As restrictions kept people at home, diplomacy had to go virtual, losing much of its human touch. Yet its tasks involved new complex challenges such as public messaging – even across borders – where misinformation could mix with nationalist sentiments to create new pressures on countries. This panel will explore questions such as: How has the pandemic harmed or strengthened soft power? Who has maintained their reputations emerging from the crisis? How has the pandemic affected the practices of public diplomacy, characterised by contrasting challenges of misinformation and urgent health prerogatives? Will vaccine access and distribution become an instrument of diplomacy? How will concerns about fairness, inequalities, or competition affect the distribution and reopening?
The panellists will present on the following topics:
1. “COVID-19 and Soft-Power ” by Dr Kitti Prasirtsuk
2. “COVID-19 and Public Diplomacy” by Ms Ariel Bogle
3. “COVID-19 and Vaccine Diplomacy ” by Dr Alfred Gerstl
About the Speakers
Kitti Prasirtsuk is Vice Rector for International Affairs and Associate Professor of Political Science at Thammasat University in Thailand, after serving as the Director at the Institute of East Studies there for five years. He is advisory committee for the Asia Center under Japan Foundation, committee of the International Studies Center at the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and used to serve as a strategic committee at the Thai Ministry of Defence (2014-19).
Earning an M.A. from Keio University (Japan) and a Ph.D. from UC Berkeley, Kitti’s recent interest is on soft power in East Asia, U.S.-Thailand alliance, and Japan-Thailand relations. Selected publications include:
- “From Japan Inc. to the FOIP: the Evolving Role of Japanese Businesses in Japan’s Southeast Asia Policy” (John Ciorciari and Kiyoteru Tsusui (eds.), The Courteous Power: Japan and Southeast Asia Relations in the Indo-Pacific Era, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, forthcoming).
- “ASEAN’s Looming Anxiety” (Gilbert Rozman, ed., Joint U.S.-Korean Academic Studies: East Asian Leaders’ Geopolitical Frameworks, New National Identity Impact, and Rising Economic Concerns with China, Washington, D.C.: Korea Economic Institute, 2020).
- “An Ally at the Crossroads: Thailand in the U.S. Alliance System” (Michael Wesley, ed. Global Allies, Canberra: ANU Press, 2017)
- “Thailand in 2015: Bill, Blast, and Beyond” (Asian Survey 56: 1, January/February 2016).
Kitti was a visiting professor at UC Berkeley, teaching “International Relations in Southeast Asia,” and gave lectures at various universities, such as ANU, Munich, Peking, Waseda, and Yonsei. He is regularly invited to speak, including at Columbia University, Nikkei Forum, Beijing Forum, Jeju Forum, and the Korea National Diplomatic Academy (KNDA).
Ariel Bogle is an analyst with ASPI’s International Cyber Policy Centre. Most recently, she was a technology reporter with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, where she covered online disinformation, surveillance and internet culture. She was also technology editor at The Conversation and associate editor with Future Tense, a partnership of Slate, New America and Arizona State University. Her reporting has been published in the New York Times, The Atlantic, Australian Financial Review and Slate, among other places.
Alfred Gerstl is a specialist on International Relations in Southeast Asia. He obtained his PhD at University of Vienna where he also defended his habilitation. Since 2019 he holds a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship (CZ.02.2.69/0.0/0.0/18_070/0010285) at the Department of Asian Studies at Palacký University in Olomouc (Czech Republic). He is also President of the Central European Institute of Asian Studies (CEIAS), a transnational think tank. Previously he lectured at universities in Australia, Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany and Russia. Alfred’s research interests include regional cooperation in Northeast and Southeast Asia, ASEAN’s regional centrality, the Belt and Road Initiative, the South China Sea dispute and the changing notion of security.