soft power

Most of Asia suffered from hubris during the Asian miracle -- but not China. Expo 2010 in Shanghai might be a test of whether China can think outside of the West's intellectual box. It might be a showcase of the charisma of Chinese culture...

Joseph Lee, a lecturer at the University of Nottingham Business School, is quite optimistic about the public perception of China. “I think to a certain extent that the British are happy about the economic rise of China. They don’t view that as a threat.”

It is true that China’s hosting of the event, especially on the heels of the spectacular Summer Olympics two years ago, sends an unmistakable signal of the country’s return to global prominence. Nonetheless, the Expo is also a grand stage where, over the next six months, nearly 200 participant countries will be courting and engaging the Chinese public.

To characterize the Shanghai Expo as mainly China’s showcasing of its soft power misses an important point.

Despite widespread talk of a rising China and a declining America, the latest BBC World Service poll shows not just strong residual American soft power but actually an increase. At the same time, the numbers depict a China whose influence is viewed as more negative than positive in a growing number of countries.

While China practices harsh media control at home, it has embarked on a major campaign abroad to present itself as a modernizing and open nation.

April 26, 2010

The term "smart power" is just half a decade old, but the concept behind it goes back much further. Grand strategists from Carl von Clausewitz to Lawrence of Arabia advocated a mix of "hard" military power and "soft" ideological sway as the recipe for winning wars.

These measured steps of 'Afghanisation' ought to prompt Delhi to contemplate what role India can play. Clearly, Delhi should focus on economic and political rather than military engagement in Afghanistan to bolster long term security in that country and in the region.

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