China-U.S-Australia: Soft Power

In Nye’s article on soft power, he mentions how the U.S. was once infamous for their credible and long lasting relationships, but overtime these relationships have gradually declined. The media has paid a lot of attention to the shift within the world’s relationships and the rise of new global powers. In particular, their depiction of the “rebirth of the sleeping tigers” or the emergence of China and Asia as newly integrated powerful international players. A lot of this has been the result of China’s soft power being used to persuade and attract the world to see the new economic powerhouse in a positive light and garner credibility. One example of China’s use of soft power was illustrated in Obama’s recent visit to the Pacific to discuss the U.S.’s new influx of troops with Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard. It sent an unsettling message to the Chinese. So in turn, they fought against the newly established relationship using soft power to try and reestablish their Pacific partner. Chinese Innovation Minister Kim Carr pushed soft power by establishing $9 million of funding for Australia-China research collaborations. The fund, announced in August, is a joint venture between Senator Carr's Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research and the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology, to support joint virtual research centers. This is where Nye states that good public diplomacy goes beyond propaganda initiatives, and creating exchange and collaborative programs over a particular field such as science, can help to establish long term relationships, in this case China with Australia. I think that it will be interesting to see how the world will view China in the next decade. They have made huge attempts to regain a credible reputation in the world by creating these new types of relationships and making a new “harmonious society”. Whether these efforts will outweigh what the world previously knew of the human rights abuses and harsh history within the country, will be interesting to see unfold.


  1. I think the world's perception of China is a fascinating topic. I can remember in my final year of undergrad, there was a nationwide campaign of Chinese students in the US protesting against the way in which China is portrayed in the media here. The media, of course, wrote it off as the students angst at discovering the "awful truth" of their country after years of having been brainwashed. I am not so sure. I think the differences go deeper than good verses bad. I had a Chinese conversation parter that same year, and I asked him what he thought about censorship of the internet and he said in some cases its bad but in some cases it can be good if the information which is censored would serve to weaken the state in some way. In other words, the good of the whole over the rights of the few. This was a student who had been in the US for a while, and I have to say, his answer was well thought out and something to consider. At what point does everyone having a right to speak cause more harm than good? Just food for thought.

  2. The view the US has of China is interesting and I think within the last decade, China has become a force to be reckoned with through its economic strength and sheer size. My mother told me when I was beginning high school to learn Chinese, that is the language of the future. My dad provided similar advice, if you want to do business, you'll need to learn Chinese. I thought they were crazy, China was a nebulous concept in my brain at that time and I promptly signed up for Spanish classes. Now, (though I have to admit China as a country is not much clearer to me than when I was 14) I am in awe of what China is accomplishing, the sheer size and quick growth is astonishing. China is opening new universities, high schools, primary schools and training teachers at rates and numbers the US can't hold a candle to. There are millions of highly educated, well-off students and young professionals looking to make their mark. What Emily said above made me think, if her young friend had such a high opinion and respect of what was good for the state and the country as a whole, what would China and the world be like if/when these young, educated, motivated people were more individualistic?

  3. Katie, Emily and Sharena,

    It certainly does make you wonder: Who's right? In the game of values, will our individualistic, social-contract society win out, or does the utilitarian "greater good" concept China seems to promote have merit? After all, Western individualism is a pretty new concept, historically speaking. Could it be that collectivism is more in line with our nature? It's easy, too, to look back at the Baby Boomer generation and blame their self-centered, "me first" mindset for a lot of the problems that our nation is facing these days. Of course, having been raised in an individualistic society, it's hard for me to convince myself of that. Even so, it's beginning to seem like, rather than military conflict, where China and the U.S. are really going to butt heads is in the realm of ideals. Maybe there's a "Cold War" of values ahead? I would argue that, unfortunately, we'll find it more difficult to compete when it comes to soft power thanks to our apparent economic decline. Then again, while China has a huge population of young workers now, that will translate to a huge population of aging seniors a few decades from now. Thankfully, immigration seems to be keeping the U.S. a relatively young country. Maybe demographics will really win the day?

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