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The aim of this thesis is to investigate how China communicates its soft power capabilities in Germany in order to build a positive image of its peaceful development. The significance of this paper lies in the fact that the Germans have a strongly negative view on China (Pew Global Attitudes Research, 2013), despite that the bilateral relations have recently been upgraded to a ´comprehensive partnership´ and these two countries are greatly interdependent by being the world´s biggest traders (The Economist, 2014).

The concept of power has always been one of the key aspects within the field of international relations. According to Willson (2008), it can be translated into influential potential, defined as the ability to control or influence the behavior of others (Nye, 2004).
The power can be categorized on the basis of its distinctive forms, such as hard power, soft power, or the most recent debate discusses the emergence of smart power. Hard power can be defined as the country´s military power, and it is based on force and inducement of payments, metaphorically on ´sticks and carrots´. Whereas the soft power is a rather newer concept, since it was coined in 1990 by Joseph Nye. Soft power can be defined as “the ability of a state to influence the actions of another through persuasion or attraction, rather than coercion” and this skill is based on “culture, values and foreign policies” (Nye, 2004; Nye, 2011).

For a rising power, like China, making use of the opportunities of a successfully implemented soft power strategy should be a crucial part of its foreign policy; however, Mingjiang (2008) argues that this notion is inadequately understood within the Chinese discourse on soft power. Furthermore, the Chinese discourse is fragmented, but still based on Nye´s (2004) conceptualization; the comparison of these perceptions might enrich our understanding of power and how China intends to influence it´s national image and attractiveness abroad. Soft power is currently a widely debated concept in China; which shows that China still needs to develop a comprehensive soft power strategy in order to enhance its influence in the international arena (Mingjiang, 2008).

The Sino-German relations have recently been upgraded to a “comprehensive partnership” (Kundnani & Parello-Plesner, 2012); even though, further interconnectedness and cooperation is expected in these bilateral relations, only 28% of the German citizens had favorable view of China in 2013 (Pew Research Global Attitudes Project, 2013). Consequently, the Chinese soft power in Germany is weak, which is in line with the debate of the Chinese academia (Glaser & Murphy, 2009).

The case study was mainly based on the framework of Li & Worm (2010), who concluded that the most important elements of the Chinese soft power are comprised of its culture and economic temptation and to a limited extent, its development model and international imagine, further, that these can be communicated through formal, economic or public diplomacy to political elites, interests groups or general public.

The results of the case study analysis show that the soft power resources are communicated sufficiently and frequently through interstate dialogue mechanisms and the decisions are mostly in favour of China, which shows that the soft power strategy works at this level. However, the other two levels are rather problematic, since despite the increasing number of Confucius Institutes, cultural exchanges and arrangements, the German citizens still have a negative view on China. This could be due to China´s negative framing in the media; therefore, it has been concluded that there is an urgent need for the Chinese government to have a more conscious cooperation and communication with the German media in order to shape the discourse in a more positive way.

Another important finding is that China has yet to develop a comprehensive soft power strategy, which would ideally be based on an effective communication strategy of its soft power resources; and which is suitable for the needs and characteristics of the target audience. Furthermore, the Chinese discourse on soft power adds a domestic perspective, signifying that “the harmonious world concept has great significance on China´s domestic building of a harmonious society, and constructing a harmonious society is part of strengthening China´s soft power” (Fu, 2010). Consequently, the formulation and implementation of a comprehensive soft power strategy would not only be crucial for China´s image abroad, but it would also foster national stability and unity (Edney, 2012). Even though China still needs a long time in order to be positively perceived globally; however, it is moving towards a more sophisticated management of its own soft power with regards to its peaceful development.  
SpecialisationChinese Area Studies
Publication date20 May 2014
Number of pages60
External collaboratorUniversity of International Relations
Professor Guoshuai Zhang 375904@sina.com
ID: 197818195