China has spent heavily to project its “soft power” abroad but has seen its image deteriorate across America, Europe and the Middle East, according to George Washington University’s David Shambaugh. He argues that China ought “to substantively engage foreign criticisms [rather] than to reflexively dismiss them or respond with unconvincing public-relations campaigns.” From The New York Times:
There are any number of immediate steps China could take. It should work to halt its hacking. It should open its markets and reduce its trade surpluses, while restricting subsidies to its foreign investment and exports. It should protect intellectual property rights and ratify and adhere to the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which commits its members to protect individual liberties.
In foreign policy, it should involve itself in multinational negotiations under the Law of the Sea Treaty to resolve its disputes in the South China Sea, negotiate a settlement with Japan over its disputed islands and pressure North Korea and Iran to end their nuclear programs. It should also be transparent in its overseas aid programs and military budgets, and it should better respect sensitivities in developing countries over China’s extraction of natural resources.
Taking such steps would go much further toward enhancing China’s international image than the billions of dollars the country is currently pumping into its overseas propaganda efforts.
See also previous CDT coverage of China’s soft power.