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Congressional Research Service, "Comparing Global Influence: China’s and U.S. Diplomacy, Foreign Aid, Trade, and Investment in the Developing World," August 15, 2008

A report comparing the global influence of the two countries' use of soft power in the international arena.
August 15, 2008

This report compares the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) and U.S. projections of global influence, with an emphasis on non-coercive means or “soft power,” and suggests ways to think about U.S. foreign policy options in light of China’s emergence. Part One discusses U.S. foreign policy interests, China’s rising influence, and its implications for the United States. Part Two compares the global public images of the two countries and describes PRC and U.S. uses of soft power tools, such as public diplomacy, state diplomacy, and foreign assistance. It also examines other forms of soft power such as military diplomacy, global trade and investment, and sovereign wealth funds. In Part Three, the report analyzes PRC and U.S. diplomatic and economic activities in five developing regions — Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America. China and the United States use tools of soft power in different ways and with varying effects. Since the mid-1990s, the PRC has adopted an increasingly active and pragmatic diplomatic approach around the world that emphasizes complementary economic interests. China’s influence and image have been bolstered through its increasingly open and sophisticated diplomatic corps as well as through prominent PRC-funded infrastructure, public works, and economic investment projects in many developing countries. Meanwhile, some surveys have indicated marked declines in the U.S. international public image since 2002. Some foreign observers have criticized U.S. state diplomacy as being neglectful of smaller countries or of countries and regional issues that are not related to the global war on terrorism. According to some experts, U.S. diplomatic and foreign aid efforts have been hampered by organizational restructuring, inadequate staffing levels, and foreign policies that remain unpopular abroad. 

Despite China’s growing influence, the United States retains significant strengths, including latent reserves of soft power, much of which lie beyond the scope of government. Furthermore, by some indicators, China’s soft power has experienced some recent setbacks, while the U.S. image abroad has shown signs of a possible renewal. The United States exceeds the People’s Republic of China (PRC)in global trade, although the PRC is catching up, and far surpasses China in GDP and foreign direct investment. It continues to be the dominant external political and military actor in the Middle East and political and economic influence in Latin America. The United States maintains formal alliances in Europe and Asia, and far outweighs the PRC in military spending and capabilities.

The 110th Congress has held hearings and proposed measures that support U.S. public diplomacy, diplomatic efforts, and foreign aid. Relevant legislation includes the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 (P.L. 110- 53) and the Public Diplomacy Resource Centers Act of 2007 (H.R. 2553).  This report will not be updated.

The full report can be found here.

Click here for a listing of reports released by the Congressional Research Service.