Overseas Educational Institutions as Instruments of Soft Power: A Comparison of Chinese, British, French and German Approaches

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A paper to be presented at the forthcoming SIU Conference, January 30th-31st, 2013, by Sirirat Ngamsang & John Walsh,

Abstract

Soft power is non-military power and comprises both cultural power and economic strength. States deploy soft power in addition to or in place of military power (i.e. hard power) as a means of helping to influence the opinions and forms of behaviour of people and governments of other states. One instance of this form of soft power is the overseas educational institution. This is a multi-purpose institution that generally provides instruction in relevant languages and cultural and historical awareness, as well as acting as a centre for sponsorship of various acts of dissemination of knowledge, soliciting applications for scholarships in the home country and generally encouraging bilateral relations at both the individual and the organizational levels. The Chinese Confucius Institutes, which have become common around the world and particularly in Asia, have followed the examples of the British Council, Alliance Française and the Goethe Institut. Yet by following the earlier examples, Confucius Institutes have the benefit of late development and can learn from the experiences of earlier approaches. This paper studies and analyses the overseas educations institutions of China, Britain, France and Germany to identify similarities and dissimilarities and then draws conclusions from this.

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