A hard look at soft power in East Asia


Article Highlights

  • By calling a policymakers' mix of hard and soft power "smart," one is assuming that mix is sound.

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  • Former Chinese president Hu Jintao made a very public pronouncement in 2007 about China's need to enhance its soft power efforts.

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  • Beijing's hard power policies have created a dynamic where its soft power efforts are less effective.

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Key points:

  • Unlike the term “smart power,” “soft power” is a useful concept for policymakers to retain in their statecraft toolkits.
  • For various reasons, however, soft-power employment by Japan, China, and the United States has been less useful than hoped.
  • Improving receptivity to American soft power in East Asia will require renewed diplomatic, military, and trade efforts.


Ever since the second Iraq war, critics of the decision to go to war and critics of how the war was carried out have sought solutions to the exercise of power that either substitute for the blunt use of military force or supplement its use with other forms of power that enhance a nation’s statecraft. Scholars, commentators, and policymakers began tossing around terms such as “hard,” “soft,” and “smart” power.

Very few, of course, were suggesting that states could simply do away with the need for hard power—be it the application of economic sanctions or of armed force. However, many were suggesting that some states, especially the United States, had overestimated the relative merit of hard power and, in turn, had underestimated alternatives. A rebalancing, many said, was needed.

If a rebalancing among the various forms of power was indeed needed, two problems presented themselves. First, policymakers and strategists were using the “hard,” “soft,” and “smart” terms with less precision than one would want. Second, those individuals tended to talk about their employment in a manner that abstracted from the particular places in which these various forms of power were to be applied.

Presumably, getting the right mix of these forms of power required an appreciation of the particular problem set policymakers and strategists were being asked to tackle. If the complaint at times was that Americans too quickly saw every problem as a nail because America had the world’s biggest hammer (its military), then knowing which of these tools could effectively address which specific problems, and in what proportion, was a prerequisite for policymakers and strategists.

The Problem of Definition

To start, “smart power” is not an especially helpful term.[1] It is not smart, some say, to depend solely or overly on hard power. It is much wiser to match soft and hard power as appropriate to the problem at hand and do so in such a way that they reinforce each other’s effectiveness. However, as much sense as this axiom superficially made, the concept itself is really just a new way of talking about what was traditionally and most broadly referred to as “grand strategy.” And it is not at all clear that much is gained by avoiding the more traditional terminology.

Indeed, something might be lost. Strategy immediately brings to mind the “means-ends” nexus, whereas in the case of smart power, the focus is often more about the mix of means and less about what is to be accomplished. Moreover, by calling a policymaker’s mix of hard and soft power “smart,” one is actually prejudging that mix as being sound. And, the truth is, one rarely knows if a strategy is smart—that is, whether it is effective in accomplishing its ends—for years to come. In short, a complex mix of hard and soft power might on its face look prudent and effective, but in the final analysis is not.

"By calling a policymaker’s mix of hard and soft power “smart,” one is actually prejudging that mix as being sound."Although there should be some hesitancy in employing the phrase “smart power,” there should probably be less when it comes to using “soft power.” For one thing, it is a term of art that has had staying power and, as such, has obviously captured an element of power that analysts and policymakers find useful.

Harvard professor and former American senior national security official Joseph Nye first put forward the concept at the end of the Cold War.[2] It was a time of Western triumphalism in which, the argument was, “History had ended.” Liberalism was seen as ascendant and as the only legitimate form of economic and political rule.[3] As such, the soft power of liberalism was seen as relatively more important than the application of the hard power stratagems that had dominated statecraft in the decades before.

Soft power’s utility as a concept is in some measure confirmed by the fact that, while the idea that history has ended has itself ended, it remains a term of art. Instead of dying out with the end of Western triumphalism, Nye’s idea was given new emphasis at a time when America was flailing in Iraq, the so-called BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) were on the rise, and the US was seen as in decline. Here, the exercise of soft power was viewed as a means of possibly recapturing some of the strategic ground lost in the face of the perceived lessened utility of America’s hard economic and military power.

In short, if a concept seems to have relevance in such significantly different periods, then it probably is a useful term. And certainly there is an argument to be made that, in a more interdependent world where power is more diffused, both relatively (for example, with the rise of the BRICs) and technologically (for example, with the pervasive use of the Internet and smart phones), and the costs of great power conflicts remain great, the possible utility of soft power has increased as well.

Nevertheless, the soft power concept has had different meanings for different folks. Even Nye has given it slightly different connotations over the years as he continues to think about and refine the idea. In his latest and perhaps most useful definition, Nye says soft power is the power of attraction: “A county may obtain the outcomes it wants in world politics because other countries—admiring its values, emulating its example, aspiring to its level of prosperity and openness—want to follow it. . . . This soft power—getting others to want the outcomes you want—coopts people rather than coerces them.”[4]

While narrower in scope, this latest definition prevents the concept from being employed too broadly—meaning, to everything and anything except the use of military power—and, hence, obscuring and subsuming other concepts like diplomacy, foreign aid, democracy promotion, and covert political action. These are tools of statecraft that need to be seen and understood on their own terms.

Even so, while clarifying the definitions of soft and hard power is analytically important, the benefits resulting from the employment of the two types of power cannot always be so neatly separated. For example, when it comes to alliance relations, effective soft-power policies make it easier for one nation to call on another when that nation might need help in the hard power realm. And conversely, the exercise of hard power can have soft-power effects by building up trust and providing reassurance to strategic partners and allies.

Soft Power in Asia

For all the talk about burgeoning arms races and shifting balances of military power in Asia in recent years, there has been considerable discussion of soft-power efforts by the two major Asian powers—China and Japan—as well.[5] Indeed, until recently, there had been as much competition in soft power as in hard power.

Japan. Tokyo actually fired the first soft-power salvo in this instance. Stung by views about its mercenary economic and trade policies in the late 1980s and 1990s, its “checkbook diplomacy” after the First Gulf War, and the impression that Japan was a nation of robotic businessmen dressed in black suits and black ties, Japan made a significant effort to change how it was seen by others around the globe.[6]

In 1992, for example, the Japanese enacted the International Peace Cooperation Law, which for the first time gave the government the authority to dispatch not only civilian personnel but also its Self-Defense Forces in support of UN peacekeeping operations. Since then, Japan has participated in eight such operations and numerous humanitarian relief missions.

Similarly, in 1994, Tokyo decided to unhook its foreign assistance pledges from its commercial and bureaucratic interests. No longer was Japanese aid conditional on buying principally Japanese goods and services. And in 2002, the Japanese government initiated its Cool Japan campaign—an effort to popularize Japanese culture (for example, J-pop, anime, Japanese cuisine, Hello Kitty, and the use of advanced consumer electronics) within East Asia and globally.

To a certain extent, Tokyo’s effort to make Japan more attractive has worked. Even in some countries such as South Korea, which has had strained relations with Tokyo, Japanese popular culture has sunk roots. And, certainly, Japan’s effort to be seen as a contributor to international peace and stability by participating in United Nations (UN)–sanctioned missions has succeeded in reducing the view that the country was only about securing its own narrow economic interests.

To the extent that these measures have increased the attractiveness of Japanese soft power, the improvement has been offset to a considerable extent by two other factors. The first is that the Japanese economic model is less enviable today than it was in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Although Japan is the third-largest economy in the world according to GDP, and although according to the World Bank, Japan has a per capita income approximately nine times larger than China, two decades of economic stagnation mean Japan is no longer being seen as an unstoppable economic behemoth whose trade and industrial policies are to be imitated. Although Shinzō Abe’s election as prime minister in December 2012 was in part attributable to the Japanese public’s desire to reverse this declining course, Abenomics, even if successful, will take time to regenerate the sense that Japan is, once again, a country on the move.

The second issue is of course Japan’s “history problem,” or the fact that Japanese commentators and politicians are said to lack sufficient sensitivity about past Japanese misbehavior toward Japan’s neighbors, especially during World War II. The Chinese and South Koreans have, for their own domestic reasons, kept the issue alive, but Japanese politicians have made matters worse through insensitive statements and gestures, including visits to the infamous Yasukuni Shrine.

China. China, the other East Asian great power, is no less interested in soft power.[7] In recent years, there has been a virtual explosion of articles in Chinese journals discussing the utility of soft power. For example, in 1994, there were only a handful of pieces written on the topic; in 2008, there were more than 600. Nor was this interest only academic. Chinese President Hu Jintao made a very public pronouncement in 2007 about China’s need to enhance its soft-power efforts.

China’s soft-power campaign has a number of elements to it. Among the most prominent is the establishment of Confucius Institutes on university and secondary-school campuses around the world. The underlying assumption behind the program is that China will become more appealing if more people come to understand the country’s culture and can read and speak Chinese. Between 2004 and 2007, a new institute was opening every four days. With more than 300 institutes already, the goal is to have 1,000 operating by the decade’s end.

Other parts of China’s program include having a relatively open door for foreign students to study in China, hosting world fairs and the Olympics, setting up English-speaking China Central Television bureaus around the world, flooding major newspapers with China Daily inserts, and, perhaps most importantly, providing a national development model, the Beijing Consensus,  as an alternative to the Washington Consensus, which was put forward by American and European-created entities like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

"Former Chinese president Hu Jintao made a very public pronouncement in 2007 about China’s need to enhance its soft-power efforts."In spite of these efforts, China, too, has seen only marginal improvement in its image globally. Analyzing a variety of polling data over the past decade, American sinologist David Shambaugh concludes that “China’s global image remains mixed and the majority of the world is very ambivalent about China’s rise.”[8] In a Pew Research Center poll released in mid-2013, for instance, China was still clearly seen in a less favorable light than the United States.[9] Only in the Middle East was that not the case. And among the major states of East Asia, the difference in favorability between the United States and China remained substantial.

Why the gap between China’s efforts at soft power and the results? First, although there is much to admire in Chinese civilization, this does not necessarily mean one is attracted to Chinese government or policies.[10] The fact that one might admire Greece as the birthplace of democracy and philosophy hardly means one would look to the Greek government today as a model of governance.

Second, Chinese foreign aid predominantly takes the form of loans or assistance that require the recipient country to use Chinese companies and labor to carry out a specific project. The nations on the receiving end are happy to get the assistance, but they are under no illusions about Chinese intentions. As one Pew polling director noted: “[G]lobal publics believe China also wields its power in a self-interested manner. These views feed the perception that the People’s Republic has yet to become, in the words of former US diplomat and World Bank President Robert Zoellick, a ‘responsible stakeholder’ in the international system.”[11]

Third, both inside and outside of China, there is a sense that China’s continued progress depends on significant changes to its existing development model. China’s economic growth appears be slowing as it hits the middle-income trap, and it suffers from substantial problems in the areas of demographics, the environment, and social cohesion and corruption. As a result, optimism that China’s leaders had discovered a unique formula for how a nation might rapidly rise, and that they continue to do so without increased liberalization, has waned considerably.

Moreover, the attractiveness of “the China market” has diminished as problems with intellectual property rights, rising labor costs, and domestic protectionist measures continue to plague foreign investors. As the World Bank’s China 2030 report succinctly notes, “After more than 30 years of rapid growth, China has reached another turning point in its development path when a second strategic, and no less fundamental, shift is called for.”[12] The fact that, according to several reports, a favored reading of senior Politburo members in late 2012 was Alexis de Tocqueville’s L’Ancien Régime et la Révolution—a book that details the disaster that befell the French government as the population’s “rising expectations,” among other things, were not met—suggests doubts even among Chinese elite over how sustainable the Chinese model is.[13]

And, finally, China’s more assertive behavior toward its neighbors—in the South China and East China Seas and along the Indian-Chinese border—and its continuing military buildup have undercut its “peaceful rise” narrative with countries in the region and with the United States. Former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping’s admonition to his countrymen that China should “maintain a low profile” and “hide our capacities and bide our time” has been replaced, it seems, with the China Dream.[14] Combined with the strategic uncertainties that arise from China’s system of closed decision making, Beijing’s hard power policies have created a dynamic in which its soft-power efforts have been less effective than they might otherwise have been.

US Soft Power in Asia

Unlike Japan, and certainly unlike China, the US government has made less of a government-driven effort to compete in the East Asian soft-power competition. Symbolic of that fact was the 1999 decision to close the United States Information Agency and distribute its “public diplomacy” efforts in broadcasting, publications, and academic fellowships to different government agencies. With the end of the Cold War, the United States presumed that the ideological component of the conduct of foreign affairs would be less prominent.

In 2013, Voice of America, the US government’s external broadcast network, spent $0.026 per capita on reaching its Chinese audience. This was only a third of what it spent on broadcasting to Arab countries, and a little more than half of what it spent on Persian programming.[15]

As this example suggests, one reason for the relatively low priority seemingly given to the government’s soft-power efforts in East Asia has been the past decade’s trend of involvement in the Middle East and ongoing concern with Iran. However, the so-called US “pivot” to Asia has so far not resulted in a corresponding increase in resources dedicated to soft-power efforts in the region. Why?

The first reason is that most of America’s soft power lies outside US government control and, hence, it is difficult for policymakers to utilize that power or strategically guide it.[16] This should not be a surprise: the United States is a large liberal democracy with a free-market economy. Its private sector is huge, its interests are diverse, and its impact is multiplied by advances in globalization.

Therefore, what little effort the US government may make in the public diplomacy realm is only a teaspoon’s worth of information compared to the ocean of news and impressions generated by America’s nongovernmental actors. Moreover, America’s soft-power messages will always be read through another country’s cultural and historical lenses. The message may be less distorted in other liberal democracies than in nondemocracies; nevertheless, it is always refracted to some degree in ways US government officials cannot control.

"Most of America’s soft power lies outside of US government control and is difficult to strategically utilize."The second reason there is less attention paid to soft power is the recognition through much experience that, however attractive America or Americans might be to non-Americans, there is no guarantee that specific US policies will also be liked. As one South Korean student responded when asked to explain why he had gone straight from an anti-American rally to the American coffeehouse chain Starbucks, he replied, “Why should ideology . . . hold one back from a good cup of coffee?”[17]

Nor is this problem easily resolved. There is a different logic to national-level decision making that is never simply congruent with public opinion in other states. National self-interest, realpolitik policies, and the need for urgent action do not always fit well with the underlying logic of soft power. States are frequently faced with policy options that are not attractive to a foreign population but nevertheless appear necessary to US policymakers.[18] Given America’s global posture since World War II and its traditional inclination to be strategically proactive, this problem has arisen with every successive administration.

To briefly return to the East Asian region, because of Chinese behavior and rhetoric and its two-decades-long buildup of its military capabilities, there is little question that hard power concerns have become more predominant in the region. As one scholar notes, soft power is still “embedded in international relations realities.”[19]

After years of declining military budgets, those of South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Russia have increased. It is in this context that President Obama’s decision to cancel his trip to Asia to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings and the follow-up October 2013 East Asian Summit was found to be so troubling by the region’s states.

Whatever the economic and cultural ties between those states and China might be, the view among most was that the United States was needed more than ever to reassure the region that America was not ceding East Asian leadership to China. Regardless of whether the president’s decision was justified in the context of a possible US government shutdown, the concern among the various Asian capitals was that by not taking the trip, the president’s plan to “rebalance” America’s posture in the region was now taking a backseat to problems at home.[20]

Improving American Soft Power

None of the aforementioned challenges mean that American policymakers should ignore the tools of soft power. The United States can and should do more in the areas of, for example, providing student visas, increasing spending on public broadcasting, expanding government use of the Internet to get its message out, and reforming immigration policies.

And, indeed, if the United States is attractive to foreign populations, it is somewhat less likely that foreign politicians will play the anti-American card or, if they do play that card, that it will be effective. In addition, even in those cases where a particular US policy is unpopular today, having a residual feeling of good will toward the United States, if not its government, will tend to increase the chances that relations will normalize more quickly.

Moving forward, there are four key elements of an enhanced US soft-power strategy. The first is diplomatic. As American comedian and movie director Woody Allen famously remarked, “80 percent of life is just showing up.” It matters whether or not American presidents and cabinet officers travel to Asia on a regular basis. And while Obama administration officials did a credible job of doing precisely that during their first four years in office, they—and future administrations—will need to maintain that momentum in the years ahead. And, indeed, President Obama, his secretary of state, and secretary of defense have all made “reassurance” trips to the region since the president’s cancelled trip to the region in October 2013.[21]

Next, and somewhat paradoxically, the United States should be enhancing its military capabilities and presence in the region. Military power not only acts as a hard deterrent to potential Chinese misbehavior but is also now critical to reassuring others in East Asia. The United States looks attractive as a balancing power to China’s military buildup because most states in the region see the United States largely as an “offshore” military power with no overt hegemonic ambitions of its own. In short, an increase in credible American hard power reinforces the soft-power attractiveness of the United States.

To carry out this military rebalancing, however, the US will have to stabilize its defense budget. Over the past five years, the government has cut approximately $1 trillion in current and planned defense expenditures and, unless modified, the Budget Control Act of 2011 mandates cuts of nearly $500 billion more over the next decade. And while the US defense budget is the world’s largest, the scale of these cuts will have a significant effect on the American military’s force structure.

The Navy, for example, believes that to effectively carry out its various global functions, it needs a fleet of 304 ships. If all the defense cuts go forward, the Navy estimates that its fleet will shrink to approximately 250 ships or less. Hence, when the administration’s rebalancing plan calls for having 60 percent of its fleet in the Asia-Pacific theater, that percentage is not likely to reassure allies and partners in the region, in light of the fleet having shrunk so significantly.[22]

A third component of an enhanced American soft-power campaign in Asia would include completion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP), an ambitious free-trade agreement among a dozen Asian-Pacific nations. (The states involved account for roughly a third of all global trade.) Although there is an obvious economic rationale for pursuing an agreement, its larger strategic purpose is to deepen the liberal economic order in the region.

If concluded, the TTP will not only lessen the relative pull now exerted by the Chinese economy on countries in the region by providing greater market access elsewhere, but it will also, as other agreements have, strengthen ties and cooperation between private sectors and governments. Although this does not guarantee US attractiveness, such agreements break down various barriers that stand in the way, and increase its likelihood.

In addition, creating this free-trade zone would overcome existing American legal hurdles that constrain US exports of natural gas to energy-hungry Asian states such as Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. With the revolution in unconventional gas and oil exploration taking place in North America, America will have more than enough gas and oil supplies to keep energy prices domestically stable and still be able export to the world market.[23] Presumably, the United States will become an even more attractive partner if it develops into a reliable and safe provider of needed energy supplies.

A fourth element to enhancing American soft power is, like the first, diplomatic. But it involves more than just showing up. And, indeed, an administration can exhaust itself by trying to fit in all the various regional bilateral and multilateral forums that now take place in Asia.

This effort would involve taking full advantage of the fact that more people live under liberal democratic rule in Asia than any other part of the globe. With the focus on China’s rise and, to a lesser extent, India’s rise, the democratic transformation of the region has been overlooked.

Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and India are no longer the exceptions in this regard. Over the past three decades, democratic rule has taken hold in South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Indonesia, with Indonesia, most significantly, being the largest Muslim-populated democracy in the world. And, indeed, according to Freedom House, the US-based nonprofit that monitors global trends in governance and personal freedoms:

Over the past five years, the Asia-Pacific region has been the only one [of the world’s six major areas] to record steady gains in political rights and civil liberties. . . . Although it is home to China, where over half the world’s ‘Not Free’ population lives, and North Korea, the least free country in the world, a number of Asia-Pacific countries have made impressive gains in the institutions of electoral democracy—elections, political parties, pluralism—and in freedom of association.[24]

However, for all the democratic progress that has been made in the region, and even though, as noted earlier, there are numerous regional forums, there is not a single one that unites the democratic states in the region. To be clear, this is not about creating an Asian version of the European Union; Asian states are not ready to devolve sovereignty. Nor is this about establishing an Asian version of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization; while Asian states are worried about China, they are not worried to the same degree as the West was about the Soviet Union in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

A more modest and doable idea is to create a forum that would bring the democracies together to discuss how like-minded governments can work jointly but voluntarily to provide regional public goods—such as planning for disaster relief, addressing cross-border environmental concerns, providing peacekeeping forces when necessary, working together on antipiracy and nonproliferation issues, and supplying election-assistance monitoring teams for countries in the region whose democratic development is less mature. Such a forum would not attempt to replace existing groups or current bilateral ties but could serve as a way of institutionalizing some of the more attractive features of American soft power and doing so in a mutually reinforcing manner with similarly governed regimes.[25]

This agenda is less about specific soft-power programs and more about setting up the military, economic, and diplomatic conditions that can make the region more receptive to American soft power. Again, American soft power is largely outside the control of the government but, nevertheless, the government can still adopt policy frameworks that help reinforce whatever soft-power advantages the United States might have.

Hard and Soft Power in Context

When soft power is thought of as simply an alternative to hard power, there is a tendency to believe they carry equal weight. That is, some suggest that a policymaker can adroitly deploy soft power as a substitute for hard power and, indeed, given the high costs for the use of hard military power these days, it is the smart thing to do.

But context is all important here. For example, the mix of hard and soft power that worked in Europe to stabilize Central and Eastern Europe following the fall of the Berlin Wall will not be the same for East Asia. And even in the case of East Asia, the strategic context—or, at least, the perceived strategic context—has changed over the past decade.

"When soft power is thought of as simply an alternative to hard power, there is a tendency to believe they carry equal weight."From the mid-1990s until around 2005, there was a strong bipartisan consensus in the United States that Chinese steps toward economic liberalization, combined with the West’s decision to open its doors to Chinese membership in the World Trade Organization, would gradually but inevitably lead to Chinese liberalization domestically. Accordingly, whatever problems Washington might have with the Chinese government’s human rights infringements or with its foreign policies, they could be largely overlooked since, in time, China would look more and more like the West, or like a satisfied power, both economically and in terms of security. In this context and with this expectation in mind, the attractive soft power of the West was more important than counterbalancing China’s military modernization efforts.

However, since about 2005 there has been increased skepticism that China’s development is headed in the direction that most Americans anticipated. This was signaled publicly by then–deputy secretary of state Robert Zoellick’s 2005 speech in which he noted that it was “time to take our policy beyond opening doors to China’s membership into the international system” and begin holding China responsible for being a “stakeholder in that system.” Zoellick then laid out more than a half-dozen criteria by which to judge China’s development in that regard; since then, China’s record in meeting those criteria has, more often than not, been mixed at best.[26]

At a minimum, this has given rise to the judgment both in the United States and among various states in the region that China’s behavior and military programs have to be taken more seriously than they have been in the past. And while the cost to any conflict is potentially very great, this in turn has meant that deterring conflict has actually grown in importance for the nations of East Asia.

In East Asia, then, the relative utility of hard military power has increased. As argued previously, this does not mean that US policymakers should ignore American soft power. But what the changing strategic landscape in East Asia does imply is that American soft power is less oriented toward enticing China into the West than toward becoming a tool in the competition between the United States and China over which state will become the preeminent power in the region.

Whether explicitly admitted by policymakers, the Obama administration’s “pivot” to Asia is grounded in the view that a soft landing by China’s rise is no longer assured and that inevitably, American soft power will have a more competitive strategic edge. Whether this rebalancing of hard and soft power can be carried out effectively by the current and future US administrations remains an open question. Only history will be the judge of whether it was a “smart” use of power.


An earlier version of this essay was delivered at a conference at the Université de Poitiers, France, in October 2013. The essay will appear as a chapter in a volume edited by Maya Kandel and Maud Quessard, to be published this year by L'Institut de Recherche Stratégique de l'École Militaire.

1. There is some debate over who first coined the term “smart power.” However, the first widely cited use of the term is in an essay by Suzanne Nossel. See Suzanne Nossel, “Smart Power: Reclaiming Liberal Internationalism,” Foreign Affairs (March/April 2004), www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/59716/suzanne-nossel/smart-power. The term was employed routinely by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who during her opening statement at her Senate confirmation hearing said, “We must use what has been called ‘smart power,’ the full range of tools at our disposal—diplomatic, economic, military, political, legal, and cultural—picking the right tool, or combination of tools, for each situation.” See Hillary Clinton, “Senate Confirmation Hearing: Hillary Clinton,” New York Times, January 13, 2009.
2. Joseph S. Nye Jr., Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power (New York: Basic Books, 1990).
3. The “history had ended” notion was most famously argued by Francis Fukuyama. See Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man (New York: Free Press, 1992).
4. Joseph S. Nye Jr., Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics (New York: Public Affairs, 2004), 5.
5. For an overview, see David C. Kang, “Soft Power and Leadership in East Asia,” Asia Policy, no. 15 (April 2008).
6. For background on Japanese soft power efforts in the region, see Nissim K. Otmazgin, “Contesting Soft Power: Japanese Popular Culture in East and Southeast Asia,” International Relations of the Asia Pacific 8, no.1 (2008); Thomas U. Berger, “Japan in Asia: A Hard Case for Soft Power,” Orbis 54, no.4 (2010); and Hanscom Smith, “Toward a Universal Japan: Taking a Harder Look at Japanese Soft Power,” Asia Policy, no. 15 (2013).
7. For background on China’s soft power efforts, see Esther Pan, China’s Soft Power Initiative (New York: Council on Foreign Relations, May 18, 2006), www.cfr.org/china/chinas-soft-power-initiative/p10715; Thomas Lum, Wayne M. Morrison, and Bruce Vaughn, China’s “Soft Power” in Southeast Asia (Washington, DC: Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service, January 4, 2008), www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RL34310.pdf; Andrew C. Kuchins et al., Chinese Soft Power and Its Implications for the United States: Competition and Cooperation in the Developing World (Washington, DC: Center for Strategic Studies, March 2009), www.voltairenet.org/IMG/pdf/Chinese_Soft_Power.pdf; Chin-Hao Huang, China’s Soft Power in East Asia: A Quest for Status and Influence? (special report 42, National Bureau of Asian Research, January 2013), www.dornsife.usc.edu/assets/sites/451/docs/Huang_FINAL_China_Soft_Power_and_Status.pdf; and Toshi Yoshihara and James R. Holmes, “China’s Energy-Driven ‘Soft Power,’” Orbis 52, no.1 (Winter 2008), 123–37.
8. See David Shambaugh, China Goes Global: The Partial Power (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), 12. On page 215, Shambaugh goes on to argue that “China possesses little soft power, if any, and is not a model for other nations to emulate.”
9. America’s Global Image Remains More Positive than China’s (Washington, DC: Global Attitudes Project, Pew Research Center, July 18, 2013), www.pewglobal.org/2013/07/18/americas-global-image-remains-more-positive-than-chinas/.
10. For an overview of the limits of China’s soft power efforts, see Gregory G. Holyk, “Paper Tiger? Chinese Soft Power in East Asia,” Political Science Quarterly 126, no.2 (Summer 2011); Joseph S. Nye Jr., “Why China Is Weak on Soft Power,” New York Times, January 17, 2012; and Joseph S. Nye Jr., “What China and Russia Don’t Get about Soft Power,” Foreign Policy, April 29, 2013, www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/04/29/what_china_and_russia_don_t_get_about_soft_power.
11. Richard Wike, “China Finding Superpower Path No Cakewalk,” Global Public Square, August 6, 2013, http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2013/08/06/china-finding-superpower-path-no-cakewalk/.
12. World Bank, China-2030: Building a Modern, Harmonious, and Creative Society (Washington, DC, 2013), xxi, www.worldbank.org/content/dam/Worldbank/document/China-2030-complete.pdf.
13. Gary Schmitt and James W. Ceaser, “Reading Tocqueville in Beijing,” Weekly Standard 18, no.10 (November 19, 2012), www.weeklystandard.com/articles/reading-tocqueville-beijing_662231.html.
14. Francois Godement, Xi Jinping’s China (London: European Council on Foreign Relations, July 2013), www.ecfr.eu/page/-/ECFR85_XI_JINPING_CHINA_ESSAY_AW.pdf; and Gary Schmitt, “Why the Suddenly Aggressive Behavior by China?” Los Angeles Times, January 10, 2014, www.latimes.com/opinion/commentary/la-oe-schmitt-china-belligerence-20140110,0,3296358.story#axzz2qNtBAJEq.
15. Helle Dale, “BBG Budget: Voice of America Slashed, Fewer Broadcasters, More,” The Foundry, April 12, 2012, www.blog.heritage.org/2012/04/12/bbg-budget-voice-of-america-slashed-fewer-broadcasters-more-bureaucrats/.
16. For general discussion of soft power’s limitations, see Stephen Brooks and William Wohlforth, “Hard Times for Soft Balancing,” International Security 30, no. 1 (Summer 2005): 72–108; Todd Hall, “An Unclear Attraction: A Critical Examination of Soft Power as an Analytical Category,” Chinese Journal of International Politics 3 (2010), 189–211, www.cjip.oxfordjournals.org/content/3/2/189.full.pdf+html; and Colin S. Gray, Hard Power and Soft Power: The Utility of Military Force as an Instrument of Policy in the 21st Century (Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College, April 2011), www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pubs/display.cfm?pubID=1059.
17. Otmazgin, “Contesting Soft Power,” 76.
18. One recent example: despite his own personal popularity in Europe, President Obama has increased the use of lethal drone strikes against terrorist targets in ungoverned areas such as northwest Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen, believing that American security requires such strikes, and despite its deep unpopularity with much of Europe’s publics.
19. Jing Sun, Japan and China as Charm Rivals: Soft Power in Regional Diplomacy (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2013), 170.
20. Kenneth G. Lieberthal, “Obama Cancels Asia Trip Due to Government Shutdown: The Costs of Not Showing Up,” Up Front, October 11, 2013, www.brookings.edu/blogs/up-front/posts/2013/10/11-government-shutdown-obama-cancelling-apec-lieberthal.
21. President Obama visited Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, and the Philippines in late April. Secretary of State John Kerry was in Vietnam and the Philippines in mid–December 2013 and in Seoul and Jakarta in mid–February 2014. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel visited Japan in early April 2014.
22. For an overview of the US Navy’s shipbuilding plans and the potential effect of current defense budget cuts, see Ronald O’Rourke, Naval Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans (Washington, DC: Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service, November 8, 2013), www.fas.org/sgp/crs/weapons/RL32665.pdf.
23. Michael Mazza and Gary Schmitt, “Turn Gas into Geostrategy,” Wall Street Journal, June 10, 2012; and Gary Schmitt, “Strategic Gas: The Foreign Policy Case for US Energy Exports,” Weekly Standard, April 29, 2013, www.
24. Freedom in the World 2013: The Annual Survey of Political Rights and Civil Liberties (Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2013).
25. For a more detailed discussion of this point, see Gary Schmitt, “Facing Realities,” in The Rise of China: Essays on the Future Competition, Schmitt, ed., (New York: Encounter Books, 2009), 91–111.
26. For text of Secretary Zoellick’s speech, see Robert Zoellick, “Whither China: From Membership to Responsibility?” National Bureau of Asian Research Analysis 16, no. 4 (December 2005): 5–14, www.nbr.org/publications/nbranalysis/pdf/vol16no4.pdf.


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