Nation Branding as Nation Building: China’s Image Campaign


This paper illustrates the links between China’s nation building exercises and its efforts to promote the country as a ‘brand’. By using the examples of the Shanghai Expo, China’s national image films and the revival of Confucius, I show how Chinese soft power is both inward and outward looking. Understanding this dual role of soft power is important in comprehending the underlying motivations behind China’s attempts to create and manage its identity as orderly, prosperous and legitimate.

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    My own definition of soft power sticks close to what I take to be Nye’s original meaning, i.e. soft power relies on persuasion and ought not to be conflated with actions which include economic inducement or the threat of force. According to this view, economic aid or sanctions are not soft power for they contain a strong element of coercion. For more on this, see M. Barr (2011) Who’s Afraid of China? The Challenge of Chinese Soft Power, London: Zed Books.

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Correspondence to Michael Barr.

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Barr, M. Nation Branding as Nation Building: China’s Image Campaign. East Asia 29, 81–94 (2012).

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  • Chinese soft power
  • Nation branding
  • Nation building
  • Shanghai Expo
  • Chinese image films