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HomeGeopolitical CompassEast AsiaChina Can Buy Influence, but It Can’t Buy Love

China Can Buy Influence, but It Can’t Buy Love

Author:  Elisabeth Braw

Affiliation: Royal United Services Institute

Organization/Publisher: Foreign Policy

Date/Place: July 20, 2020/USA

Type of Literature: Article 

Word  Count: 1600 


KeywordsChina, , Economy, Influence, soft power


In this article, the author explains the policy China pursues to gain friends and allies around the world, as it has made a footprint in many countries where previously it had little, and has created business for its companies. But, according to the author, they are uncomfortable commercial relationships and not genuine friendships because Chinese foreign investment and infrastructure loans have created an impossible responsibility (with inflated values) for countries to pay off.  Many countries have experienced this “debt trap diplomacy,” such as Pakistan, Kenya, and Tanzania. And because of this policy, Chinese contracts are now being cancelled or modified by respective host nations’ courts; and the Chinese company Huawei has lost many 5G network contracts in countries such as Britain and Italy. The author compares the Chinese experience with that of East Germany, which had diplomatic isolation problems and needed to make friends. Unlike China, it had no money to distribute. But the East Germans implemented a much more effective and relatively inexpensive strategy to build personal friendships, through exchanging students with more than 125 countries. The author suggests that Beijing should understand that it cannot buy love—or even admiration— and that it is better for the Chinese government to study the soft power approach previously practiced by East Germany.

By: Taqwa Abu Kmeil, CIGA Research Assistant



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