Economic Presence of China in Southeast Asia as a Condition for Promoting Soft Power Policy

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2019-63-4-40-49

N. Rogozhina (,
Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences (IMEMO), 23, Profsoyuznaya Str., Moscow, 117997, Russian Federation;
A. Rogozhine (,
Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences (IMEMO), 23, Profsoyuznaya Str., Moscow, 117997, Russian Federation

Abstract. The Southeast Asia is of special interest to China and, therefore, attracts its enhanced attention. The countries of the region possess a lot of benefits for the PRC as for sustaining its economic growth and promoting its geopolitical ambitions. To achieve these goals, Beijing has to encourage their support by forming its positive image of a responsible regional actor, which raises the importance of conducting the policy of “soft power” with the aim to raise its attractiveness for them. For this purpose, China combines traditional “soft power” instruments – such as culture, education, values, public diplomacy – with economic resources that can promote its attractiveness the most. The question is to what extent the Chinese “soft power” policy meets the interests of the Southeast Asia countries in achieving their economic prosperity, political stability and guarantying their national security. The point is that these countries alongside with deriving benefits from extended ties with the PRC face considerable risks – economic, political, social and strategic. The economic expansion of China into the region brings not only new investment and increase in trade exchange, but results in losing competiveness by national business, in indebtedness and political dependence, in deteriorating social problems. In countries with authoritarian regimes, the economic rapprochement with the PRC leads to strengthening the political position of existing power, while in democratic countries it causes the increase of anti-Chinese sentiments in society, which is used by opposition forces in a political struggle. Cultural expansion of China for all its positive directions towards improving mutual understanding also leads to implicit political threats coming from Beijing’s attempts to form an “extractive” elite and increase of anti-Chinese sentiments in local public. The results of public opinion polls indicate that the possibility to raise the PRC’s attractiveness for the Southeast Asia countries by means of “soft power” resources remains limited. They do not perceive the growth of China’s economic power as being solely beneficial for them. And the more Beijing seeks to dominate the region using the tools of “soft power”, the stronger will be a public demand for maintaining a distance in relations with it.

Keywords: “soft power” policy, China, Southeast Asia, economic expansion, economic dependence, political risks, anti-Chinese sentiments, overseas Chinese


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For citation:
Rogozhina N., Rogozhin A. Economic Presence of China in Southeast Asia as a Condition for Promoting Soft Power Policy. World Eonomy and International Relations, 2019, vol. 63, no. 4, pp. 40-49.

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