Development, Trade and Foreign Affairs

The Continuity of Diplomatic Practice


(Photo: Mao and Kissinger)

The studies of the momentum of the International Relations indeed helps to lay down the fundamental understanding of the real world politics nowadays. The nature of international relations  itself is highly related to the comprehensive multi-communications between states and other international players to wage war and build peace, to ensure security and maintain stability, and to provide a wide range of opportunities for economic, political, and socio-cultural cooperation. Under the international relations, diplomacy is the activated instrument for states to implement their foreign policy, while at the same time, it is used as the strategic tool to constitute the individual national power within the global system. Diplomacy also permits states to professionally communicate with one another in a secrecy or in any manner. Meanwhile, in the current being particular states could effectively use diplomacy to achieve its own political agenda as it provides states to persuade or use of threat as a channel for implementing soft power. Nevertheless, in the globalising world, the technological progress and other innovated factors have been a reason to disguise the appearance of world politics from time to time, and it even seems to replace the roles of diplomacy. Does diplomacy come to an end? Although there are numerous controversies over the roles of diplomacy in this contexts, rather than arguments of changing to an end, diplomatic practice actually maintains the momentum of its continuity to further develop itself. From this point of view, the continuous evolution of diplomatic practice has settled down on the three basic deliberations on the structure, the procedure, and the agenda.

The current trend is not leading diplomacy to the end of its story, but it renders better services and functions in the global system because so far it is a process of developing structure on diplomacy into a well-stablished institution. Tracing back to the past, the origin of the diplomatic relations started from 2500 BC which happened between city-states written in the cuneiform script in Sumerian language. [1] The relations between city-states basically came from simple trade, the exchange of agricultural products and through religion beliefs. In addition, the traditional structure of diplomacy was constituted to provide a communication between political groups and religion leaders. As given the fact, the needs of regular negotiations between the monarch and the Catholic Church had increasingly found necessary, but given the distance between them the diplomats were formed on behalf of monarch as a state-based activity to the structure of traditional diplomacy. [2] A distance between political groups or head of states and religious leaders had provided opportunities for diplomatic agents to operate their function in a form of representatives and communications. The development of diplomacy had shown in 1535 His Most Christian Majesty, Francois I, King of France, established a resident embassy in Constantinople at the court of Suleiman the Magnificent, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. [3] However, diplomacy did not stop there. It continues to further advance over times by institutionalisation and professionalisation. It was during the eighteenth century that a recognisably modern ministry of foreign affairs became the general rule in Europe and it was the middle of the nineteenth century before China, Japan, and Turkey follow suit. [4] In this sense, the diplomacy had reached to a more modern structure appearing unambiguously as the only channel on the international relations and foreign affairs since the embassies have located under the sovereignty of foreign countries along with better established foreign ministry at home afterward. In the twentieth century, World War One and Two have brought another new type of global order and governance by establishing the League of Nations in 1920 [5] and the United Nations in 1945 [6] respectively. Those stuffs have also laid down a tremendous progress on the diplomatic structure by inserting new players into the game such as Intergovernmental Organisations (IOs), Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs), civil society, interest groups, and individuals as well. In this connection, the process of developing diplomacy from time to time is rather than going to change itself into an end, yet it is becoming well-structured and well-established.

More than structural development, the rules and procedures of diplomacy have also seen a massive continuity which it advances to be more well-designed. Traditional diplomacy had started from a form of bilateral talks with their own secrecy which it has rules and procedures for diplomats’ behaviours later on known as diplomatic protocol. [7] The ideas that the diplomacy is important have increasingly acknowledged by states. Meanwhile, with its practices the diplomacy has also constituted their customs, norms, and a series of rights, privileges, immunities. They were officially and legally introduced to the international relations and global system in accordance with the 1961 Vienna Convention on the Diplomatic Relations and Optional Protocol which consisting of 29 signatories and 69 parties, enter into force on 24 April 1964. [8] Following to the declaration and convention, the diplomats have given more legitimate positions to increasingly play on a wide range of issues in the world politics on behalf of their governments. Furthermore, the growing number of non-state actors generates a process of development on rules and procedures of negotiation as well. These organisations have also engaged itself with the use of diplomacy by having their own representatives for talks. [9] Although these organisations do not have the sovereignty the same as states, but they do have influence on the decision of the international issues as they have more says in the negotiation tables. In this sense, these new emerging institutions have a considerable impact on the conduct of diplomacy and the diplomatic process on their operations by making more complex and adding more burden of interaction. [10] Even though the modern diplomatic immunities, privileges, customs, norms, and its procedures have involved with new actors, but it still carries on the continuity of the state-to-state basis negotiation which is states dominated not only in bilateral but also multilateral diplomacy as a whole.

Last but not least, the agenda of the diplomacy has also carried its continuity to further develop itself by touching more aspects on the international issues. Traditionally, the agenda of diplomacy was significantly narrow which only addressed on several issues mainly associated with war and peace among the states. [11] Nevertheless, in the modern diplomacy a wide range of international issues are put in place to be resolved. As the world become more advancing and globalising, international issues have been dramatically growing numerously as well. It contains a number of new issues including both traditional security and non-traditional security. [12] Interestingly, even though in the traditional issues such as war and peace, the engagement of diplomacy has significantly continued to address in a remarkable way. Along with the new well-established institution and well-designed convention regarding to its privileges and obligations, the diplomacy has been used to cope with regional and international disputes and conflicts by providing more legal mechanisms and peaceful means under the United Nations frameworks, for example peace keeping, peace building, and preventive diplomacy. In fact, during the Cold War period Vietnam war spilt over into Cambodia which had brought Khmer Rouge to power and made tremendous misery to millions of innocent people  [13] at large by grabbing the country into a ideology conflict under picture of the along civil war. [14] Nonetheless, the efforts of diplomacy has brought back all political parties and other countries involved in negotiation and find peaceful resolution under the United Nations framework. Therefore, the 1991 Paris Peace Agreement or Agreement on a Comprehensive Political Settlement of the Conflict in Cambodia has successful achieved to lay down the principle of democracy, rule of law, fundamental freedom, respect for human rights, and free and fair election. [15] Additionally, the new agenda of diplomatic conference such as anti-terrorism, drug trafficking, human trafficking, global financial crisis, and humanitarian assistance has also drawn the world closer than ever before to combat these non-traditional threats. For example, after the 9/11 attack, the United States and its allies mainly such as Great British, France, and Germany have been working together with other countries around the globe to counter terrorist.[16] While at the same time, the agenda of diplomacy was also used to gain for the political objective of the superpower as well. Given the fact that in the 2003 Iraq war, under the pretext of anti-weapon of mass destruction and anti-terrorism the United States sent their troops to Iraq, but during the war period the looting broke out all over the city, but oil ministry was protected; while at the same time, the writing of constitution was done in such a way as to privilege the Iraqi allies of the U.S. to give them more of the oil. [17] In this respect, the agenda of diplomacy has still significantly continued to be the important multidimensional instrument to avoid war, make peace, establish welfare, absorb interests, and maintain security in the context of globalising world.

In the conclusion, rather than the arguments of changing into an end, the diplomatic practice actually maintains the continuous evolution on the three basic components such as the structure, the procedure, and the agenda. Obviously, from time to time the whole picture of diplomatic practice has been gradually reshaping, but actually the nature of it still remains even more important and highly relevant to every aspect than before. This evolution has built well-stablished institutions, better-designed procedures, and more objective agendas of the modern diplomacy. These-days diplomacy has engaged with series of actors including states, association of states, sub-states, International Organisations, Non-governmental Organisations, civil society, interest group, and individuals, managing relationship to mobilise collective actions to advance their interests which so-called ‘Public Diplomacy.’ [18]

Seoul, 26 June 2014

by Khov Ea Hai

Instructed by Jeffrey Robertson


[1] Pauline Kerr and Geoffrey Wiseman, ‘Diplomacy in a Globalizing World, Theories and Practice,” Oxford University Press, 2013, page 16

[2] John Baylis and Steve Smith, ‘The Globalisation of World Politics: An Introduction to International Relations,’ Third Edition, Oxford University Press, New York, 2005, page 389

[3] & [4] G.R. Berridge, ‘Diplomacy:Theory and Practice,’ Fourth Edition, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2010, page 104

[5] ‘The League of Nations, 1920,’ Office of the Historian, U.S. Department of State, accessed on 19 June 2014,  available at (

[6] ‘History of the United Nations,’ United Nations, accessed on 19 June 2014, available at (

[7] John Baylis and Steve Smith, ‘The Globalisation of World Politics: An Introduction to International Relations,’ Third Edition, Oxford University Press, New York, 2005,

[8]  ‘United Nations Treaty Collection,’ United Nations, accessed on 19 June 2014, available at (

[9] “The Role of Non-State Actors” in Jean-Robert Leguey-Feilleux, The Dynamics of Diplomacy, Lynne Reinner Publishers, London, 2009, page 103.

[10] “The Role of Non-State Actors” in Jean-Robert Leguey-Feilleux, The Dynamics of Diplomacy, Lynne Reinner Publishers, London, 2009, page 103.

[11] John Baylis and Steve Smith, ‘The Globalisation of World Politics: An Introduction to International Relations,’ Third Edition, Oxford University Press, New York, 2005

[12] ‘Traditional and Non-traditional Security,’ Institute for Security and Development Policy, accessed on 19 June 2014, available at (

[13]  ‘Khmer Rouge History,’ Cambodian Tribunal Monitor, accessed on 19 June 2014, available at (

[14]  Laura Szakmary, ’The Khmer Rouge and Cambodia,’ The Cold War Museum, accessed on 19 June 2014, available at (

[15] “Agreement on a Comprehensive Political Settlement of the Conflict,” Peace Agreement Digital Collection, United States Institute of Peace, accessed on 19 June 2014, available at (

[16] Charles W. Kegley Jr. and Eugene R. Wittkopf, ‘World Politics: Trend and Transformation,’ Ninth Edition, Library of Congress, 2004, page 489

[17] John Tirman, ‘100 ways America is Screwing up the World,’ HaperCollins, New York, 2006, page23-24

[18]  Jan Melissen, “Public Diplomacy” in Pauline Kerr and Geoffrey Wiseman (Eds), Diplomacy in a Globalizing World: Theories and Prac9ces, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2013, pp.192-208.

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This entry was posted on April 1, 2016 by in International Relations and tagged .






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