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Duke-UNC China Leadership Summit 2016

Duke University and University of North Carolina host the China Leadership Summit, a gathering of undergraduates from China and the U.S. interested in deepening their understanding of China and creating a more productive relationship between the U.S. and China.

April 8, 2016 4:00pm

April 8-10

Durham and Chapel Hill, North Carolina

The twin objectives of the China Leadership Summit are to promote greater understanding of China, while fostering a collaborative environment in which delegates can emerge with resources and contacts as future leaders in U.S. - China relations--first as undergraduates and later as academics, government officials and businessmen.

The  Delegate  Experience
CLS brings together 100 of the most promising undergraduates from around China and the U.S. who are interested in deepening their understanding of China and creating a more productive relationship between the U.S. and China. As a delegate, you will attend panels, roundtable discussions, seminars and keynote speeches led by professionals committed to the U.S.-China relationship in various fields including academia, business, government, and social activism. You will have the chance to discuss some of the most pressing issues pertaining to Sino-U.S. relations with your peers as well as network with our speakers, corporate sponsors and each other. You will also have the opportunity to learn about and discuss academic research pertaining to our conference theme presented by graduate students in our first-ever Graduate Research Symposium.

The China Leadership Summit hosted students for the first time in spring of 2011. Since then, our annual conference has more than doubled in size from 40 students in 2011 to over 100 students in 2013 and 2014. In addition to Duke and UNC, we have drawn students from more than 20 schools, including Yale, Harvard, Columbia, UC Berkeley, Johns Hopkins, and Davidson. In 2013, we institutionalized our relationship with Wuhan University and will be receiving two delegates from Wuhan every year. Forbes Magazine has recently cited our conference as an example of a “collaborative program” between Duke and UNC.

Host Organizations
The Carolina China Network hosts the conference on the UNC side. Throughout the year, the Carolina China Network provides China-related academic events and resources in an effort to bring together students across all academic disciplines who share an interest in China. For more information, please contact

The Duke East Asian Nexus (DEAN) hosts the conference on the Duke side. DEAN is a student organization that seeks to enrich the Duke Community's understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues facing the region of East Asia. For more information, please contact

Together Duke East Asian Nexus and the Carolina China Network fundraise for the event and coordinate the PROGRAMMING.


2016 Program

China's Soft Power in 21st Century: Great Power Politics
Soft power is defined as the ability of a country to influence others without force or coercion. From Confucius Institutes to educational exchanges, from think tanks to the export of Chinese art and media, China’s recent push for soft power underscores its quest to establish itself as a legitimate world leader with moral and cultural authority to rival its economic and military dominance. Yet China also faces many obstacles in its bid for soft power: problems like its aggressive nationalism in its South China Sea territorial disputes and failure to liberalize domestically pose threats to China’s perceived legitimacy and popularity abroad. How does soft power play a role in China’s most vital foreign policy objectives? What are the challenges and opportunities China faces, both domestically and internationally, in its bid for non-coercive leadership?

In the international realm, soft power is changing the way we view great power politics. China’s growing leadership role in institutions like the New Development Bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization challenges existing dominant institutions and constructs an alternative architecture to the postwar Western order. Increasingly, China’s interests are tied to soft power. Establishing a positive image is necessary to obtain cooperation and credibility among regional partners in initiatives like One Belt, One Road. Likewise, economic prosperity is contingent on China’s ability to attract global business and investment. Soft power also redefines the competition between China and U.S.: in spite of its economic and military gains, China suffers from a negative image abroad and still lags behind the United States in persuasive power and global influence, with many claiming its soft power deficit is to blame. Is this the dawn of a new, “alternative” paradigm of great power politics, where power is not measured in guns and swaths of land, but in cultural clout, education and “hearts and minds”?

In the 21st century, soft power will prove to be one of the greatest hurdles as well as one of the most important opportunities for China’s global rise.