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Jan 17

China’s Soft Power Offensive

A former U. S. Ambassador to Thailand recalls being asked to contribute an “America Corner” to a local university in Bangkok — i.e. a computer station and a few shelves of informational material about his country. When he arrived for the unveiling, however, he found that the modest corner endowed by the U.S. government was dwarfed by the Chinese donation of a whole new building, fully staffed, to house one of China’s Confucius Institutes. Over the past decade, China has surged in its investments in “soft power” diplomacy. Since 2004, it has endowed more than 700 Confucius Institutes and class rooms globally, many of them here at American Universities. Not surprisingly, some of these have found that accepting funding from the People’s Republic of China does not come without strings, but can threaten their academic freedom. 

Confucius Institutes are only one tool in the growing Chinese soft power tool kit. Sometimes known as “public opinion warfare,” this effort also includes massive investments in global media, investment in resource-rich developing countries, student exchanges, and high visibility projects such as the Beijing Olympics, the Shanghai Expo, and the Chinese space program. It also includes an extensive effort to mold and control the Internet usage of Chinese citizens and the global image of China. 

To discuss the implications of this concerted, global effort at influencing foreign perceptions of China, the Heritage Foundation is hosting a panel including Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt, Director of Asia-Pacific Programs, United States Institute, who will discuss China's influence efforts in Asia; Dean Cheng, Senior Research Fellow in the Heritage Foundation's Asian Studies Center, who will discuss China's broader influence strategy; and Helle C. Dale, Senior Fellow for Public Diplomacy in the Heritage Foundation's Davis Institute, who will talk about China's Confucius institutes.

More About the Speakers

Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt
Director, Asia-Pacific Programs, United States Institute for Peace 

Dean Cheng
Senior Research Fellow, Asian Studies Center, The Heritage Foundation 

Helle Dale
Senior Fellow for Public Diplomacy, Kathryn and Shelby Cullum Davis Institute, The Heritage Foundation

Hosted By

Walter Lohman Walter Lohman

Director, Asian Studies Center Read More