Internet diplomacy on the rise

Forget pingpong diplomacy; Internet diplomacy is here.

Nearly 30 years after U.S. and Chinese leaders cracked the diplomatic

wall via table tennis, the Internet is toppling barriers to diplomacy by

connecting people all over the world — regardless of whether a nation's

leader approves.

The challenge for the State Department is to use the Internet to further

its diplomatic mission, according to Ira Magaziner, the former White House

adviser who coordinated the government's strategy on global electronic commerce.

"With the Internet, it's impossible for countries to control the flow

of information to its people," Magaziner told State Department officials

Monday during the NetDiplomacy 2000 conference in Washington, D.C. "Countries

who thought they could control it didn't understand the Internet."

Magaziner told State officials that they should have Web sites designed

to interact with host-country populations. Sites should raise questions

and invite people to comment. They should offer information on American

society and culture, including sports and movies — things that people will

connect with, he said.

"It used to be sufficient to have contact with a very small elite,"

he said. Governments could build and shape international relations through

communications among a few leaders at the top.

"In the Internet Age, we are going to have to interact with everybody,"

he said. "It will be a constant interaction [with populations], and we're

going to have to respond very quickly as things come up."

Although this kind of interaction will make diplomacy more difficult

in some respects, it also has advantages to people in all countries, according

to Magaziner.

"It will be much harder to make devils out of people you've never seen

or met when you've met them on the Internet," he said.

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