Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Undermining yourself

Joseph S. Nye Jr., a professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, offered some thoughts about soft power and about the Chinese attempts to use it.

China’s repression undoes its charm offensive
I was asked to lecture at Beijing University on soft power, the ability to use attraction and persuasion to get what you want without force or payment… The auditorium that day was packed, and I had been told that more than a thousand articles have been published in China on this topic. That may have something to do with the fact that in 2007, President Hu Jintao told the 17th Congress of the Communist Party that China needed to increase its soft power.

Over the past decade, China’s economic and military might have grown impressively. But that has frightened its neighbors into looking for allies to balance rising Chinese hard power…

The result of this regional wariness is that China is spending billions on a charm offensive to increase its soft power. Chinese aid programs to Africa and Latin America are not limited by the institutional or human rights concerns that constrain Western aid…

For all these efforts, however, China has had a limited return on its investment. A recent BBC poll found that opinions of China’s influence are positive in much of Africa and Latin America but predominantly negative in the United States, Europe, India, Japan and South Korea…

Great powers often try to use culture and narrative to create soft power that promotes their advantage, but it is not an easy sell when it is inconsistent with their domestic realities.

Shortly after the 2008 Olympics, China’s domestic crackdown in Tibet and Xianjiang and its resumed pressure on human rights activists undercut the very gains in soft power it had built up. The Shanghai Expo was a great success but was followed by the jailing of Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo. And for all the efforts to turn Xinhua and China Central Television into competitors of CNN and the BBC, there is little international audience for brittle propaganda. In the wake of the Middle East revolutions, China is tightening its controls on the Internet and arresting activists for fear that the Egyptian example might inspire similar protests…

After my lecture at Beijing University, a student asked how China could increase its soft power… I told the student that much of a country’s soft power is generated by its civil society and that China had to lighten up on its censorship and controls if it wished to succeed. But I also admitted that he would probably not find my answer very helpful.

See also: Stadium monument of China-Costa Rica friendship: president

Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla on Friday said the newly built National Stadium donated by China will be a "permanent monument of friendship" between the two nations…

Chinese community pledges 120 houses for needy in Botswana

The Chinese community in Botswana promised on Friday to build 120 houses for the local needy, showing their support to Botswanan President Ian Khama's Housing Appeal for the Needy launched in 2009...

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At 8:38 AM, Blogger Ken Wedding said...

In Crackdown by Chinese, a New Arrest

"A human rights advocate in Sichuan has been formally arrested and charged with inciting subversion against the state, according to a statement on Wednesday by China Human Rights Defenders, an advocacy group that tracks violations by the Chinese government. The advocate, Chen Wei, was charged on Monday, and his family was notified on Tuesday.

"Mr. Chen is the third person in recent days to be charged with inciting subversion in an extraordinarily harsh crackdown on progressives in China that has been unfolding since late February…"

At 8:40 AM, Blogger Ken Wedding said...

China Lays Out Vision for Its Military

"The military’s vision was laid out in a national defense white paper, a document published every two years since 1998. The paper tries to walk a line between trumpeting the modernization efforts of the Chinese military and assuaging fears by foreign governments and analysts that the fast-growing People’s Liberation Army will be used for expansionist purposes or regional dominance…"

At 8:43 AM, Blogger Ken Wedding said...

China Hedges Over Whether South China Sea Is a ‘Core Interest’ Worth War

"China, Taiwan and four Southeast Asian nations have been wrangling for years over territorial claims to the South China Sea. Then last July, amid heightening tensions in the waters, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton rallied with Southeast Asian nations to speak out against China. She bluntly said in Hanoi that the United States had a “national interest” in the area, and that China and other countries should abide by a 2002 agreement guaranteeing a resolution of the sovereignty disputes by “peaceful means.”

"Chinese officials were shocked that the United States was getting involved, analysts say. A public debate erupted in China over this question: Should China officially upgrade the South China Sea to a “core interest,” placing it on par with other sovereignty issues like Tibet, Taiwan and Xinjiang that could justify military intervention?

"Some Chinese officials appeared to have floated that idea in early 2010 in private conversations with their American counterparts. Several American officials told reporters in Beijing and Washington last year that one or more Chinese officials had labeled the South China Sea a “core interest.” But despite those remarks and the public debate that came later, Chinese leaders have not explicitly come out with a policy statement describing the South China Sea as such — nor have they denied it…"


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