As is frequently the case, discussions on China’s growth and influence are mostly limited to concerns about military matters. This other side of China’s growth, known as soft power or “Charm Offensive” relates to their rapidly expanding economy and cunning investment strategies. Indeed, over the past two decades China has been totally transformed, having undergone the most comprehensive national metamorphosis in modern history. Mostly impoverished in 1976 after Mao’s reign, it has emerged into one of the worlds most dynamic economies.
Trying to get a grip on how powerful China is — especially when the nebulous, unquantifiable concept of 'soft power' is brought into the discussion — is quite difficult writes Malcolm Cooke.
"Is it replacing Japan as the economic centre of Asia? Probably not, in my view. Will it soon challenge the US for global supremacy? Certainly not, in my view.
However, one of the less standard measures I am using to move my own mental abacus around is how many firms and media outlets are relocating their regional headquarters to China. The Sydney Morning Herald has shifted its Asia economics correspondent to Beijing, and last week I met the executive vice president, Asia Pacific of one of the world’s largest public relations firms, who is now based in Beijing. I see Motorola now has its North Asia headquarters in Beijing while Alcatel Lucent has consolidated its Asia Pacific headquarters in Shanghai (sorry Singapore).
At the moment, the numbers of such headquarters seem to be quite low, and some think Singapore and Hong Kong are not at risk yet of losing their hub status in the region. As always, within China, there is quite a bit of competition between Shanghai, Beijing and even Guangzhou to capture these headquarters, each offering a range of sweeteners, from tax holidays to assistance with foreign exchange transactions.
How many top 500 non-Chinese companies, especially those in services, shift their regional headquarters to China may be a good measure of China’s growing economic importance globally and regionally. Whether Shanghai or Beijing snare more will also be a good measure of where the economic muscle is in China itself."
(Via The Interpreter)
Writing for Real Clear Politics, former NYT columnist Richard Halloran quoted Chinese scholar, Joshua Kurlantzick: "China may want to shift influence away from the United States to create its own sphere of influence, a kind of Chinese Monroe Doctrine for Southeast Asia [where] countries would subordinate their interests to China's”.
As one who remains passionate about the prolongation of U.S. global hegemony I feel compelled to point out; the rise of China’s soft power is an issue that needs addressing – a recent BBC poll of 22 nations found that some 50 percent saw Beijing’s as a positive influence compared to 38 percent for the U.S. While military might remains serious America, more than any other nation ought to recognize that in this global information age, soft power sources as political maneuverings, cultures and diplomacy constitute the making of a powerful nation in as much as military might.
One would think that it should not be difficult for Washington to reinforce and sell the still dominant “Washington Consensus”, a phrase seen as being synonymous with neoliberalism and globalization over the “Beijing Consensus” which essentially means authoritarian governance coupled with market economy - what Nicholas Kristof has aptly referred to as “Market Leninism”, a fusion of liberalizing economics and repressive politics.
Contrary to some reports, China’s soft power must take huge strides to match it with the U.S. nonetheless; it is not too early to ignore this “nebulous” aspect of China’s emergence, as Fareed Zakaria wrote in 2007, “Two thousand eight is the year of China. It should also be the year we craft a serious long-term China policy” …
See also, The Rise of a Fierce Yet Fragile Superpower