The Chinese State and Soft Power


  • Pan Pan



China; Soft Power; Confucius Institutes; Green Technology.


With the advancement of economic globalization, in today's society where peace and development are the themes of the times, the influence of hard power, such as economic and military power, has gradually diminished. While soft power, represented by culture, political values and foreign policy, has become more and more important. The explanatory power of traditional realist theories has become increasingly weak. Against this background, Joseph S. Nye, a famous master of international relations theory and a representative of the neo-liberal school, first proposed the concept of "soft power" in 1990 in response to the "decline of the United States". "Since then, the concept of soft power has begun to attract academic attention and has gradually entered the public discourse, and has been adopted by scholars and politicians in various countries. Nye made a clear binary division of the concept of power, dividing it into hard power and soft power. According to Nye, hard power manifests itself as tangible material power, a form of control, while soft power is an intangible force of attraction and assimilation. In Nye's idea of soft power, culture, political values and foreign policy are the main resources that constitute soft power, which relies on solicitation rather than coercion and is characterised by intangibility, diffusion, non-monopoly and non-coercion. Since the mid-1990s, Chinese political and academic circles have identified the potential of soft power and have made attempts to highlight its importance. With the rise of China and related events, theories such as the 'China Threat Theory' and the 'Thucydides Trap' have emerged in the international community, suggesting that China's rise could lead to a destabilising and dangerous international situation. The soft power theory has therefore been welcomed by China as a rebuttal to these theories and an attempt to shift the world's focus to the "peaceful rise of China". This paper will reformulate and analyse China's soft power policy through Joseph Nye's concept of soft power, and will focus the discussion on China's rich cultural resources, political values and soft power resources for foreign policy. It is important to note that China's soft power policy can be successful in enhancing China's image, but given the conflicting interests of developing and developed countries. China's policy needs to be carefully crafted and well thought out. At the same time, excessive government guidance and control can enhance soft power, but according to Joseph Nye's theory, civil society should take more responsibility in building soft power.

References “China". 2022.

Edney, K., Rosen, S. and Zhu, Y., 2020. “A Decade of Wielding Soft Power Through Confucius Institutes." Soft power with Chinese characteristics. New York: Routledge.

Eberhard, David M., Gary F. Simons, and Charles D. Fennig (eds.). 2022. Ethnologue: Languages of the World. Twenty-fifth edition. Dallas, Texas: SIL International. "The Soft Power 30 - Ranking".

Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. 2022 "Confucius Institutes: Vehicles of CCP Propaganda?" California: Stanford’s Center on China’s Economy and Institutions.https://sccei. fsi. stanford. edu/china-briefs/confucius-institutes-and-ccp-propaganda.

Gallarotti, Giulio. 2011. “Soft Power: What it is, why it’s Important, and the Conditions Under Which It Can Be Effectively Used.” Journal of Political Science. (Spring).

Government Accountability Office. 2022. “Agreements Establishing Confucius Institutes at U.S. Universities Are Similar, but Institute Operations Vary”.

Grumbine, Ed. "Is China Ready to Commit to a Green Energy Future?". 2021. Sierra Club. https:// www. sierraclub. org/sierra/china-ready-commit-green-energy-future.

Hanson, A. 2019. “Ecological Civilization in the People’s Republic of China: Values, Action, and Future Needs.” Manila, Philippines: Asia Development Bank Working Paper Series.

Hartig, Falk. 2016. Chinese Public Diplomacy: The Rise of the Confucius Institute. New York and London: Routledge.

Hua, S. and Zhai, J., 2021. “China Subordina Corte de Emissões à Economia.” Valor Econômico. https: //

Lawler, Dave 2020. "The 53 Countries Supporting China's Crackdown on Hong Kong". Axios. https:// www.

Lim, Louisa and Bergin, Julia. 2018. "Inside China's Audacious Global Propaganda Campaign". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077.

McDonnell, Tim. 2022. "China Has Invested More in Africa Than the Other Top Eight Lenders Combined". Quartz. https:// africa/ 2125769/china-has-invested-23-billion-in-africas-infrastructure/.

National Association of Scholars (NAS). 2022. "How Many Confucius Institutes Are in The United States?”

Nye, Joseph S., Jr. 2004. Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics. New York: Public Affairs.

Nye, Joseph S., Jr. 2008. “Public Diplomacy and Soft Power,” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 6161.

Putz, Catherine. 2019. "Which Countries Are for or Against China's Xinjiang Policies?". The Diplomat. https: //

Sahlins, Marshall. 2013. "China U." The Nation.

Sergio Vale and Marque Moises. 2022. “Impact of Environmental Quality Indicators on Soft Power: a Few Empirical Estimates”. Journal of Political Economy.

Silver, Laura. "Negative Views of China Tied to Critical Views of Its Policies on Human Rights". 2022. Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project. https:// www. pew research. org/ global/ 2022/06/ 29/ negative-views-of-china-tied-to-critical-views-of-its-policies-on-human-rights/.

Tiseo, Jan., 2022. "China: CO2 Emissions 1960-2020 | Statista". 2022. Statista. https:// www.statista. com/statistics/ 239093/co2-emissions-in-china/.

Urban, Frauke. China Goes Global: A comparative study of Chinese hydropower dams in Africa and Asia, CeDEP, SOAS University of London 2022. Soas.Ac.Uk.

U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. 2019 “China’s Impact on the U.S. Education System.”

Wallace-Wells, D. 2019. A Terra Inabitável: uma História do Futuro. Brazil: Companhia das Letras, pp. 54–61.

Wendling, Z.A. et al., 2020. “2020 Environmental Performance Index.” New Haven, CT: Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy.

Wilson Center. 2019. “China’s Soft Power Campaign”.

Yang, Rui. 2010. “Soft Power and Higher Education: An Examination of China’s Confucius Institutes,” Globalization, Societies, and Education 8(1), pp. 235–245.




How to Cite

Pan, P. (2022). The Chinese State and Soft Power. BCP Social Sciences & Humanities, 20, 507–516.