Soft power diplomacy to drive China-Africa relations

Xinhua, January 18, 2011

Use of soft power diplomacy will continue to be a key driver of China's strengthened relations with Africa and likely to propel China to higher global economic and military influence it currently commands, analysts say.

"China is a major global economic player and while it's not possible to know how far the use of soft power can propel it," said Dr Moses Kavanga, executive director of East Africa Institute of Political Studies.

"In Africa, soft power has worked so well for China," Kavanga told Xinhua in an exclusive interview ahead of the Chinese leader's visit to United States this week.

He said the important outcome of the growing China-Africa relations is the construction and reconstruction of infrastructure especially roads, water works and hospitals happening in much faster pace than when Africa exclusively relied on the west as its strategic global partner.

"West is now playing catch-up but as you can see, China is on the other hand cementing and expending its relations with Africa."

Analysts said the soft power partly defined by respect of the diversity of Africa's people and their diplomacy is winning the Chinese more friends in Africa.

"Kenyans are pleased with the way Chinese contractors are building our roads. Kenyans are accustomed to delays and poor workmanship but the Chinese are doing perfect job and are very timely," said Ndung'u Wainaina, executive director of the Kenya-based International Center for Policy and Conflict.

Diplomats define soft power as the ability to obtain what one wants through co-option and attraction rather than use of coercion and payment.

In his book, The Rise of China's Soft Power, author Joseph S. Nye, who is also a Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor, said in a global information age, soft sources of power such as culture, political values, and diplomacy are part of what makes a great power. "Success depends not only on whose army wins, but also on whose story wins," he said in the book. China is careful to support African-led efforts to develop sound governance and sustainable development throughout the continent," the book added.