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Charm Offensive: How China's Soft Power Is Transforming the World (A New Republic Book) [Paperback]

Joshua Kurlantzick
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 27, 2008 0300136285 978-0300136289
At the beginning of the twenty-first century, China is poised to become a major global power. And though much has been written of China’s rise, a crucial aspect of this transformation has gone largely unnoticed: the way that China is using soft power to appeal to its neighbors and to distant countries alike.
This book is the first to examine the significance of China’s recent reliance on soft power—diplomacy, trade incentives, cultural and educational exchange opportunities, and other techniques—to project a benign national image, position itself as a model of social and economic success, and develop stronger international alliances. Drawing on years of experience tracking China’s policies in Southeast Asia, Latin America, and Africa, Joshua Kurlantzick reveals how China has wooed the world with a "charm offensive" that has largely escaped the attention of American policy makers.
Beijing’s new diplomacy has altered the political landscape in Southeast Asia and far beyond, changing the dynamics of China’s relationships with other countries. China also has worked to take advantage of American policy mistakes, Kurlantzick contends. In a provocative conclusion, he considers a future in which China may be the first nation since the Soviet Union to rival the United States in international influence.

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Editorial Reviews


"'This book is about two things: the rise in China's utilization of its growing soft power, but also a vacuum of soft power and influence an emasculated United States is leaving. While many authors would gravitate toward only one of these two aspects, Kurlantzick is able to weave both together, and we are the better because of his ability to do so.' Benjamin A. Shobert, Asia Times 'Kurlantzick's book will jolt you awake.' Martha Bayles, Wall Street Journal 'China is winning friends and influencing people around the world almost as fast as the United States is doing the opposite. This is a significant change, and Kurlantzick may be the first journalist to draw proper attention to it... Charm Offensive is intelligent, important, and more than a little disquieting... Kurlantzick has picked up on something crucial about China today, and it's time the rest of us took notice.' T. A. Frank, Washington Monthly"

About the Author

Joshua Kurlantzick is special correspondent for the New Republic and visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He has covered Southeast Asia and China as a correspondent for U.S. News and World Report and The Economist, and his writings on Asia have appeared in Foreign Affairs, the New York Times Magazine, and many other publications.

Product Details

  • Series: A New Republic Book
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (May 27, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300136285
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300136289
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,237,129 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
This is the first book that has dared to suggest that China understands and has been effectively exercising soft power around the world. If this is a notion novel to you, then you will want to read this book. The author has performed a service by carefully and comprehensively documenting where and how China has been operating in the 3rd world. It should be a real eye opener to most readers who have not been following China.

While the author was indefatigable in chasing down every Chinese acitivity in remote areas of the world and describing them with careful fidelity, he was less successful in remaining objective as he drew his conclusions. The tone frequently hint at something negative on the underside of the Chinese even if not verified by his data. He seemed unable to give China full credit for whatever they are doing right. The book seemed full of tentative "yes, but" conclusions that I found frustrating. If there was a dark side to China's international relations, I wish the author would simply say so and back it up with his otherwise careful research.

On the other hand when he attempted to contrast what China was doing right with what the Bush Administration had been doing wrong, he was surprisingly mealy mouthed, never quite calling the neoconpoop unilateralism for the damage it did to American prestige and the respect the rest of the world once held for the U.S.

In sum, I recommend this book on a subject that has not been covered to this depth, a subject that will become increasingly important to foreign policy wonks, especially in Washington. I would simply discount some of his limp conclusions and pay attention to his field research.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Real Good Read..... March 29, 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
For those who are interested in world politics, especially in current US-China relationships, this is but a very informative book. However, one must bear in mind that this is written in the eyes of a concerned American. When able to read another equivalent written from a concerned Chinese from China, perhaps that would be a more balanced assessment of the actual relationship of the two Giants.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but a bit disorganized November 17, 2007
I thought this was a good study of something that needs to be discussed more, particularly in the U.S. Overall there are some really useful anecdotes and this should be an eye-opener to Americans.

However, some of the sections seemed like the author stitched together shorter articles he had written previously. I think providing headers for subsections, lists for certain things (like China's tools for public diplomacy), and organizing the book or chapters by regions of the world rather than mixing everything would have made it a bit better organized.

I was also disappointed with the author's treatment of the China-Burma relationship. As a longtime Burma watcher, I have followed this relationship and have never seen any reason for viewing China's role in Burma as anything other than obstructionist. Even before the recent protests in Burma, it was clear that China was the main obstacle to getting any sort of UN Security Council resolution on the country. I was surprised that the author did not explore this more, since it seems to suggest that China is LESS willing to support changes near home, particularly when such changes could lead to instability, than abroad, like in Sudan where it has sent peacekeepers and has not played such an obstructive role in the UN Security COuncil.

Bottom line: the book is worth reading and tells of fascinating events, but I hope there are more on this subject in the future.
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25 of 37 people found the following review helpful
The author tried pretty hard to impress readers how he insightfully viewed the soft power of China, and I tried very hard to be impressed. Unfortunately, his view is so superficial that I could barely finish reading the first half of his book.

Why? Because his insightful view of China's soft power is indeed no different from soft powers all other countries employed. For example, his "tool of culture" and "tool of business" try to explain that how differently China uses her culture and business influence over other countries. Sadly, from his book, you cannot see much difference if you replace "China" with any other powerful countries, such as US, Japan, German, British, and etc. His "insightful" analysis of soft power appeared in many other books. For example, US uses Hollywood movies to push her value standards, Japan uses Sony, Toyota, and etc to influence other countries. The only point the author attracted readers is that he used the name of "China"

On the other hand, this book is filled with incorrect understanding of the concept of soft power. In his mind, China's soft power plays a very negative role in the international society. For example, he says " ... China might even shift influence away from the United States, ...", "In this sphere, countries would subordinate their interests to China's and think twice about supporting the United States should there be any conflicts in the region...". and etc. Soft power is a power that one can use to attract people or persuade people to follow his lead or direction. It is not a power that one forces upon people to follow his lead. In another word, people can make choice between follow or not follow. Otherwise, it is either economic power or military power.
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