Wednesday 13 Oct 2021 | 07:30 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 13 Oct 2021 | 07:30 | SYDNEY

Sponsored visits part of the diplomatic machinery


Rory Medcalf


30 March 2009 14:14

Some of the commentary on the ‘Fitzgibbon goes to China’ controversy would have us believe that there is something intrinsically wrong with one country’s entities – government or otherwise – funding visits by another country’s politicians. There isn’t. What’s wrong is when the activity is less than transparent, especially when the politician in question fails to declare it.

Sponsored visits do not have some crudely sinister intent of capturing or comprising the future loyalties of the visitor. Rather, such visits are based on the assumption that familiarity will breed something other than mistrust or contempt. It makes perfect sense for a nation to encourage potential future decision-makers from other nations to understand its worldview. This is part of what foreign ministries are meant to do. Australia’s does – just scroll down to Special Visits Program in this section of the DFAT annual report (and someone please tell the authors how to spell Gandhi while they’re at it).

Anyway, sometimes sponsored visits backfire, with the host country making the unfortunate discovery that to be known is not necessarily to be loved.