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China’s Soft-Power Push

The Search for Respect

A student takes a picture of his friends in front of the Chinese flag during a graduation ceremony at Fudan University in Shanghai, June 2006. ALY SONG / REUTERS

As China’s global power grows, Beijing is learning that its image matters. For all its economic and military might, the country suffers from a severe shortage of soft power. According to global public opinion surveys, it enjoys a decidedly mixed international image. While China’s economic prowess impresses much of the world, its repressive political system and mercantilist business practices tarnish its reputation. And so, in an attempt to improve perceptions, Beijing has mounted a major public relations offensive in recent years, investing billions of dollars around the world in a variety of efforts.

A People's Liberation Army officer looks at his mobile phone as he speaks with two Hui'an maiden tourist guides in Hui'an county, December 8, 2013.
A People's Liberation Army officer looks at his mobile phone as he speaks with two Hui'an maiden tourist guides in Hui'an county, December 8, 2013. Reuters
Although Beijing’s publicity blitz began in 2007 under President Hu Jintao, it has intensified under President Xi Jinping. In October 2011, as Xi was preparing to take power, the 17th Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) devoted a whole plenary session to the issue of culture, with the final communiqué declaring that it was

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