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CWA # 31, 26 June 2018

Global Politics
Is China using its soft power to become superpower?

  Manushi Kapadia

BRI is a great economic opportunity which centers on the regional and international connectivity of railways, road, gas pipelines and ports for trade and economic purposes. And also provides an opportunity to build partnership all over Asia and beyond

School of Liberal Studies, PDPU, Gandhinagar & Research Intern, National Institute of Advanced Studies, IISc (Bengaluru)

The expanding gamut of China’s economic interactions and military transformation under the current Communist regime has the potential to dominate the world economies. Undoubtedly, China’s political influence can be reflected in the international orders as well. It has started focusing on improving international relations and building strategic partnerships. It has proved itself as an important actor in globalization and economic integration, so now it is extensively promoting the sources of soft power to promote their idea of peaceful rise and their desire for a balanced global community. President Xi Jinping has been projecting the idea of a new model of strong, civilized, harmonious and beautiful China in the world. They have recognized the importance of soft power and have started promoting it as a tool for global power.   What is China’s soft power strategy? Will the Belt and Road Initiative bring substantial change to China’s success in promoting soft power?  

Culture, Education and Diplomacy as China’s soft power

China is now entering into global popularization of its culture. Building the Confucius centers around the world has been started as one of the tools of soft power strategy. These Confucius centers project soft power techniques as a form of cultural diplomacy and global reception. There has been an exponential growth of Confucius centers aiming at the promotion of Chinese culture and language around the world. The language being the link between culture, social interactions and business opportunities, it is a necessary tool for promoting soft power.

Another tool that China has been focusing on is educating their youth, selection of brightest for the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), followed by business management skills, proficiency in English and building world-class educational institutions. Conducting massive student exchange programs and bringing international students showcasing the best of opportunities for studying and working.

China is also making its move towards peaceful and ambiguous relations with other countries through diplomacy, foreign trade and active foreign policies. China also upholds soft power through famous actors, sportspersons, singers and cultural ambassadors who can impact the youth of other countries.

China’s fast-growing economy has elevated its developmental model but there are many nuances on which it can lag behind nationally and internationally. Territorial disputes, rising nationalism, environmental pollution and over crowdedness can put China’s big projects into a major fall. But by making essential efforts on the soft power and hard power strategy China will be able to accomplish China’s Dream which describes a set of personal and national goals for ideal China. In the long run, China’s growing power and wealth can be sufficient for overpowering the U.S.

The Belt & Road Initiative: China’s soft power strategy

BRI is a great economic opportunity which centers on the regional and international connectivity of railways, road, gas pipelines and ports for trade and economic purposes. And also provides an opportunity to build partnership all over Asia and beyond. Recently, China has been successful in improving its relations with other countries and has strengthened bilateral and multilateral relationships. Moreover, BRI is a global open source of trade which fulfils regional and global trade functions. It has the power to attract the interest and trust of other countries and is an opportunity to build new economic communities based on different world political systems and culture. It is not only a determined regional project but also a strategic move towards giving importance to China’s new international systems as Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), New Silk Route Fund, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) etc. China is in the need of a trustworthy foreign policy which can be helpful for future interventions as well. Such initiative by China is to improve their global image and silently impact the economies of their trading partner.

BRI is definitely going to enhance the impact on the Chinese economy and will also improvise China’s image creating soft power in minds of neighbouring countries. They have been using BRI to attract countries globally to seek opportunities for trade, finance and economic linkages. This will bring the big and small economies together in trade and economic integrations. It is a new approach to form economic, financial and trade community based on cooperation between countries around the world. China, by BRI, will be overpowering economies of many underdeveloped countries which will be beneficiary for them in long run.  

Looking around, the disputes going on between and in countries like Brazil, UK, parts of Middle East only China fit the bars to become the next superpower. From economic and military powers to trade, innovation, technology, manufacturing and foreign policies China has been improving its economy. It has been playing a dominant role as the trading power and unlike the US, China is not restraining from globalization and engaging with world economies. It is not only focusing on the hard power but also making sure that its soft power through various initiatives benefits the world economies and which brings China’s resourcefulness into highlights.

China’s unique geographical position and its intervention in the world have brought this Asian giant out of isolation and it is now ready to overpower the global superpower.

“Once China becomes strong enough to stand alone, it might discard us. A little later it might even turn against us if its perception of its interest requires it.”(Henry Kissinger)

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