Some commentators have criticized China's State-led efforts to strengthen the country's "soft power." Joseph Nye, to whom the soft power concept is credited, observed that the China just "doesn't get soft power." Big state-funded initiatives, such as the global roll-out of Confucius Institutes and investments in CCTV and Xinhua, have headlined China's culture-heavy public relations drive.
The U.S. culture of openness and innovation will keep this country central in an information age in which networks supplement, if not fully replace, hierarchical power. The United States is well positioned to benefit from such networks and alliances if our leaders follow smart strategies. In structural terms, it matters that the two entities with per-capita income and sophisticated economies similar to that of the United States — Europe and Japan — are both allied with the United States.
The U.S. will certainly face a rise in the power of many others—both states and nonstate actors. Presidents will increasingly need to exert power with others as much as over others; our leaders’ capacity to maintain alliances and create networks will be an important dimension of our hard and soft power.
The recent nose-thumbing at Russia and China by Professor Joseph Nye in Foreign Policy magazine over the inability of those countries to marshal soft power is flawed in a number of ways that go beyond the methodological weaknesses of his scholarly writings that I have described at length elsewhere.
China has been trying to integrate with the world through a modest and self-disciplining approach rather than be disregardful and aggressive. Concepts such as equal communication and putting aside minor differences so as to seek common ground, which are lacking in US soft power theories, are exactly the allure of China's soft power.
The NIC foresees a transformed world, in which “no country — whether the US, China, or any other large country — will be a hegemonic power.” This reflects four “megatrends”: individual empowerment and the growth of a global middle class; diffusion of power from states to informal networks and coalitions; demographic changes, owing to urbanisation, migration, and aging; and increased demand for food, water and energy.
"China's rise" and the "US decline" have been hotly discussed among politicians and scholars. How does China's rise influence the US? Is the US really in decline? How will the Sino-US relationship develop in the future? Global Times reporter Wang Wen interviewed American political scientist Joseph Nye, former dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University on these topics.
I write in the belief that soft power as a force multiplier for imperial geopolitics is to be viewed with the greatest suspicion, but as an alternative to militarism and violence is to be valued and adopted as a potential political project that could turn out to be the first feasible utopia of the 21st century.