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For so many years USA dominated the world with its values of freedom, liberty, free market economy, self-expression, individualism and the Fantasy of the “American Dream”. But times have changed. More and more young people feel attracted to the exotic culture of China. Self-restraint, longevity, harmony and peace become the new values. Young people start to feel drawn more and more to Traditional Martial Arts, learning Mandarin, developing a stronger interest for Chinese culture etc. China is the first Nation gaining power in a globalized world, which makes the question arise what it does differently than its western counterparts and why it succeeds with such a growing speed.

Power Based Rather On Attraction Than Force

A recent phenomenon is the so-called “Soft-Power” used by nations to get what they want by using attraction rather than force. For the American political scientist Joseph Nye, Soft-Power is when “one country gets other countries to want what it wants”. (Nye, 1990)

The Image China Projects To The Outside World

As China’s economy is growing and it begins to have a greater impact on the world economy, China is developing its own set of values based on modern Marxist and ancient Confucian thought. These values are in competition with the American values of democracy, which are human rights, freedom of speech. Both countries are trying to spread their values over the world by exercising soft-power.

Besides being the factory of the world, China is an upcoming superpower. But it is rising peacefully, to avoid confrontational terms and impressions of being a threat China prefers using non-confrontational terms like “peaceful development” or ““. With this language it seeks to maintain its non-aggressive and peaceful image as it seeks mutually beneficial relationships with other governments. One major principle is non-interference in other governments politics.

China is arguing that (unlike USA) it would never seek hegemony, it’s only territorial claims e.g. Taiwan and South China Sea are because Beijing is sees them as inseparable part of Chinese territory. Another characteristic of its peaceful approach is that China has decided to grow within the international norms instead of a new world order. (Lanteigne, 2010)

The Exercise of Chinese Soft-Power

One of the most significant examples is the Beijing-Olympics on 8 August, 2008. During the Beijing Summer Olympics openings ceremony China was presenting itself as the young, beautiful, wise and strong nation. 2008 Drummers beating on 2008 drums, while chanting the opening lines of the Confucian Analects, “It is glorious to receive friends from afar” More spectacular shows followed narrating the glories of China’s 5000 years of civilization, presenting achievements ranging from classical calligraphy to Confucian harmony,… (etc.)
W.A.Callahan is arguing in his book, that China’s foreign performative policy goes far beyond Olympics ceremonies. China’s success on the world’s stage comes from soft-power of cultural diplomacy. New astonishing buildings and amazing performances are examples of China’s rising (soft) power. Slowly China is shifting from a rule follower to a rule maker by attracting the world to its own vision and values. Another way of gaining international influence is the building of regional institutions like East Asia Summit or spreading Chinese values around the world through its network of Confucian Institutes. (Callahan, 2010)

Civilization/Barbarism Distinction

While rising as a peaceful nation, the Chinese identity is shaped by the old pattern of distinction  between “civilization and barbarism” that it used in the past to distinguish itself from its neighbours. The classical Chinese texts are full of passages that stress violent conflict : “honor the king by expelling the barbarians”. But also during the Boxer Uprising (1900) the notion of “barbarian” was extended to include Europeans and Americans: “Support the Qing, Exterminate the Westerners.” Callahans argument is that the civilization/barbarism distinction continues to be the structure of feeling that frames Chinese understandings of identity and security. (Callahan, 2010)

 

 

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