The soft power war
Week of 13th April 2020
The ranking of soft power has been tracked for years and noticeably, the fall of US’ on the index has been interesting. Despite China’s ambition to climb up the soft power index, China is not the country displacing the US.
This week, we look to understand the fall of US’ soft power influence on the world, which seems to be single handedly destroyed by Donald Trump. However, what would also be worth understanding is why China has not gone up in its ranking as tracked by The Soft Power 30, staying at 27th place for both years 2018 and 2019. At the same time though, Brand Finance’ research has put China in 5th place on its Global Soft Power Index 2020, so perhaps all is not lost for China.
If time is limited, I highly recommend reading:
Joseph Nye Jr’s “No, President Trump: You’ve weakened America’s soft power”
An older article by Eric X Li’s “The Rise and Fall of Soft Power”
Carrie Huang’s “Chinese Soft power is a carrot being undermined by a stick”
From the web:
From our Chief Opinionator:
China vs US, the soft power war
China has an agenda to grow on the world stage, not through military dominance, but through its soft power influence. Despite this ambition, however, China has been criticized for not being free and transparent enough and in recent survey conducted by Pew Research Center, “Countries whose citizens have more freedoms, as measured by Freedom House, tend to have less favorable views of China”.
The US had dominated the world in its soft power play with the ideology of democracy and human rights. As the world sees China’s growth in economic power, countries threatened by China has used human rights issues as a way to attack China’s growth in soft power. Countries such as the US feels so threatened that they even openly support violent unrest in Hong Kong and passed a bill to enact an act for Hong Kong, a China jurisdiction that lies in the heart of China’s gateway to the international community. Conveniently, Uyghurs’ human rights were also used to discredit China’s image as the US passed another bill last year.
Soft power is supposed to be a way for countries to cooperate, understand and adopt each other’s values. US’ meddling in China’s domestic issues is not a soft power play, but a desperate act to quash China’s global influence in the name of human rights. Meanwhile, the US turned on its own human rights belief when they set up concentration camps for illegal immigrants. A stark difference between US and China’s approach in utilizing soft power is that China does not need to openly point out US’ hypocrisy. As the world battles COVID-19, China is showing the world that they are the friendly neighbor who lends a helping hand and shares their experience in the pandemic by sending doctors and PPE to the world. Meanwhile US steals from others. China is not trying to gain power by adopting to the western emphasis on democracy. Alongside with Belt and Road, and Huawei's 5G technology, China is saying nations can be wealthier and healthier by working together. China wants the world to adopt her point of view instead.
It will be a long time before China can take over the US in the soft power war, but the more the US quells China’s influence, the more of a bully US will be seen. Even if China’s position on the soft power ranking isn’t moving up, US’ ranking will certainly be moving down. If this continues, US might just accelerate its imminent loss to China in this war.