10th Semester, June 2012 Development and International Relations Aalborg University Supervisor: Xing Li Abstract



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Xue Liang



China’s Dilemma in its Soft Power:

How to Build Its National Image?




By

Xue Liang
Master Thesis

10th Semester, June 2012

Development and International Relations

Aalborg University

Supervisor: Xing Li

Abstract

In 1990’s Joseph Nye raised his conception of soft power and turned it into a popular topic since then and today it is a favorable one among China’s discourse as well from policy-makers to academics, from mass media to public. Why soft power has become so hot and gained a lot of concerns on it? The reason is that we are coming into a “power shift era”, not only in the traditional power areas but also in this newly coming soft power area such as culture and value and so forth.


As everyone knows, China has a brilliant strength in its traditional cultural history, which was used to be attractive to not only Asian countries but also to western ones and it still influences significantly. “Asian Value|” leading by China even becomes a topic for academics to research on. It is not simply a term, rather it is a phenomenon, on which captures the world’s attention. What’s more, China’s rapid economic development both in domestic and world’s market has raise lots of discussions. “China’s threat theory”, “China’s collapse theory”, coming along with “Chinese development model”, “Beijing Consensus” and “peaceful development” together forms a bitter-sweet symphony of China’s image in other nation’s eyes. China needs to build soft power and national image in emergency.
Confucius Institute and China’s role in Africa are just two cases in this thesis to examine how China applies it soft power and how China builds its national image through the soft power. Nye’s soft power theory, Cox’s Neo-Gramsci theory and China’s peaceful development theory all suit the cases and afford us a theoretical thinking of Chinese approaches of exercising its soft power in practice such as promoting traditional cultural influence and applying soft approach in traditional hard power area to get soft power effect. However, the thesis more focuses on China’s soft power limitations in these two cases and further draws to an open-end conclusion to inspire more thinking and perspectives to examine China’s soft power and its national image.
Key Words: soft power, national image, peaceful development, Confucius Institute

Content

Abstract………………………………………………………………………………………i

Chapter One: Introduction…………………………………………………………………...1

Chapter Two: Methodology…………………………………………………………………5

2.1. Core Concepts……………………………………………………………………….5

2.1.1 Power……………………………………………………………………………5

2.1.2 Soft power……………………………………………………………………….6

2.1. 3 Hard power……………………………………………………………………...6

2.1. 4 The interplay between hard power and soft power……………………………..7

2.2. Choice of theories……………………………………………………………………7

2.2.1 Soft power theory………………………………………………………………..8

2.2.2 Neo-Gramsci theory (from Cox’s perspective)………………………………….8

2.2.3 Peaceful development theory (Peaceful rise theory)…………………………….9

2.3. The motivation of the thesis…………………………………………………………9

2.4. Data collection and case study……………………………………………………...10

2.5. Project design……………………………………………………………………….11

Chapter Three: Theories…………………………………………………………………….12

3.1. Soft power theory…………………………………………………………………...12

3.1.1 The concept of soft power……………………………………………………….12

3.1.2 Main resources of soft power……………………………………………………13

3.1.3 The development of soft power………………………………………………….14

3.1.4 Soft approach of power…………………………………………………………..15

3.1.5 The critique to the theory………………………………………………………..16

3.2. Neo-Gramsci theory (from Cox’s perspective)……………………………...............17

3.2.1 Gramsci and the his “culture hegemony”………………………………………..17

3.2.2 Neo-Gramsci theory (Cox’s perspective)……………………………………......18

3.3. Peaceful development theory…………………………………………………….......20

3.3.1 The origin of peaceful development theory……………………………………...20

3.3.2 The peaceful development theory………………………………………………..22

3.3.3 The difference between development and rise…………………………………...24

3.3.4 The critical to peaceful development theory……………………………………..25

3.4. The application of theories……………………………………………......................25

Chapter Four: Empirical data—Macro cases study…………………………………………29

4.1. The Chinese Confucius Institute in the world………………………………………29

4.1.1 The overview of Confucius Institute in the world……………………………….29

4.1.2 The aim and the role of Confucius Institute in the world…………………..........31

4.1.3 The influence, challenge and criticisms of Confucius Institute………….............32

4.2. China’s soft power in Africa…………………………………………………............35

4.2.1 The relationship between China and African in history stage……………………35

4.2.2 The economic support from China to Africa……………………………………..36

4.2.3 The culture output in Africa………………………………………………………38

4.2.4 China-African political cooperation………………………………………………41

Chapter Five: Analysis…………………………………………………………………........45

5.1. The Confucius Institute and its soft power……………………………………..........45

5.1.1Theoretical consideration of Confucius Institute……………………………….....45

5.1.2The source of soft power in Confucius Institute…………………………………..47

5.1.3The influence of soft power in Confucius Institute………………………………50

5.1.4 The limitations of Confucius Institute in its soft power…………………………51

5.2. China’s role in Africa………………………………………………………………..53

5.2.1 Theoretical consideration of China’s role in Africa……………………………..53

5.2.2 The role of Sino-African historical relationship………………………………...55

5.2.3 China’s value in Africa………………………………………………………….56

5.2.4 China’s material capacities in Africa through “soft approach”…………………59

5.2.5 China’s political influence in Africa……………………………………………61

5.2.6 Could China have an institutionalized influence in African?—the limitation of

China’s role in Africa…………………………………………………………...62

Chapter Six: Conclusion………………………………………………………………… ...66

Bibliography………………………………………………………………………………..69



Chapter One: Introduction

Today the whole world is coming into “the power shift era”,1 which is directly related to the establishment of capitalist mode of production. As Maxis points out, the spread of capitalism around the world is turning all the production and consumption from national level into a cosmopolitan level, for this aim, the political ideals and values being spread to all over the world, make philosophy and literature into cosmopolitan humanities.2 As the application of high technology and dissemination of capitalist mode of production, the power shift is speeding up, not only the traditional hard power as economy and military, but also technology, culture, values and so on, which are within the soft power field as the essential actors has recently captured the world’s concentration.

Being a favorite concept in worldwide affairs, soft power, the term coined in 1990’s by Joseph Nye in his book Bound to Lead,3 has frequently appeared in government policy papers, academic discussions and the popular media. Almost the same time, the implications of the rise of China have been debated in global relations, like “What will China be eventually become? What impact will the rise of China have on the world? Will China ever be able to fulfill Western expectations? How will the rise of China affect the underlying rules of the game of the existing capitalist world economy?”4 All these intensities of discussion of China are particularly notable, but much more related to hard power instead of soft power in that period.

Ever since the end of the 1970s, the launch by Deng Xiaoping of the “policy of reform and opening”, as a landmark in contemporary history of China, shows the attempt of China to re-emerge and get back to the “Middle Kingdom” as China did as one of the key world political and economic actors. The “sleeping giant” as once Napoleon warned the whole world, are now standing up and trying to run as fast as he can to catch up with other runners called developed countries in the globalization and capitalist world competition. As a metaphor as human being has two legs, the state also has two legs in this running, one is called hard power, and another is called soft power5. China has already proven to the whole world how strong it is of his “hard power” leg, how about the other one and how to win the competition at last if one leg is long and strong, and the other one is short and weak?

Some scholars with foresight in 1990’s have noticed this and argued the interest in soft power. For example, shortly after the first publication of Nye’s Bound to Lead(1990) in Chinese in 1992, Wang Huning, the President Jiang Zemin’s chief advisor and former professor at Fudan University in Shanghai, stressed the necessary of soft power for China in one article he published in Fudan University Journal (1993).6 In 1997, Nye’s soft power theory was introduced in great details by a professor in Nankai University.7 In 1999, ShenJiru, an American professor, published an article called for strengthening China’s soft power.8 All these published papers or some other discussions or debates among Chinese’s elites or academics could be regard as a good staring to understand the importance of soft power in China’s international politics. The concept of soft power provides a unique perspective not only on China’s current foreign and security policy but, more significantly, on the trajectory of China’s rise in the long term9 and when coming into 21st century, soft power has became one of the most approved terms among political leaders, leading academics and journalists, as well as a noticeable part of official and popular discourse of foreign policy and international politics since it has frequently appeared through government official pronouncements, academic journals and popular newspapers and TV shows especially entering the Hu Jintao era due to his proposal of the “peaceful rise theory” and “ harmonious world”.

In Fact, before the Hu Jintao era, China had made efforts related to this topic cause the “Economic China”10, its rapid economic growth has unleashed its world impact in many dimensions, and its significant success in global market has rises the worried from other countries, especially in those countries, regarding capitalism as being historically unique, in which the western economic liberal theories rooted, but not seem to be able to explain the Chinese economic success. As during a BBC interview that China’s success promoted the idea that one could get rich without needing democracy and such an idea posed a threat to the West11 all these economic things related to the “Political China” generated the uneasiness of the West in dealing with a country that could not fit any Western theories or frameworks of understanding, particularly in the “political uncertainties”, leading to such as “China opportunity theory” and “China contribution theory” which appeal to developing countries and on the counterpart, more popular theories are “China threat theory” and “China collapse theory”, especially highlighted by G.W. Bush in his first term of presidency, when the U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice threat China as a rival.12 These realities cause attention from Chinese authorities that “Chinese model of development” may cause uneasiness worldwide and presumably the foremost reason for China to improve its reputation and national image in the international scene.

Looking through the China’s diplomacy and foreign policy in the past three decades could also get some hints on the shift from hard power to soft power: “ good neighbor diplomacy” ( 1980s and early 1990s), “great power diplomacy”(late 1990s), “energy diplomacy”, “soft power diplomacy”, “public diplomacy”(2000s) as well as “peaceful rise” and “peaceful development”13 not only these national strategies, but also by advertising Chinese values and publicizing its culture, some other efforts as steps to attract international students and promote the study of Chinese language. Nowadays , even it could be easily to find some evidence that supports the improvement of applying soft power and spreading China’s national image and even we could find the encouraging change from Professor Joseph Nye of Harvard University, who is first raise up the term of “soft power”, whose attitude from previously downplaying the strengthening of China’s soft power as being a development for the future in his book in Soft Power(2004) to now arguing that China’s soft power is rapidly growing in Asia in his article published in the Wall Street Journal (Asia) on December 29, 2005.14 But the mainstream assessment of the state of China’s soft power by Chinese analysts is that soft power is still a weak link in China’s pursuit for a stronger comprehensive national power because the Chinese discourse on soft power has mainly focused on its sources and potential utility in Chinese foreign strategy.15 Accordingly, the research poses the question:

How does China build its national image by using and enhancing the soft power in its peaceful strategy?

National image is a comprehensive reflection of one nation’s influence of soft power and it is a crucial factor in international relations. As Hertz notes that: “It is perhaps no exaggeration to say that today half of ‘power politics’ consists of image-making.”16 The data given by a recent CNN poll shows that 58% of African people is feeling uncomfortable by China’s growing economic development and taking it as a threat to the U.S.17 This has led China to rethink about its national image in recent years. This is not only in the conceptual reflection such as peaceful development, but also reflected in practical terms. One is the Confucius Institute, which are established for the aim of teaching language and promoting Chinese culture; the other one is the role China has acted in African through a very sophisticate strategy. These two cases showing how China uses its soft power in other nations and how China is perceived by other nations will influence Chinese development and its national image.



Chapter Two: Methodology

The following section aims to explain the structure of the thesis as well as several considerations for the research. Before the question above can be examined, it must first create a referential framework to the study before engaging in its theoretical and empirical levels. Therefore, taking various aspects into consideration such as core concepts, choice of theories, and the motivation of the thesis will be present throughout this chapter. All of these are considered as crucial components of a successful research aiming at a thorough understanding of the logic and the relevance to the thesis.



2.1. Core Concepts

Given the specific approach and focus of this project, it is necessary as well to define some of the core concepts that form the foundation of this project and, which will be used throughout the paper.



2.1.1 Power

In this thesis, the core word “power” will penetrate through the whole article, which could be appeared singly or in words. Therefore, it is the upmost task to make a clear definition of this concept. And in this thesis, it will take the definition from Nye’s. In the book of Soft Power--the Means to Success in World Politics, he says power is the capacity to do things, as well as have the ability to affect the behaviour of others to get the outcomes that one wants. And of awareness, the power may evaporate when the context changes, which means power always depends on context in which the relationship exists.18 Even so he also states practical politicians and ordinary people usually find this too complicated that they turn to a second definition of power, with the definition of the possession of capabilities or resources that can influence outcomes.19 All above are quite useful in this thesis. That definition of power would offer some understandings in general level and makes the power more concrete and measurable.



2.1.2 Soft power

Actually, there are several definitions of soft power both in Western and Asia, even now the academic in China are trying to explain some perspectives of soft power. However in this thesis, the core concept of soft power will base on the definition of Joseph Nye, who is the first one to make it systematically. This concept has oriented and associated with the United States. According to Nye, soft power is “the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion or payments”.20 It is the ability to get desired outcomes through appeal, attraction and seduction. As in one of his early article “Soft Power”21, it is said that “the ability to affect what other countries want tends to be associated with intangible power resources such as culture, ideology, and institutions. Then later he explains three primary sources: its culture (in place 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).22 The soft power could also have the ability to structure or reshape situation or rules and institutions of international regimes.23



2.1. 3 Hard power

Everyone is familiar with hard power. Hard power can rest on inducements (“carrot”) or threats (“sticks”).24 Hard power, is the ability to coerce, grows out of a country’s military and economic might.25 Hard power remains crucial in a world of states trying to guard their independence, and non-state groups such as terrorist organizations willing to turn to violence.26 In Nye’s definition, the source of hard power would be military, economic and technological strength. He also says that “the hard power is evident in the practices of threat, coercion, sanction, payment and inducement.27



2.1. 4 The interplay between hard power and soft power

One way to distinguish hard power and soft power is to consider the variety of ways you can obtain the outcomes you want. As Nye said that “the hard power is evident in the practices of threat, coercion, sanction, payment and inducement.” On the counterpart, soft power is demonstrated in attraction, persuasion, appeal and co-optation.28 But even in Nye’s definition, he did not make them clearly-cut because as he said hard power and soft power are related.29 They both could be considered as the ability to achieve what one wants by affecting others’ behaviour. When referring to behaviour and resource, he claims more clearly that “soft power resources tend to be associated with the co-optive end of the spectrum of behaviour, whereas hard power resources are usually associated with command behaviours.”30 To sum up, the table31 here can depict the whole as the shorthand.






Hard

Soft

Spectrum of Behaviours


Coercion Inducement

Command


Agenda Attraction

Setting


Co-opt

Most Likely Resources

Force Payments

Sanctions Bribes



Institutions Values

Culture


Policies
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