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China Public Diplomacy in Asia Pacific

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Document pages: 24 pages

Abstract: Since 1990, for more than sixteen years, Beijing has been attempting to shape the diplomatic and strategic environment in maritime Asia, projecting an image of itself as an innately trustworthy great power. As a part of this public relations campaign, Chinese leaders have retailed the story of Zheng He, the former Ming Dynasty eunuch admiral who voyaged to destinations throughout Asia continent, the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean six centuries ago. They have touted the feats of Zheng He, who sojourned in maritime Asia without attempting military conquest, as a metaphor for China’s current peaceful ascent in the regional maritime domain. In doing so, Beijing hopes to convince regional leaders in Southeast Asia and South Asia that it remains Pacific in outlook. Thus can be counted on not to abuse the sea power it is amassing. An attractive vision of China, they hope, will avert the tendency of regional states to band together to balance Chinese power. Still Chinese diplomats have had the luxury to tell story how they wanted; since deployments of China naval forces beyond East Asia remained abstract. Beijing neither saw the need nor boasted the capacity to maintain strong forces far from Chinese shores. However, the headline-grabbing dispatch of two destroyers and a combat logistics ship to the Gulf of Aden on counter-piracy duty in late 2008 has put China squarely in international spotlight. By depicting itself as an inherently defensive power, China has set a high standard for its behavior at sea. Fellow Asian countries will hold Beijing to this lofty benchmark, and measuring its actions against the manipulated Chinese leaders story that developed around Zheng He’s voyages for centuries. Beijing’s anti-piracy mission offers an ideal opportunity to explore empirically the efficacy of Chinese Soft Power. To conclude, this paper examines how the Zheng He narratives motivates and assesses the substance messages that Chinese leaders are attempting to convey to Asian capitals. This study then elaborate to some extent that China’s unprecedented naval presence in the Indian Ocean has dovetailed with Zheng He legendary history followed by the expansive larger strategy of easing regional misgivings about Chinese maritime power. The paper also analyzes how India as a target audience respond to China’s global and regional ambitions, drawing several preliminary conclusions about the effectiveness and the prospects of Chinese public diplomacy as the element of power in international politics.

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