International scholars or non-Chinese scholars have worked hard to bolster the study of national image and its role in foreign affairs. As early as 1950s, American scholar Kenneth E. Boulding finished his pioneer work “The Image: Knowledge in Life and Society” and later Morgenthau revised his “Politics among Nations (3rd ed.), both books stressed the role of image in international relations. During recent years, articles and writings on the topic of image have become more and more well-articulated and well-established. It is widely accepted that nation’s struggle for power and interests can’t separated from the positive image and influence abroad. If nation considers the cost and long-term friendship, it is necessarily to foster and build up their national image or credibility in international relations. In brief, struggle for power, principle and prestige (image) should be tri-dimension rather than exclusive one option for any nation’s aspiration.
With the rapid rising and widely involved into global affairs, China is believed to be more interested in national greatness and image in the world affairs. This is very understandable. To sustain China’s comprehensive involvement into the world affairs, Chinese and international scholars as well have worked on the topic related to national image, reputation, credibility and prestige or in terms of soft power. Therefore, numerous scholarly writings have been published, such as, American scholar Joshua Jurlantzick, “Charm Offensive: How China’s Soft power is Transforming the World”, Bonnie Glaser and M. E. Murphy, “Soft Power with Chinese characteristics”, Thomas Lum, W. M. Morris and Bruce Vaughn’s China’s Soft power in Southeast Asia”, etc.1 To certain extent, those scholars have presented positive and flexible efforts made by Chinese to project their image abroad.
Similarly, Chinese scholars have followed the trend closely. In 1990s, Wang Hu-ning, a Chinese scholar and chief advisor to the Chinese leaders, wrote a powerful discourse “Soft Power as a culture of national power” (1993), Li Zhi’s “On Cultural Diplomacy” (2005), Peng Xin-liang’s “Cultural Diplomacy and China’s Soft Power: a global perspective”(2008), in particular Liu Ji-nan’s “International Media and National Image”(2006) and “China in Mirror: China’s Image in World Media”.2 For sure, their training backgrounds are diverse, but they have come to a consensus that with the rising power of China, Chinese leaders have be well-aware of the necessity of promoting China’s image abroad while it continues to struggle for national strength. As President Xi Jin-ping points out, a powerful China should be built up in light of national strength and international image. In practice, they are the two sides of one coin. 3 This discourse demonstrates that China has already approached to the national image in the international arena consistently and persistently.
Compared to Chinese and international scholars, the former are good at their analysing the cultural roots and policy-elements in China’s foreign relations, while international scholars are truly well-trained in theoretical treatment and methodologies. Both Sides need to listen to different opinions and consult with each other.
1Adam Bodomo, Africa-China Relations: Symmetry, Soft Power and South Africa (Talk at African Studies Institute, Zhejiang Normal University, Jinhua, May 14, 2009), Jenniffer Cook, China’s Soft Power in Africa (available on http://csis.org/files/media/csis/pubs/090310_chinesesoftpower__chap3.pdf)
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3 Xi Jin-ping’s address at CCP Politburo, March 1st, 2013.