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Soft Power and Great-Power Competition

Shifting Sands in the Balance of Power Between the United States and China

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  • Open Access
  • © 2023

You have full access to this open access Book


  • Provides perspectives of a distinguished US scholar and experienced former high official in the US government
  • Presents a comprehensive and in-depth study of US–China relations and strategies
  • Offers insights and concrete solutions for various challenges that both the US and China
  • Is open access, which means that you have free and unlimited access

Part of the book series: China and Globalization (CG)

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Table of contents (31 chapters)

  1. The Role of Soft Power in Global Politics

  2. Soft Power in the American Experience

  3. The Rise of Chinese Soft Power


About this book

This open access book consists of essays selected from Joseph S. Nye, Jr.’s last three decades of writing and illustrate a variety of perspectives on the nature of power, the role of the United States in the world and US-China relations. Through this collection, it is hoped that readers will gain a better understanding of today’s global environment and find that while great power competition may be inevitable in a world as centers of power shift, cooperating to address transnational challenges can be a positive sum game.

The contents of this book are divided into four main parts. Part One discusses the origins and political progress of the concept of “Soft Power”. Part Two explores soft power in the American experience, its sources and interaction with US foreign policy, as well as its ebb and flow in the age of Obama, Trump and Biden. Part Three examines the rise of and the opportunities and difficulties for Chinese soft power, focusing on China’s investment in soft power andhow this demonstrates its commitment to a peaceful rise. However, it also addresses the question of how can China get “smart” on how it uses soft power. Part Four provides a bird’s-eye view of power shifts in the 21st century and the interactions between the US as an established power and China as a rising power, while also reassuring readers that Thucydidean fears are unnecessary and a Cold War is avoidable. Both countries have to realize that some forms of power must be exercised with others, not over others, the development of soft power need not be a zero-sum game. Ultimately, the US-China relationship is a “cooperative rivalry” where a successful strategy of “smart competition” is necessary and cooperation on transnational challenges like climate change, pandemics, cyberterrorism and nuclear proliferation, will serve to benefit not only China and the US, but the world as a whole.

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cambridge, USA

    Joseph S. Nye

About the author

Joseph S. Nye, Jr. is the former Dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, where he currently holds the position of University Distinguished Service Professor, Emeritus. After having become a Rhodes Scholar while pursuing his MA at Oxford University, Nye ultimately earned his PhD in political science from Harvard University. He has served in a number of key US government positions, including Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, Chair of the National Intelligence Council, and Deputy Under Secretary of State for Security Assistance, Science and Technology. A prolific writer, some of Nye’s most well-known publications include Do Morals Matter? Presidents and Foreign Policy from FDR to Trump (2021), Is the American Century Over? (2015) , The Future of Power (2011) and Soft Power: The Means To Success In World Politics (2004). He is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the British Academy, and the American Academy of Diplomacy.

Bibliographic Information

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