Executive summary

  • Led by China, economies across the region have dug, built, manufactured, paved, mined, and “infrastructured” their way toward economic success.
  • At the same time, ‘soft’ power has not paralleled these ‘hard’ power achievements.
  • Owing to China’s dominance, the possible soft-power ramifications of Asia’s rise may influence other factors and spread in other directions.
DownloadSoft power in emerging Asia and its implications for the alliance

Despite the ‘hard’ successes achieved by emerging Asian countries, particularly by China, a wide range of questions and challenges surround the ability of these countries to match their ‘hard’ material power achievements with ‘soft power’. Naturally, observers often assume that these ‘soft’ forms of influence and power will follow in sequence. Common assumptions about how far Chinese soft power will reach, however, should be approached with caution. Five indicators of Chinese soft power or lack thereof are explored: China’s explicit soft-power efforts so far; the conditions of civil society in China (which engender mistrust at home and abroad); Chinese universities which are getting bigger and not much better; China’s fearful approach toward the Internet; and the “universalism” of the modern Chinese vision. These factors are important for Australia and the US to consider when calibrating their collective response to emerging Asia.