Reports and papers

The limits of China's soft power in Europe: Beijing's public diplomacy puzzle

17 Jan 2010 - 23:51

The time when Europeans were willing to give a rising China the benefit of the doubt has gone. China's high favourability rating in Europe at the beginning of this decade rapidly declined after 2006, indicating that China's soft power in Europe has reached its limits. This paper looks at the projection of China's soft power towards three European countries - France, Germany and Great Britain - and discusses obstacles to projecting soft power in Europe at both the sender's (China) and the receiver's (Europe) side. On the sender's side these obstacles include China's lack of credibility and legitimacy, and its misconceptions about European values. On the receiver's side, preconceived notions, different values and high expectations form major obstacles. Many aspects of China's statecraft and diplomacy that are often interpreted as soft power, however, are in fact based on China's economic and political might. Europeans are not attracted by China's ideas and values, nor are they concerned about China's military hard power. China's power and influence in Europe are based on European expectations that Europe will benefit, both politically and economically, from expanding and deepening relations with China.

Ingrid d'Hooghe is Research Fellow in the Clingendael Institute's Diplomatic Studies Programme and Clingendael Asia Studies. She is a specialist on China, conducting research on China's foreign policy and diplomacy with a special focus on EU-China relations. She has recently written on the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China's Soft Power, and on the development of China's Public Diplomacy. D'Hooghe is co-editor of the Clingendael Discussion Papers in Diplomacy.