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Global role contributes to China’s rising soft power

Author  :  JIANG HONG     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2017-08-07

LONDON—China’s soft power continues to rise as the country’s engagement in international politics and the global economy grows and it plays a larger role in global leadership, according to the 2017 Soft Power 30 report released by UK public relations consultancy Portland Communications on July 18.

The study, the third in an annual series, combines objective and subjective assessment to evaluate the soft power resources of 30 major countries. Objective assessment accounts for 70 percent of the total score, and it includes six indicators of government, digital infrastructure, culture, enterprise, engagement and education.

The subjective indicators include cuisine, tech products, friendliness, culture, luxury goods, foreign policy and livability, and the data was collected by polling 11,000 people across 25 countries.

China moved up three places from last year, and now ranks 25th. Jonathan McClory, author of The Soft Power 30, said that China has done better on some of the objective indicators and subjective assessment, which is largely because of China’s commitment to defending globalization, trade and open markets, and fighting climate change.

All over the world people are learning Chinese not only because of Confucius Institutes but because of expanded programs in schools and universities, said Ambassador of France to the United Kingdom Sylvie Bermann. People are interested in Chinese culture and civilization, and this is possible only because China has also started to gain hard power, she added.

“It is interesting that China is emerging now as one of the countries most keen on talking about the need for international partnership, and I think that is very welcome,” said Tom Fletcher, former UK Ambassador to Lebanon. People want to see China on the world stage as part of the debate on important issues such as climate change and migration, Fletcher said.

Bermann said China’s statement on climate change and globalization is important. As China continues to rise and have more soft power, it needs to engage more with the world.

The United States ranked third, dropping two places from last year. McClory said that US President Donald Trump’s “America First” doctrine is more like “America Alone,” and this foreign policy is playing poorly abroad. The United States is disengaging from the world, and nobody wants a partner that is only committed to their own interests, he said.

Bermann said the United States is probably less important than it once was because there are other powers, including China, and Europe is also important. The direct consequence of Trump’s election is that “America First” is isolating America, she added.

New leaders can make a big impact, McClory said, adding that Emmanuel Macron’s France and Trump’s America are going in opposite directions.

France placed first in this year’s rankings, moving up four places from last year. The election of Macron has contributed greatly to this, Bermann said. Macron engages with the world and especially the Englishspeaking world, which helps France enhance its soft power, she said.

Macron is a leader with a very global outlook, which makes him quite popular with international audiences, said McClory.

Asia is still on the rise, but Europe is as well. Compared to last year, when many European countries saw declines in soft power, the majority of them have held steady or moved up in the rankings this year.

With economic recovery, Europe is growing confident and gaining a sense of purpose of what they are doing, McClory said. There was a dark cloud of populism hanging over Europe, but the Dutch and French elections this year can be seen as signs that this trend is abating, he said.

Fletcher said Europe’s soft power has risen partly because of the change of leadership in France, and partly because German Chancellor Angela Merkel is in a stronger position than she was. In some ways, the Brexit vote has rekindled passion for European integration, he said, adding that people are working harder on the project than before and no longer take it for granted.

Editor: Yu Hui

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