Programme Paper

Project: Asia Programme

Shaun Breslin
  • Although debates over Chinese soft power have increased in recent years, there is no shared definition of what 'soft power' actually means. The definition seems to change depending on what the observer wants to argue.
  • External analyses of soft power often include a focus on economic relations and other material (hard) sources of power and influence.
  • Many Chinese analyses of soft power focus on the promotion of a preferred (positive) understanding of China's interests and identities overseas.
  • Unpacking broad and inclusive definitions of soft power allows for the identification of different types and sources of power including national image promotion, normative power promotion and 'imagined power'.
  • China's emergence as an alternative economic partner seems to be the major source of attraction for other developing states, though it remains difficult to separate hard, material factors from softer, attraction to values and world-views.