Most writers on China seek to balance positive and negative in order to avoid the charge of being a "panda hugger." But from the moment Kurlantzick first arrived in Bangkok in 1998, he was carried away with awe for how successful Beijing was in altering "its image across the globe, from threat to opportunity, from danger to benefactor." As he traveled around Asia, he constantly spotted examples of Chinese "soft power" at work -- winning friends for Beijing to the point where China was replacing the United States as the world leader in numerous ways. Kurlantzick's enthusiasm for Chinese soft power has the unintended effect of exposing the extent to which the very concept can become highly subjective. When there is no solid objective basis for measuring power, rhetoric can take over and words can claim more significance than deeds. What is most impressive is the diplomatic skill of the Chinese who, in just a few years, transformed the image of China as a dangerous and menacing power into one of a peaceful champion of constructive foreign trade. China thereby became am effective actor in multinational forums.
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