“They have such a small, focused kind of interest, with the Dalai Lama visits in particular,” said James Reilly, professor of Northeast Asian politics at the University of Sydney, who has studied China’s unilateral sanction use. “China’s pretty unique in that regard.”
The pattern of retaliation with the Nobel laureate is so well-established that in 2010, German researchers found that countries whose leaders met him saw their exports to China fall by an average 12.5 percent over the next two years, a phenomenon they dubbed “the Dalai Lama effect.”
Qu Xing (曲興), president of the China Institute of International Studies, dismissed the possibility that Beijing’s actions could damage its global image, arguing that “many people in China believe that our diplomacy could have been more assertive.”
Yet polling suggests its reputation has been hit — in a survey of 14,400 people in 14 countries, China’s own Global Times newspaper found 29 percent of respondents described the country as “belligerent” in international affairs.
Harvard University professor Joseph Nye said the problem largely stems from Beijing’s limited view of the impact its measures have on its “soft power,” a term used to describe the ability to achieve outcomes through attraction, rather than payment or coercion.
It “does not pay enough attention” to contradictions between its aims and its actions, Nye said. “China tends to think of soft power in cultural rather than political terms.”