Soft power approach pivotal to rising nation’s acceptance in world arena

Source:Global Times Published: 2014-7-17 18:58:02

Joshua Kurlantzick, Charm Offensive: How China's Soft Power is Transforming the World (Chinese Edition), Central Compilation & Translation Press, June 30, 2014

When the whole world is talking about China's increasingly robust economic and military growth, they know it is not only the "hard power" that enables China to be so influential. Soft power, a term coined by Harvard professor Joseph Nye in 1990, is key.

In fact, since about a decade ago, China's soft power diplomacy has become an issue of both academic and policy-making significance.

Along with a few new concepts being put forward, such as "peaceful rise" proposed by then premier Wen Jiabao during his 2003 visit to the US and the "harmonious world" presented by then president Hu Jintao at 2005 Asia-Africa Summit, China's soft power diplomacy started to take shape.

As a veteran of international conflicts that employs soft power skills to influence the globe, the US has sensed China's new disposition. US experts in international relations have also shifted their attention to this perspective.

In 2007, Joshua Kurlantzick, then a scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and currently a journalist and a fellow for Southeast Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote the award-winning Charm Offensive: How China's Soft Power is Transforming the World. Seven years have passed, and its Chinese edition has finally arrived.

There is a whole lot that has happened during this period of time, and some potential readers might doubt if this book still has practical significance. Their doubt may be removed after they read it.

By focusing on how China endeavors to win favor and trust from both neighbors and distant nations by using soft power, a long-term vision, this book can still basically reflect China's diplomatic pace, although the country's military strength has swelled greatly and its GDP has outgrown Japan to be world No.2.

But we suggest that the book must be read in the light of some latest developments in the big picture of international relations, especially in the Asia-Pacific region. The recent couple of years have seen the effect of China's "charm offensive" declining, as a growing number of Asian nations have started to turn a cold shoulder to this powerful neighbor. More importantly, through the "pivot to Asia" strategy, the US has blown the horn to engage in a competition with China in this region.

Kurlantzick is not playing the role of a propagandist for Chinese soft power in his book. In the last chapter, he sounded the alarm to the US that it is time to deal with China's growing soft power.

The author believed that the "charm offensive" has been gradually but profoundly transforming both regional and global orders, which in some way has been encroaching on the vested interests of the US.

But the author clearly points out that although the bilateral relationship between China and the US is being readjusted and China's soft power is growing, these changes cannot convincingly prove that China is anywhere near equivalent to the US in terms of soft power.

Besides military strength, Kurlantzick insists that it is US values that will keep Washington sustaining a dominant position in world affairs, because compared with China, US ideals and culture are more appealing.

This might change in the future. But this issue raised by the author is truly key to China's rise.

Also as a journalist, Kurlantzick has a good command of writing skills. Without intrusive jargon, graphs or data, the content is very reader-friendly.

Posted in: Fresh off the Shelf, Viewpoint

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