Soft power

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Soft power is the ability to obtain what you want through co-option and attraction rather than the hard power of coercion and payment. It was developed in the context of international relations theory by Harvard University professor Joseph Nye, in a 1990 book, Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power. He further developed the concept in his 2004 book, Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics. The term is now widely used in international affairs by analysts and statesmen. For example, in 2007, Chinese President Hu Jintao told the 17th Communist Party Congress that China needed to increase its soft power, and the American Secretary of Defense Robert Gates spoke of the need to enhance American soft power by "a dramatic increase in spending on the civilian instruments of national security -- diplomacy, strategic communications, foreign assistance, civic action and economic reconstruction and development." In international politics, the soft power of a country rests primarily on three resources: its culture (in places where it is attractive to others), its political values (when it lives up to them at home and abroad), and its foreign policies (when they are seen as legitimate and having moral authority.) In 2008, Nye applied the concepts of hard and soft power to individual leadership in "The Powers to Lead". At the individual level, key examples of soft power resources are charisma, communication, persuasion, symbolic action, and exemplary behavior. The idea of attraction as a form of power is not new, and can be dated back to such ancient Chinese philosophers as Lao Tsu in the 7th century BC, but the modern development and use of the soft power terminology dates back only to the late 20th century.


[edit] Definition

The basic concept of power is the ability to affect others to get the outcomes you want. There are three major ways to do that: one is to threaten coercion (sticks); the second is to pay (carrots); the third is to attract them or co-opt them, so that they want what you want. If you can get others to be attracted to want what you want, (to help set their preferences),it costs you much less in carrots and sticks. [1]

In any discussion of power, it is important to distinguish behavior (affecting others to obtain the preferred outcomes) from the resources that may (or may not) produce those outcomes. Sometimes persons or countries with more power resources are not able to get the outcomes they wish. Power is a relationship between an agent and a subject of power, and that relationship will vary with different situations. Meaningful statements about power must always specify the context in which the resources may (or may not) be converted into behavior.

Some observers describe soft power as non-traditional forces such as cultural and commercial goods, but this confuses the resources that may produce behavior with the behavior itself – what the political philosopher Steven Lukes calls the “vehicle fallacy.” Other observers refer to soft power as anything non-military such as economic sanctions. But sanctions are clearly intended to coerce, and thus a form of hard power. The confusion arises because economic resources can produce both hard and soft power behavior. Military force appears to be a defining resource for hard power, but the same resource can sometimes contribute to soft power. Dictators like Hitler and Stalin cultivated myths of invincibility and inevitability to structure expectations and attract others to join their bandwagon. A well run military can be a source of attraction, and military to military cooperation and training programs, for example, can establish transnational networks that enhance a country’s soft power. The impressive job of the American military in providing humanitarian relief after the Indian Ocean tsunami and the South Asian earthquake in 2005 helped restore the attractiveness of the United States. Of course, misuse of military resources can also undercut soft power. The Soviet Union had a great deal of soft power in the years after World War II, but they destroyed it by the way they used their hard power against Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Soft power is not the solution to all problems. Efforts to use soft power got nowhere in attracting the Taliban government away from its support for Al Qaeda in the 1990s, but other goals such as the promotion of democracy and human rights are better achieved by soft power. Soft power, then, represents the third behavioral way of getting the outcomes you want. Soft power is contrasted with hard power, which has historically been the predominant realist measure of national power, through quantitative metrics such as population size, concrete military assets, or a nation's gross domestic product. But having such resources does not always produce the desired outcomes as the United States discovered in the Vietnam War. The extent of attraction can be measured by public opinion polls, by elite interviews, and case studies. Nye argues that soft power is more than influence, since influence can also rest on the hard power of threats or payments. And soft power is more than just persuasion or the ability to move people by argument, though that is an important part of it. It is also the ability to attract, and attraction often leads to acquiescence. In international affairs, soft power is generated only in part by what the government does through its policies and public diplomacy. The generation of soft power is also affected in positive (and negative) ways by a host of non-state actors within and outside the country. Those actors affect both the general public and governing elites in other countries, and create an enabling or disabling environment for government policies. In some cases, soft power will enhance the probability of other elites adopting policies that allow one to achieve preferred outcomes. In other cases, where being seen as friendly to another country is seen as a local political kiss of death, the decline or absence of soft power will prevent a government from obtaining particular goals. But even in such instances, the interactions of civil societies and non-state actors may help to further general milieu goals such as democracy, liberty, and development. Soft power is not the possession of any one country or actor.

The success of soft power heavily depends on the actor’s reputation within the international community, as well as the flow of information between actors. Thus, soft power is often associated with the rise of globalization and neoliberal international relations theory. Popular culture and media is regularly identified as a source of soft power, as is the spread of a national language, or a particular set of normative structures; a nation with a large amount of soft power and the good will that engenders it inspire others to acculturate, avoiding the need for expensive hard power expenditures. Because soft power has appeared as an alternative to raw power politics, it is often embraced by ethically-minded scholars and policymakers. But soft power is a descriptive rather than a normative concept. Like any form of power, it can be wielded for good or bad purposes. Hitler, Stalin, Mao and bin Laden all possessed a great deal of soft power in the eyes of their acolytes, but that did not make it good. While soft power can be used with bad intentions and wreak horrible consequences, it does differ in terms of means. It is on this dimension that one might construct a normative preference for greater use of soft power.

[edit] China's moves to improve its soft power

ON 17 February 2009 Dune Lawrence of the Bloomberg News reported that President Hu Jintao has been using China's new found economic, political and cultural power to build its image as a responsible world leader. China’s Communist government is about to launch a reported US$6.6 billion program to expand the reach and impact of its state-run media, namely CCTV and Xinhuanet, amid a BBC World Service survey of public opinion in 21 countries released Feb. 6, when China's positive rating fell to 39 percent, while its negative rating rose seven points to 40 percent.

CCTV will start Russian and Arabic channels this year to supplement English, Spanish and French programming. Xinhua will add to its more than 100 foreign bureaus, and China will get its second official English-language daily, Agence France-Presse reported Jan. 14.

Li Changchun, (李長春), one of China's top leader, the politburo standing committee member in charge of ideology, said in his 2008 December speech commemorating the 50th anniversary of CCTV: "Enhancing our communication capacity domestically and internationally is of direct consequence to our nation's international influence and international position," [1]

[edit] Critics of China's soft power

Zheng Yongnian, director of the East Asian Institute at the National University of Singapore, is doubting that the China's multi-billion-dollars investment might not work towards the desire of its investor: “If you want to promote something, you have to make sure the thing you’re promoting is acceptable to other countries....Soft power means other parties accept your values.”[2]

Gong Wenxiang, journalism professor at Peking University, said to reporter:“China’s image is very important, but the first question is the image of the medium itself....If the medium lacks credibility, it is unthinkable that it will improve the country’s image.”[3]

On JANUARY 29, 2009 NICHOLAS BEQUELIN of Wall Street Journal Asia compare China's CCTV with Voice of America or Germany's Deutsche Welle, and pointed out the difference between them, "The difference lies in the strong control the Chinese government and Chinese Communist Party exert over news and information....the fundamental premise that all information on state-run channels must reflect the government's views."[4]

[edit] Exporting Confucius Institutes worldwide

The government has established 295 Confucius Institutes in 78 countries to teach Chinese history and language.

[edit] Huge investment to stage Olympic

Chinese government spent an estimated US$70 billion to stage the 2008 Summer Olympics, which attracted a record 4.7 billion television viewers worldwide.

[edit] References

[edit] External links

[edit] Further reading

  • Steven Lukes, "Power and the battle for hearts and minds: on the bluntness of soft power," in Felix Berenskoetter and M.J. Williams, eds. Power in World Politics, Routledge, 2007
  • Janice Bially Mattern, "Why Soft Power Is Not So Soft," in Berenskoetter and Williams
  • J.S. Nye, "Notes for a soft power research agenda," in Berenskoetter and Williams
  • Young Nam Cho and Jong Ho Jeong, "China's Soft Power," Asia Survey,48,3,pp 453-72
  • Yashushi Watanabe and David McConnell, eds, Soft Power Superpowers: Cultural and National Assets of Japan and the United States, London, M E Sharpe, 2008
  • Ingrid d'Hooghe, "Into High Gear: China’s Public Diplomacy’, The Hague Journal of Diplomacy, No. 3 (2008), pp. 37-61.
  • Ingrid d'Hooghe, "The Rise of China’s Public Diplomacy", Clingendael Diplomacy Paper No. 12, The Hague, Clingendael Institute, July 2007, ISBN 978-90-5031-1175,36 pp.
  • "Playing soft or hard cop," The Economist, January 19,2006
  • Y. Fan, (2008) "Soft power: the power of attraction or confusion”, Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, 4:2, available at
  • Bruce Jentleson, "Principles: The Coming of a Democratic Century?" from American Foreign Policy: The Dynamics of Choice in the 21st Century
  • Jan Melissen, "Wielding Soft Power," Clingendael Diplomacy Papers, No 2, Clingendael, Netherlands, 2005
  • Chicago Council on Global Affairs, "Soft Power in East Asia" June 2008
  • Joseph Nye, The Powers to Lead, NY Oxford University Press, 2008
  • Nye, Joseph, Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics
  • Joshua Kurlantzick, Charm Offensive: How China's Soft Power is Transforming the World (Yale University Press, 2007). Analysis of China's use of soft power to gain influence in the world's political arena.
  • John McCormick The European Superpower (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006). Argues that the European Union has used soft power effectively to emerge as an alternative and as a competitor to the heavy reliance of the US on hard power.
  • Matthew Fraser, Weapons of Mass Distraction: Soft Power and American Empire (St. Martin's Press, 2005). Analysis is focused on the pop culture aspect of soft power, such as movies, television, pop music, Disneyland, and American fast-food brands including Coca-Cola and McDonald's.

[edit] Reference

  1. ^ Dune Lawrence (February 17, 2009). "China pushes 'soft power'". Bloomberg News. Retrieved on 2009-03-20. 
  2. ^ Dune Lawrence (February 17, 2009). "China pushes 'soft power'". Bloomberg News. Retrieved on 2009-03-20. 
  3. ^ "Beijing Launching A ‘Chinese CNN’ To Burnish Image Abroad". China Digital Times. Retrieved on 2009-03-20. 
  4. ^ NICHOLAS BEQUELIN (29 Jan 2009). "China's New Propaganda Machine Going global.". Wall Street Journal Asia. Retrieved on 2009-03-20. 

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