Cultural diplomacy is defined as “the exchange of ideas, information, art and other aspects of culture among nations and their peoples in order to foster mutual understanding.” It has always been an active part of every international relations context, from sending explorers and travelers as “informal ambassadors” to launching transnational trade routes, cultural exchange programs, sending international delegations, organizing cultural events abroad, and participating in international athletic competitions. The very essence of cultural diplomacy is tied to the broader concept, that of soft power, in opposition to hard power, which is based on a country’s military, demographic, and economic strength. Soft power is defined as “the ability to affect others through the cooptive means of framing the agenda, persuading, and eliciting positive attraction in order to obtain preferred outcomes.” Using a variety of tools, such as culture, moral values, and ideas, it is the power of attraction and influence, embodying a qualitative assessment of the level at which a nation’s perceived values and culture inspire affinity or attraction in others. Starting from these two fundamental concepts, this book gives a brief overview of the topic, tracing the trajectory of cultural diplomacy in relation to the exercise of soft power. First, it covers the main stages of soft power’s historical development and then examines how different nations and regions of the world have, each in its own way, employed cultural diplomacy to achieve specific political goals internationally. In light of the recent health emergency of the global spread of the coronavirus, the book concludes with a reflection on how the different “cultural character” of each country has led to a series of very different solutions and strategic choices, in terms of emergency management and political and media communication. Mastering the art of cultural diplomacy is more important now than ever in this historical era of a global system based on perpetually evolving rules that are not circumscribed, where exchanges and international dialogue literally transcend geographic borders and develop through constantly new, alternative channels. One of the most interesting new developments is the entry of new “diplomatic” players on the international scene, i.e., non-public entities that are establishing themselves as key players within international relations through special initiatives and projects.


Gaetano Castellini, nato nel 1969, nel 2013 ha costituito la sua società di consulenza GCC Relations specializzata in Relazioni Istituzionali e Internazionali e nel 2016 la B2G Strategy, società di consulenza strategica culturale. Nel 2015 ha pubblicato il suo primo libro: La Candidatura. Expo: storia di un successo italiano.