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Comparing Chinese and EU Soft Power: The Credibility Factor

Olivier Arifon


This paper presents arguments to evaluate soft power as perceived by the European Union (EU) and by China. Since the presentation of Joseph Nye’s concept of soft power, it has become apparent that notions of audience and message reception are important. We will further argue for the relevance of the psychological idea of dissonance. We will compare and contrast soft power discourses for their alignment with reality, and assess them for discrepancy. Ultimately, we will conclude that such contradictions exist and create a “dissonance” or disjunction, which we will explore in relation to the concept of credibility. In the second section, an analysis of China’s soft power serves to highlight the effects of the implementation by a “hard” state, in a centralized and controlled manner, of a soft power policy. We will examine tables in an effort to extend our comparison beyond the discourses perpetuated and promoted by both China and the EU. We will challenge these discourses using indices, including the World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders, the Corruption Perception Index by Transparency International, as well as The Good Country Index, The Soft Power 30, and the World Justice Index, each representing a component of soft power as proposed by Nye, i.e., culture, political values and foreign policy. Additionally, we will closely examine social questions to better develop our understanding of soft power policy. Results indicate that while credibility appears more important to China than to the EU, it is, nonetheless, a central tenet for both parties. The third section takes a comparative approach to its discussion of the normative power of European and Chinese soft power. It reveals contradictions within the policies of both political bodies, and simultaneously draws two conclusions. First, that a “cultural fool” does not exist, i.e., individuals are able to decipher and understand messages. Secondly, that individuals attribute credibility or unreliability to policy messages framed by a state, an organization, or the media. 


China; communication; credibility; dissonance; European Union; image; normative power; perception; soft power

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7358/lcm-2018-002-arif


Lingue Culture Mediazioni - Languages Cultures Mediation
Registered by Tribunale di Milano (27/11/2013 n. 380)
Online ISSN 2421-0293 - Print ISSN 2284-1881

Dipartimento di Scienze della Mediazione Linguistica e di Studi Interculturali
Università degli Studi di Milano

Editors-in-Chief: Paola Catenaccio (Università degli Studi di Milano) - Giuliana Garzone (IULM, Milano)
Editorial Board: Marina Brambilla (Università degli Studi di Milano) - Maria Vittoria Calvi (Università degli Studi di Milano) - Gabriella Cartago (Università degli Studi di Milano) - Lidia Anna De Michelis (Università degli Studi di Milano) - Giovanni Garofalo (Università degli Studi di Bergamo) - Dino Gavinelli (Università degli Studi di Milano) - Antonella Ghersetti (Università di Venezia Ca’ Foscari) - Maria Grazia Guido (Università del Salento) - Elena Liverani (IULM, Milano) - Stefania Maci (Università degli Studi di Bergamo) - Andrea Maurizi (Università degli Studi di Milano Bicocca) - Chiara Molinari (Università degli Studi di Milano) - Stefano Ondelli (Università degli Studi di Trieste) - Davide Papotti (Università degli Studi di Parma) - Francesca Santulli (Università di Venezia Ca’ Foscari) - Girolamo Tessuto (Università degli Studi della Campania Luigi Vanvitelli) - Giovanni Turchetta (Università degli Studi di Milano) - Stefano Vicari (Università degli Studi di Genova)
International Scientific Committee: James Archibald (McGill University, Montreal) - Natalija G. Bragina (Institut Russkogo Jazyka im. A.S. Puškina; RSUH, Mosca) - Kristen Brustad (University of Texas at Austin) - Luciano Curreri (University of Liège) - Hugo de Burgh (University of Westminster) - Giuditta Caliendo (Université de Lille) - Giorgio Fabio Colombo (Nagoya University Graduate School of Law) - Daniel Dejica (Universitatea Politehnica Timisoara) - Anna De Fina (Georgetown University, USA) - Claudio Di Meola, (Sapienza Università di Roma) - Denis Ferraris (Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris) - Lawrence Grossberg (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) - Stephen Gundle (University of Warwick) - Décio de Alencar Guzmán (Universidade Federal do Pará, Belém,  Brasile) - Matthias Heinz (Universität Salzburg) - Rosina Márquez-Reiter (The Open University) - Samir Marzouki (Université de Manouba à Tunis) - (John McLeod, University of Leeds) - Estrella Montolío Durán (Universitat de Barcelona) - M'bare N'gom (Morgan State University, Baltimore) - Christiane Nord (Magdeburg-Stendal University of Applied Sciences) - Daragh O'Connell (Cork University) - Roberto Perin (York University, Toronto) - Giovanni Rovere (Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg) - Lara Ryazanova-Clarke (University of Edinburgh) - Françoise Sabban (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris) - Kirk St.Amant (Louisiana Tech University, University of Limerick/University of Strasbourg) - Paul Sambre (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven) - Srikant Sarangi (Aalborg University) - Junji Tsuchiya (Waseda University, Tokyo) - Xu Shi (Zhejiang University)
Section editors: Maria Matilde Benzoni, Università degli Studi di Milano (Modern history) - Paola Cotta Ramusino, Università degli Studi di Milano (Russian linguistics and translation) - Mario de Benedittis, Università degli Studi di Milano (Sociology) - Kim Grego Università degli Studi di Milano (English linguistics and translation) - Giovanna Mapelli, Università degli Studi di Milano (Spanish linguistics and translation) - Bettina Mottura, University of Milan (Chinese studies) - Mauro Giacomo Novelli, Università degli Studi di Milano (Contemporary Italian literature and culture) - Letizia Osti, Università degli Studi di Milano (Arab studies) - Maria Cristina Paganoni, Università degli Studi di Milano (English linguistics and translation) - Giuseppe Sergio, Università degli Studi di Milano (Italian linguistics) - Virginia Sica, Università degli Studi di Milano (Japanese studies)

Editor of LCM - The Series: Marie-Christine Jullion

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