The 2014 Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) was held earlier this month in Boao, China to discuss future economic and political reform for Asian and Australasian nations. The forum, which is modeled after the annual World Economic Forum held in Switzerland, is committed to promoting regional economic cooperation with participating states. This year, the four-day conference attracted over 3,000 global figures including Chinese Premier Li Keiqang and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, as well as executives from multinational corporations such as Lenovo, Apple, and Samsung.
Given China’s leading role in the BFA, the country has the advantage of setting the agenda. This year’s main topics of discussion was on “Reviving the Silk Road” and “Urbanization of People”. Although the BFA is technically a non-governmental organization, it has strong ties to Beijing. The forum was originally created to focus on economic issues, but has expanded over the years to include political topics. For example, some of the matters discussed this year included China-US relations in the Asia-Pacific region, a code of conduct for cyberspace, and potential cooperation in South China Sea—the latter being an issue of political controversy throughout the past few years.
China’s role in the BFA is definitely significant in affecting its public diplomacy. In the Shanghai Daily, Zhang Zhongkai argues that reform can be China’s best approach towards public diplomacy. According to Zhang, “credibility is the cornerstone of effective public diplomacy”. Zhang definitely makes a strong argument by saying that credibility is essential in public diplomacy. In order to influence the foreign public, nations need to earn the trust and approval from them. Without the credibility, nations would struggle to influence the opinion of foreign publics.