Anecdotal Evidence: why there can be no Chinese Soft Power – and why Cooperation with Beijing may Corrupt us

Messages from Beijing are in conflict with each other when the Dalai Lama – and the degree to which he may become internationally noticeable – is the issue. On the one hand, the Dalai Lama doesn’t belong in Tibet, from Beijing’s point of view. He therefore doesn’t belong in China either. On the other hand, Beijing reacts angrily when the Dalai Lama “denies his Chinese citizenship”. And the Chinese leadership seems to suggest that it has a say in foreign leaders’ appointment diaries.

The Dalai Lama is quite powerless, but a discussion with him is probably much more enriching than one with Hu Jintao, Jackie Chan, or Zhang Ziyi.

That’s one of the problems with Chinese “soft power”, I guess. Whatever could be a factor in building such power is either in exile, or (mostly) silent.

But above all, it is childish when Chinese authorities condemn meetings with people outside their jurisdiction. And when Chinese editorialists who take their orders from those authorities demand that “hosting Dalai Lama must come at a high price”, there are two obvious objections. For one, David Cameron and Nick Clegg apparently met the Dalai Lama at St. Paul’s Cathedral. Downing Street didn’t host him. But above all, a nexus between economic cooperation with China and “hosting the Dalai Lama”, as advocated by the “Global Times”, shows how shaky the foundations of our economic cooperation with China actually are.

Maybe we should think about our own reasons to limit cooperation with China. Because one day, we might feel that we can’t “afford” certain values and views of our own anymore. Other governments have come to such misguided conclusions already.

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