Recently, the concept of public diplomacy (soft power) appears less and less often in public discourses, which is associated with a change in the perception of this tool in the context of geopolitical conflicts. Whereas soft power was previously used to strengthen international influence through culture, education and values, it is now increasingly seen in the context of propaganda or information attacks. In an environment where trust in international institutions and the media is declining, soft power is losing its attractiveness and effectiveness. Public discourse is increasingly focusing on issues of security and national interests, leaving cultural and humanitarian aspects in the background.


This transformation is especially noticeable against the backdrop of a growing number of geopolitical conflicts, where information resources are actively used by countries to promote their interests. This leads to the fact that even good initiatives can be viewed with suspicion. Thus, geopolitical tensions and conflicts have changed the perception of public diplomacy, shifting the emphasis to direct methods of influencing and protecting national interests.


Against this background, for such middle powers as the Republic of Kazakhstan, it is strategic to promote joint tools of public diplomacy, which, in the context of the perception of this concept through the prism of propaganda, is transformed into public diplomacy for peace-loving Kazakhstan. This article analyzes the development of public diplomacy in Kazakhstan, as well as its application in Germany and China, through the theoretical prism of famous scholars in soft power and public diplomacy.


Development of public diplomacy in Kazakhstan


Promoting the state brand and public diplomacy of Kazakhstan abroad is a complex process that includes diplomatic efforts, cultural initiatives and economic strategies. Kazakhstan focuses on its achievements in international relations, such as the closure of the Semipalatinsk test site and the renunciation of nuclear weapons, which shows the country as peace-loving and responsible. Its chairmanship of the OSCE and membership in the UN Security Council emphasize Kazakhstan’s active role in global politics, and the Astana process to resolve the conflict in Syria demonstrates its ability to mediate in international conflicts.

Cultural and scientific initiatives also play an important role in creating a positive image of Kazakhstan. One of the significant events was the holding of EXPO 2017, which attracted international attention. The project “Modern Kazakhstani culture in the global world” was also initiated, which was supposed to focus on the cultural achievements of the country, contributing to the creation of a multifaceted image of Kazakhstan.


However, Kazakhstan faces a number of challenges, such as insufficient infrastructure for tourists and businessmen. In addition, despite the presence of various activities, there is no clear and coordinated strategy for building a national brand. The example of Germany with the Land of Ideas brand shows how important it is to have a single and clear image that unites all efforts.


Several initiatives have been taken to promote Kazakhstan’s national brand, including the launch of a national branding competition and the creation of the “We are Eurasia” brand idea, highlighting the country’s geographic and cultural location. However, the results of the competition were not published in the media by 2019 and later. An important step was the creation of a commission for the formation and promotion of national and regional brands, coordinating efforts to promote the image of Kazakhstan back in 2015; there is no information about the activities of this commission.


To successfully promote public diplomacy and national branding, Kazakhstan needs to develop a clear and coherent strategy, improve infrastructure and conditions for tourists and businesses, and actively promote cultural and scientific achievements in the international arena. The use of social media and modern technologies will allow you to effectively disseminate information about Kazakhstan and interact with an international audience. Thus, an integrated approach, including diplomatic, cultural and economic initiatives, as well as the active use of modern marketing strategies, is the key to successfully promoting the state brand and public diplomacy of Kazakhstan.


Kazakhstan public diplomacy in Germany


To date, Kazakh public diplomacy in Germany has focused on cultural events dedicated to Kazakhstan, such as art exhibitions, concerts, film screenings and national festivals. Many cultural events are associated with the Kazakh poet Abai Kunanbayev and the Kazakh singer Dimash Kudaibergenov. For example, a monument to the Kazakh poet Abay Kunanbayev was unveiled in Berlin. Various cultural and scientific events are also organized in honor of the poet. Over the past two years, there have been about ten cultural and humanitarian events organized by the Kazakh Embassy in Berlin, and about five events organized by the Consulate General in Frankfurt am Main. The embassy and diplomatic missions also actively participate in political meetings with German politicians and think tank staff. Separately, the German-Kazakh association and cultural center “Miras” operate in Germany.


Given current world events and their impact on Kazakhstan’s reputation, it seems reasonable to organize another Year of Kazakhstan in both Germany and China in the near future, as it is now more important than ever to improve German-Kazakh relations and establish realistic dialogue.


Public diplomacy of Kazakhstan in China


Kazakhstan is actively developing cultural relations with China through various initiatives and projects. As part of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s visit to China in 2023, an agreement was reached to open cultural centers in both countries that would focus on museum and library services, music, cinema and language teaching. Currently, cultural centers of China and Kazakhstan have already been opened in both countries. An agreement on a mutual visa-free regime between China and Kazakhstan has come into force. The first “Lu Ban Workshop” opened in Kazakhstan, a center for Chinese traditional medicine serves the local population, and a branch of the Northwestern Polytechnic University of China was opened, and the opening ceremony of the Year of Kazakhstan Tourism in China was successfully held in Beijing, within the framework of which more than 50 events were held in major cities such as Beijing, Xi’an, Shanghai, Urumqi, Hangzhou and Chengdu. These events are aimed at promoting Kazakhstan’s tourism resources and attracting Chinese tourists. The progress of humanitarian and cultural cooperation between the two countries is becoming greater and greater, and the foundations of friendship are becoming stronger and stronger.


Kazakhstan and China organize mutual theater tours, concerts, exchange exhibitions and translations of classical literature. Joint film projects and broadcasts of Kazakh films and musical works on Chinese TV channels are also planned. Kazakhstan provides scholarships and exchange programs for students and scientists. Research centers for the study of Kazakhstan have been opened in China, and the Kazakh language is taught in some universities. In addition, as part of the cooperation, joint laboratories and research projects are being created to develop new technologies and improve the level of scientific research in the field of agriculture and industry.


State visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Kazakhstan, which took place on July 2 of this year. further deepened Sino-Kazakh cultural exchanges and cooperation, and built a new bridge between the two peoples.


Both China and Germany are important partners for Kazakhstan, and in both cases, Kazakhstan actively uses cultural diplomacy to strengthen bilateral relations. In Germany, the emphasis is on cultural events and historical connections through figures such as Abai Kunanbayev and the presence of an active Kazakh diaspora living throughout Germany. In China, Kazakhstan seeks to strengthen cultural and tourism ties by organizing numerous events and creating cultural centers.


Public diplomacy in China is more intensely focused on promoting tourism and cultural exchange, while in Germany there is a greater emphasis on cultural ties, as well as hosting major events such as the Year of Kazakhstan. Taking into account the fact that not the full potential of Kazakhstan’s public diplomacy has been revealed in both strategically important partners, it is necessary to develop a number of recommendations for promoting Kazakhstan’s public diplomacy in both countries.


Key recommendations for promoting public diplomacy in Kazakhstan are as follows:


  1. Identifying the key ideas that Kazakhstan wants to promote in both Germany and China. For example, in Germany, Kazakhstan can position itself as the gateway to Eurasia, that is, expanding cooperation with Kazakhstan will allow German business to actively expand markets for the export of goods to such large countries as Russia and China. In China, the idea of the Great Silk Road can be promoted, that is, against the background of geopolitical challenges and resistance of Western countries to China, Kazakhstan can position itself as a reliable partner that can open up the opportunity to develop the economy in conditions of global instability. It is very important here to have a visual representation of Kazakhstan in both countries, for example, a national brand.
  2. Identify target groups for promoting public diplomacy. The main goal of Kazakhstan’s public diplomacy in Germany and China is to increase the country’s awareness among the public. The target group is the population reached through cultural events, education, tourism and the media. In the political sector, emphasis should be placed on indirect interaction through semi-autonomous institutions, for example, in Germany these are foundations close to political parties like the Konrad Adenauer Foundation or think tanks like the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. Economic cooperation requires contact with business associations and research institutes. For economic cooperation, Kazakhstan needs to interact more with business associations and research institutions, such as the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and other research and analytical structures. The science and technology sector includes collaboration with universities and environmental technology centers to develop green technologies and innovation.
  3. Make an action plan. The action plan for promoting Kazakhstan’s public diplomacy in Germany and China includes the organization of cultural events, educational programs, tourism initiatives, economic forums and exhibitions, as well as media and PR activities. In Germany, the emphasis is on exhibitions, concerts, film screenings and the celebration of significant Kazakh dates to attract the attention of the German audience. In China, events focus on festivals and exhibitions dedicated to the Silk Road, as well as promoting the Belt and Road Initiative. Educational programs include the exchange of students and scientists, the provision of scholarships, the organization of scientific conferences and the opening of research centers in universities. Tourism initiatives are aimed at attracting tourists through promotional campaigns, information stands and presentations about the tourism potential of Kazakhstan. Economic forums and exhibitions are organized to present investment opportunities and interact with business associations. Media and PR activities include publications in the media, the creation of columns in magazines, and the use of social networks to promote a positive image of Kazakhstan. Scientific and technical cooperation is carried out through the establishment of partnerships with research institutes and universities, participation in joint scientific projects and the creation of laboratories. These events are aimed at strengthening cultural, educational and economic ties, as well as creating a positive image of Kazakhstan in the international arena.


The development of public diplomacy of Kazakhstan in Germany and China plays an important role in enhancing the international image and strengthening bilateral relations. In Germany, the emphasis is on cultural events, historical ties and the active participation of the Kazakh diaspora, which contributes to the deepening of cultural exchange and economic ties. In China, the focus is on developing tourism and cultural exchange through the organization of numerous events and the establishment of cultural centers.


To successfully promote public diplomacy, Kazakhstan needs to develop a clear and coherent strategy, improve infrastructure for tourists and businesses, and actively promote cultural and scientific achievements in the international arena. An integrated approach, including diplomatic, cultural and economic initiatives, as well as the active use of modern marketing strategies, is the key to successfully promoting the state brand and public diplomacy of Kazakhstan.



Chinese Studies Centre