China In Search of Soft Power

The Khmer  Times, 4 October 2016

Although China has experienced remarkable economic growth over the last three decades, its global image has not strengthened in line with its global economic status.
China is an emerging global power and also the leader of the developing world.
China is now the second-largest world economy after the United States and it is predicted that it will become the world’s largest economy in the coming decade.
In the Asia-Pacific region, China’s soft power is relatively lower than that of the US. The American values of freedom, democracy, and human rights have been deeply integrated into many societies in the region, particularly the millennial generation.
To project its national strength and global power, China needs to advance its civilization and expand and share its economic prowess.
Chinese leaders and scholars claim that China’s foreign policy is not to seek control and hegemony, nor to export its model by military means. Instead, it is to accumulate its soft power through trade, investment and cultural exchanges.
China is developing its own global power projection path, which is different from the path exercised by the European colonial powers and the American hegemonic power.
Economic development and cultural heritage are the foundations of China’s national strength. To build a civilization-state is China’s long-term strategy.
Chinese leaders started emphasizing soft power as one of the core foreign policy tools in the late 2000s in which culture is regarded as the core of China’s soft power.
Soft power is generally understood as the power to attract and convince others to act in your favor without using force, the threat to use force, coercion or monetary payment.
The report to the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 2007 pointed out that “in the present era, culture has become a more and more important source of national cohesion and creativity and a factor of growing significance in the competition in overall national strength, and the Chinese people have an increasingly ardent desire for a richer cultural life.”
Soft power was the key phrase at the sixth Plenary Session of the 16th Central Committee of the CPC in 2011. Moreover, at a national meeting on publicity and theoretical work in August 2013, President Xi Jinping said: “Fine traditional Chinese culture is a great strength of the Chinese nation and its most profound cultural soft power.”
President Xi also introduced the Chinese dream to strengthen national unity and to share the opportunities with the world.
The Chinese dream has three layers. It enables the individuals to realize their personal dream, encourage every individual to work together as a community to realize a national dream and promote international win-win cooperation to build a global community of common destiny.
Professor Zhao Lei of the Institute for International Strategic Studies of the Party School of the CPC Central Committee defined the Chinese dream as “a dream of building China into a well-off society in an all-round way and rejuvenating the Chinese nation, a dream for everyone to make his own dream come true, a dream that the whole nation strives for, and a dream to show the world China’s commitment to making a greater contribution to the peace and development of mankind.”
China is in the early stage of developing and projecting its soft power. To persuade and convince other countries, China needs to have moral authority. Words must go with actions.
Chinese cultural values, ideas, and wisdoms are compatible with other cultures. They need to be further promoted and adapted to local cultures.
China has been criticized by some analysts for lacking concrete efforts and actions in contributing to the world.
China should assume a more responsible global leadership role. Some have urged Chinese development aid to have more transparency and accountability.
Chinese firms have been urged to implement corporate social responsibility, taking into consideration local community development and environmental protection.
The image of China will be improved if Chinese firms become more socially and environmentally accountable.

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