Thinking Hard about Soft Power: A Review and Critique of the Literature on China and Soft Power

By Blanchard, Jean-Marc F.; Lu, Fujia | Asian Perspective, October-December 2012 | Go to article overview

Thinking Hard about Soft Power: A Review and Critique of the Literature on China and Soft Power


Blanchard, Jean-Marc F., Lu, Fujia, Asian Perspective


This article critically reviews the literature on China and softpower. Among other themes, it tackles the conceptualization and operationalization of softpower, measurement of the effectiveness of Chinese softpower, and the analysis of variables that intervene between China's soft-power tools, realized images, and policy influence results. KEYWORDS: Soft-power literature, foreign policy influence, measuring softpower.

CHINA'S EFFORTS AND SUCCESS IN MODERNIZING ECONOMICALLY AND militarily are widely known and long studied. Less well appreciated and investigated is China's quest to project softpower, which has taken the form of eye-catching mega-events such as the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, support for Confucius Institutes, and growing contributions to international peacekeeping.1 Some observers who are attentive to these relatively novel phenomena see dangerous challenges, particularly for the United States (Kurlantzick 2006). Others question the strength of China's softpower, its efficacy, and the degree to which it truly presents a threat to the standing of the United States or other countries (Whitney and Shambaugh 2008; Suzuki 2009; Ding 2010).

While more research needs to be done, analysts have been giving increased attention to China and softpower. Existing works have detailed the importance of softpower to Chinese decisionmakers; highlighted diverse factors restricting the ability of China to project softpower identified salient contextual factors; probed select aspects of Chinese softpower, such as the 2008 Olympics; and compared Beijing's softpower with Taipei's (Cho and Jeong 2008; Manzenreiter 2010; de Lisle 2010). While illuminating, the extant literature needs greater conceptual refinement, theoretical development, and empirical rigor. As discussed here, the term "softpower" is often used loosely. Also, students of Chinese softpower do not draw upon the literatures relating to perceptions, identity formation, or economic statecraft.2 Another limitation is that some studies rely solely on opinion polls, despite their shortcomings.

There are a number of reasons to study Chinese softpower. Clearly, it can enrich our understanding of power (its forms, the variables that mediate it, and its range of effectiveness)-a core social science concept. Such study also can enrich our understanding of the factors that shape attitudes, images, and identities- and, in turn, our appreciation of constructivism, which more than any other international relations theory emphasizes the malleability of ideational factors. Furthermore, some argue that in a world where information technologies are proliferating and force is becoming more costly or less efficacious, contemplating noncoercive power is increasingly important (Bially Mattern 2005; Ding and Saunders 2006; Ding 2010). Moreover, Chinese policymakers and scholars devote much attention to the subject. Finally, many countries are striving to bolster or redeem their softpower.

This article has a number of central arguments. First, it claims that softpower should be conceptualized in terms of a "form," a target, and a context. Second, the article contends that analysts need to aggregate their measures of softpower as well as measure softpower relative to other forms of power. Third, this study argues for greater sensitivity to the precise message that China is trying to deliver with its soft-power mechanisms. The article also asserts that specialists need to develop techniques to gauge the efficacy of softpower so as to do a better job identifying targets, assessing changes in views, and specifying policy connections. Finally, this article calls on students of Chinese softpower to think systematically about intervening variables, as described below.

The next section delves into the conceptualization and operationalization of softpower. The third section describes the tools that Beijing has employed to enhance Chinese softpower and specifies some of its targets. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Thinking Hard about Soft Power: A Review and Critique of the Literature on China and Soft Power
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.