Has China Soft Power

China's idea of ​​soft power

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On August 8, 2008, more than a billion people saw the grandiose opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games worldwide. China presented itself to the world as a peaceful and friendly country. Many praised the extravagant ceremony, in which around 15,000 performers took part, as "the largest in the history of the Olympic Games". But few suspected that it was an important symbolic harbinger - namely, the first demonstration of China and its power in a new ideological contest after the end of the Cold War.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is well equipped to enter this competition. In 2007 she devised a plan to "strengthen culture as part of soft power". Soft power is a term coined by the American political scientist Joseph Nye. He tried to describe the great influence that a country's charisma and attraction can develop politically. President Xi Jinping follows this idea when he describes grandiose-sounding, if rather vaguely defined visions of the "Chinese dream", the "Chinese model" and "the peaceful rise" of a strong China. It is difficult to precisely quantify the effectiveness of this party's strategy. All we know is that it spends astronomical sums of money building up soft power; estimates put it at ten billion dollars a year; however, the exact use of the money is unclear.

In any case, China's attractiveness seems to have grown rapidly over the past ten years. At the same time, doubts about Western democracy have grown steadily, even among those in the East and West who see themselves as opponents of the authoritarian Chinese system.

The most attractive thing about China is its sheer size. Size matters, and enormous size paralyzes people. Again and again I have seen foreign business people who were intimidated by its economic power after their first visit to China - this also applies to many who are anything but convinced of the political and economic approaches of the rulers in Beijing. It can seem quite normal to come to such a conclusion: Decades of the Chinese economic miracle seem to prove that something is right about the system, if not a superior one. Many countries today take China as a model when they push investments in innovation, industrial production, IT and infrastructure in general. There is actually a lot to learn there.

The western self-doubt

Sometimes the western self-doubts go so far that the boundaries between political judgment and economic consideration are unnecessarily blurred. In an interview with the Focus For example, the journalist and China expert Frank Sieren pleaded for reconsidering China's strategy of creating a kind of national Internet and effectively excluding Facebook and Google from it: “We shouted 'censorship!'. Meanwhile, the Chinese are the only ones Have alternatives to Amazon, Facebook & Co. So there is more competition globally. We Europeans, on the other hand, have hardly anything to oppose the Americans. Who has now acted smarter? " Questions like these are absurd and lead astray, possibly without the person asking them realizing it. They presuppose that the Chinese government's censorship measures and attempts to control their minds are something like clever moves that are made for the benefit of their own people. It would be much more important, instead, to look at the real reasons for the slow development of European internet companies.

Without a doubt, the pace, efficiency, vitality and the apparent stability of the Chinese model are attractive. In his downright grouchy book The China Model: Political Meritocracy and the Limits of Democracy The Canadian political scientist Daniel A. Bell, who teaches at universities in Shandong and Beijing, argues with some zeal the following thesis: China has developed a model of democratic meritocracy that is morally desirable and politically stable and can thus avoid the crucial weaknesses of an electoral democracy. At Bell, of course, there is no mention of the enormous human costs that the Chinese pay for this apparently superior model. 15 years ago his theses would have been simply laughed at in the USA. In view of the developments since the 2008/2009 financial crisis, it can hardly be denied that the democracies are struggling, for example with debates on economic justice: While a prosperous middle class has emerged in China during this period, it is shrinking in many Western countries. The gap between rich and poor widened, and fears of economic decline began to rampant.

China also seems to be a good role model for some representatives of right-wing populist movements in Europe who are trying to profit from the deep disappointment in Western societies. The AfD member of the Bundestag Markus Frohnmaier, for example, called on Germany to learn from China and its idea of ​​a new Silk Road, because the country “obviously has an economic development strategy that works. It works in China, it works in Africa, it works in Europe and even in Duisburg ". Alice Weidel named China two years ago as a positive counter-example to discredit Angela Merkel's refugee policy: "The Chinese place great value on border security." Weidel's statement was true, in the coldest possible way: the Chinese government controls the borders of Xinjiang and Tibet with cameras and drone patrols, the inhabitants of these provinces cannot leave their cities and villages unobserved.