Wed, May 07, 2008 - Page 1 News List

US Congress report downplays China's rise, 'soft power'


Cash-flush China may be winning allies and displacing US influence by ramping up foreign investments and disbursing aid with no strings attached, but a US congressional study says Washington need not lose sleep over it.

Beijing’s rising investments on the back of its huge pool of US dollar reserves is not necessarily always popular at home or abroad and accounts for less than 1 percent of foreign direct investment worldwide, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) study said.

Furthermore, China’s “soft power” achievements using tools such as trade and investment, development and humanitarian aid, cultural influence and travel and tourism are built on a “very narrow base,” it said.

And even in those areas, including disaster relief, China’s effort and accomplishments “pale beside those of the United States,” the report said.

The study, undertaken by a group of China specialists and regional analysts, examined the strengths and weaknesses of China’s foreign policy and growing use of “soft power” in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

“Contrary to some projections of China’s ability to displace American influence through the use of soft power, the CRS report indicates that China must grapple with many limitations on its influence,” said Senate Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, Senator Joseph Biden, who commissioned the study.

While China uses soft power to increase its economic and political leverage globally, Beijing’s success “has been mixed and its influence remains modest,” Senator Biden said.

China is attempting to exploit areas in which it holds a comparative advantage to increase its influence, sometimes in a way that runs counter to US interests, the study said.

For example, it said China’s willingness to provide no-strings-attached foreign aid “often undermines international efforts to combat corruption, improve transparency, and foster respect for human rights.”

On the plus side, however, China’s involvement in Africa, for example, was spurring investment in infrastructure, the financial services and manufacturing as well as market niches that non-Chinese foreign investors had generally long ignored.

The study noted that while China’s state-owned assets “may be obedient to state authority,” the US’ private sector left a “substantial global footprint,” sometimes overlooked by those comparing only government-directed overseas initiatives.


Meanwhile, China yesterday refused to be drawn on a photograph that Jane’s Information Group analysts believe is evidence of a new underground nuclear submarine base off Hainan Province.

Jane’s said high-resolution commercially available satellite imagery from DigitalGlobe was independent verification of previous suggestions that China is constructing an underground nuclear submarine base near the city of Sanya.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang (秦剛) would neither confirm nor deny the report.

“China is going down the road of peaceful development. China’s national defense policy is defensive. Other countries have no reason to fear, or make a fuss about it and be prickly,” Qin told a regular news conference.

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