Rule of law will boost soft power

By Naren Chitty A.M.
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Daily, November 4, 2014
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The second aspect of fairness refers to the way people are treated under the law. If each member of the community, whether rich and powerful or poor and powerless, is treated equally under the law, it would be viewed as fairand would be attractive to members of the community.

In the days of kings and tyrants, unfair systems of governance were enforced through coercion. Such systems were unattractive to ordinary people. Some degree of coercion is needed even in contemporary society, hence the need for police forces to uphold the law and the judiciary to try and punish offenders. But coercion should ideally only be minimally necessary, to discourage a relatively small percentage of lawbreakers, if there is an attractive system of rule of law in place.

If people in leadership positions in a social organization break the law with impunity, ordinary people will begin to lose faith in the system. The measures proposed by China's top leader Xi Jinping seek to ensure that the system will disallow unfairness in Chinathrough the institution of the rule of law. Rule of law will develop a governance culture that is characterized by an enhanced soft power approachone that will be more attractive to ordinary people.

The second soft power dividend from instituting a rule of law culture is that it will generate soft power vis-à-vis the external world as well. This is external soft power or E-soft power. Consider Australia, the country that received forced migration through "transportation" in the past. It now opens its doors to a quota of migrants each yearbut requires no forced "transportation" to fill the quotas. A measure of the soft power of this middle-sized economy is the number of people who apply to migrate to Australia each year. Such people migrate to the country for a number of reasons, including family reunion, employment, marriage, lifestyle, and investment and economic opportunitiesbut one of the attractions of Australia is its legal system, its strong tradition of the rule of law.

In fact, one of the key beliefs in Australia is that everyone should have a "fair go". The migration numbers are indicative of the generation of E-soft power by Australia's "fair go" values. The institution of a strong culture of rule of law in China will bear great E-soft and I-soft power dividends.

The author is director of Soft Power Advocacy & Research Centre, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia.


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