Soft power as an important structural component of a foreign policy strategy of a state

  • 25th February 2019
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Galina Sidorova, moderndiplomacy.eu
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The architect of the ‘soft power’ concept Joseph Nye focuses on ‘the ability to achieve the desired through voluntary cooperation, not by coercion or tricks’. The name of the theory and its interpretation are clearly in conflict because voluntary participation may not involve any force, even if it’s soft. Moreover, the author of the theory believes that the power of modern States consists of three parts: military force, economic power and ‘soft power’. However, the author himself claims it doesn’t seem to be simple to combine hard and soft powers in one strategy. The main idea of the concept of Joseph Nye is that it is ‘soft power’ that helps to achieve great results in world politics. A careful analysis of the techniques of ‘soft power’ used by various States in practice, can prove that it is only a kind of power impact, i.e. ‘hard power’. It’s just an ‘iron fist in a velvet glove’.
“Soft power” is neologism in political vocabulary. However, its content is hardly new phenomenon. Throughout human civilization, the techniques of cunning rivals have been used to achieve their goalies. They were named differently or were not named in any way. Recall, at least, the proverb “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts”. For 10 years, the Greeks have failed to besiege Troy. It was the subterfuge of Odysseus that helped to take the rebellious city. He offered to give a present to Trojans in the form of a great wooden horse, hiding the elite force inside. There is also another example from modern history. For many years the USA and NATO have been using “soft power” as information influence to disintegrate the Eurasian are wreak havoc and cause instability in the countries neighboring Russia. The United States considers “soft power” an effective means of conducting geopolitical struggle between states. According to O.A.Belkov, “they actively use it in order to defeat or weaken their reel and potential adversary states in the international arena”. The tools of American “soft power” are used as the main component in the strategy of conducting “hybrid warfare” (another neologism in political vocabulary). As is known, the aim of “hybrid warfare” is total or partial disintegration of a state, the establishment of external ideological and, after it, political and economic control, and as a result, complete submission to dictates by other states from without. As political analysts A.Bogachev and M.Latugin rightly say, the “concept of “soft power” implies the creation of such an image of power or any political force (including the opposition) that is capable of influencing behavior, forcing the masses to take actions beneficial to the actor of “soft power”. The idea of “soft power is based, first of all, not on the arguments of reason, but on the strength of “information and images” and on the influence of “meanings”.
China, in contrast to the USA, keeps a low profile and does not try to suppress others nations to its will. Its “soft” intervention into political and economic spheres of various countries have become noticeable practically on all the continents including Africa. However, it looks like PRC is not interested in politics. This implicit impact on the Africans has enabled China to get full control over African markets and profit from them significantly. Ten years ago, in 2007, the Democratic Republic of Congo and China signed “the Contract of the century” worth $9 billion. Lately it has been renegotiated because of the outraged reaction of western colleagues. China was obliged to put into effect restoration of the railway infrastructure with a length of 3200 km, a highway (3600 km), construction of the airport, housing, hospitals, medical centers, universities and colleges. The joint company “Sicomin” was created under the agreements between the Government of RD Congo, the state enterprise “Gécamines” and the consortium of Chinese corporations “Sinohydro”, “China Railway Engineering Corporation”. 68% of this enterprise belongs to the Chinese government and 32% to the “Gécamines” group. The “five pillars” aimed at strengthening of China-Africa relations announced during the African tour made by Chinese President Jiang Zemin in 1996 and 1997 became the ideological basis of Beijing’s cooperation with African countries. Among these principles there are: enhancing of the sincere friendship “come rain or shine”; equal treatment of all the partners and maintaining of the non-interference principle; quest for development on a mutually beneficial basis; activation of consultation and cooperation in international affairs; creation of the new prosperous world. These principles got broad support in African countries.
Apparently, they attracted Africans by the fact that China positioned itself with African States as an equal player who has common interests in bilateral cooperation and on the world scene. Africa accepted cooperation with Beijing as the most viable opportunity to move towards equitable development. Sudanese President Omar Hasan Ahmed al-Bashir once said, «China is a friendly country that never interferes in the domestic affairs of other states» . Is that so? Further analysis of China’s policy in this direction will show its «flip side».
Beijing emphatically puts African countries on the same step of a pedestal of priorities as its own country. «We need to make it clear to the world – says He Wenping – that we have a common position on some fundamental international problems» .
Taking into account the destruction of the bipolar system, the Chinese leadership publicly affirmed «the natural preservation of good relations between Africa and the West» because China has always provided assistance to developing countries. However, Beijing, though covertly, put emphasis on the juxtaposition of Africa and itself with the Western community.
An important development mechanism of China’s relations with African partners is their interaction within the framework of regular Chinese-African cooperation forums, such as the «France-Africa», «Africa-European Union» summits or the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD). At the first meeting in Beijing in October 2000, the policy documents on the development of relations with Africa were adopted, including the «Beijing Declaration» and «The China-Africa Cooperation Program on Social and Economic Cooperation». China made commitments to cancel partially or completely the 1,2 billion dollar debt to some of the poorest countries in Africa in the coming two years and also to establish the fund to support investment of Chinese enterprises in the economy of the continent.
At the same time, the Chinese representatives emphasized once again that they did not intend to interfere in the internal affairs of sovereign states. At the opening ceremony of the Forum, former Secretary General of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China Jiang Zemin said, ‘No country should impose its social system and ideology on another country, especially interfere in the internal affairs’.
The phenomenon of ”soft power” has always been used by priests. This was both an instrument of the missionaries’ influence during the colonization period, and also the way used by the modern church to participate in the politics of most African countries. African authorities often rely on the church to achieve political and economic stability in the country.
For example, the church (mainly Catholic) plays an important role in the life of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Religious leaders hold high posts in the parliament and the government. For instance, Head of the Church of Christ in the Congo M. Bodo, who is a protestant, has for a long time occupied the post of Chairman of the Senate (the upper house of the Parliament), or Catholic priest M. Malu throughout the electoral process headed the Independent Electoral Commission till the national elections and was awarded the National Order of the Legion of Honor of France. During the transition period (2003-2006), the leaders of the Church addressed people and the government, calling the civilian and military population of the country for tranquility and balance, and political opponents – for the sanity and conduct of a peaceful dialogue in order to avoid anarchy and unrest, for the bloodless end of the transition period and the peaceful settlement in the country. During the elections, religious missions were observers and they provided technical assistance to the Independent Electoral Commission, and carried out advocacy in the provinces.
Clerics remain active in educational and social spheres. Catholic schools and the university acquire authority in the capital. Many hospitals, children’s shelters are maintained with funds of the church. For a long period of time the church will preserve its strong positions in the DRC and will continue to affect «softly» Congoleses’ formation of the world view.
Different developers of the concept «soft power» have a different attitude towards it. Political and international scientist M. A. Neymark proposes his own vision, a detailed analysis of theories and the application of the «soft power». In the chapter “«smart power» of soft influence” the author concentrates the attention on the fact that «soft power» is an interconnected integrity of various components and their synergistic conceptual and practical-political correlation – cultural, humanitarian, civilizational, socio-political, economic, military factors. The resource capacity of this mechanism of influence is the sociocultural and ideological values that are attractive to the object of impact. According to M. A. Neymark the «smart power» is strictly pragmatic and its geopolitical essence lies in a rational balance. It is focused primarily on the promotion and the protection of national – state interests taking into account new developments on the world stage.
In our view «soft power» implies the formation of a given, regenerated mentality, which is necessary for perception, first of all, of the cultural values of another civilization or people and then its political, economic, religious and other foundations. Fair the judgment of M.A. Neymark that the meaning of “soft power” is “in the projection by the state of its influence on the world around us, relying on economic, informational, communicationary, social, humanitarian and other flexible levers.”
For example, political scientist V.S. Yemets considers soft power information technologies to be a tool of a person manipulating. He emphasizes that the informational impact in its manipulative form, which is being exercised to cater to the interests of a person or a group of people’s interests towards other people, is a specific form of control. Such a form of control could be dangerous in case if it is being implemented secretly and if it brings unilateral benefits to its organizers. As a result of “mind impact” and appealing to their own culture affection, soft power becomes a tool for a smooth translation into receiving dividends in kind. Thus, the final goal of soft power is to shape a mentality that is identical with the interested actors and ultimately implies the submission of the object of influence.
Soft power on the part of the subject implies the weakness of the object, diffusion, permeability of its physical, ideological and moral shell. Analyst, author and host of the program «Odnako» on Channel One M. Leontiev believes that soft power – real, effective – is a projection of hard power. There can be no soft power in the absence of hard power in the same subject.
The success of the intellectual impact of soft power on the formation of individuals’ mentality depends on many factors. First of all, it is necessary to consider the society’s social stage of development where a personality is formed. It is complicated to change the mentality and to guide it in another way in the society with a well-developed civilization and high GDP as an individual will have high requirements for the offered food for thought.
In this case forming different approaches of soft power will require a considerable intellectual and material potential. There is a different scale of human values in the less developed society. For example, humanitarian aid, access to safe water, and provision of vaccination for children are essential for the majority of African states, where the level of child and adult mortality remains high and the subsistence wage is less than one dollar per day.
Taking into account the military-political climate in the country along with the moral and psychological condition of people in many respects affects the degree of soft power impact as a foreign policy factor. For example, the population of the Congo has been driven to an extreme point of despair by severe military actions that has been going on for decades. The exodus of the population, refugee camps issues, panic in combat zones – all these factors can become a handicap to the promotion of soft power.
In the state of peace, soft power also may face undesirable factors such as other concerned states` counteraction in the sphere of information, dissemination of knowingly false information and so on. At present the influence of psycho-information processes on the formation of the mentality of the new generation has accelerated. In these circumstances soft power became the most powerful factor that/which influences the perception of actuality, psychic reality and behavior of the population of entire states and regions.
Other factor to be considered when using the soft power is the spiritual component of society. If in some country nationalist sentiments prevail, any instruments of soft power may be considered as a foreign body.
In this case it is important to generate real approaches to the «soft power». Analyzing the anti-Western, anti-liberal alternative to world development, the authors of the monograph “State information policy in the context of information and psychological warfare” maintain one of the milestones of this policy is Russian civilization, which was revived in post-Soviet area. Andrei Maneulo and other authors maintain that “the act of “mental identity”, coupled with the logic of paradoxes, suggests: rejecting the Western model of development (once again) after the catastrophe of blind copying “reforms” of the Western liberal model, Russia will inevitably return to the anti-Western position, what is identical to Russian historical role and spiritual and moral foundations (Eastern Christianity). This does not imply a return to barbarism, but rather the only possible recipe for salvation from the true barbarism in which the regions of the former USSR are immersed: inter-ethnic, religious conflicts and spiritual collapse. In these conditions the Russian state information policy inevitably will become necessary to be identical to this process.”
“Sort power” is occasionally associated with cultural diplomacy. Although, the difference undoubtedly exists. Cooperation in the cultural sphere implies mutual enrichment of cultures and civilizations, in contrast with “soft power” which is a unilateral “soft pressure” on a certain object. By the early 2000s, the weight and influence of cultural diplomacy had grown so much that a new concept of “foreign cultural policy” had been introduced. Russia is actively taking several comprehensive measures which aimed at spreading Russian culture abroad.
However, the Russian diplomats have to face a range of issues in African states, in particular, where strong positions are occupied by the USA and China. Under the conditions of the multipolar world’s formation, different regional leaders use the arsenal of opportunities of «their own» «soft power» taking into account processes of a geopolitical standoff. It is rather difficult to find one’s niche for «soft power» on the African continent, because this country has lost the authority it used to have and it has become «cramp» to cooperate in most African states. And if the older generation treats Russia as a sustainable political and economic partner, the younger generation is guided by the USA and China, which do their best from the perspective of «soft power», in order to gain a foothold in this region. As the result, Africans learn American and Chinese willingly use free education programs and quotas in educational institutions of these countries. Americans promote their lifestyle through numerous cultural centers, where they also, as well as their Chinese partners, open courses of English. French and Belgians do not fall behind. «Soft power» demands significant investment, which is required for facilities, for instance, «Russian language classes», a replenishment of university libraries with relevant literature, computer rooms, Russian cultural centers, exhibitions and other cultural events. Without financing «soft power» remains just a theory. According to V.V. Rugeinikov, such an important element of the influence on the world, as the Russian language, loses its creativity. Fewer demanded goods are produced now. The researcher points rightfully, that «if the foreign reader still keeps interest to L. Tolstoy, A. Chekhov and F. Dostoevsky, their works are perceived the historically depressive background».
Experience shows, that where there are still Russian centers of science and culture (Morocco, the Republic of the Congo, Tanzania and others) cultural ties develop much more fruitfully and faster. The formation of a new mentality in the local population is possible only under the condition of a constant, but not a fragmentary cooperation with college students, social agencies, and state officials. At the same time, it is important to work out new forms of cooperation with structures of public diplomacy [JB emphasis], nongovernmental organizations, international institutions that use political, economic and information levers of influence.
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