Soft Power Determinants in the World and Implications for China

A Quantitative Test of Joseph Nye's Theory on Three Soft Power Resources and of the Positive Peace Argument

Keywords: soft power, international relations, positive peace, political freedom, foreign policy, cultural exports


Statistical tests are here conducted on two explanations of soft power. One is Joseph Nye's argument that political values, foreign policy and cultural appeals shape soft power, and the other is the positive peace argument which suggests a significant influence of the Global Peace Index (GPI) on soft power.Two measures of soft power are employed – the favourability of major powers in global public opinion polls and the Soft Power 30 Index. The latter gauges the magnitude of soft power. When the former measure, which  indicates the positiveness of soft power, is adopted the three soft power resources provide less explanatory power than per capita GDP and especially the GPI. When the Soft Power 30 Index is used, only foreign policy independent of the United States contributes positively to soft power. The GPI and non-soft power-relatedcultural exports (NSPCE) then take on a negative role because a number of nations in the index achieve very high rankings with a relatively poor GPI or small NSPCE. As far as China is concerned, its ranking in 2018 in the Soft Power 30 Index declined due to impressive improvement among other ranked nations and global public scepticism towards its foreign policy and its cultural exports.

Author Biography

HONGYI LAI is Associate Professor of School of Politics and International Relations, University of Nottingham, UK. He received BA in international politics at Beijing University, and an MA and PhD in political science fromUCLA. From 2000 to 2007 he was a research fellow and then senior fellow at the East Asian Institute, National University of Singapore. He has been working at the University of Nottingham since 2007. His research covers soft power, domestic and external political linkages, as well as China's governance and international and domestic political economy. His scholarly publications in English include eight authored and edited books, 23 academic journal articles and 24 book chapters.


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