Observers of Chinese politics and international relations could not have failed to notice in recent years the upsurge of references in China to the term soft power. The popularity of this concept among Chinese political leaders, scholars, journalists and pundits has been striking, and its prevalence in Chinese media significant. Although soft power is arguably one of the most important aspects of China's foreign strategy to have appeared in the new century, it is nonetheless insufficiently understood in the outside world. International political leaders and pundits have paid close attention to both the growth and practice of China's soft power, and unequivocally expressed concern as to its implications. These reasons warrant a thorough examination of the term.

Knowing how soft power is discussed among the Chinese elite is a good starting point towards understanding the importance of the concept within China's international politics. How do...

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