WASHINGTON — Reuters blogger Andrew Hammond made an interesting point this past week when he said that the hoopla and concern over China is a bit overblown. His reason?
China lacks significant “soft power” or non-military influence and political clout. China has a lot of hard power, such as a stronger military, but lacks diplomacy and awareness for international sentiments when they crack down on Tibetans and other dissident groups within its borders.
Unless China is able to revamp their international profile through more effective and warm diplomacy, noted Hammond, it cannot leapfrog the U.S. and other countries. The strong-arm tactics of the Chinese government has prevented it in the past from moving forward whenever it accomplishes some good.
For example, the 2008 Beijing Olympics was a public relations boon for the country, but it was followed up by brutal repressions of Tibetans. This caused Hammond to say that China needs to reevaluate its policies and responses to avoid the “tendency to shoot itself in the foot going forward.”
One way to measure China’s soft power is by approval or favorability ratings from other countries. According to the Pew Center, China’s overall favorability with Americans fell from 51% in 2011 to 40% in 2012. Japan’s ratings of China have fallen from 34% to 15% due to China’s recent beefing up of their navy and the Diaoyu islands dispute. And, Europeans have a less favorable view as well, with drops of at least 8% favorability in places like Germany, France and Great Britain.