The Polish (in)visible strategy towards Japan – soft power

Piotr A. Głogowski
October 7, 2019

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The Polish (in)visible strategy towards Japan, part 1 – soft power

What happened? The successful strategy in foreign relations should lead to the strengthened positive perception of the country’s image. It should combine soft and smart power with national branding and public diplomacy (PD). EUJEPA creates new opportunities for Polish business in Japan and they can be amplified by the country’s positive image. In this article I will take a closer look at the Polish possibilities and choices in approaching the Japanese audience.

The brief description. Undoubtedly Poland has a positive image in Japan. Nonetheless, the lack of well-calculated and (possibly) successful national branding is a big issue. Even the recognition of Poland as a country hits hurdles as the word “Poland’ in Japanese (ポーランド) is frequently mispronounced, and Poland can be taken for Holland (オランダ). As a remedy, before the 2015 Polish parliamentary elections, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) prepared a marketing concept based on distinguishing the name of the country from others using original Polish name. In the result “made in Polska” was to be used instead of “made in Poland”.

Poland has two major institutions designed to promote country’s soft power: 1) The Adam Mickiewicz Institute, that was involved in the celebration of 100 years of Polish-Japanese diplomatic relations; 2) The Polish Institute in Tokyo – which is one of more than 20 similar institutions located in various countries around the world. There is also The Fryderyk Chopin Institute, but due to the lack of credible data, it is difficult to judge if it has any influence in Japan – despite Japanese admiration for Chopin. Composer is next to Andrzej Wajda and Lech Wałęsa the most recognizable Polish national in Japan and is indisputably associated with the positive side of Poland’s national image. It also should be highlighted that the Polish embassy in Tokyo has adopted original and accessible (unique among Polish embassies) presentation of the selected national events/characters in the form of short comic leaflets

However, there are also several serious issues that limit the potential of using Poland’s positive image as tool in boosting national soft power: 1) insufficient funding, manifested in searching for entities, that will sponsor a selected embassy’s publications; 2) highly insufficient activity of Polish embassy in social media, e.g. twitter account, while compared to other countries, and in result poorly conveyed vision of the Polish soft power.This issue exists from the very beginning (2012), when MOFA decided that Polish embassies should’ve set up a Twitter accounts.

Why it matters for Poland?

In 2017 Polish soft power has been placed among 30 most successful (ranked 24) in the world by McClory’s Soft Power Index. The lack of strategy for national branding and misreading by MOFA what soft power is can prevent it from being used as a significant component of the public diplomacy, which has gained importance in recent years as a form of international political communication aimed at creating mutually beneficial relations with the wider public abroad in order to achieve political objectives of the country. PD should be recognized as a long-term objective. It targets only non-state Japanese actors. Japan still recognizes Poland as an ally and a reliable country, and even if Japanese businesses aren’t involved in Poland on a large scale, the successful PD could intensify this involvement in the foreseeable future – not to mention possible political benefits.