marketing – China – February 2021) suggests that with Government efforts endorsing the efforts for digitalisation of culture development in China increasing attention is paid to cultural values and the promotion of regional heritage is recognised as an opportunity to boost local economy. The report is further discussing that reflecting on COVID-19 outbreak ‘engagement with culture online is rising, and with significant increase in national pride the interests in Chinese cultural elements skyrocket from both entertainment and consumption perspectives in people’s daily life’.
Guided by China’s swift economic growth and the constantly progressing global community integration, China plays an integral part in defining the post-Cold War global politics and that economic globalisation directly conditions China’s foreign policy especially in respect to the unilateralism and multilateralism dilemma and the country’s pursuit for establishing itself as a ‘responsible great nation’ (Kim, 2006). At the same time, a trend of “bilateral+multilateral” approach in China’s foreign policy practice with certain regions and groups is gradually emerging (Liu, 2021).
2.4.1 China’s Belt And Road Initiative
Defined by Xinhua (2017a) as ‘the spirit for a shared future’ and announced by President Xi Jinping in 2013, China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI, 一带一路) is arguably ‘the most intensively monitored development’ in international economic relations in recent years. The cooperation, based on the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, in line with the five principles of the UN Charter, aims to develop three routes across Eurasia (the “belt”) and two maritime routes (the “road”) and focuses on infrastructure, policies, trade, finance, and people (Pascha, 2020). China’s Belt And Road Initiative is a manifestation of a comprehensive world vision beyond geographic boundaries where goals are set not only looking for economic transformation, but also sustainable environment. The initiative goals are summarised under 7 main categories (Xinhua, 2017b), namely:
- Community of Shared Interests
- Community of Shared Responsibility
- Community of a Shared Future
- Silk Road of Green Development
- Silk Road of Health Cooperation
- Silk Road of Intelligence
- Silk Road of Peace
Each category represents how China envisions the shared future for mankind connecting the world and providing a platform for global prosperity with culture and history at its heart.
At the end of 2018 with only 5 years of operation Belt and Road Initiative managed to secure 170 intergovernmental cooperations with 122 countries and 29 international organisations according to the National Development and Reform Commission (发改委) with a vast array of infrastructure projects such as railways, highways, ports and telecommunications to name a few (yidaiyilu, 2019). By 2021, as reported by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce ‘the total volume of trade of goods between China and countries along the BRI routes amounted to nearly US$11 trillion, while two-way investment exceeded US$230 billion’ (Yang, 2022) demonstrating the realised potential of the project for shared future and peaceful coexistence.
2.4.2 Confucius Institute
People’s Republic of China (PRC) impressive economic growth enabled the country to enter the core of world politics, thus culture and language got the attention of the global audience allowing for the globalisation of the Chinese culture and the promotion of collaboration projects with foreign countries in order to achieve ‘harmonious foreign relationships and enhance socio-cultural understanding’ Lo and Pan (2016).
Confucius Institute is a prime example of China’s cultural diplomacy success, a project led by the state where ‘people-to-people interaction is also an important mediator that contributes to facilitating mutual understanding’ (Liu, 2019). Liu (2019) further debades that China’s willingness to signify its major cultural power ambitions were reflected in the 10th Five Year Plan in 2001, where ‘Going Global’ (zou chu qu) was implemented as a national strategy, leading to the development of the Confucius Institute in 2004 and by the end of 2017 there were 525 Confucius Institutes operating in 146 countries advocating for the success of the project.
Lo and Pan (2016) point out that, through the Confucius Institute, the Chinese government aims to develop Chinese language and culture by making ‘services available worldwide, meeting the demands of overseas Chinese learners to the utmost degree, and contributing to global cultural diversity and harmony’. Pan (2013) further debades that China’s increasing soft power summarises the success of the Confucius Institutes, which could be measured through the effects it had on the internationalisation of Chinese higher education, as Chinese universities developed international cooperation and educational exchanges with peer institutions internationally through the Confucius Institutes around the world. Within the period 2004 to 2011, 351 Confucius Institutes (CIs) and 473 Confucius Classrooms (CCs) were established in over 104 states and regions. In 2013 both Confucius Institutes and Classrooms tripled in number to 440 and 646 respectively (Lo and Pan, 2016).
2.4.3 China And Central and Eastern European Countries (CEEC)
Regional integration, as a political and economic phenomenon around the world, also represents a trend of global development spanning several decades, with the advanced European integration being the prime example as “regional countries and their people endeavour to maintain peace and gain strength through unity”. The cooperation between China and the Central and Eastern European Countries (CEEC) cannot be examined properly without exploring the relationship between China and the European Union (EU) and thus provide additional context as President Xi Jinping (2021) himself suggest that “China-CEEC cooperation is part and parcel of China-EU relations” during the 9th China-CEEC Summit (Xinhua, 2018).
From an academic perspective, strengthening the theoretical analysis of the China-CEEC cooperation will advance the diplomatic concepts and pathways with Chinese characteristics, as it will uncover the strategic values and areas for improvement of the cooperation (Liu, 2021). Following, China’s public diplomacy towards the CEE region is considered to be “a stepping stone” to the whole of Europe. The political angle of China’s multilateral exchanges with the CEEC, aims to provide an understanding to China’s “policies, practises and domestic concerns”, whereas on a cognitive level, the focus of China’s public diplomacy projects the soft power of Chinese culture, in turn reducing “Europeans’ negative perceptions of China and to enhance their understanding of Chinese values” (Song, 2017).
Relations between China and the CEE regions go as far back as the (original) Silk Road, and China’s recent interest in strengthening the economic and political ties was first signalled by President Xi Jinping’s 2009 European tour as, at the time, vice-president. The visit, framed as consolidation and development of economic cooperation with China, illustrated the country’s “evolving go-out investment strategy”. Once perceived as the “back door” to the single EU market for Chinese corporations, the CEE region also represents a great opportunity for such companies to carry out infrastructure projects in CEE countries that are not yet EU member states, and thus have no access to EU funds (Szunomár, McCaleb, Chen, 2017).
2.4.4 Chinese Cultural Diplomacy During Covid-19 and co-operations in Southeast Asian region
Maude and Fraser (2022) discuss how invaluable was China’s pandemic aid in the period 2020-2021 with the uncertainty of COVID-19 and Indian Ocean tsunami affecting the Southeast Asian region. China demonstrated its responsible great power abilities by sitting side by side with the region’s leaders in the time of need offering vaccines supplies and medical equipment and masks where there was a significant global shortage, thus successfully winning their appreciation. Also, by increasing trade and investments in the Southeast Asian region, and by maintaining its economy open, China positioned itself as the way for economic recovery, increasing its influence and culture disperse in the area.
Maude and Fraser (2022) further debate that within Southeastern’s Asia China’s soft power strength saw significant increase. Demonstrating solid cultural relations in the region with various culture initiatives such as the Confucius Institutes, which gained more popularity recently, and the establishment of sister cities between China and the region with 77 pair cities sharing pandemic aid during 2020-2021. Furthermore culture exchange is evident in the consequential quota of international students studying in China with students from Thailand, South Korea, Laos and Malaysia ranking in the top five international students in China totaling in over 68 000 students annually.
In their report Maude and Fraser (2022) conclude that by reacting to the worldwide spread pandemic China demonstrated ‘utmost responsibility and care’ and the Southeast Asian region benefited from China’s economic and industrial immense capabilities and diplomacy was in the area focused on communications and discussions on how to work together to overcome the pandemic.
2.4.5 Transnational education in China
With over 20 years of history, the transnational education (TNE) in China, delivers both online and in person projects by international institutions, representing a highly lucrative and regulated market. TNE projects range from ‘subject- specific courses, international transfers, joint or dual degree programmes and distance learning’, which attracts international higher education organisations to set a presence in China with students enrolled in TNE in greater China reaching half a million. The education sector and TNE in particular is largely impacted by initiatives focusing on leading programmes prioritising STEM courses influenced by the government interest and investment in innovation. Based on that, initiatives such as The Double First-Class initiative had influenced the increase in joint educational programmes (JEPs) and joint educational institutions (JEIs) in the last 10 years and JEPs and JEIs increased rapidly in number. Firm standards, evaluation procedures and permits have been put in place to ensure quality of education offered at undergraduate, Masters and PhD levels (Clayburn, 2022).
Clayburn (2022) further discusses the extent of the transnational education in China quoting Chinese Ministry of Education ‘2,332 joint educational programmes and joint educational institutions were approved by 2020, of which 1,230 were for undergraduate degrees or higher’. Established by various universities from UK, US, Russia, Israel and other higher education institutions, those JEIs and JEPs managed to attract over 300,000 students enrolling for undergraduate or above level and the most popular cities include Shanghai, Beijing, and Jiangsu.
CHAPTER 3: IMX – The Case Study for Chinese Cultural Diplomacy
Chapter 3 of this thesis provides an overview of the International Music Expo (IMX), which was launched in July 2020 as a digital event for the music industry due to the cancellation of major industry conferences and festivals. The chapter argues that IMX provides a platform for international state and non-state participants to engage in discussions and debates on industry and societal issues and potentially influence policies. The event also enables participating government and non-government organisations to have access to a global audience. IMX connects the music community globally, representing the interests of the wider music industry, including startups to global corporations, showcasing their latest products in art and culture, and engaging with the general population.
The researcher’s prior involvement in establishing international cultural relations between China and the rest of the world, coupled with the understanding of the practical applications and implications of cultural diplomacy, has been the main motivation behind this research. The chapter explains how China’s long-standing traditions in relationship building and peaceful coexistence have allowed the country to develop and deliver projects such as the Belt and Road Initiative and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, which are based on the concept of non-intervention practices and peaceful coexistence. Cultural relations developed as a concept after the Cold War, emphasising the importance of cultural communication in achieving common cultural understanding and cross-cultural cooperation.
The chapter then examines how IMX aligns with the main goals of cultural diplomacy, including ensuring the long-term value of cultural exchange, promoting cross-cultural understanding, strengthening cultural relations and intellectual cooperation, exposure to the cultures of other nations, and awareness of national histories and culture. The in-depth interviews with Georgiev provide evidence that IMX organisers and participants collaborate to attain mutual benefits and offer exposure to culture, while distancing from government messages that could be perceived as propaganda. IMX is an initiative started organically by non-state actors, with state actors participating later.
This chapter discusses the value, understanding, and relationship management that the International Music Expo (IMX) creates as a platform of shared interest and values. The chapter emphasises the significance of IMX as a strategic communication tool of various cultural organisations and institutions to build and manage their relationships with foreign publics. The IMX edition in 2021 and 2022 brought together more than 600 music and tech industry organisations from around the world, nurturing business relationships and providing space for international trade. The chapter argues that cultural diplomacy must be defined by a particular strategy for a cultural exchange to lead to the desired effect for a given country, where not all cultural exchange activities represent cultural diplomacy. The direct result of such interchange is the plan for joint development of the “International Music Copyright Digital Exchange Platform” between Shanghai Music Valley Group, The National Foreign Cultural Trade Base, The National Copyright Trade Base, and Kanjian, aiming to become the music industry’s leading global, online platform, in the process enhancing the global influence and identity of the Chinese music industry.
The chapter discusses how IMX creates a shared space for communication, allowing delegates to harness dialogue to achieve a shared meaning and understanding among different social collectors and cultures. Through IMX, delegates can communicate and listen, seeking to build a public sphere in which diverse voices can be heard in spite of their various origins, distinct values, and often contradictory interests. In 2021, IMX introduced 14 market reports to a global audience, including territories such as Canada, Chile, France, Italy, Ukraine, UK, and USA among others, which provides valuable information and greater understanding of how to operate in a new market. Market research reports also provide a greater understanding of customer characteristics, spending patterns, customer perceptions and opinions, as well as motivational or other psychological aspects of the market.
IMX enables relationship management by expanding its global influence and status. In the second edition of IMX in 2021, the organisers added an expo section to the already existing artist showcase and knowledge-sharing conference programs of the forum, further enhancing cooperation and communication between the specific interests of the IMX participants. The total number of participating organisations jumped from 120 to 568, performing musicians from 282 to 2,121, and industry experts and speakers from 91 to 151 people, with all being the representatives of 58 countries, which organically connects the independent music community globally, allowing for meaningful understanding to be shared.
In conclusion, the chapter argues that IMX can be considered a form of cultural diplomacy, as it provides a platform for international engagement and discussion on industry and societal issues, as well as showcasing cultural products and engaging with the general population. IMX aligns with the main goals of cultural diplomacy, including promoting cross-cultural understanding and strengthening cultural relations, and offers opportunities for state and non-state actors to collaborate and attain mutual benefits.
The chapter concludes that IMX could be explored as a source for systematic classification, allowing for identifying opportunities and challenges and ideally healing results on how to overcome them using cultural diplomacy as a vehicle to spread the message. Furthermore, the chapter argues that IMX demonstrates how the blurring lines between foreign and domestic audiences are now defined by networks, in this case, the music industry network, where two-way communication is enabled by a non-state actor, allowing the state actor to benefit from the network by engaging it directly where collaborations are seen as co-creations. IMX acts as a vehicle for cultural exchange, creating the necessary conditions to channel different projects toward an informed process of decision-making that respects the differences and ways of policy alternatives.
In conclusion, the chapter argues that IMX is a form of cultural diplomacy that aligns with the main goals of promoting cross-cultural understanding and strengthening cultural relations. It provides a platform for international engagement and discussion on industry and societal issues, showcases cultural products, and enables state and non-state actors to collaborate and attain mutual benefits. The chapter suggests that IMX can be explored as a source for systematic classification, identifying opportunities and challenges using cultural diplomacy to spread the message. IMX demonstrates how the blurring lines between foreign and domestic audiences are defined by networks, enabling two-way communication between state and non-state actors. It acts as a vehicle for cultural exchange, facilitating informed decision-making that respects policy alternatives and differences.
3.1 Overview of the International Music Expo
The International Music Expo, or IMX, launched in July 2020 as the music industry’s digital event as at that time virtually all major industry conferences and festivals were either cancelled or discontinued altogether. This paper argues that IMX with its debates and knowledge sharing sessions implemented within the conference, showcases and exhibition parts of the event, allows for various international state and non-state participants to freely engage and discuss industry (and by extension societal) issues, and potentially be in a position to influence policies, on one hand, and to enable the participating government and non-government organisations to have access to a global audience, on the other.
IMX connects the music community globally, representing the interests of the wider music industry, including a vast range of organisations from startups to global corporations, each offering its expertise, showcasing their latest products in art and culture, while in the process engaging with the general population (citizens) disseminating culture at scale.
The researcher’s domain knowledge was quite limited prior to the research conception, though the introduction to the topic of public diplomacy and in particular the various approaches towards it, such as cultural, collaborative, and digital among others, has sparked significant interest in the topic. It has become a personal challenge for the researcher to acquire sufficient information and knowledge within the context of public diplomacy and in particular the cultural approach towards public diplomacy. The researcher’s prior involvement in and direct contribution towards the establishment of international cultural relations (music industry) between China and the rest of the world has revealed an opportunity, which, paired with the understanding of the practical applications and implications of cultural diplomacy outside the academic world, has been the main motivation behind this research.
3.2 Why IMX could be considered as Cultural Diplomacy
Today, the world is at a crossroad plunged helplessly into a wretched pandemic and globally-spread instabilities and uncertainties, mankind is in a desperate need of new opportunities for peace and a shared future (Xinhua, 2018). Under the guidance of General Secretary Xi Jinping’s Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era (Xinhua, 2018), the united and centralised Communist Party of China is leading the people and country towards a continuous success for ‘the Party and the people’s cause’ (Xinhua, 2021b). Chinese long-standing traditions in relationship building allows China to develop and deliver projects such as Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China-CEEC Cooperation, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) to name a few, which are based on and developed in line with the concept of peaceful coexistence and non-intervention practices demonstrating China’s abilities to reposition ‘from a taker to a maker of international order’ and proactively engage multilaterally. Achieving international order through the means of coordination of policies between states demonstrates China’s responsible leadership ability and ‘commitment to mutual non-aggression and non-interference in the internal affairs of others’ defining the core values of the concept of peaceful coexistence (Odgaard,2013). Even though some of those organisations have very specific political, economical or security agenda, they all disperse Chinese culture at a scale.
In the aftermath of the Cold War, cultural relations developed as a concept, replacing the geopolitical approach on the basis that being less national public diplomacy evolution, where governments put emphasis on the global aspect of public goods and common interest (Melissen, 2011) and containing such a vast cultural variety, emphasising that cultural communication could lead to common cultural understanding (Kim, 2017; Iriye, 1997, 2004; Melissen, 2011; Gienow-Hecht, 2003). Iriye (1997) highlights the benefits of cross-cultural cooperation where the pressure of dealing with global issues, such as the environment, is taken away by defining culture as ‘structures of meaning’, comprising ‘memory, ideology, emotions, life styles, scholarly and artistic works, and other symbols’. Gienow-Hecht (2003) further connects political influence and culture, supporting the idea of Akira Iriye (1997) of the importance of cross-cultural communication and further argues that culture influences states and global governance to the same extent as economic and power concerns.
As identified in Chapter 2, the main goals of cultural diplomacy (Mulcahy, 1999) are as follow and in the following paragraphs show how IMX matches them:
- Value: Ensure the long-term value of the cultural exchange
- Understanding: Cross-cultural understanding among various societies
- Relationship Management: Promote and strengthen cultural relations and intellectual cooperation
- Exposure: Exposure to the cultures of other nations
- Awareness: Awareness of national histories and culture
In addition, the in-depth interviews with Georgiev (2022); Georgiev (2023) allows for a reflection on the study propositions, and the following paragraphs provide evidence for the following:
- IMX organisers collaborate in order to attain mutual benefits.
- IMX participants collaborate in order to attain mutual benefits.
- IMX offers an exposure to the culture, so that culture could be experienced
- IMX facilitate distancing from the government, which allows for messages not to be perceived as propaganda and here comes the importance of non-state actors
- IMX is an initiative started organically by non-state actors, where state actors come in to participate later
3.3 The value that IMX creates
In reflection of the arguments put forward by Castells (2008) that a shared meaning and understanding can be achieved by a dialogue between different social collectors and their cultures, IMX as a platform of shared interest and values effectively allows delegates to harness this dialogue. On the back of a continuous globalisation trend, IMX demonstrates how the blurring lines between foreign and domestics audiences are now defined by networks, in this case the music industry network, where two-way communication is enabled by a non-state actor, allowing the state actor to benefit from the network by engaging it directly where collaborations are seen as co-creations.
Arguably, IMX further creates a shared space for communication in which ‘a new common language could emerge’ as a precondition for diplomacy and cultural engagement in which ideational materials are produced. This, in turn, would create the necessary conditions to channel different projects toward ‘an informed process of decision making that respects the differences and ways of policy alternatives’. And this is best illustrated by the support of the Shanghai National Copyright Trade Base (国家版权贸易基地(上海)) and Shanghai National Foreign Culture and Trade Base (国家对外文化贸易基地(上海)), as IMX acts as a vehicle of strategic communication of the various cultural organisations and institutions to build and manage their own relationships with foreign publics (Castells, 2008; Georgiev, 2022).
Fisher (2013) further suggests that open-source, collaborative approaches create genuine partnerships where negotiations define clear aims and goals within those partnerships and collaborations bring to the table diverse perspectives and experiences, providing innovative solutions relevant to the wider community, bridging in the process the ‘cultural barrier’ and providing access to a particular community.
The cooperation between states, as argued by Andreasen (2008), is mainly based on value exchanges where culture as a vehicle can also assist in an economic activity. IMX editions in 2021 and 2022 brought together more than 600 music and tech industry organisations from around the world, nurturing business relationships and providing the space for international trade, including ByteDance, Association of Independent Music, Chinese Audio-video Copyright Association, FUGA, LiveNation, Merlin, Midem, Music Copyright Society of China, Netease Cloud Music, Songtrust, Sony Music, Warner Music, and the Worldwide Independent Network among many others.. He further clarifies that cultural diplomacy must be defined by a particular strategy for a cultural exchange to lead to the desired effect for a given country, where not all cultural exchange activities represent cultural diplomacy (Georgiev, 2023).
The direct result of such interchange is the plan for joint development of the “International Music Copyright Digital Exchange Platform” between Shanghai Music Valley Group, The National Foreign Cultural Trade Base, The National Copyright Trade Base and Kanjian, aiming to become the music industry’s leading global, online platform, in the process enhancing the global influence and identity of the Chinese music industry. The platform will attract a wide range of global music and music-related service providers to display their products and services and communicate their advances and achievements. Following, it will strive to become a music cultural industry exchange platform that gathers domestic and foreign music institutions, music copyrights, music activities, and services (Georgiev, 2022; IMX, 2021b).
IMX could be explored as a source for systematic classification where different participants fall in different categories allowing for identifying opportunities and challenges and ideally healing results how to overcome them using cultural diplomacy as a vehicle to spread your message.
3.4 The understanding that IMX enables
For any business, whether expanding into or launching a new product or service in a new market, market research provides valuable information and greater understanding of how to operate. Market reports are a part and parcel of every industry – they provide information about the market’s current size, growth potential, and operation patterns in general. Market research reports also provide a greater understanding about the customer’s characteristics, including spending patterns, customer perceptions and opinions, as well as motivational or other psychological aspects of the market. It is critical also for understanding competition as well as economic, political, or other important trends in the market that could affect the business (Georgiev, 2023).
Through IMX, as a mechanism for influencing audiences on a global scale, delegates are able to communicate and listen, seeking to build a public sphere, in which ‘diverse voices can be heard in spite of their various origins, distinct values and often contradictory interests’ (Georgiev, 2023; Castells, 2008).
In 2021, IMX introduced to a global audience 14 market reports including for territories such as Canada, Chile, France, Italy, Ukraine, UK, and USA among others (Georgiev, 2023)
3.5 The relationship management that IMX enables
In the second edition of IMX, in 2021, the organisers added an expo section to the already existing artist showcase and knowledge-sharing conference programmes of the forum, to further enhance cooperation and communication between the specific interests of the IMX participants, and to expand its global influence and status. As a result, the total number of participating organisations jumped from 120 to 568, performing musicians from 282 to 2,121, and industry experts and speakers from 91 to 151 people, with all being the representatives of 58 countries (35 countries in 2020), which organically connects the independent music community globally allowing for meaningful understanding to be shared (Georgiev, 2022; IMX, 2021).
Domestically, IMX has been guided by the Shanghai Publicity Department (上海宣传部) and has the official support of the Culture and Art Association (Shanghai), China Audio Video Copyright Association (CAVCA), Music Collection Society of China (MCSC), the Shanghai National Copyright Trade Base (国家版权贸易基地(上海)) and Shanghai National Foreign Culture and Trade Base (国家对外文化贸易基地(上海)), Guangzhou Yuexiu District National Copyright Trade Base (广州市越秀区国家版权贸易基地). Internationally, IMX has earned the official support of a myriad of organisations including key members of the global music industry such as the Association of Independent Music (UK), the American Association of Independent Music (USA), the British Phonographic Industry, Chile Musica, Italia Music Export, Music Export Ukraine, and Sounds Australia among many more. The legitimacy of the forum has been further boosted by the congratulatory addresses to IMX and its participants by the Consul Generals of Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Indonesia, Netherlands, Norway, and South Korea. As argued by Zaharna, Arsenault and Fisher (2013) more and more states recognise the need for collaborations between states and non-official actors benefiting from joint collaboration projects, and as further suggested by many academics and practitioners, public diplomacy represents the diplomatic engagement among a variety of actors and across cultures as an existential necessity based on the aim of long-term relationship building, where collaborative public diplomacy is on the rise (Georgiev, 2022; IMX, 2021).
3.6 The exposure that IMX creates
The IMX organisers (Kanjian, a Shanghai-headquartered, global leader in music copyright licensing automation) identified through their day-to-day operations and global business network, an untapped demand for information and business opportunities about China from overseas organisations, and vice versa, about the rest of the world from domestic organisations. With the constraints posed by Covid-19, IMX had a perfect timing to fill the void and meet the demand for a global music industry event that will reach out a global audience and ultimately result in more than 2.6 million viewers (combined) watching IMX online in 2020 and 2021. In this way, IMX gained legitimacy and status within the music community and the society, engaging in the public sphere and driving a multilateral cultural exchange (Georgiev, 2022).
In 2021, IMX ran for 21 consecutive days (11-31 October) and included cultural debates and music performances of traditional music from Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, China, England, Italy, and Norway among others. IMX 2021 enjoyed an impressive global coverage, including among others on Bilibili, Douyin, Facebook, LinkedIn, Migu Video, Netease, Weibo, and Youtube (Georgiev, 2022).
3.7 The awareness that IMX creates
IMX promotes not only Chinese music to the world but also Chinese national culture, and shows China’s spirit of inclusiveness, openness and friendship. It also promotes Shanghai as China’s music capital as it is aligned with the three-year action plan of the “Shanghai Culture” brand, creating new cultural products in Shanghai (Georgiev, 2022).
Vice-versa, with the Word Traditional Music theme of the 2021 edition, the Chinese audiences were introduced to a wide variety of the world’s mainstream culture as well as folklore traditions, including performances of traditional music from Bulgaria, Italy, Martinique, Norway, and St Kitts and Nevis. With its conference programme and expo section, IMX facilitated a better understanding of the global market for China’s music business with aspirations to go overseas as well as a direly sought understanding by international companies on how to enter China as a market and how to conduct business within the market (IMX, 2021). Thus the cultural product (IMX) is viewed as a shared space in which meaning is negotiated to suit both cultural and economical needs of the participants (Georgiev, 2023).
IMX introduced to a global audience of millions, one of Kanjian’s priority projects Yuedian (乐典). Yuedian is a collection of Chinese traditional music and consists of three series: “Instruments”, “Opera” and “Ballads”, which contain the musical ideas and musical culture of the last 5,000 years of China, allowing them to exude their unique charm in the new era and let the world hear the sound of the East. It brings together 5,000 years of Chinese instruments and music to create an unprecedented “Chinese Sound Map” (Georgiev, 2023).