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What China and Russia do not understand "soft power"
Material posted: Publication date: 04-05-2013

When Foreign Policy magazine published in 1990, my essay "Soft Power" (Soft power), no one could have expected that someday the term will take advantage of people like Hu Jintao and Vladimir Putin. However, Hu said at the Communist party Congress in 2007 that the Chinese need to increase its soft power.

And Putin recently in his speech to Russian diplomats urged greater use of soft power. But it seems that neither the first nor the second the leader does not understand how to achieve their goals.

Power is the ability to influence others to achieve the desired results. Influence in three ways: coercion, money and attractiveness. If you can include in your Arsenal of soft power of attraction, then you will be able to save on the sticks and gingerbread. Such growing powers as China, whose growing economic and military power frightens its neighbors, forcing them to create a coalition as opposed to a rational strategy, which includes as a constituent element of soft power. Thanks to it, China seems less scary, and creates a counterweight to the coalition become less effective.

A power in decline, which is Russia (and before it was Britain), the remains of soft power help to soften the blow from falling. A country's soft power rests primarily on three resources: its culture (where that culture attracts the others), its political values (when the country adheres to these values at home and abroad) and its foreign policy (when it looks legitimate, moral and authoritative). But to merge these resources into a single unit is sometimes very difficult. For example, the establishment of a Confucius Institute in Manila to teach Chinese culture, helps generate and use soft power. But the chances it becomes much less important when China is bullying the Philippines by presenting their claims to the Scarborough shoal. Putin also told his diplomats that the priorities are shifted towards the use of soft power, strengthening positions of the Russian language. But as noted after a dispute with Georgia, the Russian scientist Sergei Karaganov, Russia has to "use hard power, including military, because she lives in a much more dangerous world ... and because it has little soft power, i.e., social, cultural, political and economic attractiveness".

Largely soft power of America has created, not the state, and civil society – everything from universities and foundations to Hollywood and pop culture. Sometimes the United States is able to maintain to some extent its soft power thanks to critical and not limited to civil society – and contrary to the actions of the state that such soft power is undermined (for example, against the invasion of Iraq).

In his new book "China Goes Global" (China becomes a world power) Professor of the University named after George Washington (George Washington University) David Samba (David Shambaugh) shows how China is spending billions of dollars on a "charm offensive," trying to strengthen its soft power. The Chinese programme of assistance to Africa and Latin America is not hampered by concerns about the human rights violations in the countries-recipient – unlike aid from the West. The Chinese are fond of broad gestures. But despite all its efforts, China gets a little in return. Polls show that the opinion of Chinese influence are positive in much of Africa and Latin America, but predominantly negative in the United States, Europe, India, Japan and South Korea.

Even the triumphs of Chinese soft power, such as the Beijing Olympics 2008, has quickly lost its novelty and became negative. Soon after the departure of the last foreign athletes China has tightened the nuts to local activists, human rights defenders, and this has undermined the achievement of its soft power. Again, the exhibition in Shanghai in 2009 was a huge success, but soon after, he was sent to jail a Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo (Liu Xiaobo), and appeared on the screens shots of the empty chairs at the ceremony in Oslo. Putin, apparently, also expects to strengthen the soft power as a result of the Sochi Olympics. But if he will continue to suppress dissent, to do this he will not succeed.

China and Russia make the mistake of thinking that the main instrument of soft power is the state. In today's world of information abundance, but attention is not enough. And attention depends on credibility and credibility. Government propaganda is rarely credible. The best propaganda is not propaganda. Despite all efforts to make the Agency Xinhua and China Central television into competitors of CNN and bi-Bi-si, foreign viewers and listeners of dramatic propaganda a bit. As noted in the pages of the Economist about China, "the party did not take the opinion of Mr. Nye that soft power grows from individuals, from private sector, from civil society. Therefore, the state has resorted to advertising ancient cultural symbols, believing that they will evoke worldwide sympathy". However, soft power works differently. As noted by pan junjin (Pang Zhongying) from Renmin University of China (Renmin University), this demonstrates "a poverty of thought" among Chinese leaders.

The development of soft power it is not necessarily a zero-sum game. All countries would benefit if they find each other attractive. But to succeed, China and Russia need to weigh words and deeds in their policies, be self-critical and to fully unleash the talents of their civil societies. Unfortunately, it does not happen soon.


Joseph Nye


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