China’s Soft Power: An Effective Approach & A Lesson to The Rest of The World

By Balongoofu Daniel

The created rift between the west and a huge percentage of the rest of the world implies of how the western assertive approach to some realities in the international system may not be good for the west and the world at large. The United States with its allies were best positioned to attract and keep nonwestern countries on side if they understood what motivates them and stopped their wrong claim of acting like ‘big brother” of the house.

In a wider perspective, if we use Ukrainian crisis example, although 141 of the members of the United Nations General Assembly voted to condemn Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, it should be noted that most nonwestern countries have not imposed economic sanctions on Russia amidst calls by the west to completely isolate Russia.

The hardliner response by the west in form of military equipment supplies to Ukraine, sanctions to Russia and Russian led institutions have evidently not been bought by the rest of the world especially by the global south with countries like Brazil, China, India, Mexico, South Africa among others choosing intellectual pragmatism view that unilateral sanctions against Russia cannot help in resolving this crisis.

These countries which are arguably guided by principles of intellectual pragmatism and nonhegemonic aspirations have rightly refrained from signing onto resolutions that criticize Russia in UN forums and have suggested more binding and practical solutions in relation to respect to sovereignty, non-interference and the geopolitics of that region to mention but not limited to the Ukrainian question, actors that have sought indifferent means to the western led assertive, non-binding mechanisms to pressing issues in the international arena have been pooled to common ground leading to a birth of a much needed multipolar global order and formulation of new strategic partnerships and the most recent one being China that has been advocating for peace with the most recent proposal being Global Security Initiative (GSI) and the pivotal role Beijing played in ending several years of animosity between Tehran and Riyadh which Beijing blocked and saw two former arch enemies resuming diplomatic ties, a development international community welcomed as a step in bringing sustainable peace in the Gulf region.

Actors in the global south have increasingly sought for more binding resolutions as opposed to a more assertive global order, speaking of China, Beijing has mastered the art of seeking binding resolutions and softer means to power in the international system being good for the rest of the world because it limits contestation and the bleach of peace hence forth. Evidently, in the joint statement released by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Peoples Republic of China on the 10th of March highlighting what Saudi Arabi described as “the noble initiative of His Excellency President Xi Jinping, President of the Peoples Republic of China,” to restore diplomatic relations between the two nations. The statement as well highlights the series of cordial meetings in Beijing over seen by the Chinese government between the Iran and Saudi foreign envoys. Actually, Saudis’ statement mentions President Xi twice and 5 times China underscoring the role played by President and China as a country played in this deal.  It should be noted that the two nations were at the verge of war in the recent past as a result of the assertive notion that the prevailing global order ascertains. This is however challenged by Beijing’s soft power, a liberal tool that saw the normalization of diplomatic ties and a structure laid for the two nations to fully resume healthy diplomatic relations. This however, speaks volumes if subjected to the ends-based theory justified by the results if juxtaposed by the assertive means of the prevailing global order.

It should be noted that Beijing has heavily invested in soft power in the past decade notably evident through trade relations as a liberal approach to under guard the importance of peace and order in the international system., Beijing holds the biggest trade share in trade partnerships across the globe evidently being Europe’s biggest trade partner with trade worth 46.6 billion euros and the maximum being 55.5 billion euros as per September last year. China is also Africa’s biggest trade partner, with trade mounting to 282 billion dollars according to the Chinese customs authorities as per last year’s data. That said, in terms of trade, Beijing and Washington need each other for today, it is impossible for any single country to stand on its own and isolate China – the world’s second largest economy and arguably, the home of innovations. Therefore, with such a strong economic relation with actors in the international system, actors are bound to under guard their economic interests and underscoring the importance of peace limiting further contestation and a bleach of peace.

Another successful testament to Beijing’s soft power was on the 1st of July 1997 when Hongkong reverted back to China. It should be noted that in 1839, Britain invaded China and as a result, the Hong Kong occupation by the British. As a sparsely in habited island off the coast of southeast China. Beijing sought for more binding solutions to this problem evidently by the series of meetings undertaken to have Hongkong back under the main land China administration. Later in 1842, the treaty of Nanking was signed formally to end the war however British rule and occupation of the island was to continue for another 99years as agreed upon by the Chinese mainland authorities, this was however absolute evidence of the soft power tool that the Chinese authorities opted for and refrained from contestation which would result into further bleach of peace. Hong Kong at the time, with a bustling economy bigger than the Chinese mainland as a result of the British occupation was so important to Chinese mainland for economic cooperation and growth, therefore as a result, the Chinese authorities chose a more binding resolution with the British to safe guard their economic development and avoid the bleach of peace. This approach limited contestation till Hongkong was won back peacefully without military confrontation and notably with all the economic gains that the British had established in Hong Kong for the time.

Today, as Washington seems boxed in cold war mentality, power politics and block formation, Beijing is moving with their head high as an advocate of peace, and meaningful partnership which the world needs to attain sustainable peace and development which are key for if the world is to realize a community of shared future for mankind. Such efforts must be supported by all peace-loving citizens of the world.

Balongoofu Daniel is a Research Fellow with Sino-Uganda Research Centre.


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