China has boarded the soft power bandwagon with an enthusiasm rarely witnessed elsewhere: Confucius Institutes, promotional videos in New York’s Times Square, CCTV 9, pandas arriving at Edinburgh Zoo. China’s soft power strategy explores new and innovative techniques of attracting global attention, while also embracing History and traditional culture as themes that can resonate with international audiences.

However, how does this international outreach strategy sit with soft power theory which highlights the importance of projecting values, ideals and principles? Is the Chinese approach to soft power modelled on identifiably ‘western’ practices, or does it demonstrate distinct Chinese understandings of soft power? The research presented in this seminar is an attempt to begin the process of de-Westernising soft power and to understand the disjuncture between China’s aspirations and the external perceptions of its actions. The presentation will critique China’s current international outreach strategy and question the emphasis on cultural approaches to soft power. Finally it will suggest that soft power cannot be a panacea for problems in the hard power domain.

Speaker: Gary Rawnsley is Professor of International Communications at the University of Leeds. He is the co-editor of The Routledge Handbook of Chinese Media (forthcoming), Global Chinese Cinema: The Culture and Politics of Hero (2010) and Political Communications in Greater China (2003). He is the author of many books and articles on international communications with particular interest in Taiwan. His present research is a study of Taiwan’s soft power and public diplomacy.