“Lisiqi” to stir the chinese fever : is soft power, or smart power?

More than a decade ago, I interned at the Los Angeles Times Washington station for nearly half a year. At that time, there was no wise media era, information diffusion is far less extensive and high-speed, there are 1 billion viewers worldwide, CNN, the network covers 210 countries and regions around the world, then no one would believe a far away in the Chinese countryside liziqi can call CNN – as of December 5, 2019, liziqi attracted 7.35 million followers with 104 videos, and CNN had 7.92 million followers, but posted 140,000 videos.

At that time, every morning I catch the subway, the subway station door will always stand a newspaper-issuing Uncle America, hurried people from his side, like the subway station ticket check, routinely accept the newspaper he handed over.

Like the New York Times and the Washington Post, people hold several boxes at the subway gate to buy or take them on their own. During that time, the shrinking circulation of American newspapers has become a trend, I was pulled by the American media to see a media self-reflection documentary. The end of the film ends in a dark black tone, with a low voice making a century-long prophecy: a hundred years from now, there will be only one newspaper left in the world – the Words of the New York Times rise to the screen after the sound disappears, without the lonely pride that survives, but rather as a portrait of the high hanging at the memorial service.

At that time, the United States newspaper groups developed the free daily model has not been affected at that time, in fact, these fancy tabloids, behind the large media groups, they have their news resources to support.

Opening the tabloid on the subway, like walking the streets of America with coffee, for me, there’s a sense of ritual that fits into the United States. The tabloid’s greatest attraction to me is the last edition of the world’s anecdotes, in my impression, a lot of so-called anecdotes related to China. For example, one Chinese man led the truck with his teeth, and another Chinese man’s belly knife and gun didn’t go in. . . The Chinese factor in the newspaper’s large picture was extremely eye-catching, and its association with China was reflected in the picture caption. In addition to the reports and controversies of the mainstream media in the United States at the time, whether to do more or short China, it was a resuscent of China-related alternative image.

At that time, China’s revival was reflected in the continuing renewal of the economic miracle, labor-intensive, high fixed-capital investment of economic growth in the world,not only american newspapers, the national media are beginning to be keen to cover China. Americans are also curious about people like me from China, and looking back, it’s more of a friendly curiosity.

Some American scholars are also beginning to study China’s soft power. In the late 1990s and early 20th centuries, they argue, Chinese officials and scholars realized the importance of expressing Chinese culture, the revival of Chinese culture. And the meaning of soft power was first clearly put forward at the top of China, was a meeting in the fall of 2007, when the supreme leader said: The great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation will be accompanied by the prosperity of Chinese culture.

Some American scholars have told me that this is more wise to link culture with China’s place on the world stage, echoing the “peaceful rise” that China wants to express.

I got it from the newspaper vendor every day, the Express, a free newspaper owned by the Washington Post. In addition to China in the Express, then in Washington, the American public, the best representative of China’s soft power is the Chinese giant pandas in the zoo, which has been upgraded directly to one of Washington’s must-visit attractions because of the pandas. People are willing to talk about sports star Yao Ming, but also talk about pianist Lang Lang, but they are mainly American after-dinner talk.

In order to enhance China’s soft power in the world has an impact, the relevant Chinese parties have made various efforts, from the promotion of Chinese, educational exchanges, media expansion to pop culture idols, the results can not be generalized. Polls have found that African respondents generally view China better than the rest of the world. Ethiopia, Ghana and other countries have a positive assessment of China’s influence by more than 75%. This was followed by Latin America and South America, where the majority of respondents had a positive view of China.

The concept of “soft power” was proposed by Joseph Nye, an American scholar who made it famous for his soft power against hard power in the 1990s. Later he extended the theory to the concept of “smart power”. In Joseph Nye’s view, it is not new for countries to find ways to show their own charm, but how to create soft power is changing with the changing conditions of the times. But not many people buy “smart power” account, in the eyes of the outside world, it is just the so-called new bottle of old wine.

In 2013, I went to Harvard University to visit Joseph Nye to ask him how china and the United States should handle their relations with each other and how to deal with the stability of great power hegemony. He told me that China has a strong soft power, which stems from its attractive traditional culture. Chinese culture is not only attractive in Asia, but also influential in other parts of the world. China’s economic success has also brought some soft power, and the country’s rise and growth and the stunning feat of lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty has made it look high and strengthen its appeal. All this can boost China’s soft power.

Joseph Nye also points out that China’s soft power is also constrained by two factors, with nationalism limiting China’s soft power in Asia and censorship that restricts civil society interaction outside Asia.

The free Express, which I read on the Washington subway that year, died on September 12, 2019, and lived for 16 years. Now that China-U.S. relations have entered a new 40-year-old, many things are human. The debate in the American media today is not just about taking china long and shorting China, it’s extreme debate and even whether to decouple from China.

In the past year, overseas media coverage of China has been largely covered by trade frictions between China and the United States, China’s economic slowdown, and a re-examination of China’s three main themes. Various American think tanks, research institutions, and major media have discussed from all angles how to understand China, how to understand China’s growth, controversy and criticism.

Being in the United States for a long time, surrounded by these sounds, it’s easy to get a little confused. Successive U.S. presidents since the 1970s have emphasized support for China’s economy since Nixon, but when China’s economy becomes the world’s no.1 and looks set to surpass America as the world’s no.1 in the future, the problem arises. So I went to ask Paul Kennedy, a historian at Yale University, who caused quite a stir with his book The Rise and Fall of Great Powers, predicting that America would go down relatively in decline. Kennedy reassured me that if time is on China’s side, and if there is no error in predictions about future development, and if China steadily replaces the United States as the world’s number one economy, it is China’s largest strategic asset and China’s biggest advantage. Kennedy said China needs to learn to wait.

In the last year or two, I’ve also grown accustomed to seeing the controversy over China in the media turn negative. China-U.S. relations continue to move forward in the ups and downs, with China’s economy still growing and growth continuing to slow. To my surprise, the Chinese message of ground gas in the Washington Subway’s free Express newspaper has been fermented in a new form on English-language social media.

69% of the U.S. population uses Facebook, I browse through moments of friends, and sometimes I see videos of Americans turning to inspire fighting spirit and enthusiasm in life, and then discover that many of the videos feature Chinese or related to China, such as those of chinese old men in their 80s. Videos of Li Ziqi’s idyllic life have become a phenomenon on American social media. Although Americans I know rarely follow her, some of her videos on social media overseas have reached tens of millions of views. She is said to have a high monthly revenue from sharing traffic advertising. Such social media presence is also rare on video sites in the United States. In her video comments, no one talked about China, but more of the feeling of that quiet pastoral atmosphere brought people the inner peace.

If it’s not surprising that people on social media, chicken soup or hunting videos are flooded, videos like these are just as popular on Linkedin, the well-known Us-known workplace social networking platform, and it’s the world’s elite who retweet and comment on them. This is a confirmation of the judgment of Joseph Nye, the father of soft power, who told me that some aspects of the Chinese story were very attractive and that soft power was more derived from civil society.

I received an e-mail from an American lawyer while expressing china’s growing soft power on the Internet. An American senior scholar asked him to go to a Confucius Institute to talk about Sino-US trade frictions, and he asked me, “Is there a risk to go?” ”

The writer is a special correspondent for Caijing, and the article is from Washington.

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