So far Bollywood has more admirers than the Terracotta Army - but for how long?
The exercise of 'hard power' - military muscle and economic might - in the 21st century increasingly carries the threat of global disapproval, while the use of 'soft power' lends itself more easily to the Information Age and is becoming a more important asset.
Soft power is not about conquering others, but about being yourself; projecting your cultural values on to the global consciousness, either deliberately through the conscious cultivation of foreign publics, or unwittingly through perceptions that emerge from the global mass media.
The roots of
This land imposes no narrow conformities on its citizens: you can be many things and one thing. You can be a good Muslim, a good Keralite and a good Indian all at once. So the idea of
Indian restaurants have become to the world what Chinese laundries were in the US at the turn of the previous century. In
A nation's soft power emerges from the world's perceptions of what that country is all about. Hard power is exercised; soft power is evoked. For soft power is not just what we can deliberately and consciously exhibit; it is rather how others see what we are, whether or not we are trying to show it to the world.
To take a political example: the sight in
The opposite is true of
The Beijing Olympics of 2008 were a brilliantly executed exercise in soft-power building by an authoritarian state. At the same time, the limitations of government propaganda were apparent when, during the first week of the Games, video footage of shootings and bomb attacks involving Uighur separatists appeared in the world media despite
It is also true that
Soft power sits ill with heavy-handed, top-down rule.
The scandal over the blind social activist Chen Guangchen and revelations about Bo Xilai, the former party chief in
Hard power without soft power stirs up resentment; soft power without hard power is a confession of weakness. Yet hard power tends to work better domestically than internationally: an autocratic state is not concerned about having a 'better story' to tell its own people, but without one, it has little with which to purchase the goodwill of the rest of the world. Whether it is the Chinese in Tibet or the Russians in
By contrast, Indian soft power emerges despite the government: official backing for the dissemination of culture has been bureaucratic. So far,
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