Lessons on China's soft power from the Eiffel Tower

By Ting Wai
0 CommentsPrint E-mail China.org.cn, March 16, 2011
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The world has been focusing on and deeply amazed by China's development, but it is too early to say that China has already made extraordinary achievements.

For more than a decade, Chinese intellectuals have been familiar with the concept of soft power, and while China's economic and military powers have improved quickly, to have influence on the international stage requires more than hard power. China must have significant inventions or innovations in culture, thoughts, ideas, institutions and values in order to have contributions to the development of human civilization. This is the only way that China could become a truly great power. A country with strong muscles but lacking appealing ideas in the cultural and spiritual areas can only terrify its neighbors, although they may still applaud for the fast development of China and try to benefit from her economy. What should China rely on in order to build up her soft power so as to influence the world?

The Chinese people like boosting about the country's recent achievements, such as the Beijing Olympics and the Shanghai World Expo. However, how do the people benefit from the "bird nest" stadium built of 50,000 tons of steel? It's just a stadium with most of its seats destined to be vacant forever. Those 50,000 tons of steel could have been used for a middle-sized aircraft carrier.

The originators of the World Expo are the United Kingdom and France of the 19th century – the strongest powers at the time. They led the world in terms of culture, art, science, technology and military and wanted to show off their best inventions and creations. French scientist Louis Pasteur displayed his multiple medical inventions, and the Paris Expo of 1889, which was to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution, produced the Eiffel Tower.

The Eiffel Tower caused a lot of controversies when it was built. Many said it was not only useless but also failed to blend nicely with the surroundings. Many wanted to demolish the tower immediately after the Expo.

Fortunately, it still stands today and is now considered epoch-making and monumental. The reason is because the Eiffel Tower was the first artificial structure to use iron and steel to soar into the sky. For two thousand years, human beings had known how to use iron, but only for weapons, tools or cooking utensils. It was the French engineer Eiffel who first got the idea to use steel in architecture. He was confident with the nature of steel. It is strong enough to buttress a building which extends to the sky. Not only he thought about it, he succeeded of constructing it and showed it to the whole world!

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