26 February 2015
PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – It is an uphill struggle for China to build its global image as peaceful rise. China needs to offset the threat perception, a view held in some quarters. The real challenge to regional peace and stability is the lack of strategic trust and confidence. China needs to convince its neighbors that the rise of China is the rise of the whole region.
The prevailing view in China is that for China to succeed in its global power projection, it has to do through its soft power – economic and cultural power – not hard power – military power. Soft power has been the key element in China’s foreign policy and diplomacy at least for now.
Public diplomacy is exercised to implement China’s soft power, which is the ability to win the hearts and minds of others, persuade and affect others to achieve the outcomes that China wants through attraction rather than coercion or payment.
China wants to build a global image of peaceful rise without compromising its core national interests. It wants to advance its culture, and to spread its civilization around the globe. China used to be the center of the universe and the China dream is to rejuvenate that historical role and status in a different form.
The instruments of public diplomacy that China has exerted include cultural exchanges, language training, education, research and publication, youth programs, and media. Confucius Institutes have been mushrooming around the world to promote Chinese language and culture.
Cambodia is fertile ground for China to test its soft power through public diplomacy. The Confucius Institute was opened in Cambodia in 2004. Later, in 2009, it was changed to the Confucius Institute of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, affiliated with the Council of Ministers.
The Institute conducts cultural exchanges and it provides training classes and workshops to local Chinese language teachers, and Chinese language training for government officials. The Institute is expected to open branches in all provinces in the Kingdom.
The Institute also provides a platform to promote government policy. Early this month, the book “Xi Jinping: The Governance of China” was launched with the presence of the Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An and the Chinese Ambassador Bu Jianguo.
Sok An, as reported by Xinhua News Agency, stated “The book has reflected Xi’s strong commitment and efforts toward deeper reform on governance […] It will enable the world to better understand China’s development, domestic and foreign policies, and response to the concerns of international community”.
In November last year, the first Chinese Cultural Mansion in a foreign land was inaugurated in Phnom Penh to provide classes on Chinese paintings and calligraphy, music, martial arts and dances to Cambodian students. It is another cultural institution to complement the Confucius Institute.
Noticeably, Cambodia and China jointly celebrated a splendid and grandiose Spring Festival this year. It was one of the biggest cultural events between the two countries and it was presided over by the Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and the First Lady. It clearly demonstrated that the Cambodian leaders give high respect to the friendship with China, and showed strong cultural ties between the two countries and peoples.
On education exchange and human resource development, the Chinese government annually provides scholarship to more than 70 Cambodian students to pursue their higher education at different universities across China. Since 1998, more than 600 Cambodian students have graduated from Chinese universities. There are many other short-term trainings and workshop programs supported by China to improve leadership capacity of the Cambodian government officials.
China’s public diplomacy, especially through cultural and educational exchanges, works well in Cambodia. Cambodian students have greater opportunity to learn more about China.
However, China needs to continue improving its image through the reform and improvement of the private sector as well to dispel doubts and concerns that China is exploiting Cambodian natural resources and breeding corruption. The Chinese companies in Cambodia must be more socially and environmentally responsible.