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Reinventing Soft Power: The Strong Impact of China’s Soft Power “Shortcomings” on the Global South


After being introduced into the Chinese academic debate in the 1990s, the notion of soft power has undergone such a process of “Sinicisation” that some scholars now wonder if the original concept has been gradually “reinvented” in China. Given worsening opinions about the PRC in the US and Europe over the last years, many analysts have stressed the weakness of China’s soft power, pointing to its state-centred approach and lack of an attractive set of values to be emulated as the main shortcomings. However, China’s growing influence in the Global South shows that these analyses have misevaluated the real goals and motivations of China’s soft power. The Russia-Ukraine war provides telling examples of the successful dynamics of China’s “defensive” or “negative” version of soft power and suggests it has significant impact in the least industrialised countries.

Paper produced in the framework of the project “Countering Chinese Disinformation in Italy”.

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