Communist Review - With the current globalization and integration comes the increasing importance of country positive image and prestige. Country image (CI) influences not only one’s international relations but also socio-economic development as well as competitiveness. Therefore, the formation and communication of CI is considered a soft power policy in an ever-changing world.

Argentine President Mauricio Marcri playing Vietnamese folk musical instruments at a welcome party hosted by General Secretary, President Nguyen Phu Trong and his spouse _Photo: VnExpress

Some conceptions

Both developing and developed countries understand the importance of cultural diplomacy (CD) as an instrument of soft power that contributes to national interest protection and international status improvement.

Many countries soon began to form policy to communicate CI. Against the backdrop of globalization and integration, virtually all countries are competing to communicate their CI and to be widely understood. To this end, beside hard power (military and economy), soft power, including CD, are often utilized.

With multi-dimensional approaches, scholars, policy makers and practitioners have come up with different definitions of CD. To some scholars, CD can be an instrument of influence expansion and national status establishment, an economic boost, or both. To some others, CD, including language, theater, dance, art, literature, music, religion, history, cuisine, etc., is a vital public diplomacy strategy and a method to foster understanding among countries(1). In general, it is agreed that CD is the kind of diplomacy which uses cultural activities to promote the country's image and reputation and enhance mutual understanding between peoples. In particular, CD is the diplomatic activity of sovereign states to the advantage of their own cultural interest and national foreign cultural objectives, under some certain foreign cultural policies(2). In other words, the concept of CD is an overlap of diplomacy and culture. “Diplomatic activities have always involved the exchange of cultural values ​​among nations and peoples. Therefore, diplomatic activities always have cultural connotations. Meanwhile, culture is effectively used in international relations, thus becoming a significant component in the diplomacy of a modern nation. The most general concept of CD is a form of diplomacy employing cultural means to establish, maintain and develop foreign relations in order to achieve national basic goals, namely security, development, and international status. In this process, countries actively communicate their cultural characteristics, value systems and identities to foster understanding and relations with other countries for the sake of development. At the same time, they selectively absorb international cultural quintessence and advanced scientific achievements in order to enrich their intellectual resource and national identity”(3).

In the age of globalization, CD plays an ever more crucial role, politically, economically and culturally. As to powerful countries, CD is a means of influence expansion. For example, the United States constantly advertises American human rights and democracy values ​​around the world to reach its global goals. Identifying culture as a component of national strength to become a world power, China has set up hundreds of Confucius Institutes on all continents to teach Chinese language and culture. Meanwhile, smaller countries use CD to promote their image and development, thereby gaining more attention and importance. Viet Nam exercises CD as a key instrument to inform the world about a country of rapid growth and political stability(4).

An author states that CI is an intangible asset difficult to be assessed by specific standards(5). From another point of view, CI is "the sum of beliefs and impressions that people hold about a place or a certain country"(6). The image of a country is influenced by the perception of its people, culture, level of economic development, quality of its products, products in which it has a comparative advantage(7). Generally, CI is an overall picture of a country, including its political, economic, cultural and social life. Specifically, CI is manifested in the outstanding areas easily associated with that country.

Each country has its own "brand”, a certain image in the eyes of the international community, however strong or weak, modern or outdated, developed or developing it is. Along with historical development and human progress, CI does not remain unchanged. Therefore, in each period and development stage, proper strategies are needed to promote the country's image and specific characteristics.

Forming and communicating CI is a combination of theoretical and practical activities in all aspects of life to advertise the strength and beauty of a country, including the nature, society, economy, culture, politics and people, while overcoming and gradually removing its weaknesses and limitations. Moreover, the human factor is of paramount importance, as each citizen is an "ambassador" who connects the cultures and disperses the beautiful image of his country.

CI communication has long been appreciated as the key element in the formation and implementation of foreign policies, as well as an instrument of soft power by several countries. A positive CI will strengthen the soft power of a country, thus foster economic development and integration. Otherwise, a negative one will downgrade its prestige, status and foreign relations. As a consequence, CI should go in line with the interest of the country and the will of the international community.

Each nation has its own approaches toward CI formation and communication; however, the final goals of this process all persist in national interest.

Firstly, communicating CI is a good investment, as it attracts capital, boosts tourism and national brand. Thanks to CD, the image of a country, its people, together with its culture, history and tradition will be widely spread, turning the country into an ideal destination of investment and cooperation.

Secondly, communicating CI helps with understanding, changing deep-rooted prejudices and building trust in international relations. Consequently, countries can reach agreement in political, economic and military areas. Trust lays the foundation for all relations. Only when trust, especially strategic one, has been built, can a country win the heart and sympathy of people, improve diplomatic relations, settle conflicts and form the basis for international cooperation.

Thirdly, the communication of CI is not one-way communication, as interaction, learning and exchange are involved. Understanding and respecting differences are the foundation for cultural exchange, sharing, cooperation and exchange. Therefore, a country can absorb international cultural quintessence in order to enrich its cultural identity.

Building and communicating Viet Nam’s image in the development process

The Party and Government of Viet Nam are increasingly aware of the importance of culture and CD in the national construction and development process, especially in the period of industrialization, modernization and international integration. Recently, the formation and communication of CI has been identified as a crucial task of external information work, particularly in Viet Nam’s deep and comprehensive international integration. The Overall Strategy for international  integration through 2020, with a vision toward 2030 sets the following goals: enhancing the image of the country and people, widely introducing Viet Nam’s image to the world, making new contributions to the international cultural life. Directive No. 25/CT-TTg, dated September 10, 2021, of the Prime Minister, "on accelerating the implementation of Viet Nam's foreign cultural strategy", puts an emphasis on communicating CI in various forms.

Over the years, Viet Nam has made great efforts to promote CI through various means, such as external dissemination; international cooperation in cultural event organization and cultural production; construction of cultural and historical facilities; exchange of culture, education and art delegations, organization of cultural activities in overseas Vietnamese community, in investment and trade promotion activities. Thereby, the country and people of Viet Nam, with distinctive cultural values, ​​has been brought closer to people of foreign countries. The introduction is quick, effective and appropriate, laying a good impression on other peoples. Therefore, international friends, especially those less informed about Viet Nam, can well understand the country, believe in its innovation and international integration policy, and appreciate its potentials, strength and contributions to regional and international development process. Moreover, countries show deeper and more practical interest in learning about Viet Nam.

Viet Nam is known not only for its unique national cultural identity with famous cultural heritages, its historical tradition of fighting against foreign invaders, but also its transition into "a reliable destination for foreign investors", "an emerging economy", "Asia's leading cultural destination". In addition, it is a strongly rising country, one of brilliant "models" of effective poverty reduction as well as peaceful and stable environment maintenance; a country of successful innovation, extensive international integration, a reliable and responsible partner, with a proactive role in the regional and international affairs.

CD plays the role of paving the way, catalyzing, promoting, mobilizing and absorbing. It works closely with other diverse diplomatic activities to raise the status of the country and make the most of international support in socio-economic development. That is clearly demonstrated in the following aspects:

Firstly, consolidating and maintaining a peaceful, stable and favorable environment for development. With the great mission of "protecting the country from afar, before the occurrence of dangers", while flexibly and creatively promoting international cooperation and mobilizing all international favorable conditions for national construction and development, Viet Nam's diplomacy, including CD, has improved the efficiency, expanded and deepened the relations with foreign partners. As a result, Viet Nam has 30 strategic and comprehensive partners, including all permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, most members of major political and economic groups in the world, especially neighboring countries.

Secondly, contributing to boost economic development, laying a foundation for diplomacy in all fields, including political, economic, cultural and social, especially economic one, for national interest. Furthermore, communicating CI to attract large investment, boosting trade and tourism, using developed countries’ scientific, technological, educational resources and knowledge to reach socio-economic development goals.

Thirdly, making the most of international support to firmly protect the country's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. Viet Nam's diplomacy has worked, in terms of diplomacy, legality and international public opinion, at regional organizations and institutions, to solve problems related to national interests and sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity. In addition, Viet Nam has fought against false, hostile claims and negatively distorted information, thus protecting the regime and national security.

Fourthly, expanding cultural exchanges and fostering mutual understanding so as to lay more solid foundation for stronger bonds between Viet Nam and other countries, especially ones of few relations with Viet Nam. Furthermore, gradually building trust, deepening, stabilizing and sustaining the partnership. Through major diplomatic events in Viet Nam and visits Vietnamese leaders paid to other countries, cultural and art exchange activities have actively changed the way international partners see Vietnam, therefore fostering mutual understanding and promoting cooperation and friendship.

Fifthly, being a bridge connecting the overseas Vietnamese community and the domestic one, enhancing national strength, tightening solidarity, arousing national pride and a sense of provenance, thus encouraging expats to positively contribute to the development of the country.

Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, CI is often communicated online, which starts a strong competition among countries in promoting their images and brands.

To increase “Vietnamese recognition” on a global scale, the following solutions should be adopted:

Firstly, developing an overall and comprehensive national strategy to promote CI. The strategy should be in line with each stage and period of the country's development. Besides, there should be the coordination and connection between regions, branches and fields, as well as the participation of various sectors in the society. Currently, several countries have developed communication strategies and successfully deployed it on a large scale. Their mechanisms and policies are regularly updated, supplemented and perfected in pace with the development of the countries. An overall strategy, which integrates CD with the Socio-Economic development strategy, Cultural development strategy and Tourism development strategy to create the coherence in the regional and national socio-economic development goals, will pay the way for the effective communication of Viet Nam’s image.

Secondly, putting Viet Nam on the map. The attractiveness, uniqueness, and outstanding characteristics are of paramount importance to CI. Throughout history, the Vietnamese people have formed a distinct and unique identity. In this day and age, more "pure Vietnamese" cultural products, in which both traditional and modern values ​​​​are integrated, which have distinctive charms in the international mosaic, are really in need.

Thirdly, forming a standard value system and a beautiful personality peculiar to Vietnamese people, especially in the comprehensive and extensive international integration. The Documents of the 13th Party Congress point out: "Focusing on research, identification and formation of the national value system, cultural value system and human standards along with preserving and developing Vietnamese family value system”(8). Core values ​​of the Vietnamese, including passionate patriotism, national self-reliance, solidarity, a sense of community, compassion, tolerance, high morality, gratitude, diligence and creativity in work, etc. need perfecting in line with new development requirements. An emphasis should be put on the education of ethics, tradition, characters and purposes of life. Raising people's intellectual level should also be a national policy, especially when Viet Nam is outdated in terms of science, technology and lacks high-quality human resources. Last but not least, "patriotism, sense of community, self-reliance, national pride and aspiration to rise up should be aroused"(9) so each citizen will increasingly respect, preserve, practice and pass on those traditional beautiful values.

Fourthly, using the increased national soft power to advertise Vietnamese values ​​and achievements. Along with Viet Nam’s strengthened power, enhanced position and prestige, its geo-strategic value has also drawn more attention of a number of major countries. Those basic advantages gain support for Viet Nam’s renovation policies and international integration, as well as positive and practical assessment from other countries.

Fifthly, promoting cooperation and cultural exchange in various forms that permeate all areas of life. In the wake of the complicated and unpredictable COVID-19 pandemic, it is necessary to find new ways of promotion, such as application of digital technology in online art and culture programs, advertising CI through social media, linking fanpages and youtube.

Sixthly, socializing promotion activities and integrating CI into political, economic and cultural activities, etc. and mobilizing all resources, all sectors and the whole community to promote CI. The combined efforts of agencies, ministries, branches, businesses, individuals, the consular network in hundreds of countries around the world, overseas students, etc. have introduced Viet Nam to the world and vice versa. In addition, the overseas Vietnamese community’s efforts will "contribute to the conservation and practice of the Vietnamese language, cultural identity and national traditions, and the attraction of high-quality external resources for the sustainable development of the country” (10).


In a chaotic world of intertwined advantages, opportunities, difficulties, challenges and potential uncertainties for the development process, Viet Nam is making positive changes in all the economic, political and social aspects. To be more specific, Viet Nam’s image, status and prestige are highly appreciated in the international arena. Moreover, the international community's trust in Viet Nam's political institutions and national governance capacity is increasingly solid. On top of that, the aspiration for a powerful country is awakened. Therefore, the image of a Viet Nam that is stable, full of development potentials, and active in the world’s peace building process needs to be widespread, contributing to economic growth, political and social stability, security and national defense.

The Documents of the 13th Party Congress highlights the task of "well organizing external information and promoting Viet Nam’s CI, people and culture to the world". The quality and efficiency of Viet Nam's CD should be further enhanced in order to comprehensively develop Vietnamese culture and people. Absorbing cultural values ​​of humanity; preserving and promoting national cultural values; polishing the image of the country and people, by 2030 the image of Viet Nam being widely introduced around the world and the culture making well-appreciated contribution to the world’s culture can also be named as major orientations. In the upcoming time, with those orientations, CD, together with political diplomacy and economic diplomacy, will continue utilizing the potential, strengths and achievements to bring the country into a new stage of development./.


(1) Cultural Diplomacy, #

(2) Banh Tan Luong: Cultural diplomacy and China's soft power: A globalization perspective (Vietnamese translation), Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press, Beijing, 2008, p. 78

(3) Pham Gia Khiem: "Modern Vietnamese diplomacy in the integration period", book: Vietnamese comprehensive diplomacy in the integration period, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2015, p. 507


(5) Banh Tan Luong: Cultural diplomacy and China's soft power: A globalization perspective (Vietnamese translation), Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press, Beijing, 2008, p. 439

(6), (7) Jorge de Vincente: “State branding in the 21st century”,

(8) Documents of the 13th National Congress, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, book I, p. 143

(9) Documents of the 13th National Congress, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, book II, p. 135

(10) Directive No. 25/CT-TTg, dated September 10, 2021, of the Prime Minister, “On accelerating the implementation of Viet Nam's foreign cultural strategy”

This article was published in the Communist Review No. 976 (October 2021)