Soft power

A Mixue Ice Cream & Tea outlet in Johor Bahru. (Photo: Claudia Liao)

Mixue, ChaGee, Luckin: F&B brands boosting China's soft power in Southeast Asia?

As China tries to sell its soft power, one channel it is tapping into is its food and beverage industry, with brands like Mixue and Luckin Coffee moving into overseas markets. Alongside its tech exports like smartphones, can China convince others of its products and improve its image?
People queue to enter the Forbidden City in Beijing, China, on 19 October 2023. (Edgar Su/Reuters)

China is not ready for a showdown with the US

To build the “community of shared destiny for mankind”, it is necessary to hold hands with liberalism, for it is still the international mainstream. However, finding points of agreement does not entail complete Westernisation, says East Asian Institute senior research fellow Lance Gore. What it means is to do better than the Western countries in actualising a system of human values that is identical or similar. Before China gets the world's approval in soft power, it's not ready for a showdown.
First-grade students wearing Hanfu clothing hold up cards with the character "ren" meaning "person" during an initiation ceremony to learn about traditional culture at a primary school in Anlong County, in China’s southwest Guizhou province, on 28 August 2023. (AFP)

Can China uphold the promises of diversity in the Global Civilisation Initiative?

China’s Global Civilisation Initiative (GCI) claims to promote inclusivity and cultural diversity. A litmus test of its credibility would be how China has and will deal with variations of cultures and identities that exist within and outside the country.
Chinese paramilitary police walk on the Bund promenade along the Huangpu river in the Huangpu district in Shanghai, China, on 15 June 2023. (Hector Retamal/AFP)

Can China maintain a hard line against the US?

In this key period of China’s rise, it can either choose to adopt a hard line or to cool down. History tells us that the hard line is likely to prevail, but China should be aware that this may lead to one overestimating its own strength, challenging the existing hegemon too soon, and ultimately meeting failure. The crucial question is whether the hard line is backed by wisdom. What China is going to do with the strength it has gained remains a puzzle to most countries, and this is the root of the perception of the Chinese threat.
Thai (L) and the Taiwanese (R) version of The Prince Who Turns Into A Frog, a story of a rich young man who falls in love with a young woman after losing his memory. (Internet)

How Thailand is remaking TV dramas, from Taiwan's Meteor Garden to China's Addicted

Over the past decade or so, Thailand has come up with its own remakes of popular shows from overseas, from Chinese and Korean dramas to Taiwanese idol series. Producers have learnt that they need to inject their own uniqueness to the remade dramas to find an audience, including the large Chinese market. In recent years, Thailand’s own brand of “boys’ love” or BL dramas have even found favour with many of the source markets of its remade dramas. Zaobao correspondent Wang Yingmin talks to production companies and viewers to understand the pull of Thai TV series.
Local people are seen on their vehicles as they get stuck in traffic while the VIP convoys pass during the ASEAN foreign ministers meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 3 August 2022. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

China: Needed but not well-loved in Cambodia

Cambodian commentator Sokvy Rim explains why recent Chinese immigrants in Cambodia are viewed with suspicion and even some dislike despite major Chinese investment flows in Cambodia and related economic benefits.
A view of Santikhiri village, a KMT Chinese village, in Mae Salong, Chiang Rai, Northern Thailand. (iStock)

From pro-Taipei to pro-Beijing: Are KMT Chinese in Thailand switching their allegiance?

Because of China’s soft power, some Yunnanese Chinese in Northern Thailand — known as KMT Chinese and who are descendants of KMT supporters who left Yunnan and eventually settled in Northern Thailand — have gradually shifted from being pro-Taipei to being pro-Beijing. Out of the 110 private tutoring Yunnanese schools in Northern Thailand for instance, more than 40 have begun to accept Beijing’s support and modelled their school structure in accordance with PRC’s guidance. How many more converts can China's soft power yield?
Pedestrians are silhouetted against a large public video screen showing an image of former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe in the Akihabara district of Tokyo on 8 July 2022, after he was shot and killed in the city of Nara. (Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP)

Kishida will pick up the baton of Shinzo Abe's dream

Abe’s major accomplishments are in his diplomacy and security policies, and these are the areas that will be highlighted when history passes judgement on him. PM Fumio Kishida has every reason to pick up where Abe left off, seeking to expand this grand vision of the Indo-Pacific and keep the unreliable US in check, but the biggest obstacle will be establishing a consensus within the ruling party.
A man walks along an observation area with a view of the Shenzhen skyline during sunset in Shenzhen, in China’s southern Guangdong province on 10 July 2022. (Jade Gao/AFP)

What can an increasingly isolated China do?

China’s general isolation is impacting its economy and international image, with most other countries having unfavourable views of and little trust in China and its leadership. Taiwanese commentator Chen Kuohsiang looks at the factors leading to the current situation and how China can address it.