Several recent US moves are linked together by some analysts as ways to contain China. Earlier this month, the US, for the first time, invited three Asia-Pacific countries, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand, to the NATO Summit in Chicago, the largest in the organization's history. Last week, teachers at Confucius Institutes in the US seemed to be in danger of losing their visa status. What are the US goals? And how can China develop its soft power? Phoenix TV (PTV) talked with Zhu Wenhui (Zhu), a commentator on current affairs, on these issues.
PTV: Why has the US invited Japan, South Korea and New Zealand to the NATO meeting for the first time?
Zhu: While the US has bilateral military partnerships with Japan, South Korea and New Zealand, it now wants to establish comprehensive large-scale cooperation.
In that case, the US could level up NATO into a kind of global security center. With the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a softer organization than NATO, the US has formed an alliance and a soft framework, but with comprehensive powers, including soft and hard ones.
PTV: What is the aim behind all these recent moves of the US?
Zhu: I think the main purpose is to constrain the rising China. We usually call our development a peaceful rise, but it is easy to discover that we are actually more developing a hard rise of economic strength and with it an expansion of purchasing power.
We are aware of the importance of soft power and now are trying to strengthen it. For example, we have the Confucius Institutes around the world to spread China's language and culture.
The recent rows between the US and China about the proper visas for Chinese language teachers at Confucius Institutes show that the US has realized the influence that China's soft rise is exerting and wants to keep it under control.
PTV: What do we lack in the development of soft power?
Zhu: The most important thing China should work on is to earn a louder voice at international institutions, such as the UN, World Trade Organization (WTO), International Monetary Foundation and World Bank.
We have some say in these organizations, but it is not enough. As a result, we have just been passive in these organizations and rarely have the ability to initiate discussions.
For example, the upcoming Beijing summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will be held from June 6 to 7. But we have to notice that we are not acting decisively in this organization, and the SCO has not shown any great influence on a larger scale in the international community, beyond the members themselves.
On the contrary, the US now has not only the initiative in speaking but also the ability to establish a soft framework to leverage against China's rise from a soft and hard power perspective, such as the TPP.
PTV: Why does the US turn to take advantage of this soft framework now?
Zhu: It is not a recent change but it is a main difference on China policy between the Republican and Democratic parties in the US.
Republicans such as former president George W. Bush, are more hardline toward China but the two countries can actually get along after a breaking-in period.
However, President Barack Obama, like former president Bill Clinton, is used to constraining China within a soft framework. Take China's participation in the WTO as a case in point, Clinton persuaded the US Congress that letting China join the trade organization is beneficial to the US.
President Barack Obama, like former president Bill Clinton, is used to constraining China within a soft framework.
This did turn out to be the best deal for the US because China now has to follow the rules of the WTO, in which the US has the main power. In other words, China is constrained by the framework.
Obama is doing the same thing with the TPP. He is trying, first, to make the organization more influential and then get China into it. We have to realize that the US will take advantage of more and more soft frameworks to limit different areas of China.