November 2, 2021

China’s improved diplomatic relations with Asian countries have been characterised by positive engagement with regional organisations. However, cross-nation opinion surveys show that China’s approval in the region has declined significantly since2013. Why does this gap exist, and what can China do to close it? More importantly, how can Beijing effectively align its policy objectives with its soft-power tools to gain more support among its Asian neighbours?This article argues that reconciliation between China’s core interests and its soft power discourse is possible and desirable, as China’s self-restraint, assuring, and leadership practices are crucial sources of China’s policy practices. First, it claims that China’s soft power discourse matters greatly, as a rising country needs to express its good intentions to others in avoiding an anti-China alliance. Secondly, it proposes a feasible framework to reconcile China’s core interests and its soft power policy, in which Beijing could be firm in its official stances and flexible in its execution.It offers an in-depth analysis of three case studies: China’s North Korea policy, its handling in the South China Sea disputes, and its governance in Hong Kong. Finally, it concludes with substantive implications for East Asian politics.

Published online: 27 Oct 2021 - -

Christina Lai China CWP JHU Sinica Taiwan

Christina Lai is a junior research fellow in the Institute of Political Science at Academia Sinica, Taiwan. She is also a lecturer in Global Security Studies at Johns Hopkins University. She is interested in U.S.-China Relations, Chinese Foreign Policy, East Asian politics, and Qualitative Research Methods. Her works have appeared in the Journal of Contemporary China, Pacific Review, International Relations of the Asia-Pacific, Journal of Asian Security and International Affairs, Asian Survey, Asia Time, China’s World, and, Asian Security.

Her research projects were supported by the Lynde and Bradley Foundation, Global Taiwan Institute, Georgetown University, and American Political Science Association.

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