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Call for Book Chapters: Public Diplomacy in Authoritarian Regimes

News vom 29.07.2023


Public Diplomacy in Authoritarian Regimes


Carola Richter, (Professor for International Communication) Freie Universität Berlin

Vedat Demir, (Senior Einstein Guest Researcher) Freie Universität Berlin

Rationale of the book

The term and concept of Public Diplomacy (PD) emerged in the United States in the 1960s. Hans Tuch (1990), who was a strong supporter of the use of public diplomacy as an essential tool in conducting the foreign policy of the United States, defined public diplomacy as “a government's process of communicating with foreign publics in an attempt to bring about understanding for its nation's ideas and ideals, its institutions and culture, as well as its national goals and current policies” (p. 3). Despite its increasing use in the United States, the term, public diplomacy, did not become popular in the international arena until the years following the Cold War. With the effects of information flow and ideas on political changes sweeping Eastern Europe and the widespread use of new mass communication tools, the key Western powers realized that image-making would play a key role in the future of international relations (Cull, 2009, p. 17). As Tuch noted (1990), international relations had changed so drastically and permanently in the 20th century that traditional diplomacy alone was no longer able to manage the peacetime affairs of nations. Therefore, public diplomacy, attempting to communicate directly with the people in other countries, became an indispensable component of international relations (p. 4).

The concept of “soft power” is one of the essential pillars of public diplomacy. It goes back to Joseph Nye, (2002) who argued that “power is the ability to affect the outcomes you want, and if necessary, to change the behavior of others to make this happen” (p. 4). According to Nye (2002), soft power accomplishes this through attraction rather than forcing and threatening. Instead of coercion, a country can create stronger alliances by making others admire its ideals and values, such as democracy, human rights, and individual opportunities. Differing political values, such as the lack of democracy and human rights, within authoritarian regimes, do not mean that these countries do not practice public diplomacy or use soft power as a public diplomacy instrument. On the contrary, as Friedrich and Brzezinski (1965) stated, the propaganda system in totalitarian and authoritarian systems plays a crucial role in the regime's maintenance (p. 146). Leonard (2002) supports this idea by drawing attention to the relationship between public diplomacy and propaganda and stating that public diplomacy is a euphemism for propaganda (p. 8).

Authoritarian regimes influence international public opinion through soft power instruments they have developed to compete with liberal democracies in the international arena. They target key democratic institutions, including elections and media in foreign countries. They also use economic and business ties to influence the politics of both young and established democracies. With the advance of globalization, authoritarian regimes such as China, Russia, and Iran have created a modern anti-democratic toolkit under the umbrella of public diplomacy. This toolkit includes government-organized non-governmental organizations (GONGOs), “zombie” election monitoring, foreign aid and investment, and media enterprises. Similarly, the deepening commercial integration of the last two decades has enabled the Chinese and Russian governments to influence political affairs in even the oldest and most advanced democracies. These regimes have successfully developed methods to compromise the values of transparency and accountability around the world to accomplish their goals (Walker, 2016).

As an example for case studies, the decline and authoritarianism in Turkish democracy since 2011, had an enormous effect on Turkey’s public diplomacy. Under the new structure, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had the absolute power and the public diplomacy policies of the country were reshaped to promote and advance Erdoğanism (Çevik, 2020). The Hugo Chávez regime in Venezuela had to build soft power for their country to improve its reputation among oil importers and the Venezuelan people. Chávez expanded foreign aid, which he touted as promoting a more pro-poor form of development than western aid (Corrales, 2016, p. 46). On the other hand, the Saudi royal family has long worried that the sharpest threats to its rule come not from hard-power foes, but instead take the form of soft-power ideological challenges, whether secular or religious (Wehrey, 2016, p. 98). The image of Kim Jong-Un’s smiling and pleasant-looking sister Kim Yo-jong sitting behind the serious façade of Vice President Mike Pence at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics had been commented upon as a significant soft-power gain for North Korea (Snow, 2020, p. 4).

Call for chapters

The book aims to trace the public diplomacy policies of authoritarian regimes. Thus, the questions below are meant to motivate the chapter authors to reveal how the public diplomacy of authoritarian regimes is shaped and explain the interplay between the regimes’ aims and policies and public diplomacy in analytical terms.

  1. How do authoritarian regimes practice public diplomacy, and what are the policies, implementations, and tools they use differently than liberal democracies?
  2. Especially in transitional/hybrid regimes, how does a country’s transformation process impact public diplomacy, and how does this transformation affect a country’s image and global reputation around the world?
  3. What are the goals of authoritarian countries’ new public diplomacy strategies, and what methods use these regimes to shape their foreign policies?
  4. How successful are the public diplomacy policies of authoritarian countries, and what is the future of public diplomacy in a world where authoritarianism is on the rise in a growing number of countries?

We invite book chapters on the following themes…

Theoretical contributions and overviews

  1. The global expansion of authoritarian regimes and their PD
  2. Authoritarianism and public diplomacy
  3. Historical perspective of PD in authoritarian regimes

Country case studies

  1. Azerbaijan
  2. China
  3. Egypt
  4. Iran
  5. Morocco
  6. North Korea
  7. Qatar
  8. Russia
  9. Saudi Arabia
  10. Turkey
  11. United Arab Emirates
  12. Venezuela

Submission of proposals

In your Chapter proposal, please include the following information: (1) name(s) of authors, their institutional affiliation, and the corresponding author’s contact information, (2) the title of the proposed chapter; and (3) a proposal narrative, not to exceed 500 words excluding references. Additionally, the chapter proposal must identify which theme or country case it addresses.

The final chapters accepted for the book should be 7000-8000 words, including all references, tables, figures, and charts.

All proposals and questions should be submitted to the editors at authoritarianpd@gmail.com


  • The call sent out: July 25, 2023
  • Proposal submission (a 500-word chapter abstract): October 01, 2023
  • Editorial Review & Acceptance/Rejection Notification: October 15, 2023
  • A complete book proposal to the publisher: November 30, 2023
  • Full chapter to editors: March 30, 2024
  • Chapters returned with reviews to authors for revision: May 31, 2024
  • Completed and revised chapters to the editors: August 15, 2024
  • Full book submission to the publisher: October, 2024
  • Given the review process, it is anticipated that the book will be published in early 2025.

Publisher: The book is planned to be published in Palgrave Macmillan’s series in Global Public Diplomacy (https://link.springer.com/series/14680).



Corrales, J. (2015, April). The authoritarian resurgenceautocratic legalism in Venezuela. Journal of Democracy, 26(2) 37-51. DOI: 10.1353/jod.2015.0031

Cull, N. J. (2009). Public diplomacy: lessons from the past. Figueroa Press.

Friedrich, C. J. and Brzezinski, Z. K. (1965).Totalitarian dictatorship and autocracy. (3th ed.) Harvard University Press.

Snow, N. (2020). Rethinking public diplomacy in the 2020s. In N. Snow and N. J. Cull (Eds.), Routledge handbook of public diplomacy (pp. 3-12). Routledge.

Leonard, M. with Stead C. and Smewing, C. (2002). Public diplomacy. Foreign Policy Center.

Nye, J.. S. (2002). The paradox of American power: why the world’s only superpower can’t go it alone. Oxford University Press.

Tuch, H. N. (1990). Communicating with the world U.S. public diplomacy overseas. St. Martin's Press

Walker, C. (2016, January). The authoritarian threat: the hijacking of “soft power.” Journal of Democracy, 27(1), 49-63. DOI: 10.1353/jod.2016.0007

Wehrey, F (2016). Saudi Arabia’s anxious autocrats. In L. Diamond, M. F. Plattner and C. Walker (Eds.), Authoritarianism goes global the challenge to democracy (pp. 96-114). Johns Hopkins University Press.

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