Soft power is typically understood to involve attraction, or the influence an actor gains through the positive image of its institutions, ideals, and culture. However, this conception underplays the coercive side of soft power. Attractiveness is not a pre-existing, unchanging condition but a socially constructed reality that allows the attractive actor to exercise discursive power over other actors. Soft power conflicts appear, therefore, as a “war of words.” In such wars of words, participants utilize coercive soft power, or representational force, to reify a narrative and self-identity into social reality while simultaneously detracting from the opponent’s. Utilizing discourse analysis, I then apply my model to the US-China relationship from 2009-2016 to show (1) that the two actors waged a war of words through their respective public discourses and (2) that representational force should be recognized as an important feature of soft power.
Myers, Lucas Deane, "The Sino-American War of Words: Soft Power as Coercion" (2017). Political Science Honors Projects. 66.
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