smart & soft power
The appearances of Chinese first lady Peng Liyuan in her tailored suits and gowns left Britain’s press swooning – describing her as “graceful”, “stunning”, “sophisticated”, “glamorous” and “chic” – during President Xi Jinping’s four-day state visit to the United Kingdom last week.
China’s journey toward becoming a regional power broker has been different than that of the Anglo-Americans. It has not invaded its neighbors nor erected a massive, region-wide network of subversive NGOs to topple governments under the guise of “popular revolutions.” Instead, it has gained power and influence through economic and industrial power.
After a decade, in the 2000s, in which China aggressively pursued warmer relations with many Southeast Asian nations, using a combination of diplomacy, aid, and soft power to woo its neighbors, the past five years have seen a significant chill in China-Southeast Asia relations.
Pope Francis, Secretary of State John Kerry, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were among those said to be likely to win this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. Few prognosticators could have heard of the civil-society groups that make up the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, let alone have imagined that they would be awarded the prize.