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New Public Diplomacy Meets Old Public Diplomacy – the Case of China and Its Confucius Institutes

Falk Hartig
Published Online: 2015-01-07 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ngs-2014-0029


The idea of soft power – the ability to attract others by means of culture, political values and policies – is broadly debated in the context of the re-emergence of China. Less attention has been given to public diplomacy, the actual instrument governments use to mobilize these soft power resources. This paper goes beyond the literature on China’s soft power and focuses on the instrument of public diplomacy. The two paradigms of old and new public diplomacy help to tackle the idea that China is an undifferentiated, monolithic entity acting with a single, unitary logic across cultural domains. Confucius Institutes (CIs), as one important tool of China’s public diplomacy, illustrate this as they include non-Chinese non-state actors into China’s external communication efforts. This approach requires and encourages more dialogue and greater exchange between the stakeholders which co-create messages about China for foreign audiences. Nevertheless, the paper argues that CIs at the same time also illustrate that China’s public diplomacy system largely remains state-centric which limits its influence to shape China’s image and project its soft power.

Keywords: China; globalization; soft power; public diplomacy; new public diplomacy; Confucius Institutes


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About the article

Published Online: 2015-01-07

Published in Print: 2014-12-01

Citation Information: New Global Studies, Volume 8, Issue 3, Pages 331–352, ISSN (Online) 1940-0004, ISSN (Print) 2194-6566, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ngs-2014-0029.

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