Diplomatic gift

The Winchester Hoard (Iron Age) may have been a diplomatic gift.[1]

A diplomatic gift is a gift given by a diplomat, politician or leader when visiting a foreign country. Usually the gift is reciprocated by the host. The use of diplomatic gifts dates back to the ancient world and givers have competed to outdo each other in the lavishness of their gifts. Examples include silks given to the West by the Byzantines in the early Middle Ages,[2] the luxury book,[3] and panda diplomacy by the Chinese in the twentieth century.

The Middle Ages

In 757 Byzantine emperor Constantine V gave Pippin III of Francia a mechanical organ intended to indicate the superiority of Byzantine technology.[4]

Early modern

Gift giving was an important part of the culture of the Ottoman Empire and of British-Ottoman relations. Ottoman diplomatic practices were mainly geared towards establishing Ottoman superiority in any foreign relations and the exchange of gifts reinforced that view of "universal empire" that governed the bombastic diplomatic rhetoric of the empire.[5]

The memoirs of James Porter criticize the submission of the foreign ambassadors to Ottoman rulers:

"Whoever is acquainted with the Oriental practice, and knows the ostentation, pride, and haughtiness of the Turkish government, must know that they look upon, and consider such presents as actual tributes".

The role of gift giving in establishing diplomatic relations is seen in the Capitulations of the Ottoman Empire. First the queen sends gifts of tribute called pışkeşleri and with the acceptance of those gifts hedaya hayr-ı kabulda formal relations should be established.[6] This culture was associated with corruption and bribery and was essential to maintaining diplomatic relations. Baron Paget once said "If we can't find money to give the ministers their usual presents ... we who have ever passed with an esteem superior to all other nations shall make ourselves the most contemptible". Similar observations were made by Henry Grenville:

"money is the supreme mover of all measures in this corrupt, irregular, ill-conducted government; however that might reflect upon a Christian state, it carries no infamy with it here."

Nineteenth century

After the Congress of Vienna (1814–15), Rundell, Bridge, and Rundell, goldsmiths to the British royal family and government, prepared 22 snuff-boxes to a value of 1000 guineas each to be given as diplomatic gifts.[7]

In the mid 19th century, the Chinese diplomat Qiying gifted intimate[clarification needed] portraits of himself to representatives from Italy, Great Britain, the United States, and France as part of treaty negotiations with the West over control of land and trade in China after the First Opium War.[8]

Twentieth century

When he was the US Secretary of State, James Baker accepted a shotgun from the Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union, Eduard Shevardnadze.[9]

Missteps

Diplomatic gifts have the potential to seal international friendships, but also to be rebuffed, to seem mismatched, or to accidentally send the wrong message. Taiwan rejected the People's Republic of China's offer of a Panda.[10] A 2012 gift of a "British" table tennis table to President Obama seemed ideal until it was revealed that it was designed in Britain but made in China, evoking worries about the decline of British manufacturing industry.[11]

Gallery

Diplomatic gifts take diverse forms:

References

  1. ^ Alberge, Dalya (8 September 2003). "Golden hoard of Winchester gives up its secret". The Times. Retrieved 2 August 2010.
  2. ^ "Silken diplomacy" by Anna Muthesius in Shepard J. & Franklin, Simon. (Eds.) (1992) Byzantine Diplomacy: Papers from the Twenty-fourth Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies, Cambridge, March 1990. Aldershot: Variorum, pp. 236–248. ISBN 0860783383
  3. ^ "The luxury book as diplomatic gift" by John Lowden in Shepard J. & Franklin, Simon. (Eds.) (1992) Byzantine Diplomacy: Papers from the Twenty-fourth Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies, Cambridge, March 1990. Aldershot: Variorum, pp. 249–260.
  4. ^ Wickham, Chris. (2010) The inheritance of Rome: A history of Europe from 400 to 1000. London: Penguin Books, p. 228. ISBN 9780140290141
  5. ^ Talbot, Michael (2017). British-Ottoman Relations, 1661-1807: Commerce and Diplomatic Practice in 18th-century Istanbul. p. 10.
  6. ^ Talbot, Michael (2017). British-Ottoman Relations, 1661-1807: Commerce and Diplomatic Practice in 18th-century Istanbul. p. 106.
  7. ^ Marcia Pointon, "Surrounded with brilliants: Miniature portraits in eighteenth century England", The Art Bulletin, Vol. 83, No. 1, (March 2001), pp. 48–71.
  8. ^ Koon, Yeewan (2012). "The Face of Diplomacy in 19th-Century China: Qiying's Portrait Gifts". In Johnson, Kendall (ed.). Narratives of Free Trade: The Commercial Cultures of Early US-China Relations. Hong Kong University Press. pp. 131–148.
  9. ^ James A. Baker III, The Politics of Diplomacy: Revolution, War and Peace, 1989–1992 (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1993)
  10. ^ We're not wild about your pandas, China told by Richard Spencer, The Daily Telegraph, 24 March 2006. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
  11. ^ David Cameron's table tennis table gift to Barack Obama made in China by James Orr, The Telegraph, 18 March 2012. Retrieved 17 February 2014.

Further reading

  • Jacoby, D. "Silk economics and cross-cultural artistic interaction: Byzantium, the Muslim World, and the Christian West", Dumbarton Oaks Papers 58 (2004:197–240).

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