China’s soft power investment in African nations
University of Kansas
East Asian Languages & Cultures
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While western media reports describe China’s increasing economic and political influence as “China threat” that can undermine U.S. influence and affect the existing international hegemonic order, public opinion poll data shows that Africans tend to have more favorable views of China. Previous literature suggests that China’s soft power, such as scholarships, Confucius Institute, and iconic social infrastructure buildings, may be working to produce positive perceptions of China in African nations. However, few studies examine the causal link between China’s soft power investments and public perceptions of China (i.e. the effectiveness of China’s soft power projection). Numerous factors influence perceptions toward China including China’s hard economic investment such as industrial infrastructure projects as well as trade. Thus this study addresses the following question: Has China’s soft power investments generated positive perceptions of China among the populations in African nations? This question is examined within a framework of direct and indirect soft power. The goal of this study is to disentangle the influence of China’s hard and soft power investment on African perceptions of China as well as the distinction between direct and indirect soft power. The findings reveal that China’s soft power investments are not as effective as other studies suggest. Instead, this study suggests that China’s image in African nations is most strongly influenced by the domestic media in each country and whether they portray China in a positive or negative manner.
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