When Joseph Nye, Jr., first used the phrase soft power in 1990 in his book Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power, China did not factor much into his calculus of world order: It had relatively little military and economic power, and none of the softer “persuasive” or “attractive” abilities that Nye saw as key features of the global domination of the United States.
Today, we live in a different world, and though China is achieving remarkable military might and economic dominance, Nye would argue that China has only made stumbling progress in becoming a more attractive brand to most other nations.
What are the continuing roadblocks to China’s progress in building soft power? How is Donald Trump affecting the balance of such power between the U.S. and China? Are both countries headed toward an inevitable great power conflict — also known as the Thucydides Trap — in which an established power’s fear of a rising power escalates toward war? And has the meaning of the term soft power changed in the last 25 years, between 1990 and 2015, when Nye published his most recent book, Is the American Century Over?
Jeremy and Kaiser spoke with Nye, a University Distinguished Service Professor at Harvard University, at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, where he was formerly the dean.
Jeremy: “Imagining Re-Engineered Muslims in Northwest China,” a largely visual article by Darren Byler on Chinese propaganda about Muslims in Xinjiang Province.
Joe: Is the American Century Over?, his most recent book, which contains a chapter that specifically compares the U.S. and China in soft power. Plus, an upcoming (planned for a mid-September 2017 release) Ken Burns film on the Vietnam War, which should be of interest to anyone interested in Asia, the U.S., or history in general.
Kaiser: The collection of Renaissance oil paintings at the Arthur M. Sackler Museum at Harvard University.
The saga of CEFC and China's push into Central and Eastern Europe
Andrew Chubb on Chinese nationalism and its influence on maritime behavior
China’s security picture, from North Korea to the South China Sea
Talking trade and tech with Yasheng Huang
China's international relations, with Jiang Changjian, Ira Kasoff, and Anthony Saich
Virginia Tan on women and work in China
Introducing TechBuzz China by Pandaily, plus Joanna Chiu on Hong Kong’s illicit wildlife trade
Gao Yutong on the Chinese student experience in America
Live from Beijing: David Moser and Jess Meider on jazz in China
All sorts of swindles in the late Ming society, with Christopher Rea and Bruce Rusk
Why China and North Korea are not as close as you think: Ma Zhao and John Delury talk history
The Chinese Communist Party’s refusal to reconcile with its past, explained by Orville Schell
The Chinese student experience in America, with Siqi Tu and Eric Fish
How China’s poverty alleviation program works, explained by Gao Qin
China’s authoritarian revival, explained by Carl Minzner
Courts & torts: Driving the Chinese legal system
The China Questions, with Jennifer Rudolph and Michael Szonyi
‘Critical’ journalism in China, explained by Maria Repnikova
Kishore Mahbubani on China’s rise and America’s myopia
Gerry Shih on China’s Uyghur Muslims, under pressure at home and abroad
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